Sing Those Blues, Sita!

My piece on the brilliant movie Sita Sings the Blues, including an interview with animatrix/writer/director Nina Paley is up on Coilhouse:

Sita’s magnificence is a testament to the tireless hard work and innovative vision of Paley, a longtime alternative cartoonist, who made the whole film on her home computer over five years. The ideas for the movie stem from a particularly harsh break-up (that story’s also told in the movie). Her struggle still isn’t over either: her creation still faces numerous hurdles, both from Hindu fundamentalists and corporate music juggernauts. This thankfully hasn’t stopped it from tearing up the festival circuit across several continents, getting much acclaim at big name fests like Berlin and Tribeca.

So how did something like this come about? Paley was kind enough to talk about the movie’s genesis, its challenges and why audiences these days are doing more than just buying tickets.


Heavy Metal East: “Music is the weapon of the future”

Moe Hamzeh of The Kordz during the Cedar Revolution, photo by Lynsey Addario

My piece on the growing heavy metal culture in the Middle East is up on Coilhouse:

In 2007, the documentary Heavy Metal in Baghdad chronicled the trials of Acrassicauda, dubbed “Iraq’s only heavy metal band.” No doubt many did a double take at trying to reconcile visions of headbangers with environs like Iraq or Lebanon.

Part of that surprise comes from the tremendous heaping pile of bullshit out there about the Middle East. This is, in mass-media world, the land of They. Here is one teeming mass of zealots, driven as by incomprehensible creeds towards destroying you, dear viewer. Fear! Cower!

This is a lie. Growing from the very real repression and devastation faced in these lands, metal of all varieties is thriving from North Africa to Pakistan. As Moroccan metal founding father Reda Zine proclaimed: “we play heavy metal because our lives are heavy metal.”

The resulting fusion sounds both old and new. Middle Eastern metalheads have gathered in the hundreds of thousands, rivaling the Islamist rallies that induce so much hand-wringing in the West. In defense of the most basic freedoms they’ve had showdowns with dictators and fundamentalists. Sometimes, they win.

Because it washes us all the fuck out once in awhile

King of Spain

In light of today’s news:

The Satanic Record Mogul Cometh

My article on these bastards (and their real-life equivalents), is up on Coilhouse.

They’re powerful, immensely so, and rich beyond a mere prole’s wildest dreams. They tread the earth as megalomania-driven gods. If you’re a musician (or anyone, really) they want your talent, your creativity, your voice — above all, they want your name on the dotted line.

That’s the archetype of the Satanic Record Mogul, a creature that’s now receded into the shadows. But these scoundrels are at the center (or hovering over it, puppeteer-like) of such cult masterworks as Derek Jarman’s Jubilee (which deserves its own post in the future) and Brian De Palma’s Phantom of the Paradise. Even Mr. Boogalow of The Apple fits the mold.

But he is an imitator, a poseur, and The Apple is simply too damned bad for him to hold his own with the heavyweights. No, for the real better-to-rule-in-hell types, we’ll look in on two classic villains: Jubilee’s Borgia Ginz and Phantom’s Swan. Hoary old ghosts they may be, but beneath the cackling mad, gaudy exterior lurk the very real fears that still plague the music world, if with much less flair. Everyone signs up in the end.

Gaza. Is. Metal!

Johann Hari finds out what the kids in the Middle East are listening to:

I first realised that my never-quite-abandoned adolescent taste for heavy metal had a political edge in – of all places – the Jaballya refugee camp in Gaza. I was interviewing teenagers about their strangled lives and expected to hear the usual Hamasnik lines reeled back at me. But instead, they kept using words from Metallica and Slipknot to explain how they felt. “I am dying to live/Cry out/I’m trapped under ice,” one of them said. They showed me their carefully-stashed CDs and T-shirts – liable to be seized by Hamas-militia at any time – and begged me to send more.

After I returned home, I discovered this was no anomaly. It turns out that the biggest market for Heavy Metal outside the US is across the Muslim world. In underground car parks in Tehran, in barns in Peshawar, in graveyards in Cairo, Muslim mosh-pits are springing up. We are constantly told that people born in Muslim countries are a homogenous sharia-seeking mass, represented by foul mullahs. But in his study, Heavy Metal Islam, Alan LeVine gives a startling statistic: in Morocco, only two forces in living memory have brought out crowds of more than 200,000: the Islamist opposition, and heavy metal bands raging against religion. To head-bang to a band called Deicide may be inane fun in London; in Iran or Egypt or Pakistan it is a strikingly brave political act.

This is absolutely fascinating and bears more research for future writing. Hari also has some interesting stuff to say about the rebel’s roots in country (the good stuff, not the tripe that passes now). Which, if anyone ever needs a reminder, Mr. Cash is more than happy to provide:

Seven Nation Sweet Dreams

I have mixed feelings about most mashups, but this is just awesome. Who would have thought that two of my favorite songs (and videos) would go so well together?

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