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Preview: White Light Festival 2016

Photo: Matthias Heyde

The seventh edition of Lincoln Center's White Light Festival kicks off this week with a typically eclectic mix of music, theater, dance and film that all share a spiritual dimension. Offering a welcome antidote to the televised circus that is our Presidential election, Lincoln Center's Artistic Director Jane Moss says that this year's festival, "focuses on what it means to be human in an increasingly fractious world—a world where communication, compassion, and creative expression remain vital to our survival as a global community."

The Radio Choir of Berlin under our old friend Simon Halsey kicked things off last night with their reworking of Brahms' German Requiem - called Human Requiem - at the Synod House at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. The interactive, immersive experience promises to be one of White Light's more memorable events. Tickets and info on remaining performances available on the White Light website

Pathway to Paris Benefit for Climate Change at City Winery


"If we don't act boldly (with regards to climate change), the bill that could come due will be mass migrations. And cities submerged. And nations displaced... The Paris Agreement gives us a framework to act, but only if we scale up our ambition, and there must be a sense of urgency about bringing the agreement into force...Only then can we continue lifting all people up from poverty without condemning our children to a planet beyond their capacity to repair." - President Barack Obama, Address to the U.N. General Assembly, 9/20/16

Donald Trump can call it a hoax all he wants: climate change is real. I saw it with my own eyes earlier this month in Alaska, where the glaciers have retreated with alarming speed, some reduced to little more than dirty snowballs. Fortunately, world leaders have decided to do something about it, meeting last year in Paris to draft the first comprehensive, worldwide agreement to dramatically reduce greenhouse gases beginning in 2020. With ratification by the U.S. and China earlier this month, and India's announcement over the weekend that they will ratify it this week, the agreement is tantalizingly close to the 55% threshold required for it to take effect. 

But, with Trump vowing to pull out of Paris if he is elected president, the agreement's fate is still far from certain. So, on the eve of last week's U.N. General AssemblyJesse Paris Smith (daughter of Patti Smith) and Rebecca Foon assembled an all-star lineup of musicians and activists at City Winery through their watchdog organization Pathway to Paris. Performers included folksters Martha Wainwright, Lucy Wainwright Roche and Suzzy Roche, the ecstatic thrash of Xylouris/White, and the remarkable Tibetan vocalist Techung.

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Rahzel and Friends: A Rap Reunion at Brooklyn Bowl

by Steven Pisano

(All photos by Steven Pisano.)

Rahzel and Friends at Brooklyn BowlThe message to the audience at Brooklyn Bowl for the Rap Reunion on July 28 was that hip hop music in the 1990s was more socially conscious than it is today, with something to say beyond just bling, babes, and bennies. Again and again, the performers who took the stage rammed home the point that politics and social commentary is where hip hop began, and that in some ways the music had lost its way over time, focusing more on celebrity and the high life. But mostly, the show was nostalgic for the old days the Eighties and Nineties, when Queens reigned as one of the rap centers in the country, whether in Queensbridge (Nas) or Hollis (LL Cool J and Run-D.M.C.) or St. Albans (A Tribe Called Quest), though the borough would ultimately be eclipsed by the rappers from Brooklyn and the West Coast.

The evening's headliner, Rahzel (born Rahzel M. Brown), is a former member of The Roots known for his prowess as a human beatbox—in particular, his ability to beatbox and rap at the same time. Throughout the evening, he told stories of how things used to be back in the day, such as his wariness whenever he and his crew went to Brooklyn, not wanting to show off their jewelry.

In a nod toward the future, the emcee’s son Rahzel Jr. started off the show with his song “The Culture.” Professing his love for hip hop culture, he rapped: “I don’t do it for the fortune or fame, I do it for the culture." 

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Celebrate Brooklyn 2016

IMG_3809Ever since I moved to Park Slope 14 years ago, the one thing that had kept me here more than any other is Celebrate Brooklyn, the two month series of (mostly) free concerts at the bandshell on the corner of 11th Street and Prospect Park West. I didn't make it to the first few shows of the season, but have made up for lost time over the last couple of weekends with several stellar shows from Martha Redbone, Josh Ritter, Aoife O'Donovan, The Wood Brothers, and the Egyptian megastar Hakim who, though new to me, drew a crowd of thousands of adoring expats. Indeed, the only English Hakim spoke all night were the words on his black t-shirt, printed in orange block letters: 'COME TO EGYPT."

More pics below.

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