The organizers of the embryonic National Museum of Hip-Hop want to honor one of the most vibrant American art forms to emerge since jazz. But at a coming-out fundraiser last month, they found themselves the targets of a boycott announced by legendary rapper and New York native KRS-One—the project’s most important adviser—who said key hip-hop “pioneers” had declared the museum “illegitimate.”
“They said it wasn’t kosher,” said KRS-One’s fellow hip-hop groundbreaker, rapper Chuck D. of Public Enemy, adding that he heeded phone calls from some of his predecessors about not supporting the museum’s April gala at Manhattan’s Pink Elephant nightclub. The rapper had initially agreed to co-host the museum event with KRS-One, but says he left the party early. “This is like the O.K. Corral,” he said.
The travails of this barely nascent museum illustrate the challenge of collecting history from people who are still living it. The genre’s pioneers accuse the museum’s organizers—and other cultural institutions and corporations before them—of exploiting their innovations. They claim they should be paid for their personal histories, a demand stoked by several of hip-hop’s inventors who say they were left behind when styles evolved and a local movement exploded into a global industry.
In the four decades since hip-hop took root in the South Bronx, a few universities and museums have staged exhibitions and gathered artifacts to honor it—among them the Smithsonian Institution, which has about 100 items. In 2005, efforts began to launch a national museum celebrating the form. Its leaders include 35-year-old Craig Wilson, a Bronx native who closed a marketing and management firm he’d founded in order to join the museum effort.
The team secured non-profit status and a provisional museum charter from the New York State Education Department. But it has raised almost none of the estimated $125 million needed to erect a building. Mr. Wilson says he’s scouting sites in Harlem, and organizers envision interactive exhibits and a community education hub.
Until now, the group focused on assembling support from hip-hop’s trailblazers. As recently as 2008, the museum team held meetings with pioneers including members of the Cold Crush Brothers, an early rap crew. But the Pink Elephant gala torched the relationship. Some pioneers say they weren’t invited even though their names were used to market the event. Mr. Wilson counters that invitations were extended but that some invitees demanded last-minute meetings and celebrity treatment.
Late last month, two weeks after the gala, about 40 rappers and associated veterans assembled at the downtown New York club S.O.B.’s. In attendance was Melle Mel, a rapper with Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, who accused institutions like the Smithsonian of profiting from the pioneers’ accomplishments. He shouted, “I’m in the Furious 5—not the Happy 5!”
The group formed the Universal Federation for Preservation of Hip Hop Culture, a union of sorts with plans to generate revenue for the pioneers. In one proposed scenario, the Federation would license its members’ collective memorabilia and oral histories to museums or film productions in exchange for fees.
Mr. Wilson, however, doesn’t think personal fortunes should factor. “We’re doing this for the culture. Period,” he said. “Not for one specific group, or the pioneers. It’s up to them whether they want to be down with it or not.”
KRS-One (né Lawrence Parker) says that he wants to see a museum built, but that it must begin with compensation for the architects of hip-hop. “They deserve to get paid,” he said. “This wouldn’t be a gift. More like an honorarium for scholars.” He added that he routinely sends money and other assistance to pioneers in need. A second-wave South Bronx rapper who has long been a de facto spokesman for hip-hop at large, KRS-One coordinated the S.O.B.’s summit, even as he counseled Mr. Wilson on how to salvage his rap relationships.
The museum does have influential supporters, including Terry Stewart, president and chief executive of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, who has offered guidance. For now, though, Mr. Wilson says the museum has reached an impasse with the pioneers, who are lobbying for not only for payment but input on the museum’s design. A Federation leader says negotiations will occur when representatives from both sides can be assembled.
KRS-One, who has waged his share of rap battles, says the feud itself might be a sign of common ground. “This dude is arguing with the gods!” the rapper said of Mr. Wilson. “Just imagine: The museum starts out with a founding beef.”
Coming of Age is an exhibition and book celebrating 21 years of Melas in the UK.
The Launch kicks off on FRI 28 MAY from 6pm at New Arts Exchange in Nottingham.
Melas have been held in the Indian subcontinent for thousands of years but are a relatively recent phenomenon in Britain. The term Mela stems from the Sanskrit word gathering and is used to describe all manner of cultural and religious celebrations. In Britain the term encompasses the earliest bazaars, fairs, family days and fesivals organised by the South Asian Diaspora. Within the context of the exhibition and the book the focus is on national cultural events started by Bradford and Nottingham Melas in 1988. Both explore how these Melas have grown to become annual arts events and part of the heritage of many towns and most cities.
A number of photographers have supported this project through their stunning photographs that portray the vibrant sounds and colours, traditional and contemporary expressions, graceful movement, intricate patterns, delicious smells, contented faces, exuberant and passionate joy…all found within the Mela environment.
Share in this celebration and explore the 21 year history of the Mela through this special exhibition and reading the book.
The book, Coming of Age: Celebrating 21 Years of Mela in the UK can be purchased from the New Art Exchange.
This is MAJOR people – were certainly in for a treat.
Image courtesy of Rich Mix
It’s been described as “global groove music”, but Karsh Kale & MIDIval Punditz’s sound is much more than that. Together, they weave influences from drum ‘n’ bass, Sufi music, deep house, centuries-old ghazals, rock, trip-hop, North and South Indian classical and folk music, trance, Jamaican dancehall and more. It’s a tight acoustic-electronic soundscape that – devoid of fusion clichés – blends evocative singing, instrumental melodies, ambient drone and funky, intricate amplified beats with ballsy intelligence and infectious energy.
“The musical hybrids weren’t stunts. They were the sound of musicians who listen widely and well.” The New York Times (on Karsh Kale).
“The Delhi-based Indian duo… deliver… an intense experience morphing electronic and Indian music in a way that brings out the best of both…crowded with creativity…” Isratrance (on MIDIval Punditz).
Bobby Friction is renowned for his specialist knowledge of British Asian Music & South Asian music worldwide and currently hosts a show dedicated to just that – the week nightly ‘Friction’ show on the Asian Network. Over the years Bobby has represented the British Asian sound as a DJ all over the world and has built an international reputation as a genre mixing turntabilist from Asia to the US, and from the Middle East to the whole of Europe.
He is also singularly the most lovely person Kala Phool has had the pleasure of working with.
What promises to be one of the cinematic sound sensations of the summer was reeled out Monday (10.5.10) in a celebrity premiere in London.
StreetDance is a high-octane British film that features dance troupes Diversity and Flawless. You may remember Diversity as the energetic lads who broke many a heart worldwide when they bested Internet sensation Susan Boyle in Britain’s Got Talent.
Also included in the cast is another Britain’s Got Talent victor, George Sampson.
Rounding out the cast are Charlotte Rampling, Rachel McDowall, Nichola Burley and Frank Harper.
The flick seems to have all the ingredients to be an international hit when it’s released wide later this month. It depicts the conflicts that transpire when bands of hip, young dancers have to share their studio space with a group of poised, young ballet dancers.
The music includes a hip-hop mash-up of the Elton John classic, Tiny Dancer, that’s got all the makings of a chart buster.
As if those ingredients were not enough, the film is also Europe’s first feature to be shot in 3D, and will be making the rounds in IMAX theatres everywhere.
As part of it’s 10th anniversary PRS for Music Foundation is presenting a panel discussion about the gender gap amongst music creators in collaboration with Bird’s Eye View and leading women from the music business to explore why women are outnumbered 6 to 1 amongst registered music creators and songwriters.
Mira Calix, Rachel Portman, Janis Susskind and Speech Debelle (TBC) will discuss their views in a panel to be chaired by influential music journalist Miranda Sawyer. This event will take place at Kings Place on Monday 24 May, 7pm as part of Bird’s Eye View’s Sounds and Silents series.
Birds Eye View is curating this event in collaboration with the PRS for Music Foundation to demonstrate its commitment to developing and supporting women across the arts: only 7% of film directors and 12% of screenwriters are female. This gender imbalance also exists in the music business – only 14% of PRS for Music’s registered creators and writers are women.
Vanessa Reed, Co-Director of PRS for Music Foundation said “If we want women to maximize their creative talent, we need to work across the creative industries so that we can understand the barriers and raise awareness of the current status quo. Bird’s Eye View’s Sounds and Silents series – which features live scores for film written by cutting edge female artists – is the ideal platform for this debate.”
Mostly Jazz Festival is the UK’s newest jazz festival and the only, open air, one site festival, exclusively dedicated to contemporary jazz, funk and soul.
Celebrating the dynamic grooves, innovation and excitement of the modern jazz movement; Mostly Jazz is about showcasing the diversity of contemporary jazz in all it’s forms. From avant-garde, free and modern jazz through to vocal, song based jazz, jazz-fusion and future jazz it’s also about considering jazz’s influence and relationship to other black music art-forms such as latin music, funk and soul.
For our inaugural year we have invited pioneering artists such as the Sun Ra Arkestra and Courtney Pine to perform alongside leaders of the new wave of British talent such as Polar Bear, Led Bib and Portico Quartet.
Set in the lush surroundings of Moseley Park, Birmingham’s eleven-acre woodland glade only two miles from the city centre. July 3rd & 4th 2010 is set to be a weekend to remember, we hope you can join us there.