Music Notes – June 2014

David Rovics

David Rovics planning fall Canada tour

Negotiations are underway to bring renowned singer-songwriter and activist David Rovics back to Ottawa next October for a fund-raising concert to send an Ernesto Che Guevara Work Brigade volunteer to Cuba. Now, in a recent announcement to supporters, Rovics has outlined a “crowd sourced plan” for a fall tour of the USA and Canada. He’s hoping to hear from at least 30 individuals or groups who live in the USA, or anywhere in Canada within 200 miles of the US border, and who are willing to commit to organizing a concert. By late June he’ll begin mapping out a continent-wide tour. Other artists use similar methods to organize tours, but what’s striking about Rovics is his enduring and seemingly tireless commitment to the life of a radical grassroots troubadour, and his ability to bring first-hand reports of local struggles from around the world to each community that he visits. For access to his music and information on how to organize a David Rovics show scroll down to the bottom of his website (www. davidrovics.com).

Folk Alliance abandoning principles?

Folk Alliance International (FAI), the umbrella group for the North American folk music community, has come under scathing criticism from two prominent members who accuse it of abandoning its principles. Music critic Dave Marsh, a life member and former director, lashed out in a special issue of his newsletter Rock Rap Confidential, taking aim at the group’s recent embrace of Al Gore, who was invited to give his presentation “The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change” at the annual FAI conference in Kansas City in February. Marsh observes that Gore’s approach to solving the environmental crisis privileges venture capital firms like AOL, Amazon and Google, as well as companies he himself owns. “It’s just the liberal version of the conservative lie that a rising tide lifts all boats,” Marsh writes. “It never asks whether everybody has a boat, or whether the boats we do have will carry all the people now living, let alone coming generations”. Shortly after the conference, FAI co-founder and board member Art Menius resigned, lamenting the board’s endorsement of Gore’s “faux-progressive platform”. He criticized the board for drifting toward a business and entertainment model and forsaking its mandate to educate the public about the core values of the folk music movement and its identity as part of the left.

‘Seeger Fest’ to be held July 17-21

Since Pete Seeger’s death on January 27th, people across this continent have organized scores of song circles, concerts, and film screenings in his honour. Now, the Seeger family and friends have got in on the act with a series of commemorative events. “Seeger Fest” is a free five-day festival from July 17-21, celebrating Pete and his partner of 70 years, Toshi Ohta Seeger. It begins Thursday evening with a screening of the 2007 documentary Pete Seeger: The Power of Song at Pier 46 on the Hudson River. Next day, there’s a memorial gathering at Bardavon Opera House in Poughkeepsie, NY. On Saturday, there’s a square dance at the Ashokan Center (in the Catskills Mountains), a song circle/potluck in the couple’s hometown of Beacon, NY, and an exhibit of their film-work and photography at El Taller Latino Americano in Manhattan. On Sunday, there’s a concert in Damrosch Park (next to Lincoln Center) with Tom Chapin, Guy Davis, Holly Near, Peter Yarrow, & Emma’s Revolution. Finally, there’s “New Songs of Justice”, a concert in Central Park on Monday evening, featuring Amanda Palmer, Anti-Flag, Steve Earle and Rebel Diaz. It’s all free! Check the website for details (http://www.seegerfest.org/).

Fred Ho 1957-2014

Saxophonist, composer, bandleader, writer and activist Fred Ho died on April 12 after a long battle with cancer. Of Chinese descent, Ho was born Fred Wei-han Houn in Palo Alto, California. He changed his name in 1988, after establishing himself as an outstanding baritone saxophonist and revolutionary cultural worker. Ho is often linked with the avant-garde jazz world and the Asian American jazz movement, but though his work resonated with those influences, he rejected the use of the term ‘jazz’, because he believed it was a pejorative term used by white Americans to denigrate African American music. Nevertheless, much of his work fused the legacies of traditional Asian and African music with what many people would call jazz. Ho’s music was vibrant, uncompromising, and uplifting. He recorded 15 acclaimed albums as a leader and wrote or co-edited several books on music including Legacy to Liberation (2000), in which he described his personal aesthetic vision, calling for an art based upon “imaginative critical realism”. Fred Ho wrote several books about his struggle with colorectal cancer, including Diary of a Radical Warrior: Fighting Cancer and Capitalism at the Cellular Level. Watch the trailer of the documentary “Fred Ho’s Last Year” at http://discoverfredho.org.

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