Monday, February 01, 2010

Angèlique Kidjo at Parco della Musica, with a special guest appearance from Carmen Consoli

I was not in good mood last week after receiving some bad news about my work (will explain another time).

I went to the show with three Italian friends. I have never seen Kidjo in concert but have a few of her CDs.

At first everyone was sitting down, into the music but no dancing or anything. This space is similar to New York's Carnegie Hall or Lincoln Center.

Kidjo said, "I can't believe this is Rome. What's going on here? Don't be shy." During the next song a group of people went up front, started dancing and that was it.

The rest of the night we did not sit down. Kidjo stepped off the stage and went into the audience with her mike. Later she invited Carmen Consoli (an Italian singer) who was in the audience, up to sing Aretha Franklin's "Baby, I Love You" with her.

For the last couple of songs, she asked audience members to come up on stage. It was great to see so many children. They were having a ball. She held one girl's hand who seemed a little nervous and the two of them danced.

One of her drummers came out to the center of the stage. A few people, Africans and Italians, busted out with African dance moves. The energy in the auditorium was unreal. It was like we are at a very cool, fun house party.

Her band is tight, her vocals amazing. Her new albums drops this week and she is touring internationally. If Kidjo comes to your city, I highly recommend checking out her concert.

My friends said they had so much fun at the show. We talked about it for the rest of the night. I saw one friend at Capoeira class the next day and he was still talking about it.

Kidgo spoke about the 2010 World Cup and how she was so proud it's going to be on her continent. She said Africa is more than just famine, war, corruption. Kidjo was born in Benin and raised there and in Paris. She sings in English, French and Yoruba.

Before the concert I was thinking what the heck am I doing with my life regarding writing? Why am I writing? Who am I writing for? How do I reconciled what I like to write vs. what sells in Hollywood? How do I make a living in an industry that is not a meritocracy? How do I survive in an industry that is ageist, racist and sexist?

Then two things happened, the concert and Kathryn Bigelow winning the DGA award for Best Director. This is the first time a woman has ever won. And the DGA is the most male-dominated guild in a very male-dominated industry.

Bigelow keeps doing her thing. It wasn't easy for her to find get the money to finance THE HURT LOCKER. The movie made NO money but here it is, still in the Oscar mix, because it's a good film.

Kidjo grew up listening to all types of music thanks to her parents. You hear the influence in her work. When she sings you feel her emotion, energy, spirit. She's not some talentless auto-tune brand.

These two women create what they want to create. It's authentic.

I'm still trying to figure out how to approach my work. I have to find the middle ground between writing the stories I want to tell and making them commercial. In the meantime I need to refocus, recharge and rewrite. I refuse to believe that as an female agent said to her client, a black female writer/director friend of mine, "black women have no value." Yes she was talking about the Hollywood marketplace but I understand why my friend got so upset. Who wants to hear you have no value?


Simone said...

Thank you for the share - It inspires! I understand and can relate to where you are right now! This may sound silly but when ever I question my art and need to express myself I re-read - In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose (1983). It gives me comfort enough to face the fact that I must make art regardless of my circumstance. Though I recommend this book I am not saying it will work for you but perhaps reaching for the work of those that influence and comfort you will give you the support and strength you need right now! Find comfort in the fact that you aren't alone in your struggle to make your work "commercial" in order to support your life.

GGirl2 said...

Hang in there NYC. I can totally relate to questioning your purpose and why you do what you are doing. I am here in Moldova in the Peace Corps and am so very discouraged. It's been six months in country and I have done nothing concrete as yet and the next seventeen are going to fly by just a quickly. It does not help that most Moldovans do not want to help themselves. I go back and forth about going home and living my life. I don't feel like the sacrifice is worth it. I do still believe in why I came here though, so I will give it a year to start bearing some fruit.
Hang in there, you will see the fruits of your labour, you are doing what you love and that will is what is most important to hold on to when you start questioning yourself

Lauren said...

First off, I couldn't agree with you more. Kathryn Bigelow is baller. The Hurt Locker was baller. You're so right on--it's evident it was a work of love, something she had to create. Listening to the actors from some interviews, she was implacable. She more than hung with the big boys. They were all getting heat stroke and stomach ailments, she was running up and down sand dunes in Jordan to get the shots she wanted. I only hope she kicks her ex's ass at the Oscars. And then maybe more people will see her film.

But, perhaps more to the point you're making, I'm always in awe of those artists, who are so taken with a project and their need to make it, that they just do it. And it always confuses me when i hear about the given knowledge about what sells and what doesn't in hollywood (not like i really know anything about the industry), but aren't the shiny new, different and exciting things the ones that will be the game changers, get the attention, make waves? And not another Transformers and the City 8: Rise of the Femmebots?

That said, I'm actually a new-ish expat student to Rome, and was wondering how you did your writing here. I'm currently dabbling in writing (much inspired by your blog, btw), and let me tell you, the smallest things will derail my focus and drive. Are there writing/support groups? Workshops? Shrines to pray to the patron saint of writers' block? Drug dealers with ritalin?

Eagerly awaiting more news about your work.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

simone - grazie. I will look into the book. One never knows what will inspire you.

ggirl2 - don't give up. That is amazing you're in the Peace Corps. Maybe you won't realize the impact you've had until after you leave. Thanks for the support.

lauren - ciao and welcome to Rome. I really hope Ms. Bigelow wins the Oscar. I was very salty after the Golden Globes.

A friend asked me to write a post about my writing process. Maybe I should do that next week. Anyway, I'm sure there are writers' groups here. Most workshops are in Italian but there are quite a few English speaking expat writers, journalists, novelists and screenwriters. Paul Haggis lives here part-time in Trastevere. Seeing how he was paid 4 millions dollars to write Quantum of Solace, he can afford to live in Trastevere. ha.

The patron saint of writers is Saint Francesco de Sales. Can't help on the drug deal front. My drug of choice is Swedish Fish candy which I buy at IKEA every few months.

scatteredmoments said...

Amazing music! You can really feel her energy and spirit. Angelique is going on my to buy ASAP list.

We all have value. It just depends on what you value. Keep writing your stories. There are people who want to hear them.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

scattermoments - thanks for the encouragement. I bought Angelique latest's outstanding.

This Time Now said...

You are priceless! Your thoughts are priceless as well as your writing!
Living your life with purpose, there's nothing more valuable than that.

You're an inspiration and I thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Felicia, This Time in Seoul

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

grazie mille Felicia!