Masekela Jazz meets Steel pan

By Nicosia Smith

It may well be an explosive combination, of steel pan and trumpet.

The juicy, racy and up tempo, steel pan music, with the jazzy, ethnic, sometimes blues notes of the trumpet.

In this case with an internationally renowned trumpeter.

South African Hugh Ramopolo Masekela has made a collaborative CD with Trinidad and Tobago, Petrotrin Siparia Deltones Steel Orchestra.

Over ten years ago at the San Fernando Jazz festival, he heard and fell in love with the sound of the Deltones. Hence the collaboration.

Now, carnival sounds is meeting the unique African cultural and ethnic take on jazz.

I have not yet heard the mix, but this collaborative effort was widely reported last year in T&T.

Hugh Ramopolo Masekela (Nicosia Smith photo)

Hugh Ramopolo Masekela (Nicosia Smith photo)

While he is a world-renowned trumpeter, he likes to play that down. I realized this when we spoke. He is also straight forward and speaks his mind. For example, he loan me his hat to take a photo with him, not wanting my hair style to get in the way.Joint works like these, I believe stretches the scope of music, and introduces audiences to new and innovative sounds. And this is important toward bridging the  musical and cultural gaps that currently exist.

For example, a younger generation is now introduced to the freedom songs and jazz of Masekela and he to theirs.

And the collaborations continued this year, as Masekela, told me on his way to T&T last month, from New York.

Masekela favorites are Bring him back Home, a song during the apartheid era in South African to free Nelson Mandela and Stimela (Cold Train).

So play on, play on  Masekela and the Deltones, let the trumpet and steel pan rhythm lead.

The beauty of a black and white drawing

A portrait by Morgan Sparks Smith (Image of his brother Marvin according to Swann Auction Galleries records.)

A portrait by Morgan Sparks Smith (Image of his brother Marvin according to Swann Auction Galleries records.)

“The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper from a passing shape, ” P. Picasso

By Nicosia Smith

A seemingly simple art form, yet exquisite in its detail, form and simplicity.

It’s always an amazement how equally griping black and white images are. That is, when we take a break from color paintings.

So I considered it a good contrast when Swann Auction Galleries,

104 East 25th St, this month featured the black and white images

along side full color paintings.

In Swann’s, Shadows Uplifted: The Rise of African-American Fine Art, noted black and whites included:

  •  Charles White (1918-1979) Pensive Lass, Charcoal on illustration board, 1936
  •  Allan Rohan Crite (1910-2007) The Last Super
  •  Aaron Douglas (1888-1979) Snow Storm, Charcoal on woven paper, circa 1950-1955
  •  Morgan Sparks Smith (1910-1993) Portrait, Charcoal on thin laid paper, 1934

In Douglas’s, Snow Storm, the light and soft strokes beautifully depicted a snow storm, as the wind churned the snow toward the nearby trees and homes.

And even from the lone visible figure in the image, one can see the distress, as they battle the strong winds.

As I confront the current brutal winter in NYC, I have a greater appreciation for this piece.

There is just something about a natural clear image, laid bare with raw emotions. Truly a pleasure.

The self portraits are a beautiful example of this. So one and all, bring on the black and white selfies, as well.

Charles White, Pensive Lass (Head of a Woman)

Charles White, Pensive Lass (Head of a Woman)

Now, the exhibit had other noted big hitters in African-American contemporary art. Whose works include bronze sculptures, oil on masonite board and watercolors like :

  •  Claude Clerk (1915-2001)
  •  William H. Johnson (1901-1970)
  •  Augusta Savage (1892-1962)
  •  William A. Harper (1873-1910)
  •  Hale Woodruff (1900-1980)
  •  William Edouard Scott (1884-1964)
  •  Hughie Lee-Smith (1915-1999)
  •  William E. Artis (1914-1977)

It’s sometimes good to enjoy the simple and uncomplicated, just a thought.

Remembering Brooklyn Abolitionist Ties

Frank Decker (Nicosia Smith photo)

Frank Decker (Nicosia Smith photo)

By Nicosia Smith

Black history month is here and with it a long list of programs and events.

So, of course, I am not going to miss out.

My first event was the Brooklyn Abolitionists/In Pursuit of Freedom discussion at the Brooklyn Historical Society.

Frank Decker, Author of “Brooklyn Plymouth Church in the Civil War Era: A Ministry of Freedom,” and Lois Rosebrooks, who assisted Decker, spoke on the book.

At 75 Hicks Street, Brooklyn, stands Plymouth Church at its original location from 1847.

Decker explained how Plymouth Church under the leadership of Henry Ward Beecher, stood behind abolitionist and the abolition movement.

Plymouth had major support from its congregation, like Member Harriet Beecher Stowe author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

This breakthrough novel on slavery explain the conditions of the enslaved and helped to garner support.

The church’s involvement in the underground railroad, gain Plymouth the name, “Grand Central Depot.”

Escaped slaves went to Canada (where it was illegal to return salves) and to Northern states like New York, and to Brooklyn.

Between 1860-1865, Brooklyn was the third largest city in the US.

Plymouth Church basement hid many fugitives (escaped slaves).

Not to say that slavery sympathizers did not have their way as well. Escaped slaves risk being kidnapped in the North.

So all was not well in Brooklyn or the rest of the North. (As seen in the picture below.) As the popular film 12 Years a Slave testifies to.

The 1850 Fugitive Slave Act allowed federal marshals to cross state lines and arrest suspected fugitives. Exhibit at the Brooklyn Historical Society (Nicosia Smith photo)

The 1850 Fugitive Slave Act allowed federal marshals to cross state lines and arrest suspected fugitives. Exhibit at the Brooklyn Historical Society (Nicosia Smith photo)

Brooklyn’s diverse population also brought its own problems. As the civil war raged, tension grew between the marginalized groups in Brooklyn,

That is, the Irish and Africans.

The tensions lead to violence, like the Tobacco Factory Riots in Brooklyn in August 1862 and the Draft Riots in Manhattan in July 1863.

Then Union victory came in 1865 and the Thirteenth Amendment ending slavery, followed by the reconstruction period.

There is much to learn about that period, and to what I like to say, deconstruct how it all went down.

The Historical Society throughout February will host an exhibit and review short films on civil rights and slavery, in an attempt to do just that.

So if you can try to attend a few.

Rubin Museum explores photo alterations of the past

Rajasahib of Dhrangadhara, the then ruler of a princely state in present day Gujarat (India), photographer and painter unknown ca 1930. Gelatin silver print and oil paint. (Nicosia Smith photo)

Rajasahib of Dhrangadhara, the then ruler of a princely state in present day Gujarat (India), photographer and painter unknown ca 1930. Gelatin silver print and oil paint. (Nicosia Smith photo)

For those of us who practice photo shop there is a sense of gratification when we finally get the image we desire.

So what if you were royal. What would those alterations be?

The Rubin Museum of Art in its Allegory and Illusion – Early Portrait Photography from South Asia, showcased a delectable example of early photo alterations.

Images from South Asia in the 1800’s, showed photos of Royals being retouch with color, silk and whatever else they desired, as a statement of their authority.

This is the Portrait of a Royal, from the Photo art Studio Rajkot ca. 1900-1930. Gelatin silver print, oil paint, silk cloth,velvet cloth, sequins and gold-colored wire were added to his image. (Nicosia Smith photo)

This is the Portrait of a Royal, from the Photo art Studio Rajkot ca. 1900-1930. Gelatin silver print, oil paint, silk cloth,velvet cloth, sequins and gold-colored wire were added to his image. (Nicosia Smith photo)

Now of course, the changes being made for the Royals were approved before hand, I would imagine.

This was done by either putting the additions on a portrait photo (as seen left) or using the photo as a model to paint a portrait and adding the enhancements (as seen below).

So a painter would then add for example color, sparkles, silk and gold. Power and stature played a big roll in what was added.

This, it seem was quite common during those days.

A portrait painter, image taken at the Rubin Museum. (Nicosia Smith photo)

A portrait painter, image taken at the Rubin Museum. (Nicosia Smith photo)

Allegory and Illusion explores early portrait photography from India, Nepal, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), and Burma (Myanmar)  from the mid-nineteenth century to the mid twentieth century.While there are many images of Royals and high-ranking members of society, there are also images of the ordinary, whose portraits have no alterations.

This exhibition goes through February 10.