Sunday, November 30, 2008

The little Folksinger that Is

Ani DiFranco - Image pulled from Google Images

The prolific underground musician, poet, activist, and mother, Ani DiFranco, definitely did not disappoint with her near-end tour in Montreal, the 25th of November. Metropolis was packed with your usual hippy folk, dreads and all, ready to see their unapologetic folk-rock-punk- insert any other music genre- perform her little heart out.

DiFranco first began her career early 1989, starting her own record label, Righteous Babe Records, out of the trunk of her car at only 18 years old and has been at it ever since. DiFranco’s latest album, Red Letter Year, was but a minor presence in Tuesday night’s show, but it wasn’t difficult to see the evolution of sound. Co-produced with the father of DiFranco’s daughter, Mike Napolitano, Red Letter Year possesses a somewhat softer side of Ani with whimsical and experimental instrumentals partnered with her unchanging political and philosophical lyrics. Although quite different from her past 19 solo releases, fans surely won’t be disappointed with what can be said to be DiFranco’s most sophisticated album yet.

The show opened with singer/songwriter Pieta Brown, an almost haunting yet soulful folk girl; a great parallel to the main show. It wasn’t surprising that she belted it out, infusing the audience with her unashamed zeal and well-known percussive six-string picking. My throat hurts so much from encouraging and reveling in Difranco’s inspiring words for change and power. DiFranco’s new mantra, “don’t forget to have a good time” spread throughout the venue to her audience members and with her quirky sense of humor she proved that she is still kicking with what seems to be an endless musical drive.

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Shäika Café: Art & Coffee...Can it Get Any Better?

Photo pulled from Shäika Café website:

If you’re looking for a place to relax and have some coffee that’s not too far from school, your best bet is Shäika Café. Almost every Thursday and Friday, you’ll be treated to Shaika’s weekly showing of international underground musicians. Also, the cafe is well known to the artsy scene as it features local artist with its year round art exhibits. Located in NDG, on Sherbrooke Street, directly in front of Girouard Park and a mere 10 minute walk from school, Shäika offers a variety of food and coffee selections. The café is organic, fair-trade and vegan friendly, providing customers with a comfortable seating area and free wi-fi Internet service. If you’re looking for a great (seriously, it’s fantastic) meal, stop by and purchase the Harvard sandwich at a fair price, along with a tasty moccachino or chai latté, among other goodies including pizzas and delicious desserts.

Marianopolis Meets Provocations with Matthew Firth

Reading from Can You Take Me There, Now? Photographed by Owen Egan

“[…]these stimulating short stories are meant to give just a taste of what writers can do.”

Offensive? Yes. Provocative? Definitely. Boring? Not even close. Matthew Firth joined students of Marianopolis on Tuesday, the 11th, to read from his new book “Suburban Pornography”, causing a stir in the Canadian literature scene at the same time.

Firth was brought by the Marianopolis English Department and introduced to students by our very own Zsolt Alapi. The Ontario native, now residing in Ottawa, is not your typical Canadian literary writer, as is pointed out through the very catchy title of his new works. He’s been hailed as Canada’s Bukowski thanks to his extremely provocative and edgy style of writing. Alapi even generously described Firth as, “totally uncompromising [...] doesn’t try to cater to the academy.”

Along with “Suburban Pornography,” Firth read from his older works titled “Fresh Meat” and “Can You Take Me There, Now?” The three stories, one from each collection, were centered on a man and his sexual upheavals and adventures. One student politely asked Firth if that man was perhaps him, and for all you scandalous dreamers out there, you can be sure that one of the stories –involving a dark alleyway– did in fact revolve around Firth’s own personal experience.

Firth is especially known for the publishing of chapbooks through Black Bile Press, founded by himself. Many of these stimulating short stories are meant to give just a taste of what writers can do. Writers published include other underground and unconventional writers such as Mark SaFranko and our very own Zsolt Alapi. Matthew Firth is also Editor-in-Chief of Front&Centre. The small literary journal seeks to create an antidote to all middling, mainstream literary journals. According to Firth, F&C attracts writers looking for an outlet who are open to their type of writing. Within its pages, you’re sure to find riveting short stories and bold book reviews, with contributor Tony O’Neil, whom many of you might remember as one of last semester’s guest readers. Firth explains this journal’s purpose as meant to, “kick against the literary pricks, so to speak” and the writing as, “tak[ing] chances, can be offensive and abrasive, but [...] also well-crafted and serious.”In continuing the well-known underground literary journal, Firth hopes to “provide a forum for bold writer to express themselves and to see their work in print and to challenge readers, to expose them to salty writing.” You can catch the latest issue of Front&Centre (#20), due out this week.

Suprisingly, Firth admits yet to receive any harsh criticism due to his “out-there” style of writing. However, just because he hasn’t received it doesn’t mean he was a problem dishing some criticism out-there himself. Firth expressed his yearning for a more diverse national writing scene in which more stories could be told. Wishing there was more variety and life to Canadian literature, Firth describes the national writing scene as being “bloody boring and middle class, dull and insipid.” In a sense, Firth hopes to make, at least, a small change to this mundane cycle of workshop writers so as to give Canada a taste of something different and edgy.

As for all you aspiring writers out there, Firth –who’s been at this for 16 years or so– gives a little piece of advice. One, make sure you’re sending your work to the appropriate publications, which means researching the magazines and journals to see if your work matches what the magazine/journal is looking for. Two, develop a thick skin because instant success never happens overnight. Get used to being rejected and learn from it. Finally, learn to work hard, to listen to criticism but also to “stick to your guns and write the way you want to write.”

As for any upcoming works, Firth explains that he has “no master plan, I work it, push it, and see where it takes me.”

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Rwandan Survivor Visits Montreal to Spread Peace

Forgiveness. It was a predominant theme when Samputu appeared at the annual International Peace Day held at Mount Royal this past September. It’s easier said than done, he admits. In 1994, Rwanda, a small central-African country, suffered one of the most horrifying genocides in recent history. It is estimated that around 800,000 people died in those 90 days. Former friends were pitted against one another as Tutsis were mass killed by the Hutu militia. 46-year old singer-songwriter and Tutsi, Samputu, was one of the lucky few who survived the genocide, but not without some horrendous scars.

Following the genocide of his country, a time in which he lost both his mother, father, three of his brothers and sister at the hands of his next-door neighbor and childhood friend, Vincent, Jean-Paul went through his own hell. During nine long years, he found himself lost in hatred, alcoholism, and drug abuse, unable to forgive or forget the event and man that - it seemed - would haunt him for the rest of his life.

In 2003, the Tutsi finally found forgiveness within himself and after seeking the help he needed, Samputu spoke out about his new vision of life. “I openly told everyone that I had forgiven the man that killed my parents,” he said of his return to his country to stand before the tribunal court. Even after forgiving the man who killed his family and befriending him for a second time, Samputu was not done.

Currently, the singer travels the world performing his unique style of music - much of which was inspired by the neglected Pygmy people of Rwanda. “That’s what I do.” Samputu said about his message to the world. “My music changed forever after the Rwandan genocide […] I sing about peace, love, and reconciliation.” Samputu hopes to reach the youngest audiences: “Children are leaders of the world of tomorrow. In 20 years, they will rule the world. Try to teach the children. If you don’t teach them or give them a good education, they will think that this culture of war and revenge is a good thing to do.”

It is for that very reason that Samputu founded the Mizero Children of Rwanda. Mizero means “hope” in Kinyarwanda. The organization brings together children of Rwanda to train them in dance, singing, and speech. Samputu, along with other Mizero authorities, select a small group of approximately 12 children to travel the world performing as well as speaking out about the genocide, giving the underprivileged children a sense of closure as well as a sense of purpose and hope for their future.

Samputu – an Ambassador for Peace – is a model for anyone who wants to make a change in the world today. However, Samputu is not above looking for guidance himself: “How can I spread the message of peace though? Who is the first person to talk? If you want to change the world, first you have to be the change. You. Be the change you want to see in the world, as Gandhi said.”

Can we truly forgive and forget? If there is one person who could answer that question, it would be Jean-Paul Samputu, and he seems to think so.

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