Tuesday, May 10, 2011
You Must Learn!
~I'm quickly gettin into my summer reading mode, stacking books to tackle over the next few months. Summer in central Texas starts in late February, so I'm actually a bit late here, but thats okay.
~Robin D.G Kelley is, at least in my opinion, the official historian of the hiphop nation (yes, Jeff Chang comes a close second). I realize I'm probably showing my, how can I say, experience? veteran status? in the game by using such an antiquated term as 'hiphop nation,' but I can think of no other term that fits.
Kelley's treatment of Monk goes deep, tracing his roots back to the Carolinas to New York and around the world once the legendary pianist gains his due spot in the Jazz scene. The author portrays Monk as an eccentric character, a playful artist who could intimidate lesser-skilled musicians with the glance of an eye--a man with a deep moral conviction that guided his somewhat chaotic and turbulent path in life. Monk's life was difficult. He lived the cliched life of the struggling artist, always searching for that big break, the next check, the next gig, never really finding comfort, or a steady income. This, of course, in no way detracts from his musical genius. At over 450 pages, the book is not a quick read. However, it is a must for any Monk fan or jazz fan.
~I first came across this book while visiting the always excellent Mudd Up site. I've traveled to D.F. (Mexico City as its more commonly known) numerous times in my life. First as a child visiting relatives in the early 80s (my grandparents came from Toluca, just outside D.F.), again in the late 90s to spread my grandfather's ashes in the volcanic crater that overlooks the valley, and most recently just a few years ago, to visit family. My memories are of family gatherings, trips to the pyramids, and VW bugs, so it was nice to get an insider's perspective on the music scenes of D.F. from Hernandez.
Although his book seems to focus more on the emo and punk scenes, as opposed to the cumbia/sonidero/hiphop scenes that I might be drawn to, he still manages to keep the subject matter fresh and interesting (I read the entire book in just over a day). As a fellow 'pocho,' I identify with Hernandez's struggle to find a place in society (US or Mexican)--not American enough for the US, not Mexican enough for Mexico. So we straddle the fence, eat tacos, root for the Lakers, listen to Cumbias, and spend our days mastering the King's English.
At times, the book reads like a Vice guide to D.F., a sort of documentary-style narrative covering fashionistas and their overly inebriated/ intoxicated party goers as they move from one scene to another, always sure to find themselves in the light of the camera and the 'place to be.' I know the types and, truthfully, I tend to stay far away from them. Fortunately, Hernandez comes to the same realization and focuses the majority of his time on the more down-to-earth types, anarcho-punks fighting gentrification and aspiring designers that read both the Popul Vuh and the Bhagavad Gita...more my crowd. Either way, I think I'm ready for another trip down to D.F.