Archive for February, 2008


So recently on a Saturday, we (and the wife and 2-year old daughter) were passing through Union Square where everyone’s favorite brass band plays near the 4-6 train tracks (when they’re not touring).

We’re in a hurry but my daughter wants to stop and hear them play.

And I want to snap some quick pictures.

‘No,’ says one of the band members. I would later learn he is Smoov, one of the guys on trumpet. ‘You’ve got to pay first.’ Fair enough.

I also pay for one of their CDS — the 2007 release New York Live and they, to indulge me, start to play ‘War,’ the fifth track on the CD.

I am snapping away. The crowd grows. Another guy wants to start snapping pictures. Smoov walks over to him and says ‘No.’

The guy protests: ‘But he …,’ and he gestures in my direction, ‘is taking [pictures].’

‘Yeh,’ counters Smoov, pauses and pointing at me: ‘But he’s part of the team.’

I like their hustle. I like their sound. I am a fan.

* To sample their sounds, see the band’s myspace page, watch them on Youtube (in a short New York Times feature or read the profile) or follow updates on their blog.


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The Village Voice eats up bored billionaire supermarket chain guy John Catsimatidis‘ tales about kidnappings and weird business deals in the West African nation of Mali. All to bolster his mystique to be mayor of New York City.

I suppose that’s a qualification for leading this city.

The full tall tale here.

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The op-ed I wrote for the Guardian (UK) newspaper ‘s Comment is Free site on the wider context of the racist incident at the University of the Free State (captured on video), is now up at that paper’s website. To read the piece and the responses (including some off-color ones), go here. Blogger at Rootless Cosmopolitan reprinted it for more reactions on the piece. See also the responses there. [BTW, In the piece I mention accompanying my mother to rural farming district in the Small Karoo (in Afrikaans Klein Karoo) where she grew up. That’s my mother in the image above in front of the house where she was born and spent her childhood; another family is renting it from the present landowner.]

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Not to speak ill of the death, but before the whitewash on William F Buckley (now that he passed) begins (like it did with Ronald Reagan), it would be good to remind ourselves of the former National Review editor’s admirable politics on racial and other dictatorships, in this case Apartheid South Africa.

Jacob Heilbrunn reported in the American Prospect a few years back on the National Review‘s editorial policy (and more broadly the politics of American conservatives) towards Apartheid South Africa. Here’s an excerpt:

One of the first mentions of South Africa in National Review came in an editorial comment on April 23, 1960, that inquired, “Deadend in South Africa?” Initially, the editors defended apartheid by depicting the problem of race relations as insoluble and therefore hopeless. “It is not a solution to assert that South Africa belongs to the blacks (who, as it happens, moved into the region after the whites),” the editors said, “any more than it is proper to say that the American South ‘belongs’ to the white man.” Moving along from the question of whom South Africa belonged to, the editors contended, “the whites are entitled, we believe, to pre-eminence in South Africa.”

There’s more on the Prospect‘s website. Just follow the link above.

A good account of Buckley’s Africa policy can also be found in James Sanders’ excellent study, South Africa and the International Media 1972-1979: A Struggle for Representation.

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The Clinton camp is getting desperate as their latest smear proves. Now the Kenyan economist’s son is apparently also way cooler than Hillary Clinton because he must have an iPod and gets on stage to Ben Harper, Stevie Wonder, Bill Withers and U2.

Hillary? For a while she entered the stage to the tune of Celine Dion. Now the campaign’s song is by Big Head Todd and Monsters. I know. Who?

Serious. This stuff influence how people vote here.

For the full story, see The Observer here.

BTW, should Barack want to incorporate some African sounds into his campaign., here’s some advice: What about some Afrikan Boy, Ayo, BLK JKS, Hoba Hoba Spirit, Mokobe, Terror MC, Tiken Jah Fakoly, and Boraka Sim Sistema or VIP.

The best bet, though, is probably the US-Kenyan group Extra Golden who wrote a song for the man, ‘Obama.’

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So I did an interview with the gents over at Afripod a few weeks ago at Michigan State University in East Lansing (historians Peter Alegi and Peter Limb — the “2 Peters”).

The whole thing is over here.

Photo Credit.

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Part of the introduction of a story about a pending ruling by an electoral tribunal in Nigeria tomorrow about its flawed 2007 election:

Just as Kenya’s electoral crisis eases, a battle is brewing over a deeply flawed and highly contested election in another fractious, ethnically and religiously divided African nation, Nigeria. But this time the fight is taking place not between ethnic militants brandishing clubs and machetes in muddy alleyways of slums and villages. The fight over Nigeria’s tattered democracy is being carried out in the hushed hallways of courtrooms, by men and women in black robes and powdered wigs, armed with stacks of legal briefs and forensic evidence of stuffed ballots and doctored tally sheets.

Who writes this kind of copy?

Lower down a Nigerian lawyer compares the legal battle to ‘Super Tuesday.’ He may have been too polite to the reporter, Lydia Polgreen, as he could have reminded her that it is closer to the ‘daylight robbery’ (another phrase he uses) of the 2000 US elections with its suppression of black voters, voter fraud and ‘faulty’ electronic voter machines and a President appointed by a partisan court; more recently large scale irregularities were recorded in the New York primaries of the Democratic Party.

But that’s not in Africa.

And it would have meant dumping the whole Kenya link: ‘Kenya’ that is now is a now stand-in for ‘ethnic militants,’ ‘clubs and machetes’ and ‘slums and villages.’ Every African story that involves political conflict of any kind will from now on have an obligatory Kenya reference and comparison. (Let me not start about ‘ethnic voting’ in the United States.)

If you still like punishment and disappointment, for the rest of the New York Times story on the Nigerian elections, go here.

However, if you want to be informed, go to, This Day, Africa Confidential or Africa Today.

(Oh, and the Britney reference: here)

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