Remembering Miles Davis On His 90th Birthday

first_imgOn May 26th, 1926, one of most iconic musicians of all time came into the world: Miles Davis. Born to rare black middle class parents, Davis would grow from boy to adult through some of the nation’s hardest times, and his music would help an exhausted post war country regain its attitude of hope. His innovations caused seismic shifts in the music world, as trends like Bebop, Cool, Hard Bop, Blue, and Fusion sprung from his need to seek something beyond what he heard around him.  Davis regularly went beyond his own boundaries, fearlessly looking for the next wave.  Sadly, a closer look at his life reveals he was likely searching for anything he could control in the midst of a runaway life.Davis wasn’t one for bending his notes, keeping vibrato to a minimum for most of his career.  His playing was so captivating because it was so honest.  You were seeing directly into him.  The rawness, the energy masterfully restrained into short, staccato flights of fancy held the jazz community’s attention for decades. He started playing live during World War II, when he was still in high school.  Though he would himself inspire many devoted fans, he idolized Charlie Parker, and in the fall of 1944, he finally managed a jam session with him and the some of the founding fathers of the Bebop movement.  The uptempo attitude, sunny sky songs caused a national stir, and many stars were minted. Not one to rest on helping create an entire wave of musical style, he soon went on to help bring around the birth of cool jazz. The cool jazz sound was an experiment to make the music a voice its own, with an emphasis on the organic and flowing rhythms, even in the solos. Davis went abroad in the early fifties.  While he had faced institutional racism in America, he found himself a well regarded genius and was treated accordingly in France.  He had a love affair with the country itself, which ended tragically when he returned to New York and fell into a heroin addiction.  The legend goes that he locked himself away for protracted periods, going through a painful and prolonged withdrawal.  It’s either amazing or tragic that he continued to perform through all of this. Losing his voice after the strain of an operation, he gained a raspy tone, that coupled with his haunting playing created an other-worldly air about him.  In his musical journeys around the world, he fell in love with modal forms of song structure, basing lengthy music passages around long sustained notes and tones, and expanded his free flow solos into entirely imporvised pieces, taking the entire band along for the ride.He was a rare player in all accounts.  A musician’s musician who also also held the public’s attention. Though the critical acclaim he fet he deserved was lauded on contemporaries, the players who took the stage with him is a parade of names etched into the walls of jazz History.  The aforementioned Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Gil Evans, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Thelonius Monk, Sonny Rollins, Art Taylor, Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, Bill Evans, Bennie Maupin, John McLaughlin to name just a few.  He was as proficient at recruiting existing greats as discovering diamonds in the rough.  His playing didn’t just elevate those around them, it inspired them to play beyond themselves.In 1959, Miles Davis released the highest selling jazz album of all time, Kind Of Blue, with pianist Bill Evans, drummer Jimmy Cobb, bassist Paul Chambers, and saxophonists John Coltrane and Julian “Cannonball” Adderley filling out his band. Employing his adapted modal techniques, the compositions were roughly outlined, and each player given a range of tone and scale that they were free to solo within.  His choice in musicians was an inspired one, as each lived up to the trust placed in them. The five songs that comprised the two sides of the album, “So What“, “Freddie Freeloader“,  “Blue In Green“, “All Blues“, and “Flamenco Sketches” were something of a culmination of all that Davis had dabbled in up to this point, and the freshness of the sound, the adeptness of the instrumentalists and the plain honesty of the voice caused the album to transcend considerations of race, taste and social standing.  It was art, and it was for everyone.  In 2009, Congress made possibly the most unneeded, though completely deserved, declaration, proclaiming the album a national treasure.“So What”As the sixties led to an explosion of psychedelia and funk in a response to a national unrest over continuing racial tensions and the long running war in Vietnam, Davis found his attention wandering yet again.  He formed a blended band of acoustic and  instruments, and led a funk oriented group that produced challenging, dense funk with compositions overflowing with jamming tangents and free form soul.  He played rock festivals and found a ready made audience, eager for something to stretch the boundaries that had defined bands like Parliament–Funkadelic and Sly & The Family Stone. His work of this period became known as “Space Music“, a label he did not fight.  He, as always, used his music to express his emotion, and again, like always, left a feeling of fury and abandon echoing in the minds of his listeners long after the last notes were played.  Isle Of Wight Festival, 1970As the seventies wore on, he honed his fusion of rock and jazz, releasing albums like Dark Magus, Agharta, and Pangaea which broke loose from the confines of the studio. With compositions both rock and jazz, the trio served as almost a musical Rosetta Stone, a secret code to an all new language that Davis was conceiving on the fly.  Challenged audiences were divided, with some instantly swept away in the sonic maelstrom, while others found the aggressive variances of tone and breakneck pace shifts occasionally bordering on atonal to be more than they could handle.  Though his music was breaking bonds, his mind was being slowly locked down, as he faced a deteriorating mental state and a devolution into near hermitage when not onstage.  His work in the eighties took a turn for the more superficial, as his own years of ravaged living had taken their toll.  His newer material did not satisfy new audiences, though, a true iconoclast to the end, he refused repeated, reportedly huge offers to re-embrace his older catalog.  He remained true to his belief that, as an artist, he should always be exploring, even if his steps led him down a path no one was willing to follow him on.His relevance superceded genre.  He wrote a songbook that stands up to anyone who ever lived, and played his instrument with an eloquence rare beyond value.  He was posthumously inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, and for his influence of the very language of improvisational music it was an honor well deserved.  The list of musicians who would readily tell you how much of an influence Miles’ sound has had on them is likely longer than the amount of words in every column and blurb posted on this site today…and probably the entire week.  As under his masterful control his sound was…that’s how out of control his personal life became. The sad tales of addiction and the mental difficulties he went through in fighting them are oft and far better told than I could muster here.  He was a world wide phenomenon.  He was an ambassador of sound, telling tales of anger and anguish, hope and joy with a voice so unique that there was no mistaking it.  While it would be over stating that any fan of improvisational music further explored by bands like the Grateful Dead, the Allman Brothers and Phish should delve into the works of Miles Davis, it is surely true that the music they love was influenced by the work of the man. To celebrate this great man’s life, sit back and let the music of the following video, “Around The Midnight,” wash over you. You’ll be glad you did.last_img read more

In conservative Indonesia, this gay activist braves social curbs to help the marginalized

first_imgGay activist Hartoyo has had to overcome both physical and virtual curbs on his movement so that he may continue to feed the urban poor, persecuted members of the LGBT community as well as women and children – population groups that are the worst affected by the pandemic.The 43-year-old founder of rights advocacy group Suara Kita was used to financing aid programs through the in-house SriKendes boutique, which sells original, traditional motif clothing that can fetch Rp 50 million to Rp 60 million (US$3,400 to $4,080) every month, mostly during exhibitions.Read also: Hartoyo: Coming out for his rights Topics : But when Jakarta entered a de facto lockdown in April, the exhibitions stopped, and Hartoyo began tinkering with Facebook, setting up a namesake “Har Toyo” account. He eventually settled on a new fundraising model: auctioning pre-loved clothes, handbags and shoes on Facebook Live.“Store sales dropped drastically – maybe now around Rp 15 million to Rp 20 million – but we managed to find a new market by selling online,” Hartoyo told The Jakarta Post by phone on Aug. 14.But then there were the online woes. Users began reporting his account, leading to two Facebook suspensions: one on July 23 and another on Aug. 8. The first suspension lasted a day and the second, around half an hour.One Facebook Indonesia representative told Hartoyo that his account was suspended over his use of the word bencong, an Indonesian slur for “queer”. For Hartoyo, saying bencong meant reclaiming the word from its pejorative beginnings, but for the Facebook algorithms, it was hate speech.center_img “In these cases, we allow the content to remain on Facebook but require people to clearly indicate their intent,” a Facebook spokesperson told the Post on Aug. 19.“Where the intention is unclear, we may remove the content.”Facebook, whose headquarters is openly supportive of the LGBT community, had committed to ensuring the continuity of the Har Toyo account, Hartoyo said.SriKendes is a unique small business in Indonesia, a country ranked globally among the least tolerant to homosexuality, despite a mediocre improvement in attitude, according to a Pew Research Center study released in 2020.The study of 34 countries found that 80 percent of Indonesian respondents thought homosexuality should not be accepted, compared to only 37 percent in India, 24 percent in the Philippines and 53 percent in South Korea.Read also: Survey on acceptance in Indonesia gives hopes to LGBT communityHartoyo (left) and Ririn Sefsani (middle) dance on-camera during a live auction from Jakarta on Aug. 6. The auction raised Rp 17.4 million to help an 11-year-old disabled rape victim. (Courtesy of/Pundi Perempuan)Hartoyo and his regular co-host Audi, an auburn-haired transwoman, have a distinct campy, sarcastic humor that attracts thousands of viewers to each multi-hour auction.They secure roughly Rp 10 million for each bidding session, with a record sale of Rp 17 million. Most of the funds go to running open kitchens in East and South Jakarta and to distributing hundreds of meals for out-of-work waria (transwomen) in western Indonesia.A smaller portion goes to covering Suara Kita’s operational costs, which include maintaining channels to receive cash transfers, cash donations and secondhand clothes for resale.SriKendes itself has its own namesake Facebook account, where another transwoman hosts weekly live streams to sell the store’s products. The page attracts fewer views than Har Toyo but all proceeds still go to Suara Kita.“[Hartoyo and his colleagues] touch on very sensitive and painful issues but still build support by sharing joy, by poking fun at taboo and feudal issues,” said human rights campaigner Ririn Sefsani, who participated in some of the live auctions.“The products are being sold transparently, with good service and a rather crazy selling method,” said Ririn, who works for Jakarta-based NGO Kemitraan (Partnership for Governance Reform).Ririn and Hartoyo raised Rp 17.4 million from a live auction in early August to help an 11-year-old disabled rape victim. The proceeds are slated to fund the impoverished girl’s recovery, education and family expenses, among other things.Ririn noted in an email that Hartoyo’s fundraising strategy, albeit quite successful, was only suitable for specialized fundraising non-profits as it was often time-consuming and laborious.SriKendes’ struggle with the large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) and social media bullies only adds to the challenges of running an openly LGBT-friendly business in the country.A company as big as Gojek, one of only two tech decacorns in Southeast Asia, was attacked by the #UninstallGoJek smear campaign in late 2018 after an executive expressed support for the LGBT community.Read also: #UninstallGojek trends after executive shows support for LGBT communityA viewer once canceled donating a handbag after learning of Hartoyo’s LGBT activism. The woman, a self-described Christian studying theology, texted Hartoyo, saying she “does not support their sexual orientation but, personally, I support them in prayer”.“It is a life choice but, I am sorry, I cannot support this community. I’m very sorry,” she wrote in a text message shared with the Post.The Har Toyo account is also being monitored by the openly anti-LGBT and Islamist Family Love Alliance (AILA), an organization that heavily lobbies lawmakers to outlaw premarital sex through a Criminal Code revision.Read also: COMMENTARY: Why AILA is a bigger threat to freedom than the FPIAILA’s monitoring became evident after self-proclaimed AILA member Diana Widyasari, using the Facebook account “Sri Daryani”, posted on Aug. 11 a critique of Har Toyo, in which he criticized an anti-LGBT webinar hosted by the Bogor Agricultural University (IPB). The webinar has been taken down by YouTube.last_img read more