The End is near……. according to Google.

I just installed Google’s new voice assistant on my phone and I was amped.  This is like the new Magic 8 Ball…… but with more than 8 responses.

So….ummm………. Google is usually on point.  Should  we be worried? 🙂

Seriously though, if these were the end days, what would you do?  Don’t be surprised if I flood the internet with close to 100 songs in various levels of completion. lol.   I need folks to be familiar with my joints in the AfterLife! 🙂

– Enjoy your weekend….. it could be your last 😛

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98.7 Kiss….. It Goodbye

How do you celebrate an anniversary and a funeral at the same time?

For the punchline to this bad joke you will have to look to 98.7 Kiss FM WRKS, who simultaneously celebrated 30 years of broadcast as a NY monument in radio while at the same time closing it’s doors…… (maybe more accurately leaving the building, since ESPN had no problem taking over the FM position)

As I listened to their final Swan Song/s, I couldn’t help but get a bit…. PISSED!! There seems to be no limit to the outlets for mind-numbing entertainment in our culture, but anything that has higher aspirations is clipped at the root.

I remember when BETJ closed it’s doors and rebranded itself as Centric.
With the name change went original programs like BET J List, Lyric Cafe, and Lens on Talent to name a few. These shows had one thing in common. They showcased NEW talent. The artists featured usually went a bit deeper than surface as well. (I actually had a chance to perform on the J List with fellow Indie Artist Anu-Sun).

At the time, BET J’s tagline was:

« When our audience wants a sophisticated look at the music and entertainment that’s important to them, they turn to BET J. »

So I suppose we no longer need a sophisticated outlook on anything and we will be satisfied with sitcom reruns?

OK… ok…. I digress… but there is more to all of this than just a conspiracy plot.

You can usually tell when an artist passes away because the airwaves suddenly have an appreciation for their lost art….. Well had you tuned in, you would have thought all urban music had passed through the pearly gates….

For the first time in years, I was hearing diversity in artists and styles throughout the day, as the station paid homage to decades of great music and it’s creators. They also dusted off some of the « mastermixes » that made listening to the radio a unique experience.  Once upon a time, DJs used to be tastemakers, helping to shape and expand the diet of its listeners – breaking new songs and artists – and creating new content.  This caused us to tune in to feed that appetite (Politics seemed to have largely killed that – but that is another story).

Look at it like this…. If you tune into a news program and they never break any new stories…. and then they just repeat a few old stories ALL DAY, you will eventually tune in elsewhere. That is what many listeners have been forced to do. It is obvious from this final weekend of programming that there is a plethora of great music to choose from and a lengthy 24 hour day in which to do so…. It just wasn’t done.

During the broadcast, I didn’t appreciate the new tagline of « One Family, One Station, OUR Voice, » and the talent trying to assure me that this was a positive loss. When has someone lost a parent and been consoled with the fact that the remaining parent will be even better than the combined unit? 

Every artist dreams of having their songs on the radio. Right before CD 101.9 FM went off the air we were able to get my song « Sail Thru » played. As an independent artist and NY native it was a great moment for me… like that scene in the « Five Heartbeats » – « They’re playing our song on the radio! »… now that station is no more.

(Scenes from the Five Heartbeats)

I suppose the only way I will be on 98.7 FM in NY at this point is if I happen to sing the national anthem at a sporting event. 

So luckily today we have the new tastemakers like College Radio, music blogs like Soulbounce.com, Soultracks.com, Singers Room.com, X2TheL.com, and the many DJs who report and spread the word with the same passion as the artists they discuss. But I predict if urban radio doesn’t change it’s ways it will end up as a 2 hour segment on some other format – like « Urban Hour » on the Country Station (that has a disturbing ring to it).

So I bid adieu and offer my condolences to all of you who will have to remember the radio station that once was an institution in NYC.



P.S.
I don’t want to blame it all on the station and it’s programming as that is definitely oversimplifying the situation. There are many other things that would make this blog entirely too long – from a questionable Arbitron rating system (P.P.M.), station politics, backdoor deals, to silencing certain messages and voices (obvious from the shows that were not brought over such as  Tom Joyner Morning Show, The Michael Baisden Show, Open Line and Week in Review)

BUT…..

Economics are economics and the truth of the matter is…. He who owns the channels controls the flow…. and that is across the board from money to music.

 

Update! Open Line and Rev. Al Sharpton have survived the transition to WBLS!!  There was a public outcry and it was heard!

Jazzystan: Nights over Kazakhstan

I didn’t know anything  about Kazakhstan other than I would need my passport to get there, but when an unexpected opportunity came up to do a festival called Jazzystan, I jumped at it.   This musical Journey is about sharing a message with people and when you are blessed enough to actually travel and meet those people….?  You just can’t say no.  First thing -I went straight to Google and Wikipedia to study up, but there are some things  you just have to experience first hand……….

Jazzystan is a music Festival, which despite it’s name is not solely for jazz music.  It could easily just be called Goodmusicstan, having featured acts from Tourtured Soul to Omar, to my Reel People family. The Jazzystan team (Rustam (founder), Balu, Serik, Kalty) are very  proud and knowledgable about their country.   They are doing something really unique in a place that notably just gained independence with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.  It’s evident that a change is in the air, and Jazzystan is a part of that change.

(The guys are more like a family –and they treated us like family as well– unbelievable hospitality… a new bar has been set.) 

You can feel it …… it’s Electric  

Soon after my arrival, I met the guys from Electirc Empire.  I was already a big fan….  these guys combine all the things I love about music.  They play, write, sing, and they do each WELL (as in Church WELLLL).  They have also crafted a classic album.

It’s funny, we didn’t even really discuss music as much as we hung out and were wowed by all Kazakhstan had to offer.

In direct contrast to our fast food lifestyle in NY, we sat down to 5 hour dinners – eat, drink, and be merry fests.  Lots of laughs and great food, with flavor no doubt improved by the company…  Such a welcome change of pace.

25 minute trip in the lift: At one point the cables seemed to be suspended only by the clouds.
Beautiful view at the Shymbulak Ski Resort

An unlikely star.... Of the hit single (freestyle) "Last Night" -courtesy of Serik

Music’s magic is practice.  Chemistry developed while hanging out manifests on stage in an unrehearsed jam session.

Literally floating on air rocking with Electric Empire

This is called the show….

Truth moment….. I was a bit nervous at the press conference before the show.  The only English spoken was that of Electric Empire, Balu (who was translating questions from what I imagine was primarily Kazakh and Russian), and yours truly.  Having traveled without my band, I structured my show heavily around storytelling and crowd participation to transition between songs.  —I was beginning to think I may have under estimated the language barrier……….

Press conference before the show.

See… the great thing about rocking with a band is, if nothing else, you can feed off the energy of the other 5-8 people on stage.  Well luckily for me, I had 1000+ people’s energy to feed off!   The people were engaged, participating,….. they were great! 

Music truly is a universal language.

Nothing like having a thousand people sing Love Revolution, Love’s in Need and Sure!

I never quite got over my jet lag, literally sleeping an hour or two a day, but the 1000+ crowd gave off an infectious energy.. I was super charged!
Band from another land: Rustham on the tables and my man Arsen sprinkling some keys for me during this International Woman's Day Extravaganza!!
Say something like cheese: View from my cell phone as I asked the crowd to pose for a flick.

Getting a helping hand in closing the show with "Sure"

After my set I got to switch back to fan mode and join the crowd in watching Electric Empire throw down!  And that they did!  Being in the crowd, it was even more evident that people came to have a good time –  singing, dancing and enjoying music the way it’s meant to be.

Dennis, Jason, Aaron, and Simon

I am so thankful to Kazakhstan and her people for an unbelievably warm welcome.  I can’t wait to go back.  It looks like summer holds even more beauty.  I am blessed to do what I do and I have grown that much more because of it.

Much love to my new brothers from down under and my new fam from Kazakhstan!

Left to Right: Balu, Darien, Simon, Rustham, Dennis, Jason, Aaron, Jake, Zack, Serik.

Do yourself a HUGE favor and check out Electric Empire’s music.  Better yet — buy their album.  http://electricempiremusic.com

Then expand your horizons and check out Kazakhstan & Jazzystan  www.jazzystan.com

Amazing photography by www.ipostnikov.com and Daulet Sadvakassov…and some lesser images from my cell phone. lol  (Click images to zoom in).

What Happens on the Cruise Ship………


There are moments in an artist’s career that are life changing. If you read nothing else… know that while on the Capital Jazz Cruise I had quite a few of those moments. 

How can I best describe the cruise?  … it’s like the first day of classes on a …. um….Performing Arts-Traveling-Vacation-College-Boat?!  🙂 

Imagine if you will…. Attendees, armed with schedules in hand, trying to navigate their way around a 1000 ft. floating luxury campus to classes before they fill……  The comforts of well-known courses and professors, as well as the joys of being exposed to new subject matter that reaches deep and leaves one talking…CD’s in lieu of textbooks, trips to the cafeteria, and of course, the obligatory parties to get loose and better acquainted. Oh and throw in some sunshine and exotic locations for good measure.

What makes this analogy particularly apropos for me was feeling the nervous energy of being a freshman while at the same time the regard of being a starting player. 🙂

OK so hopefully I have painted the backdrop well enough for you.  The details would turn this into a thesis; so instead allow me to run my highlighter through the Cliff Notes:

First Night: On stage with Patti Austin, Rachelle Farrell, Chante Moore, Eric Roberson, Cheryl « Pepsi » Riley, Kindred, Vinx….. with George Duke on Keys – A freestyle not for the faint of heart and your boy actually closed it out…….. (talk about peer pressure lol)!

My Set:  Performing « Sail Thru » on a « Big Ass Boat » just about summarizes the grand nature of this experience.  Looking into the front row and seeing so many of my soul contemporaries was such an honor and at the same time a humbling experience.  Everyone in attendance received a « Love Revolution » button and, with fists raised, I knew we had started a Revolution across land, and now, sea. 🙂  

Conversations:  Sometimes I get a bit discouraged with the music scene… not the making of it, but the business of it.  I realize the radio doesn’t reflect my craft or my taste, and wonder if people still buy music etc…. But these conversations were like a shot of adrenalin. It reminded me that there are people who LOVE music and really appreciate what we do.  I am so grateful because it has really energized me for the Journey ahead.

Community:  This was one area I hadn’t prepared myself for.  The level of comradery among the artists was really amazing – with every one balancing their schedules so they could support and enjoy each other’s sets.  I had an opportunity to develop my relationships with so many as well as ask questions and see how similar our roads are.

You have to understand…. I am a FAN, so to have personal conversations as well as stand on the stage with these Musical Innovators was an arrival moment.  I really feel like a contributing member in this soul music tapestry. 

(Kid Capri, Darien, Doug E. Fresh)

Whether it was, late night lessons in life from Patti Austin, cutting up with Aja(Kindred), Jennea and Ursula Rucker @ 5am, lunch with Carol Riddick before interviewing her and  Deborah Bond for Frances Jaye and the Neo Soul Cafe, freestyling with Conya Doss, impromptu building with Sinbad, trading licks with Angela Johnson…. it goes on.

These are some of those « moments »:

(Special thanks to Eric Roberson for his sage advice).

Indie Artist Panel: My « Storytellers » moment. Where « These Walls  Could Talk » about the album and the process to a receptive audience.

Piano Bar: Freestyling with one of my favorite singer/songwriter/pianists Frank McComb. One evening in particular I combined vocalizing and a calisthenics workout…… (sorry you had to be there). Shout to D-Mo for the Soul Tom-Fool-Er-EEE. 🙂

This was also the birthplace of Eric Roberson as « The Robe ».

Teamwork: If you have been following me, you know of the 2 guys that wear many hats -my manager Miles Anthony and myself.  It is a lot of work and it was definitely cool to be able to kick it and have a moment to enjoy the fruits of a lot of labor.

House Call: Spending a few hours in my home away from home in Jamaica: Check out that view.


70’s night: Watching the ship transform into a period piece for one of my favorite eras in music as well as being able to personify my Love Revolution alter ego Cool Calvin Clay.

(Angela « Davis » Johnson, Cool Calvin Clay, Marilyn from MD)

I get’s deep: You know it’s serious when Scuba Diving in Grand Turk is not even one of your greatest highlights….. but the site of huge sea turtles still bears mention. 🙂

(trying to keep the hair in check, I may be the first scuba diver to don a doo-rag).

In closing (and because I love beating a good analogy to death)……by weeks end I recognized fellow class/shipmates, made new friends and colleagues, knew my way around campus, signed a few yearbooks and learned priceless lessons that I am sure will help me in the advanced classes.

Class dismissed.  (Jazz Hands Ya’ll!)


———————

Special thanks: to Aileen the « graphics queen » and Kevin Cross for helping me get the buttons and shirts done.  Stacey Jordan for helping to style a brother. Taty « sorry I forgot » Mott for ….. too much to mention, and a great show.

The amazing band for inspiring me…… with my own music! DeAndre Shafer (keys, MD), Dennis Turner (bass), Bisquit Bynam (drums), Robbie McDonald (guitar), Aaron Harding(keys), Alyson Carney & Kenny Wesley (vocals).

Big thanks to the staff that made a boat feel like a home. Such a family vibe from lovers of music.  They also made sure that us freshmen got some serious burn. 🙂 Tynisha, Selina, Dwayne, Darrell, Mitra, Shani, Ray, Lori, Chellee, MJ, Big Dave, and to Cliff for the opportunity.

I want to thank the passengers for supporting music, being open and adventurous enough to try some new flavors, and heading to their respective homes and sharing.

Side note: Must have been a rockin’ good time b/c I didn’t get my lands legs back for nearly a week!

Would Stevie’s Wonder stand a chance in our « Modern » Society?

 

It should come as no surprise that I –and probably everyone else on the planet– am a huge fan of Stevie Wonder.  I came across some rare « Stevie footage » recently (see below) and was amazed at the talent and passion this man has possesed for his ENTIRE career.  But then it hit me….. Today…..What network would air this? What label would sign this? What station would play this?
 

Do you think in our day and age, a boy named  Steveland Hardaway Morris (born Judkins), would ever be more than a momentary YouTube sensation?  Would he be forced to search for success by singing popular cover songs on American Idol, the Voice or (insert your show of choice), all the while suppressing his mastery of the written word?   How would he fare in the world of social media, dealing with twitter and Facebook updates?  Would he have to release free mixtapes containing songs like « Ribbon in the Sky, » « As, » and « Overjoyed » all in the hopes of getting discovered?  Furthermore, would we dismantle a standing work like « Songs in the Key of Life » for our iPod playlists–never to digest it as the artist intended?

Would our collective ADHD even allow his name to stay on our tongues for more than a month?

I would like to think that some things are just undeniable, but I see amazing talent flying under the radar everyday so………… I’ll just leave it for you to contemplate. 🙂

I, for one, am just happy that the « Machine » that would put artists like Al Green, Donny Hathaway, Roberta Flack, James Brown (to name just a few) out to pasture once they were no longer « Marketable, » was not fully operational at the time.  Still, I am deeply concerned for the future icons that are so needed for the generations to come.

For now, If you see a Wonder in the making spread the word ……..and enjoy some videos from a National Treasure.

 Would he ever be allowed to become the Wonder that is Stevie Wonder?

UPDATE to get you UP (2) DATE Summer 2011

What’s good people?  I hope you are enjoying the summer!  We have been doing our best to balance out work and play, so I thought I would drop a summer update!

First and foremost. I would like to sincerely thank everyone that helped us in our Honda Civic « Vehicle for Change » Campaign for Cancer.  It was really a huge undertaking and it was very refreshing to see people not only support but get involved and ask us how they could be a « vehicle for change. »    It is unfortunate that we could not bring home the win, BUT we have now laid a foundation with many organizations so the « Love Revolution » can continue to move forward.  Case in point….. on August 20th in Atlanta, we are doing our first BENEFIT CONCERT FOR HODGKIN’S LYMPHOMA.  I know several people that have this disease and it really is wonderful to be performing for such a great cause.

What Else?

If you listen to Urban Radio, you may have heard our radio ad.  Yes!!! We made our way onto commercial radio!!  OK, ok, admittedly, it isn’t a full song, BUT it is me talking to you over a music bed of my song, « Love Revolution. » 🙂  Breaking into commercial radio is not easy so we are moving one step at a time….. but THIS is a BIG STEP.  🙂  Big shout out to Budweiser who has continued to offer us opportunities even after the contest’s conclusion.


Speaking of opportunities….  I would like to urge all my talented friends to enter the 2011 Budweiser Opening Acts Competition.  Often times what is stopping us from releasing our art is not the talent, but the lack of funding.  This is a chance to get some great exposure and possibly finance your next project… (or pay off your last one) 🙂

One of my favorite websites –SoulBounce- did a write up on the competition.  Click the link for details as well as a video (you might even recognize a face or two).

LINK

Hmmmm……  What Else

Connecticut has been showing us A LOT of love.  « Composure » was added to 94.3 WYBC-FM New Haven, 89.3 WQTQ-FM Hartford And we recently did an acoustic set and interview for « Our Lives with Gwen Edwards » on News12 TV in  Norwalk.

Speaking of « Composure, » we will soon have some visuals!  We shot our FIRST MUSIC VIDEO.  It is in the cutting room right now, and I am excited.  (BTW: The shot at the top is a still from the video)

…… On the ongoing tip.  The new album is shaping up quite nicely…. still in the development stages but I like what I hear…. and I hope you will too.

Oh….. Wait!!

How could I forget!!!   We will be doing the 2011 Capital Jazz Cruise in October.  This is such a blessing!!!  I will be amongst a star-studded line up!!  I am just as excited to be an attendant as I am to be a performer.  🙂  I hope to see you there.

OK I am off to enjoy more of the summer….  Winter was ROUGH!!!    🙂

Stay Blessed

D

The Love Revolution – EVOLUTION

I have been very fortunate to have the support of so many behind my musical endeavors.  I always say you are all the steam that powers the dream.

I have also been blessed to have the outlets to speak about the « Love Revolution » and the positive change we can make with messages and music…. and now I am blessed with an opportunity, that I can extend to you, in which to turn words and seeds into deeds.

I have entered into the Honda Sounds of Civic competition.  The grand prize is a 2012 Honda Civic.  Our intention, should we win, is to donate the car to Cancer research and survivors.

I lost my father to cancer and it has had a lasting effect on my life.   So many people close to me have also felt the effects of this disease, and I continue to hear more stories daily since beginning this undertaking.

Please vote and spread the word to make this gift a reality.  

It’s very easy to vote and you only have to do it once by clicking « I LIKE THE SOUND OF THIS » found HERE:

Then spread the word to someone you know. (direct link below)

http://apps.facebook.com/soundsofcivic//index/submissiondetail/submission_id/303

But know that you can also give directly to the many organizations fighting this disease.

The true Love Revolution will begin as we each give back.

Thank you. Be blessed

This is only the beginning of many things that we have planned for the future, so If you wish to assist or have any information that could help please contact us at

thisisdarien@gmail.com