VIDEO: FLORE DE ANIS BY CASCADE DE FLORES

Flor de Anís is a song composed by Jorge Licego by Cascada de Flores, a San Francisco Bay area ensemble.  Liceaga sings the music and is accompanied by Arwen Lawrence (vocalist, dancer), Kyla Danysh (violinist, vocalist), and Saul Sierra-Alonso (bass).

You can watch the entire performance and an interview with Lawrence here. The show was aired on TV in the USA.

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VIDEO: ALAM KHAN ON USTAD ALI AKBAR KHAN, THE LEGACY OF MAIHAR GHARANA & HIP-HOP

Alam Khan is a musician, composer and educator. He plays the sarode.  We spoke with Khan about his father Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, the legacy of Maihar gharana and his love for both Hindustani or North Indian classical music and hip-hop.

Ustad Ali Akbar Khan was one of the most famous sarode player and Khan is carrying on the legacy of his father’s music and Maihar gharana that traces its roots to Tansen, the court musician in the court of Mughal Emperor Akbar.  Members of Maihar gharana include Allauddin Khan, Ali Akbar Khan, Annapurna Devi, Ravi Shankar, Nikhil Banerjee and others.

Ustad Ali Akbar Khan founded a music school in San Francisco Bay area in 1967 and his music influenced quite a few iconic musicians like The Grateful Dead and others. Khan teaches at the school just like his father did. The school celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2017.

Khan shares how growing up in Marin county he listened to both Hindustani music and mainstream American music like Crosby, Still and Nash, Jim Hendrix and hip-hop. He learnt to play the guitar from Jai Uttal as a teenager. Khan dabbled with playing the sarode as a 7-year old and then returned to it as a 12-year-old and spent many years learning to play the sarode from his father.

Besides Hindustani music Khan is a also a big fan of hip-hop music and recently released an album called Grand Tapestry with Elijh on vocals, Saler Nader on tabla and Alam Khan on sarode.

What did Ustad Ali Akbar Khan have to say about hip-hop and rap music. “Too much talking and not enough music,” was his answer as his son shares in the interview. Rap music is “loop-based and about words,” adds Khan. It sounds like Khan has found a way to embrace both Hindustani and hip-hop music in a happy way.

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BINGE WATCHED BROWN NATION ON NETFLIX

You know how Netflix makes recommendations for you? That is how I discovered Brown Nation. At first I overlooked their suggestion since I had no clue what Brown Nation was all about.And then I succumbed out of sheer curiosity and was hooked. Part of the reason for being hooked is the way the series captured the desi elements in an authentic way complete with a sprinkling of Punjabi, Gujarati, Malayalam and Tamil. Oh! And there is a fair amount of Bollywood reference that should appeal to your desi heart.

The series may remind some of you of NBC’s TV show Outsourced, which essentially had an American cast and was about an American’s company’s back office in India. Brown Nation differs from Outsourced in a couple of ways: the cast is a mix of Indian and American actors and the series is about the existential crisis of an American IT company in America. And, the other thing that is different about Brown Nation is that it has a distinct East Coast perspective and I say this after having lived on both sides of the coast.

I ended up binge watching the 10 part series of Brown Nation about an Indian American business family in New York. Hasmukh (Rajeev Varma) owns a small IT consulting company and his wife Dimple (Shehnaz Treasury), who is is working hard to get a break as an actor. Calling Hasmukh an entrepreneur is a bit of a stretch since his company barely makes any revenue and yet he has a small retinue of workers, who try to keep themselves busy. The show essentially is about your everyday life in America told through the lives of Hasmukh and his wife and their pet doggie Bobby.

The people who shine in Brown Nation are Shehnaz Treasury, Remy Munasifi and Omi Vaidya. And kudos to the creators of Brown Nation Abi Varghese, George Kannat and Matt Grubb.

I guess there will be a second season of Brown Nation. Wonder how that will pan out since Hasmukh’s little IT company is at an inflection point. Will his company pivot? We will have to wait to find out.

VIDEO: JAZZ IMPROVISATION OF BAGS’ GROOVE BY DR. AARON LINGTON & CHRIS MOTTER

Dr. Aaron Lington and Chris Motter play their version of Bags’ Groove, a well-known jazz tune by Milt Jackson. Dr. Lington shares how they have funkified their version and explains how they improvised this well-known jazz number.

Dr. Lington is an educator, composer and arranger, who teaches at San Jose State University. Motter is a musician and guitarist, who got his master’s in music from San Jose State.

This interview was sponsored by Zoho Corp.

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LEONARD COHEN’S VISITS TO INDIA AND BUDDHISM

Singer-songwriter and novelist Leonard Cohen died in his sleep in Los Angeles on November 7, 2016. He was 82 years old.

Cohen’s “dry, monotone voice…provided a rarefied alternative to more accessible troubadours, employing meticulous language to plumb the vagaries of the human condition,” writes Joseph Cerna of Los Angeles Times. And, Cerna is absolutely right. When you first listen to Cohen’s songs it is that dry, monotone voice that strikes you. And, you wonder what is this fuss all about? What is so special about Cohen’s music? But, when you start listening to the words you realize why so many people are drawn to his music. He had a way with words is a pedestrian way of describing Cohen’s great facility with words.

He was “high priest of pathos.” and “The Godfather of Gloom,” writes Nick Paton Walsh in a 2001 article in The Guardian. Pathos and gloom were familiar friends for Cohen. He sought different ways to find depression that included visits to India and becoming a Buddhist monk for a few years.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise then that Cohen made multiple trips to India to find answers. We get a hint of Cohen’s visits to Bombay via  Ratnesh Mathur‘s post. Cohen spent time in Bombay visiting with Ramesh Balsekar, a Vedanta teacher. Soutik Biswas of the BBC writes about Cohen’s visits to India and how it changed him.

He turned to Buddhism and became a Zen Monk for a few years. Pico Iyer has a nuanced piece in Utne Reader on how he spent a few days with Cohen at the Zen Monastery outside of Los Angeles.

Often described as enigmatic Cohen leaves behind a rich legacy of songs, poems and writings.

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VIDEO: DAMIEN CHAZELLE’S LA LA LAND

Damien Chazelle’s beautifully crafted film La La Land hits theatres in December 2016. I saw the film a couple of months ago and instantly fell in love with it. The film pays homage to dreamers, Los Angeles, Hollywood musicals and to French filmmaker Jacques Demy.

We have an interview coming up with Chazelle and Justin Hurwitz, who composed the music for La La Land.

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3rdi’s 14th ANNUAL SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL SOUTH ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL

3rdi 3rd i’s San Francisco International South Asian Films Festival is back this  year in two locations: San Francisco and Cupertino in Silicon Valley. The San Francisco leg of the festival is a 4 day event that runs from November 10th-13th, 2016. And the Silicon Valley leg of the festival in Cupertino is a one day event on November 19th 2016 and is packed with 5 interesting and eclectic films.

The opening night film in San Francisco is Neeraj Ghaywan’s Masaan followed by a clutch of engrossing and captivating films.

Sami Khan’s Khoya

The twin spotlights of this year’s festival are: Voices From The Diaspora and Voices of Women.

Voices From The Diaspora features films on how people exist between cultures and negotiate their cultural identities and histories. Sami Khan’s Khoya (Lost), Naeem Mohaiemen’s United Red Army and Amit Gupta’s One Crazy Thing are some of the films featured in this category.

Amit Gupta’s One Crazy Thing

Voices of Women has an interesting line-up of films with Leena Yadav’s Parched as the center piece. Other films include Shilpa Ranade’s The World Of Goopi and Bagha, Mehreen Jabbar’s Lala Beguam and Nandita Das & Divya Jagdale’s Between The Lines.

Shilpa Ranade’s The World of Goopi and Bagha:

Mehreen Jabbar’s Lala Begum:

The one film that caught my attention is Korla, which is about Korla Pandit a television pioneer and the Godfather of exotica music  Local San Francisco Bay area filmmakers John Turner and Eric Christiensen are the folks behind Korla and the film is showing both in San Francisco and Cupertino.

John Turner & Eric Christiensen’s Korla:

For information on tickets and film schedule check out 3rdi’s website.

If you are curious on how 3rdi Film Festival started and the folks that run the show then these two interviews might interest you. The first is with Ivan Jaigirdar and the second is with Anuj Vaidya. Both interviews were screened on local San Francisco Bay area TV stations.

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VIDEO: JONATHAN AIBEL & GLENN BERGER ON WRITING & TROLLS

We sat down with Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger to talk about how they wrote the screenplay for Trolls. Happiness is the central theme of this 3D animated film. How did they write the screenplay and create a universe for trolls?  Tune in to find out.

A long time ago in a far away city where the Charles river flowed Aibel and Berger worked as management consultants. While they made some moolah they realized they were not cut out to be consultants. Their gut instincts proved to be true. One fine morning Providence intervened in their life when one of them spotted a TV script lying on a colleague’s table. That script was their stairway to discovering a whole new life in the world of entertainment.The rest is history as they say. The duo packed their bags and went west to Los Angeles and started writing scripts for TV and eventually films.

Aibel and Berger wrote the script for the Kung Fu Panda trilogy and many other films. Their films have raked in a couple of billion dollars in revenue. They are Unicorns to use that term from Silicon Valley.

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PODCAST: FILMMAKER BARRY JENKINS ON THE MAKING OF “MOONLIGHT”

Barry Jenkins @kamlashow.comFilmmaker Barry Jenkins Moonlight is an elegant and brilliantly evocative film about coming-of-age and love.This is one of the best films I have seen so far this year. There is an aura of quiet grace about Moonlight that makes  you think long after the end credits have rolled. You go away wondering what is that little act of help and love you can do today to help someone.

Moonlight is set in 3 acts and takes you through the journey of Chiron, a young  fatherless African-American boy, who is bullied and roughed up by neighborhood kids and is confused about his sexuality. Chiron learns to fend for himself since his mother is a drug addict and is dealing with her own set of challenges. We watch Chiron or Little as he is known shape up from a shy young boy  to a diffident teenager and a confident adult. What rescues Chiron is love. I thought the film was how a little bit of love can go a long way in helping people.

The film is based on Tyrell Alvin McCraney’s book In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue. The book is based on McCraney’s life. Ironically, both McCraney and Jenkins grew up in the same part of Miami, but did not know each other then.

We caught up with Jenkins in San Francisco when he was here for the 39th Mill Valley Film Festival. We spoke to him about the making of Moonlight and what drew him to make this film. How did he get to choose the actors, who played the central character Chiron? How did he get Naomi Harris known for her role as Money Penny in James Bond films to act in Moonlight? Tune in to find out the answers to this and other questions with Jenkins.

LISTEN: BARRY JENKINS ON THE MAKING OF “MOONLIGHT”

Moonlight stars Mahershala Ali, Naomi Harris, Trevante Rhodes, Janelle Monae, Andre Holland and Alex Hibbert. The film opens on Friday, Oct  28, 2016 in San Francisco Bay area.

Here are a couple of reviews of Moonlight from The New York Times and The Altantic,

  • Title: MOONLIGHT
  • Running Time: 110 minutes
  • Status: Film Releases on Oct 28, 2016 in SF Bay area
  • Country: USA
  • GENRE: DRAMA

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NAPA FILM FESTIVAL NOV 9 -13, 2016

Napa FIlm Festival

Like films, food and wine? Then the 6th Annual Napa Film Festival (NVFF) is the place to be from November 9-13, 2016. For 5 days you get to see feature films, shorts and documentaries and listen to panel discussions on food. And a big bonus of attendig a film festival in the  wine country means you get to taste wines in different wineries and attend cooking demos. If you are an aspiring film writer then the Pitch Competition is your ticket to meet filmmakers and film executives.

Oh! did I mention that there will be filmmakers, and actors at the festival? Mathew McConaughey, Matt Ross, Viggo Mortenson, Dev Patel, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Aaron Eckhart are some of the guests expected to attend this year’s festival.

There are 2 films on the opening night: Lion and Bleed For This. Lion stars Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara and Dev Patel, who will be at the festival.

Bleed For This stars Miles Teller and Aaron Eckhardt, who is expected to be at the festival.

Stephen Gaghan’s new film Gold will have a special screening at NVFF. Gold stars Matthew McConaughey, Edgar Ramirez and Michael Landes. McConaughey is expected to attend the film festival.

Filmmaker Matt Ross’s film Captain Fantastic will have a special screening at the festival. Viggo Mortensen is expected to be at the festival along with Berkeley-based Ross.

About 120 films will screen at the festival including Gleason, Miss Sloane, Mr. Church and Burn Your Maps.

Visit NVFF’s website to build  your itinerary, buy tickets or browse the festival’s schedule.

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