In Trinidad last week, dozens of steel-drum orchestras, some of them one hundred pans strong, took to the streets to celebrate Carnival. This Friday and Saturday, Hayward gets a fine taste indeed of this bacchanal when its own Chabot Panhandlers host Calypsociation, the Parisian band led by jazz-pan master Andy Narell. If your idea of a steel-drum band is three guys in costumes laying back on "Yellow Bird," you'll be blown away by the lush timbres and get-up rhythms of the real thing. Calypso was born as social protest and cultural critique. The beats have their roots in African tribal drumming brought to the island by slaves and refined by their descendants, who created new iterations of percussive instruments for carnival processions, as their overlords banned the current ones. West Indian artisans refined the steel pan to its present fourteen-tone range. The genre has become a melting pot of Caribbean, African, Latin, and American flavors. That the indigenous African-American jazz form has seasoned this musical pot au feu is down to Andy Narell.
Narell is a New York City native and longtime East Bay resident who, after eleven solo albums and two as co-leader of the Caribbean Jazz Project with Paquito D'Rivera and Dave Samuels, began working with the thirteen-piece Calypsociation in 2001. He has written original music for the instrument for the past four years, adding the clarion voices of saxophones and trumpets to the fiery brew.
The seventeen-year-old Panhandlers themselves are a world-class group that works regularly with Narell, as well as with the pantheon of classical Calypsonians and modern masters. The group sells its own arrangements to other steel orchestras and recently released its latest CD, Three. The Panhandlers' repertoire of traditional calypsos, beguines, sambas, and socas -- a funkified union of soul and calypso -- is complex and surprising, and sitting in a room with 25 people pounding steel does very interesting things to your body as well as your ears. Any tune at all takes on bone-thrumming urgency when voiced by the steel pans.
Andy Narell and Calypsociation join the Chabot Panhandlers for two shows at 2 and 7 p.m. on Sunday at the Chabot College Little Theater, 25555 Hesperian Blvd., Hayward. Tix are $18 general admission, $15 seniors, $12 under twelve. Charging tix by phone at 510-843-4342 is a good idea -- these will sell out!
For more info, go to ChabotSteelDrums.com -- Susan Kuchinskas
Lost No More
Here come the tourists
The White Thai of Mai Chau Valley in Hoa Binh province in the north of Vietnam are part of the Thai/Tay-speaking ethnic group who exist all over Southeast Asia. They've lived in the remote valley -- in houses on stilts -- for several hundred years, but only in the last decade have they attracted tourists. Even the Vietnamese are curious about the White Thai, it seems. Find out all about their culture and handicrafts at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center's free exhibit, Tourism and Transition , now through April 23 at 388 9th St., Oakland. OACC.cc -- Kelly Vance
From Jerusalem to Los Angeles, Florida to Philly, Jewish women of many backgrounds and denominations are taking up the tallis. Leslie Hronengold's new documentary, My Rabbi, chronicles the journeys of six such women, pioneers in Judaism not just by nature of their gender, but also for the socially progressive ideas they champion: Rabbi Linda Holzman left her conservative congregation to work with the LGBT community; and Rabbi Margaret Holub incorporates pagan elements into her rural community's calendar. See My Rabbi-- and the Red-Hot Chachkas Klezmer Band -- at a benefit screening Thursday, 7:30 p.m. at Alameda's art deco Auctions by the Bay Theater. Tickets $20 from MyRabbi.info -- Stefanie Kalem
It's easy to go wrong when you like your punk rock fast, melodic, and weird, but when you get it right, the rush of adrenaline is unmatchable -- see the sheer motion that is Oakland's Giant Haystacks: The "c'mon and bring it" bass, sideways-leaning-but-still-on-the-tracks drums, insistent high-wire guitar jingle, and urging vocals conjure the Minutemen resurrected and shot full of fresh beer. The 'Stacks are just one reason fans of '80s punk should be psyched Friday, when Oxnard punks Dr. Know -- contemporaries of D.O.A., Flipper, Dead Kennedys, and Stalag 13 -- headline a 924 Gilman show that also includes Try Failing, Whiskey Sunday, and Abuse. All ages, $6, 8 p.m. 510-525-9926. -- Stefanie Kalem
Culture Spy - October 23, 11:07 AM
Culture Spy - October 21, 10:18 AM
Legalization Nation - October 21, 9:38 AM
Culture Spy - October 21, 9:09 AM
What the Fork - October 20, 3:19 PM