Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Rod Dibble, Beloved Pianist at The Alley, Dies

by Kathleen Richards
Wed, Dec 20, 2017 at 11:59 AM

Rod Dibble was The Alley's longstanding cocktail pianist extraordinaire. - EXPRESS FILE PHOTO
  • Express file photo
  • Rod Dibble was The Alley's longstanding cocktail pianist extraordinaire.
Rod Dibble, the longtime beloved pianist at The Alley, has died, according to a Facebook post today by the Grand Avenue bar.

Dibble was an Oakland institution. He began playing at the dive bar in 1960, and his encyclopedic knowledge of music — he had more than 4,000 songs in his repertoire — coupled with his dedication to his craft made his nightly appearances at the piano bar a spirited, community affair.

In awarding The Alley with a Best Of award for Best Retro Karaoke Bar in 2011, we wrote about Dibble: "He's adept not only at guiding the inexperienced past a variety of vocal landmines, he's a marvelous accompanist and an encouraging audience to boot."

Here's the Alley's entire Facebook post:

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Rod Dibble - the pianist for The Alley. Rod passed away peacefully on December 18, 2017. No plans for a memorial are known at this time. Please be respectful to Linda and his family at this time.
Rod Dibble was and will always be an integral part of The Alley. He kept The Alley, as well as the Great American Songbook alive by playing night-after-night, song-after-song, with singer-after-singer for the better part of 50 plus years. By all accounts, he literally wore out 10 pianos in the process. He kept The Alley going and virtually unchanged throughout the decades keeping its unique character and grit intact. While the neighborhood around it changed, The Alley and Rod remained a constant with the walls layered and caked with its history and a repertoire of songs frozen in time.
The passing of Rod may represent yet another end-of-an-era demarcation. Yet, we feel compelled to keep this place and these songs alive to pay tribute to the man who dedicated his life to keeping these songs alive, and also to keep the community and spirit he built alive. The beauty about Rod and this community is the dedication to a time when songs were melodic as well as rhythmic and their meaning transcend and endure regardless of generation. While musicals tastes have moved through Rock 'n Roll, Disco, R&B, 80s pop, and hip-hop, Rod somehow put a whole generation of songs and the piano bar concept into a time-capsule by creating a community of singers to keep it going. This community is special, these songs are special, The Alley is special, and Rod Dibble was the man that made all this special. Thank you Rod!
From The Alley Family and his community, our hearts and thoughts go out to Linda, Rod's wife, his family, close friends, regulars, and his fans all over the world.
"If music is the food of love, play on" - Shakespeare
Rod - may you play on, and on, and on.…/arts-culture/the-piano-bar/

Monday, December 18, 2017

¡Viva la Fiesta! at UC Berkeley's Bancroft Library Explores a Variety of Mexican Celebrations

A First for Mexican Curator José Adrián Barragán-Álvarez

by Azucena Rasilla
Mon, Dec 18, 2017 at 4:22 PM

  • Photo by Azucena Rasilla

The popularity of Disney/Pixar’s animated film Coco has brought a newfound appreciation for the indigenous Mexican celebration of Día de los Muertos. While this November holiday has been getting attention, there are plenty of other Mexican fiestas and rituals worth talking about. And you can learn all about them at ¡Viva la Fiesta!, an exhibition now on view at UC Berkeley's Bancroft Library.

This is the first solo-curated exhibit of José Adrián Barragán-Álvarez, who has been the curator of Latin Americana at the Bancroft Library for roughly a year. The exhibit is also personal to him — his family is from the Mexican state of Michoacán.

The Express recently caught up with Barragán-Álvarez during a visit to the exhibit, which is rich in historical details.

“We wanted to highlight fiestas as a whole,” Barragán-Álvarez explained, “and counteract the perception among Americans, and how fiestas are actually based on tradition.”

As a trained historian, Barragán-Álvarez said it was important to make the community aware of the vast Latin Americana collection housed in the Bancroft Library. The theme around ¡Viva la Fiesta! revolves around ritual elements and indigenous traditions celebrated by Mexicans around the world.

Calendars are a staple in most Mexican households. The earliest Mexican calendars date back to the 1700s, said Barragán-Álvarez. “Calendars have ruled from naming patterns to agricultural cycles,” he said. One of the most impressive piece from the calendars collection is the Almanaque Imperial (Imperial Almanac), a book that originally belonged to Emperor Maximillian I.

  • Photo by Azucena Rasilla

Another section of the exhibit explores how Mexican people like to have fun. The perception of some is that Mexicans just love to engage in massive parties with numerous family members. While partly right, there are other forms of entertainment — attending a bullfight remains a favorite activity in Mexico, despite how gruesome it is. Fireworks, and what many call “toritos,” — elaborate structures entirely made out of fireworks — are a crucial component of fiestas. The game of loteria (similar to bingo) is a game played by Mexican families everywhere. The exhibit has a rare version of this game by Mexican political printmaker and engraver José Guadalupe Posada.

Posada is famous worldwide for his 1910 cartoon illustration of La Catrina, but what many do not know, and will discover at the ¡Viva la Fiesta! exhibit is how his drawings were used in a number of books from 1900s.

  • Photo by Azucena Rasilla
  • Photo by Azucena Rasilla

Items related to religious celebrations take up a large percentage of the exhibit, from baptismal and marriage records to Christmas texts. There are also old books about the devotion Catholics have toward saints and the Marian Catholic festivities. The Virgin of Guadalupe is regarded as the Mary of the Americas, although every region in Mexico has its own version.

There is a portion dedicated to Día de los Muertos, and a Patriotic section as well, with the most astonishing piece — what was regarded as a simple government record, an 1800s map of Mexico City — stretching seven and a half feet wide and five feet tall.

  • Photo by Azucena Rasilla

Every section of the exhibit is a chance to learn something new about these ancient traditions, which will likely be unfamiliar to those who are not of Mexican descent. The walls in the room are painted in vibrant colors, while traditional Mexican music plays in the background.

Expect Barragán-Álvarez to curate other exhibits. What is shown at ¡Viva la Fiesta! reflects a tiny fraction of the Latin Americana collection. “I hope this exhibit allows people to think about what’s here, and come to visit us and get excited to see what we have,” he concluded.

¡Viva la Fiesta! at The Bancroft Library Gallery runs through February 1, 2018; open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

REVIEW: Lupe Fiasco Plays Stellar Show at The UC Theatre in Berkeley

His show proved why he is one of the best.

by Azucena Rasilla
Sat, Dec 16, 2017 at 6:05 PM

  • Photo by Azucena Rasilla

Lupe Fiasco played his last show of the year, and luckily for his Bay Area fanbase, the Grammy-winning Chicago rapper chose The UC Theatre in Berkeley to close out his tour. The newish music venue on University Avenue operated by the nonprofit Berkeley Music Group could not have been a better choice for Fiasco’s show.

With six albums under his belt, Fiasco had plenty of songs to choose from. "Dopamine Lit," off his sixth release, DROGAS Light, set the tone for this stellar night in Berkeley: This is ain't the kind of rap the opps and the thots like/Told Trak put the bat back on the spotlight. You could hear the audience chanting the lyrics of the song in a harmonious chorus, from the front of the stage all the way to the back of the venue.

Fiasco’s fans span generations, from pre-teens who are too young to remember his first album, Food & Liquor, to those in their late 30s and older who do remember that his debut album earned him three Grammy nominations, with the song "Daydreamin’" winning Best Urban/Alternative Performance at the 50th Grammy Awards. This song, as well as "Kick, Push" were both part of the night’s setlist.

Fiasco's charisma on stage and quick freestyle flow are what make him one of the best lyricists of our generation. He joins the ranks of elite artists out of Chicago, including Da Brat, Common, Kanye West, Twista, Jeremih, and many others.

All throughout the show, Fiasco interacted with the crowd, and the fans loved him for it. During a portion of the show, he did a medley of songs, pointing out how certain songs resonate more with specific racial groups. “I have been doing this for a long time; I can tell what white people like, what Blacks and Browns like.” Songs like "Battle Scars" and "Superstar" resonate more with his white audience, while heavier tracks like “Around My Way [Freedom Ain’t Free],” “Paris, Tokyo,” “Jump,” and “Mural” resonate more with his Black and Brown fans.

There were also sporadic freestyles, and no Bay Area show is complete without paying homage to the heavy-hitters of the local music scene — Mac Dre and Too $hort. Fiasco used the “Blow the Whistle” beat for one of his freestyles.

Fiasco’s night in Berkeley was spectacular, and his fans agreed. Like one of his hit song says: Grind might feel like murder/But hip-hop, you saved my life.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Meet Jerusalem’s Biggest Hipster: Victoria Hanna

The artist will give her final performance of the Magic Spells series at Magnes.

by Nichole Bloom
Mon, Dec 4, 2017 at 4:30 PM

  • Photo by Eric Portman

Jerusalem's biggest hipster, Israeli artist Victoria Hanna, has captivated the Berkeley community over the past six weeks in her performance series Magic Spells at the Magnes.

The world-renowned composer, creator, performer, researcher, and teacher of voice and language has spent the past few months at UC Berkeley co-teaching a course on Jewish nightlife with art curator and associate professor Francesco Spagnolo.

Hanna first rose to fame in 2015 with the release of her debut single, “The Aleph-bet Song (Hosha'ana),” her take on the Hebrew alphabet. The song and video are rather hypnotic and a bit peculiar, and this quirky persona helped turn Hanna into an internet sensation.

As part of her performances series at the Magnes, Hanna crafts an original interpretive piece each week based on Hebrew amulets in the Magnes' collection, which are displayed for the audience to examine during and after the show.

Hanna began working with amulets and ancient texts as a child, raised in an ultra-orthodox family in Jerusalem. “My father was a rabbi so religion and spirituality have always been a big part of my life,” she said. Hanna began posting her textual interpretations on YouTube, which caught the eye of Spagnolo.

Spagnolo reached out to Hanna via Skype, who was looking for any chance to continue to invent and explore the unknown. After several more Skype sessions, Spagnolo ventured to Jerusalem to visit Hanna and invited her to join him in Berkeley.

Hanna said her students initially seemed a little hesitant about her at, wondering “who is this cuckoo woman moving her body and making such strange sounds,” Hanna said, jokingly. Using a traditional cabalistic approach, Hanna has taught her students the “universal language of sound,” pushing them to break out of their shell. “You always learn the most when you are uncomfortable,” said Hanna.

It is this “utilizing of a UC Berkeley classroom that adds a whole other dimension to Hanna’s work,” says Spagnolo. “If a group of 19- to 20-year-old students from an array of different backgrounds can connect with such specific and ancient materials, you know you’ve uncovered something special,” he said.

Hanna said this is the power of the universal language of sound — “a unifying entity worldwide.”

Last Tuesday, Hanna’s students joined her onstage. She composes much of her performances in real time, something she sees as a privilege as Spagnolo grants her a space of total creative freedom. “It’s really important he trusts me; he tells me you do whatever you like,” said Hanna.

Hanna will give her final performance of the Magic Spells series on Tuesday, Dec. 5, as the UC Berkeley semester comes to a close. She is at UC Berkeley with the Visiting Israeli Artists Program supported by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. She's also working on her second album. Next year, she will be performing at music festivals across Australia and New Zealand before touring Europe in the spring.

Tuesday Dec. 5, 5:30 p.m., free, Magnes UC Berkeley,

Friday, December 1, 2017

Fundraiser for DJ Pam the Funkstress on Sunday

Local DJs are rallying up to help

by Azucena Rasilla
Fri, Dec 1, 2017 at 1:19 PM

  • File photo by Sam Zide

On Nov. 12, DJ Pam The Funktress announced on her Instagram page that she was canceling all her gigs until further notice due to “unforeseen medical issues.” Then, on Nov. 16, the news of her hospitalization spread on social media. There was an outpouring of support from the local music scene, as well as friends and fans of the beloved DJ. Last August, Pam was named “Best Deejay” in our Best of The East Bay issue.

While detailed information about her health issues is scarce, whomever is in charge of her social media pages has been providing updates on her condition. We know that she had surgery on Nov. 18, and a GoFundMe has been set up to help with medical bills and lost wages while she is hospitalized. The fundraiser is set at $25,000, and as of Friday morning, it was up to a little over $6,500.

On Sunday Dec. 3, a “We Love Pam” Day Party Fundraiser will take place at Liege in Oakland. The fundraiser will be hosted by Chuy Gomez, and tons of local DJs will be participating, including Mind Motion, D Sharp, Supreme, as well as local journalist/activist Davey D. All of the money raised will go towards Pam and her recovery.

SUNDAY at @liegeoakland • We come together for Pam @pamfunkstress #Pray4Pam 481 9th Street Oakland

A post shared by CHUY GOMEZ (@chuygomez) on

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