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Entries Tagged as 'music'

Las Cafeteras in New Orleans

November 19th, 2013 · Comments

"Use your story to inspire change and deliver it in a way that makes it accessible to the masses."

"Quit your job and get to work. Find a way to sustain yourself pursuing your passions."

"Be patient. It takes time to create harmony."

Members of Las Cafeteras

I crossed paths with this amazing band at the National Conference on Race & Ethnicity. They creatively weave their own narratives and the social justice stories of their communities into the lyrics and pair the music with Son Jarocho, a regional folk music style from Veracruz, Mexico, and inspire crowds to dance, and hopefully contemplate the deep messages about topics ranging from immigrant rights and police brutality to living a life of purpose. Watching my daughter who was a year old at the time and my mother who was in her seventies boogie and clap along to their music, along with students and professionals from all walks of life, of all ages, reminded me of the power music has on humanity.

Tags: DefaultTag · music · social justice · rhythm of change

Peter from Peter, Paul & Mary: Use music to build bridges with unlikely allies.

November 18th, 2013 · Comments


August 20, 2008

Outside, the sky was turning purple, the wind was picking up, mist was already in the air and a tornado watch was in effect. Inside the Roseville Barnes & Noble last Friday, however, magic was in the air. Peter Yarrow, the co-writer and singer of the infamous “Puff the Magic Dragon” and member of the popular folk group Peter Paul and Mary had arrived and so had his fans.

Black, white, brown, yellow, young and old—every hue and age of people imaginable—crammed into the store that evening, filling all the chairs, standing alongside bookshelves and settling into the floor space to spend some time with 70 year old Yarrow, from renowned group Peter, Paul &Mary. Children danced, middle-aged adults took a trip down memory lane, singing to the familiar tunes of their childhood and clapping along. Peter, in his khakis, sneakers and brown t-shirt charmed the audience, continually inviting folks to join him on stage to sing along. Everyone awaited “Puff the Magic Dragon,” but Yarrow threw in a number of surprises and won over the hearts and minds of everyone with his song “Don’t Laugh at Me” from Operation Respect (an organization he has been working with for a decade).

“We are together, no one feels threatened; we are experiencing peace,” Peter prefaced.

In “Don’t Laugh at Me,” Peter’s lyrics addressed virtually every type of person—fat, thin, Israeli, Palestinian, trendy, unfashionable, poor, rich, white, black, brown and more—eyes throughout the room moistened, children silently listened and rocked back and forth.

And, then the magical moment that everyone had been waiting for–“Puff the Magic Dragon.” Yarrow co-wrote the tune in 1959 with Lenny Lipton, while preparing to graduate from Cornell and dealing with the reality that he would have to move on to the next phase of life. And, “no” Yarrow says, the song is not cryptic code for drug use, but rather about the process of growing up.

“It’s about the sadness of growing up and about a child that has an imaginary relationship with a dragon. It’s about taking our place to make the world a more humane and peaceful place,” Yarrow explained after his Roseville Barnes & Noble appearance.

Yarrow credits his daughter Bethany Yarrow (known for her group Bethany and Rufus) for giving him a new lens on folk music and inspiring him to pursue the book project with Sterling Publishing. Yarrow’s daughter mixes folk with modern elements, drums and other genres of music. It was while attending Bethany’s concerts and getting invited to join his daughter on stage for impromptu performances that Peter discovered something new.

“The songs they were singing were traditional, but had a fresh energy and perspective,” Peter said. “It made me realize that I could take the songs that were important to me and give them a freshness and a vitality. Had it not been for my daughter’s exploration on the new perspective on folk music, I don’t think I would have considered (doing the project). It would have just been Peter, Paul and Mary without Paul and Mary; now it is something special.” And as a symbol of Peter’s journey as a musician and as a father, readers of the Sterling published book will find a special treat on the last page, with an image of “Jackie Paper” as a grown up and a little girl that has appeared to befriend the dragon. “It is symbolic of my daughter carrying on the music that I love,”

Peter sang along with a stage full of children, integrating the cough that he picked up while traveling into the tune and even stopping midway to make a “non-political” announcement about the opportunity that awaits America in November. About 200 folks lined up to give Yarrow hugs, share stories of inspiration and take photos. The tornado watch turned into a warning, forcing the crowd to move to the basement with Peter. Even with the inconvenience imposed by mother-nature, a sense of calmness and joy resonated in the basement.

Barnes & Noble Community Relations Manager Janet Waller couldn’t have been more pleased with the event.

“(The night was) fabulous. I (loved) seeing people from my generation rocking out to Peter’s music,” Waller said in between Peter’s signings “I especially loved the incredibly important message of kindness in, ‘Don’t Laugh at Me.’”

Theresa Wolf-Lee grew up listening to “Puff the Magic Dragon” and loved it. Wolf-Lee and her husband Greg Lee thought it was important to introduce their 12 year old adopted Korean daughter Quinn to Peter’s message of unity.

“I really love his message that everyone is equal; that it doesn’t matter who you are or what you are, that you should be who you are and accept who is different than you,” Wolf-Lee explained after getting her book signed by Peter. “He is into peace and social justice rights for everyone, and I think it is important for Quinn (our adopted daughter) to see people like him.” Like Peter’s message that everyone is fine just as they are, regardless of differences, Wolf-Lee and her husband make every effort to keep their daughter and the family in touch with her Korean roots. Quinn takes Korean dance and drumming class and last year, traveled to her homeland along with her family. Not surprisingly, Peter’s message resonated with her.

“I hadn’t really seen him (Peter) before,” Quinn said with a shy smile and a shrug. “(I like Peter’s message to) just be yourself and remember that everyone is unique in their own way.”

Tags: DefaultTag · music · art · rhythm of change

Noel Paul Stookey (Paul from Peter, Paul & Mary)

November 17th, 2013 · Comments

Worry less about hitting a wrong note and more about making music together.

I grew up loving the folk tunes of Peter, Paul and Mary. I remember day dreaming and imagining singing their songs with my own children. In 2008, when I had accepted that I wouldn't meet my blueprint plan of having a husband and a child before the age of thirty, I wrote a book of universally applicable lessons that I had learned from interviewing people of all backgrounds from around the world. By chance, I ended up having a signing in the same bookstore as Peter Yarrow in Roseville, Minnesota. Though childless at the time, his music brought me back to my childhood and the sight of grown adults singing alongside young children brought tears to my eyes. I had dinner with Peter that evening and met up with him at subsequent concerts and events several times. In 2013, when I was in New Orleans attending the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity, I finally had a chance to introduce my then 18-month old daughter to the Paul of Peter, Paul and Mary. Paul presented a program called Music to Life, in which he showed the capacity that music, combined with love, has to change our world.


Tags: music · love · rhythm of change

Serendipity in New York City–Eddie Fisher from One Republic

June 4th, 2010 · Comments

New York. It is a city of rhythm, a city of change, a city that never sleeps, a city of serendipitous opportunities.

Every year, I come here alone for the Book Expo, fly into Wisconsin to enjoy the long Memorial Day weekend with my family and then head back to California. This year, I changed things up a little bit. When my 69-year old mother shared that she hoped to visit New York in her lifetime, I suggested that she and my father join me. I broke my tradition of staying in the New Yorker and instead booked us a room right in the center of time square that happened to be just bigger than a box. We had our normal share of ups and downs—I sometimes lacked the kind of patience that is required for a mother with a hurt ankle and weak knee that requires her to carry her cane just in case she needs it and with a father who gets motion sickness in a cab and walks through midtown Manhattan vomiting into a bag and then explains to anyone who will listen that he has a bad stomach. But, at the end of the day, I feel like my parents shared a piece of my dream with me. I had opportunities that I wouldn’t have had without my parents being here with me. My mom shared a cab with a publicist from a company that I consider a perfect. I wouldn’t have known to research the publisher, if not for my mom having her serendipitous cab encounter. I went to see a play, which I wouldn’t have done on my own. And, I had a chance to enjoy meals with my parents every evening. Given that I am single and live 2,000 miles away from my parents, meals together are not something that I take for granted. After so many shared experiences with my parents, I contemplated foregoing my usual tradition of going home for a long weekend to have some more time in the city to write and breath. While contemplating my sister called and put my four-month old niece on the phone. Hearing my niece make her silly baby noises was all it took for me to know that I needed to get on the plane along with my parents and head back to Wisconsin. I packed, went to bed and woke up before 6am, so I could have one last breakfast in my favorite café, one last walk and bid the city farewell until my next visit.

But, the universe clearly had something else in mind for me that day. When I walked by Rockafeller Plaza, I noticed that it was all set up for a concert and One Republic was in the midst of its early morning rehearsal. I decided to go in for a while and strategically found a spot, which happened to be right beside Eddie Fisher and his drum set. I couldn’t be standing so close to the drummer of One Republic and not ask for an interview so I did it. His polite “yes” was music to my ears.

The 36-year old is humble and takes nothing for granted. In the process of pursing his dream of being a drummer, Eddie lost a marriage and spent time living on the streets. As he puts it though, dreams aren’t supposed to be easy to accomplish. And if you want your dream to happen, you’re going to have to follow it and make it happen, because it’s not coming to you. It was the most insightful five minute interview I’ve ever done and was the perfect way to end my week in NYC. I pushed the button on my zoom to listen to the masterpiece to find that it had not recorded. As I contemplated what to do, Eddie’s words ‘dreams don’t just happen, you have to make them happen,’ replayed in my head. I sucked up my pride and caught Eddie just before his group went live to ask if we could do a 3-minute repeat after his set and he graciously agreed. Meanwhile, the clock was ticking and the minutes separating me from my departure time were diminishing. After Eddie finished his set, he autographed and took pictures with fans, as her responded to my questions with a microphone in his place. Right after Eddie’s interview, I spotted the infamous “Lenny,” the man who shows up on the Today Show every single day. I interviewed him one year earlier, but neglected to take his picture. I repeated Lenny’s interview, took his picture and headed back to my hotel to grab my luggage and sprint to the airport. And, to make a long story short, it was in fact too late.

Tags: music

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