Saturday, December 16, 2017

December Songs 15 (2017)

I heard Greek electronic musician, Lena Platonos, recently on WTJU radio show, Radio Freedonia. I love the hypnotic quality of this song, but also, admittedly, I was pretty stoked to be hearing the Greek language on American Radio. She has a sort of spoken word style that really highlights the language.

Here is Bloody Shadows From Afar. This version is an update of an earlier more minimal version.

I wanted to include this one as it one Best Music Video Award at Cyprus International Film Festival in 2009. Bonus: It includes subtitles.


This one, called Witches, has an awesome creepy quality. I think the video is recording of a tv screen.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

December Songs 14 (2017)

December Songs 14 is by Nay Nichelle, who moved to Charlottesville about two or so years ago from South Carolina. This is a highly meaningful song and video, especially with all that is going on Cville currently. Guest appearing in the video is Charlottesville's vice mayor, Wes Bellamy.

A small write up says that Nay Nichelle got her start through a viral Adele parody! I wish her luck and hope her audience continues to grow!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

December Songs 13 (2017)

December Songs 13 is a band that I saw for the first time this past year at Festy, Elephant Revival, and their song Petals. It's a great song and magnificent video!

Changes will continue, but I’ll never give in to
the woman that you’ve assumed me to be.
Thought that I had seen you,
Could feel me beneath you,
Beneath a distant longing
to arrive.

There’ll be no more waiting,
No sorrowful blaming.
I’m sitting right where I’ve wanted to be.

I am and I am not
these petals pressed into
these pages unnumbered.
I am and I am not.

But then I remember.
And when I remember,
It seems that I become more of what I remember.
Which is not necessarily insanely related
or jaded or tainted by bleak memory.

In fact I’m enjoying
the lifting of morning,
These petals intended for giving release.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

December Songs 12 (2017)

I've been a Kurt Vile fan for a while now, but am pretty stoked about his collaboration with Courtney Barnett. I really like this cozy little tune called Continental Breakfast. I could watch the video over and over again what with all the smiles and kids and pretty spaces and images of friendship & domestic bliss.

This is also a great little concert in which they perform songs from their album Lotta Sea Lice.

Make sure that you listen to the end so that you can catch their incredibly sweet cover of the song Untogether by Belly.  Here is the original version. Followed by another version by Kurt and Courtney.

Monday, December 11, 2017

December Songs 11 (2017)

Today's artist is Bedouine with the beautiful song, "Solitary Daughter". There is an interview on NPR in which the song is discussed.


With the conviction of the woman you made me
I find
Blades of grass from the island you lent me
I find
On every floor
In every drawer
Though I'm not an island I'm a body of water
Jeweled in the evening a solitary daughter
If picked at by noon
by midnight I'm ruined

Leave me alone to the books and the radio snow
Leave me alone to the charcoal and the dancing shadow

If each blade of grass was meant here for me
Split apart, sliced, and wedged in for me
Who's gonna treat it?
I'm not going to need it

Leave me alone to the books and the radio snow
Leave me alone to the charcoal and the dancing shadow

I am a lake
don't need to be watered
I am an ocean
I don't need to barter

I play with the moon
my only friend
It pushes it pulls me
I don't pay rent
I don't need the walls
to bury my grave
I don't need your company
to feel saved
I don't need the sunlight
My curtains don't draw
I don't need objects
to keep or to pawn
I don't want your pity
Concern or your scorn
I'm calm by my lonesome
I feel right at home
And when the wind blows
I get to dancing
My fun is the rhythm of air
When it's prancing

Leave me alone to the books and the radio snow
Leave me alone to the charcoal and the dancing shadow

Sunday, December 10, 2017

December Songs 10 (2017)

Last night I was lucky enough to see David Rawlings and Gillian Welch and band at the Jefferson Theater with a dear friend. It was yet another profound musical moment in a year of many. It afforded me time to stomp off some sadness about my stepmother's passing, and also think about my daughter, so far away in Kathmandu, and tomorrow, boarding a flight to India. Life Cycles. Passages. Poetry.

Seeing Gillian Welch was a major check off the bucket list, of course. She has been a long time favorite and this was my first time seeing her live. So joyful!

"I Hear Them All" really spoke to me, though I would say each song did! But something about this felt more personal after the events of our Charlottesville summer. The version below is a bit different, as last night they had a violinist, another guitarist, and a stand up bass player. But this too is a truly beautiful version. It's a cover of an Old Crow Medicine Show song, and of course, Woody Guthrie.

I hear the crying of the hungry in the deserts where they're wandering.
Hear them crying out for heaven's own benevolence upon them.
Hear destructive power prevailing, I hear fools falsely hailing.
To the crooked wits of tyrants when they call.

I hear them all
I hear them all
I hear them all

I hear the sounds of tearing pages and the roar of burning paper.
All the crimes in acquisitions turn to air and ash and vapor.
And the rattle of the shackle far beyond emancipators.
And the loneliest who gather in their stalls.

I hear them all
I hear them all
I hear them all

So while you sit and whistle Dixie with your money and your power.
I can hear the flowers a-growin' in the rubble of the towers.
I hear leaders quit their lying
I hear babies quit their crying.
I hear soldiers quit their dying, one and all.

I hear them all
I hear them all
I hear them all

I hear the tender words from Zion, I hear Noah's waterfall.
Hear the gentle lamb of Judah sleeping at the feet of Buddha.
And the prophets from Elijah to the old Paiute Wovoka.
Take their places at the table when they're called.

I hear them all
I hear them all
I hear them all
I hear them all
I hear them all
I hear them all
I hear them all
I hear them all
I hear them all

Saturday, December 09, 2017

December Songs 9 (2017)

My stepmother Shirley Littman passed away on Thursday evening after a long battle with MDS and Leukemia. She was a strong, positive, hard working woman with a commitment to social justice. Her infectious laughter and easy smile will shine on in my heart.

I wanted to dedicate December Songs 9 to her, as she was a member of the Raging Grannies of Metro NYC. I found this pretty great video of them performing in the Hudson Guild, a community center in the Chelsea Co-op residences, where she lived.

Shirley is the one in the yellow and gray striped shirt and the orange scarf. And she's fabulous!

Friday, December 08, 2017

December Songs 8 (2017)

December Songs 8 goes to Valerie June. Not a lot of narrative here, she pretty much speaks for herself! She's truly unique, beautiful, hypnotic, and jamming!

Here's Shakedown

and Working Woman Blues

And a pretty cool collaboration with John Forte, formerly of the Fugees.

My introduction to her was via this NPR Tiny Desk Concert.

Here's a Rolling Stone interview.


Thursday, December 07, 2017

December Songs 7 (2017)

Sometimes my favorite December songs are ones that are brand new to me. This morning while I was perusing Facebook I came upon a post from a childhood friend. Olga lived next door to my papou in Nicosia, Cyprus. I left Cyprus when I was four, but visited throughout my childhood, and Olga's would be the first door I'd knock on after arriving at my grandfather's. We would play into dusk, and I have so many fond memories with my dear friend, into adulthood.

This morning Olga posted an article about her son, Silvio Rusmigo, who is a remarkable photographer. I was perusing his website and came across a music video he made. It's a great song, and cool video. And it's the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the arts in Cyprus. It's a small island that churns out some amazing visual and performing artists. Not surprising for a country that is so ancient and rich in culture.

For those of you who don't know, Cyprus is a divided island, the north side occupied by Turkey since 1974. We were visiting and left just days before the coup that kicked off a brutal war that lead to thousands of displaced people and decades of occupation. You can see some documentaries, The Cyprus Problem, Still Divided (my uncle, Alex Efthyvoulous, a correspondent, appears around 22:31) and Attila 74, Rape of Cyprus, made by Michael Cacoyannis, my mother's second cousin.

But back to the topic at hand. Here is Black Anis from Cyprus, filmed by the talented son of a dear friend!

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

December Songs 6 (2017)

It's a Joanna Newsom kind of day. Not a big introduction here. She is a gorgeous, magical, brilliant goddess. This is a fun description by David Holmes in Stereogum, followed by ten songs he favors: 
". . . the object of their dainty diction is a woman who plays brain-melting solos with only one hand on a million-stringed contraption the size of a small dinosaur while the other hand plucks out shapeshifting polyrhythms in time signatures so tangled they demand three or more semesters of calculus to comprehend, as poetry worthy of T.S. Eliot is propelled into the stratosphere by Beyonce-caliber vocal runs delivered with the splendor and swagger of Kate Bush then tethered back to Earth with pedal footwork so intricate it would trip up Michael Jackson — or, at the very least, Justin Timberlake."

This is Divers, from her latest album, of the same name.

And the lyrics:

A diver is my love
And I am his, if I am not deceived
Who takes one breath above for every hour below the sea

Who gave to me a jewel
Worth twice this woman's life, but would cost her less
Than laying at low tide to see her true love phosphoresce

And in an infinite regress
Tell me why is the pain of birth
Lighter borne than the pain of death?
I ain't saying that I loved you first
But I loved you best

I know we must abide
Each by the rules that bind us here:
The divers and the sailors and the women on the pier

But how do you choose your form?
How do you choose your name? How do you choose your life?
How do you choose the time you must exhale and kick and rise?

And in an infinite capsize
Like a bull tearing down the coast
Double hulls bearing double masts
I don’t know if you loved me most
But you loved me last

Recall the word you gave
To count your way across the depths of this arid world
Where you would yoke the waves and lay a bed of shining pearls

I dream it every night:
The ringing of the pail, the motes of sand dislodged, the shucking, quick and bright:
The twinned and cast off shells reveal a single heart of white

And in an infinite backslide
Ancient border, sink past the West
Like a sword at the bearer's fall
I can't claim that I knew you best
But did you know me at all?

A woman is alive, a woman is alive
You do not take her for a sign
In nacre on a stone, alone, unfaceted and fine

And never will I wed
I'll hunt the pearl of death to the bottom of my life
And ever hold my breath till I may be the diver's wife

See how the infinite divides
And the divers are not to blame
For the rift spanning distant shores
You don’t know my name
But I know yours

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

December Songs 5 (2017)

In sticking with great bands I've seen in 2017, I'd like to give a shout out to a local outfit, New Boss, featuring the very lovely, Devon Sproule. I have seen them each individually, but was really impressed when I saw them join forces at the Forward recovery show at the Bridge. What a good night that was!

New Boss is an uplifting, dance-able, mesmerizing concoction of echo and wisp and shred. What I've heard of their music delivers me to some of the better corners of 70's and 80's nostalgia, without the big hair and gaudy shirt. I drift through memories of frugging in a Buffalo club in my vintage dress, or lolling about in sunbeams, big teenage dreams in a small Pennsylvania town.

But New Boss is here now in the Charlottesville of today (actually, they have been for a while; I'm a little slow on the uptake). I am grateful to them for lightening the load, for bringing some sweet sonics and necessary noise to the unwanted reverberations of Trump's summer (though it's strange that when I search New Boss Charlottesville on YouTube I get a page full of A12 videos). New Boss is all the good aspects of summer––the warmth, the cerulean sky, the beautiful things that fly.

And Devon Sproule. . . She will get her very own December Songs page. . . but I am grateful for her and her collaboration with New Boss. I am particularly wooed by the song, Wildlife. It is beautiful, and haunting, and her description of where she was personally when she wrote it speaks to me on many levels. I will not dive into those levels, except to mention some minor trivia––that I read Mists of Avalon while nursing my newborn daughter.

Here is New Boss on a WTJU radio feature

Read a recent-ish review of New Boss here and a little bit of history here.

P.S. I'd like to add that Thomas Dean, guitarist in New Boss, is a great visual artist. I know that because I purchased one of his prints at a Bridge Gift Forest a couple of years ago. And keyboard player, Nick Rubin, is a DJ on one of my favorite WTJU shows, Radio Freedonia. I know that because I used to listen to it joyfully on my way to pick up my daughter from school (when it aired on a week day). The show took a break for some time, but I'm so glad it's back! Listen from 2-4 on Saturdays.

Monday, December 04, 2017

December Songs 4 (2017)

December Songs 4 brings you Lee Bangah, a local Charlottesville rap artist I saw for the first time at the Nine Pillars Hip Hop Festival last April.

He has an important new video about the Vinegar Hill neighborhood, a once thriving African American neighborhood in Charlottesville that was razed and replaced with strip malls and parking lots.

You can learn more about Vinegar Hill history through this excellent short film, The World is Gone. 

Also see footage of the klan rally that took place in Charlottesville on July 8, interspersed with Lee Bangah's music. 

I have a few shots from the hip hop festival here. So much talent was showcased during this festival, talent that many locals like myself are not exposed to because this town doesn’t feature its local black artists nearly enough at local venues and festivals. 
When black lives are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!

Sunday, December 03, 2017

December Songs 3 (2017)

December Songs 3 is devoted to Meg Baird who I saw at the Broadberry in Richmond in mid June along with Steve Gunn and Lee Ranaldo. I had never heard of Meg Baird prior to this show. She was another performer this year, like Jon Collin, who riveted me. Long ago I fell in love with Joni Mitchell, Sandy Denny, Jaqui McShee––Meg Baird scrawled a fresh layer on the sacred palimpsest of graceful, powerful, magical female folk singers.

There are many lovely songs and performances by Meg Baird captured on video, but this one really takes me to a place of comfort and quiet I long for. I love the aesthetic of the video narrated by her haunting vocals.

You can see photos from the Broadberry show in my Flickr album.

Here is an interview with Meg Baird that was posted just before I saw her live

And here is a groovy video she made with her former band, Espers.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

December Songs 2 (2017)

This year in particular, live music has been deep solace.

In a year of crying––a lot of it internal––music has brought tears to the surface, into the healing light.

Dancing releases the toxins of doom and anxiety. But so too does music that rivets you into a place of stillness, where your heart blooms into a great big om.

Seeing Jon Collin in an underground (literally) vintage clothing shop was a hermetic experience.
I had listened to a few of his tracks for the first time the day of. But really, I had no idea.

The scene of the concert was akin to sitting in a living room with friends, the musician a hearth. There were racks of textiles from many eras, fancy hats of old aunts,  and mod lamps forming pools of soft light. I walked in the snow. Ran from Nazis. Felt a frenetic panic that dissipated into a menthol steam. Flew like a great moth in a beautiful orbit. The whole thing was unprecedented.

These December songs posts should be brief and possible. But I have already troubled for a good hour on how to describe what the experience of listening to Jon Collin was for me. Let's begin with––I can't seem to find the language to capture it.

His was a transcendent meditation through unexpected turns of sound. I strolled from one structure to another, welcome hallways, starlit spheres, expanses of homeland, and found myself huddled in a kitchen from my past, gazing out a long window at winter moors and tall summer grasses.

The video below was filmed almost five years ago, an entirely different scene, and likely a different composition (I don't think I would really know). But it captures the beauty and the mystery and the flight. A parallel universe to the pedestrian.

I wrote this in the notes app of my phone while sitting in the glow of Jon Collin live in that groovy shop. I stumbled upon it recently, and it took me a while to remember whence it came, even though the event was only two weeks ago.

Fog on glass pane
The snow stippled trees
The chamber alike
Light in the mind where shadows threat plays against stucco
Hallows of the hallways
Between a child's bed and the lovers futon
Sheets swiveled into rain
The downward downward

Listen to recent releases of Jon Collin here and here, and more of his tracks here and here.

And here is a simply lovely review of jon collin, that says all that i didn't manage to.

And here is a photo from winters past.

Friday, December 01, 2017

December Songs 1 (2017)

Last year I posted a song a day in December, something that had impacted me in 2016, or something that has held special through the years, something to lift up or narrate as we were launched into a new era of heightened tension, unrest, and activism with the Trump election.

And so as we step into the first day of December, I'd like to embark on December Songs, 2017. While I'll try to find compelling videos to go with the songs, it's not always possible. It's really about the song itself or the artist behind it.

I'd like to start with A.D. Carson, a rap artist I learned about after the events of A12 when I saw him perform at a recovery event at The Bridge PAI. A.D. is a professor of hip hop at UVA. This song is the first on his album, Sleepwalking Volume 1. It incorporates a poem he read at McGuffey Park on the morning of August 12 and it seems just the right piece to begin my month of musical posts. I missed A.D.'s performance at McGuffey, I was already in Justice Park I believe. But this day has defined so much for so many of us, as we continue to struggle with its impact, its continued threat, and the wake up call to fight for social justice.

Here is Charlottesville Summer 17

And here is A.D. at McGuffey Park reading Good Morning America

And an interview with him reflecting on the event and the times and Charlottesville.

I wrote this little poem the night I saw A.D. and some other excellent musicians and poets perform at The Bridge.  

Cello fills the bowl of Belmont
Across the bridge a siren rises
Cigarettes and jazz are back 
The slam, the troubadours 
Smooth smooth rap
speaking truth
Gather together to meet eyes
The love is thicker
There is more soul in the jam
The poem is now

It was an inspiring night.

Thanks A.D. for your great work. Welcome to Charlottesville.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Tatiana Papers 4

Among several loose folders of my mom's is one titled "Zoe's Poems." There isn't much in there, a manuscript, a few decent poems I shared with her in my mid twenties, my college senior thesis poetry project, and another bundle of poems I must have sent her during my early years in college, a bundle of bad poems, total squirm-worthy dreck. But in that bundle was the poem below, a silly rhyming poem, a poem I probably shouldn't show anyone. A poem that seems to be written by a nine year old, not a nineteen year old.

I don't remember writing it, so its existence is a pretty major element of surprise for me. It seems more like something that could be a kids book of some sort, sans cigarette smoke.

Since Mother's Day just passed it seems appropriate to share this little light on long ago (and my writing has matured vastly since then, really! I am including an image of another poem that was in the folder that I wrote in my early 20's).

"What is that child up to now?"
She must wonder
As I scamper from room to room
As a pout scars my face of gloom
As I shut my bedroom door
Search through every cabinet and drawer
And open all the closet doors
As I plop down on the living room chair
And my silly smirk paints the air

"She's going to harm herself!"
She must believe
As cigarette smoke dances in front of her nose
As I stand upon the kitchen chair
One foot balanced on a pile of books and pillows
As I try to reach that shelf so high
And strain a muscle in my upper thigh
As I push my food away
Always muttering, "not today."
And I do this every day
As I speed from one lane to the other
"Slow down!"
                "Oh mother!"

"She doesn't love me. . . "
She must think
After I slam a door right in her face
Or walk in front of her at a faster pace
Or I smart talk with a tongue so cruel
Always looking for a duel
Or I tell her I'm going to college a week too soon
"She'll probably kill herself, that crazy goon!"

But I do love my mother so
With eyes of soft almond glow
She's always brave and forever strong
In the long run rarely wrong
She's beautiful and so very giving
She makes my life one worth living

I just wish she'd understand
I need my independence at hand
By not yielding to her warnings, I mean no offense
I'm just trying to learn from experience
Because sometimes
A lesson taught by the experience earned
Is really the only lesson learned. . . 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Tatiana Papers 3

among my mother's things are letters i wrote her, cards i sent her, photos i gave her, and drawings i made her. she kept a lot of it.

this charcoal pencil drawing is not dated. but if the drawing of the girl is a self portrait, i may have made it in 1991, when i lived in seattle, the year i turned 24. i cut off my waste length hair shortly after i moved there, scissors to braids, and sported a shaggy, multi length look. by the time the year was up, my hair was shaven off altogether.

just doodles that i made in communication with my mother. the blob in the middle is cyprus. the mountains and sea and cozy cottage speak of washington state, but clearly my mind was set on a path elsewhere.

she visited me in seattle toward the end of my time there, in early 1992. she stayed in the airy arty apartment i shared with three men. we took a week long trip down the olympic peninsula and into oregon, driving through clear cut land and indian reservations, staying in cold, cheap, coastal motels. it was probably one of our closest times together. 

i'd had a confusing year in that magical city. i was sad and ready for a change. she was understanding and supportive at a time when i was most lost. shortly after her visit i traveled to california and never returned to the puget sound

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Tatiana Papers 2

This bible has pages falling out and torn. It's missing its center tile. The spine is disintegrating. It seems that Jerusalem was etched over with blue pen ink.

When I Googled Mother of Pearl Jerusalem bible, I found many just like this, but with the Star of David in the center. Who knows, maybe I'll find that missing tile among my mother's things.

I don't know the story behind this bible, how it came to her. She had several index cards tucked into it with notes on biblical characters. 

When I look at it closely enough, it almost looks like there is a stick figure drawn in pencil in the center, similar to the stick figures on that mysterious piece of paper.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Tatiana Papers 1

The curiosity of this piece of paper is what lead me to this exercise. I'm sure it's just a doodle, a passing note. I found it all crinkled up at the bottom of a box of photos. Stick figures, the inked bits, a Himalayan hut. Is it a play on words? Is russing supposed to be rushing?

And then there are the measurements. And the zeros? Surrounded by the names of Shakespeare plays. How old is this? I saw a Midsummer Night's Dream with my mother in Hyde Park in the late 70's. Why did this single piece of paper survive? Is it significant?

p.s. well the google has the answer. amazing how quickly something mysterious can turn into something, well, terribly pedestrian. the joke is below. the next questions is, really? she found this funny enough to write down, with an illustration to boot? and somehow it remains among her things?

 There is a whorehouse on a hill. There is one person going to it, one person leaving from it, and one person inside it. What are there nationalities?

The man going up is Russian,
The man going away is Finnish,
and the man inside is Himalayan.