Okayplayer Films Presents: Quest For Cuba!

Questlove in Cuba

A Mini-Documentary Following Questlove
As He Brings The Funk To Havana, Cuba

Questlove‘s recent goodwill trip to Cuba has become a full mini travel documentary, courtesy of Okayplayer Films. The outlet recently shared a photo essay of the trip showing that The Roots’ drummer and Tonight Show bandleader made good use of his time in Havana, engaging in extensive cultural research both by digging up some classic Cuban-made vinyl and by visiting the legendary EGREM studios, where most–if not all–of those classic sessions were recorded. Cultural exchange is a two-way street of course–in this case a narrow two-way street full of classic cars and beautiful people and lined by palm trees on one side and the waters of the Caribbean on the other. In that spirit, Questlove also showed a cross section of party-goers how he gets down, delivering two nights of DJ goodwill at Fabrica de Arte Cubano. But as you’ll witness in the short film, there’s much more to the story, including a brief cameo from Cuban Salsa group Azucar Negra’s dance crew and a chance reunion between Questlove and Cuban hip-hop artist Brebaje Man, who opened for The Roots when they played Havana in 2002. That meeting led to a spontaneous freestyle and beatbox duet that is also one of the documentary’s most hilarious moments thanks to one very vocal underaged music critic (just watch until the end!)

Questlove in Cuba

These are the kinds of things, of course–incredible DJ sets, rare vinyl, deep studio history, unplanned street concerts–that most of us get excited about every day. But we can’t escape the feeling that this particular weekend of incredible DJ sets and music discovery has a greater sense of emotion and history attached to it, coming just days after President Obama’s meeting with Raul Castro at the Summit of The Americas in Panama. Rather than further recap what you’ll see in the mini-doc, here’s a bit of the background you need to know in order to understand just how momentous what you’re seeing on the screen truly is:

EGREM is the studio where The Buena Vista Social Club recorded their albums, not to mention numerous other legendary Cuban bands including  (famous stateside artists such as Nat King Cole also recorded there). Due to the Embargo, American artists have been forbidden to records albums with Cuban artists since 1959. Most forms of collaboration on the island violate America’s Trading with the Enemy Act, thereby resulting in large fines for Americans. To make the math simpler and more stark: these laws have effectively prohibited collaboration between Cuban and U.S. artists for 55 years–laws that Obama and Castro have at least begun the groundwork to roll back, promising to open a whole new era in U.S.-Cuba relations.

Questlove in Cuba

Questlove & Edgaro Productor’n’Jefe dig for records on International Record Store Day in Havana Cuba photos by Daniel Petruzzi

After the Cuban Revolution in 1959, all Cuban culture, including the record industry, was nationalized. This means Fidel Castro shut down Panart studios in 1961 (originally founded by Cuban owner Ramon Sabat in 1944). Between 1962-64, it was renamed The Imprenta Nacional de Cuba and acted as the only legal label in Cuba. In 1964, it was re-named EGREM, absorbing the assets of Panart.

By the 1990s, young Cubans were creating illegal antennas improvised out of material at hand such as wire hangers and Coke cans, mostly on the roofs of homes in Alamar, which happens to be the birthplace of hip-hop in Cuba. In spite of the embargo, American hip-hop, soul and rock continued to seep into the country through these guerilla antennas, spawning a mixed tape market in the process.

Against this backdrop, Questlove’s trip to Havana as an unofficial ambassador of stateside hip-hop looms large, a welcome chance for music heads to exchange ideas and is hopefully a sign of great things yet to come. With all that in mind, we present: Quest For Cuba! courtesy of Okayplayer Films (with much respect due to Productor n Jefe for the use of his music throughout, as well as his invaluable knowledge).

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Finding Fela Documentary Available On DVD and Blu Ray

Finding Fela DVD

Finding Fela tells the story of Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s life, his music, his social and political importance. He created a new musical movement, Afrobeat, using that forum to express his revolutionary political opinions against the dictatorial Nigerian government of the 1970s and 1980s. His influence helped bring a change towards democracy in Nigeria and promoted Pan Africanist politics to the world. The power and potency of Fela’s message is completely current today and is expressed in the political movements of oppressed people, embracing Fela’s music and message in their struggle for freedom. Finding Fela was directed by the Academy Award winning director, Alex Gibney.

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*DVD and Blu Ray formats available online at Amazon and Target

 

Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth [Documentary]

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Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth premieres nationally Friday, February 7 at 9 p.m. on PBS.

Writer and activist Alice Walker (b. Feb. 9, 1944) made history as the first African-American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her seminal novel The Color Purple (1982), for which she won the National Book Award. American Masters presents Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth, premiering nationally Friday, February 7 at 9 p.m. on PBS in honor of Walker’s 70th birthday and Black History Month. Filmmaker Pratibha Parmar’s new documentary tells Walker’s dramatic life story with poetry and lyricism, and features new interviews with Walker, Steven Spielberg, Danny Glover, Quincy Jones, Gloria Steinem, Sapphire and the late Howard Zinn in one of his final interviews.  Read More and View Trailer

Undeniable – The Story of The Independent Soul Music Movement

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We’re excited to finally see a project in the making that tells the story of independent soul music, the movement and the artists that have worked tirelessly recording, touring and promoting their music to the masses from state to state, city to city and for a fortunate few country to country. These artists have weathered the storm with no radio exposure, very limited financial resources, grassroots distribution and word of mouth via social networks as far back as Black Planet and Myspace.   As we well know there are different levels and layers when defining “independent” artist but there is something very authentic and genuine about the independent soul music artist and the movement that has sustained them for nearly two decades.

Undeniable – The Story of The Independent Soul Music Movement is a documentary film directed by John C. Jointer and scored by +FE Music recording artist/producer and multi-instrumentalist Zo!  In order to see this amazing project through to completion we must  support this film financially and spread the word worldwide.  Please visit the film’s Indiegogo page for contribution details.  Check out the trailer and visit the film’s social media sites below.

Official Website   Twitter 

ABOUT: Undeniable – The Story of The Independent Soul Music Movement

Coined everything from “Indie Soul” to the “Honest Music Movement,” “Undeniable – The Story Of The Independent Soul Music Movement” traces the heretofore untold stories of artists and music lovers right from its late 1990s origins through the halcyon days of the mid-2000s to the lawless rule of today where throughout the collective goal is still to develop, maintain, and grow a space in the global cultural landscape for this multi-tentacle brand of “honest music.” In candid, digitally shot, in-person interviews with those who were there and those pressing the movement forward against impossible odds, “Undeniable” introduces a range of talented “newcomers” to the mainstream film-going audience. Director John C. Jointer uncovers former A-list veterans who found a second life through these new technologically driven models after being told they were too old or not the new major label prototype for the successful international pop star. “Undeniable” plans to juxtapose the plight of fresh young musicians who’ve never had a major label deal as well as those who were signed, shelved, but never saw an album release with those veterans now being represented by large independent labels like eOne, Malaco, Shanachie, and Stax/Concord, or at small indies like Dome, Stones Throw, Giant Steps, and Purpose Music Group. Their range in entering these new music identities complicating who gets to authentically call themselves an “indie artist” in a game where credibility is as elusive as it is key.

Who Is Sonny Rollins – 1968 BBC 30-Minute Documentary

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This priceless piece of history is the 1968 30-minute BBC documentary that follows the legendary jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins during his self-imposed hiatus from the music business and playing live clubs.

At the time Sonny Rollins was frustrated and very vocal about club conditions for all jazz musicians. He felt (for good reason) that the lifestyle that clubs promoted allowing the use of alcohol, drugs and smoking were not healthy for musicians and loud, disruptive talking was not conducive to the over all jazz atmosphere.   He wanted better for himself and his colleagues. The footage captures Rollins instead opting to play his horn on the Williamsburg Bridge and in wooded areas.   He speaks very passionately about his disapproval of seedy club conditions which happen to still be valid today for a lot of musicians.

 

Stevie Wonder – The Making Of Songs In The Key Of Life – Documentary [Full Length]

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Always nice to revisit this fantastic 1997 Stevie Wonder documentary that takes a look back at the making of Songs In The Key Of Life, one of the greatest albums in popular music history.  Released in 1976,  Songs in the Key of Life became among the best-selling and most critically acclaimed albums of Stevie’s career. The full length documentary below features Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock, Quincy Jones, Berry Gordy, Dorothy Ashby and more.