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

 

VH1 Rock Doc Premiere: The Tanning Of America: One Nation Under Hip Hop [Documentary Series]

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Based on Steve Stoute’s best-selling 2011 book, The Tanning of America: How Hip-Hop Created a Culture That Rewrote the Rules of the New Economy, VH1 is set to premiere the four-part, four-night television event that will take a look at how hip hop has played a role not just in the entertainment world but in politics, civil rights and American culture as a whole. Using Barack Obama‘s historic victory in the 2008 election as a catalyst, the documentary illustrates how (to use Diddy’s words) “hip hop put him in office” as the country has become more culturally diverse.

From TV’s The Jeffersons to The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and films like Do The Right Thing and 8 Mile, The Tanning Of America plots the “hip hopification” of America since the late 1970s.   It also features never-seen-before footage and interviews from numerous pop culture icons and entertainment personalities in America:  Diddy, Pharrell Williams, Al Sharpton, Cory Booker, Mariah Carey, Will.i.am, Russell Simmons, Nas, Rev Run, Rick Rubin, Fab 5 Freddy, Jimmy Iovine, Brett  Ratner, Brian Grazer, Tommy Hilfiger, Ron Howard, Steve Stoute and many more.   

The Tanning of America: One Nation Under Hip Hop will air in one-hour  increments beginning Monday February 24 through Thursday February 27 at 11 pm EST each night.

Check out the supertrailer below for The Tanning of America: One Nation Under Hip Hop

VH1 Rock Doc Premiere: Finding The Funk: A Nelson George Documentary

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A journey through the origins and influence of funk music from James Brown to D’Angelo, we are FINDING THE FUNK!

Inspired by an idea from legendary record producer Arthur Baker, Finding The Funk is a road trip in search of the past, present and future of Funk music. We start in Dayton the birthplace of so many of Funk’s originators, then onto Detroit where from the ashes of Motown, P-Funk’s Mothership arose and then to LA where a new crop of musicians, like DaM-FunK, are creating their own Funk history. Among those featured in the film are Sly StoneBootsy CollinsMike D of the Beastie BoysD’AngeloMarcus MillerMtumeNona HendryxVernon ReidMaceo ParkerBernie WorrellSteve ArringtonReggie HudlinSheila EShock GAlan Leeds, Sade‘s Stuart Matthewman and Diplo. Hosted by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson of The Roots. Directed by Nelson George. VH1 will premiere FINDING THE FUNK on Tuesday February 4, 2014.

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

undeniable

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.

The Trials Of Muhammad Ali

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 The Trials Of Muhammad Ali is a new documentary exploring Muhammad Ali’s lifelong journey of spiritual transformation.  From his Louisville roots, through his years in exile, to receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Trials traces Ali’s path from poet to pariah to global ambassador for peace.   At each stage, the challenges Ali faces go far beyond the boxing ring and ultimately encompass issues of power, race, faith and identity that confront us all.

The Trials Of Muhammad Ali is not a boxing film and has no highlight reel.  Instead, it focuses on Ali’s toughest bouts: his decision to join a controversial religious group, his battle to overturn a five-year prison sentence for refusing US military service, and his struggle with Parkinson’s. While other Ali films focus on his heroic exploits in the ring, they tragically under-examine some of the most noteworthy, provocative and resonant aspects of Ali’s life, such as his relationship with the Louisville Sponsoring Group, the Nation of Islam, and his Muslim faith.

The Trials Of Muhammad Ali delves deeply into a time when an emerging sports superhero chooses faith and conscience over fame and fortune.

The documentary is set to begin screening in 2014.  Visit PBS/Independent Lens for 2014 screening dates and cities near you and don’t miss the PBS television debut May 2014.