The So Cal Roots of Brooklyn’s Daptone Records

My latest story for KCET‘s Artbound is now online for your reading pleasure! In it, I interview Jessica Lipsky, author of “It Ain’t Retro: Daptone Records & The 21st-Century Soul Revolution.”

Link: https://www.kcet.org/shows/artbound/southern-californias-role-in-soul-musics-major-revival

Excerpt:

The artists at Daptone, such as Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, Antibalas, Charles Bradley, Menahan Street Band and The Sugarman 3, to name but a few, were at the tip of a steadily rising wave of a new generation of soul artists. The Dap-Kings even found themselves working for a time for the late Amy Winehouse. They recorded most of “Back to Black” with her and producer Mark Ronson in the studio and performed with her as her stage band on many occasions.

The stature of an artist like Winehouse coupled with the general misunderstanding of soul music as a product of a bygone era provided Lipsky with some challenges when she set out to write “It Ain’t Retro.” She initially wrote the book as a scene study of soul music but had a difficult time selling it to a publisher.

“After working on that for some time, it turns out it was too broad and too niche,” she explains by phone. “No one wanted to buy it and I had to pivot. A lot of the time, the people that are making these editorial decisions, be it in publishing or in journalism, this really isn’t their bag. Soul music is Motown and it’s oldies and that’s pretty much it. Then there was Amy Winehouse and that’s pretty much it. My experience was that a lot of folks didn’t really think that there is a market for telling these stories.”

You can purchase the book here: http://jawbonepress.com/it-aint-retro/

Republic Of Lucha A Haven For Lucha Libre Fanatics

My latest story for KCET is now available for reading: Republic of Lucha Provides a Haven for Lucha Libre Culture in L.A.

EXCERPT:

“Lucha libre is something very dear and personal to all Mexicans,” continues Arau. “All of my work, be it music, animation, film or art, is about popular Mexican culture and lucha libre is one of the most visible things there is. Compare that with the culture here, the gringo culture, where a mask is usually something associated with terrorism, with sadomasochism. There’s no tradition behind it whereas in all of Mexico, the Indigenous communities use masks, all of the fiestas in every state utilize masks, there are museums dedicated to masks made of different materials. For us, masks are something very natural.”

The space features a store that sells custom lucha libre merchandise including apparel such as shirts, hats and leggings printed in-house at the Republic of Lucha Print Shop. There are small baskets filled with plastic-mold action figures of masked wrestlers. Two large, glass cases contain mannequin heads adorned with various wrestling masks worn in official matches by wrestlers such as Fenix, Penta, Psycho Clown, Tinieblas Jr., and others, all for sale. They also host the Lucha Movie Club most Saturdays each month when the rooftop is converted into an outdoor movie theater to screen classic lucha libre films, such as the ones featuring El Santo and Blue Demon, and more.

LINK: https://www.kcet.org/shows/artbound/republic-of-lucha-provides-a-haven-for-lucha-libre-culture-in-l-a

Alto is the New Rideshare Company in Town

My latest article for L.A. Taco is now available! It’s an interview with Will Coleman, co-founder of Alto, a new rideshare company that is operating differently than its competition (y’know, like Uber and Lyft).

An excerpt:

A critical aspect of Alto’s brand is that it hires drivers as employees as opposed to its competitors, who work with drivers as independent contractors. In addition, the company provides them with a uniform, including PPE, hours of training in defensive driving, and training in the “culture of the service model,” as Coleman describes it.

Employment also provides peace of mind to drivers who continue to contend with the efforts of many rideshare and gig economy companies to limit their pay and benefits. The fallout from the passage of Prop. 22 last year in California hasn’t been pretty, as noted in The Guardian (“‘A slap in the face’: California Uber and Lyft drivers criticize pay cuts under Prop 22”), Protocol (“California gig workers say Prop. 22 isn’t delivering promised benefits”), VICE (“Uber Shuts Down App That Told Drivers If Uber Underpaid Them”), and Business Insider (“Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and other gig companies said California’s Prop 22 would create opportunity for workers of color. A new study says it ‘legalized racial subordination.’”).

Read my full story at L.A. Taco: https://www.lataco.com/alto-rideshare-new-app-will-coleman/

A New Wave of Souldies Artists

My latest for KCET is my interview with a half-dozen artists who are part of a new wave of souldies artists. Souldies, a.k.a. Chicano Soul, has a distinct flair and sound that’s also connected to a specific cultural context, which I write briefly about in the story.

The familial connection to the music and the culture is one shared by nearly all the artists involved in this resurgence of oldies music. Samano recalls his parents putting artists such as The Delfonics and Brenton Wood on heavy rotation during his childhood. Lane grew up on gospel and studied “the pillars of northern soul” while studying music in college. Garcia’s father had a record collection that included Smokey Robinson, Mary Wells and Brenton Wood plus dozens of doo-wop artists.

The same goes for Vicky Tafoya, founder and singer of Vicky Tafoya and the Big Beat, who grew up surrounded by the sounds of doo-wop, big band and Motown. As the youngest of 12 children, she inherited the vinyl records that each one of her siblings left behind as they moved out. She became completely enamored with the music and had a life-changing experience in 1989 when she joined The Doo-Wop Society of Southern California. It was there that she would spend years watching and even performing acapella doo-wop on the same stage as the artists she listened to obsessively at home: Vernon Green and The Medallions, The Teenagers, The Six Teens, The Chantelles and many other legendary artists.

You can read the story in full here: https://www.kcet.org/shows/artbound/a-new-generation-of-musicians-are-revitalizing-chicano-soul-music