On language: So the other midday I'm sitting at a bus stop in Westchester, waiting. Some middle-age guy, a 38-year Miami resident originally from Albany, New Yawk, strolls up and begins yammering. The main thing we talk about is distinguishing characteristics of Latin, or Hispanic, dialects and accents worldwide. He also wants to discuss associative musics of Caribbean and Central and South American nations. That topic was broached when a Dominican woman joined the discourse, and, speaking only in Spanish, bragged of merengue as the representative music of her homeland. I threw 'em both for a loop by mentioning salsa, which they tried to peg as Cuban/Puerto Rican before admitting the form's universality. Their bus finally came, mine didn't, they left, and some even older man walked up. Members of his family, he told me, had arrived in Tampa from Cuba in the Nineteenth Century, driven away from the island by a tobacco workers strike (I think it was a strike, we had some translation difficulty with that word). This elderly gentleman travels by bus every weekday morning to a school on 32nd Street to take three-hour English-language lessons. After we chatted, he left to go across the street and I sat there waiting. When he returned, he asked, in Spanglish, which bus I was looking to catch. Numero ocho, I told him. "No, it no come this way now. You go to K-Mart for it." If I were a xenophobe, I'd still be waiting for the bus.
The Musicfest competition honoring Black Music Month (June) awarded top prize in the R&B category to Gary King and the Dream. No need to feign surprise.
In any language, there's little disputing that reggae is a Jamaican music. Mento aside, it all goes back to Marley, who, by the way, has a boxed set, Songs of Freedom, due out September 22. But even so, two of my favorite raggymen, who happen to also be two of the most substantial and intelligent and entertaining artists working that genre, hail from the Motherland, the cradle of civilization, Africa. I speak of Alpha Blondy and Lucky Dube. The latter is about to make his first Miami concert appearance Sunday at Bayfront Park with the rest of the USA Reggae Sunsplash posse: Aswad, John Holt, Barrington Levy, Papa San, Skool Band, and MC Tommy Cowan. It's about damn time as far as Dube goes. The Springsteen of South Africa has released tons of albums, including a handful distributed in this country by Shanachie, and has played live all over, including a stop in Key West some time ago. Dube's able to fill his music with calls for peace, harmony, justice without ever proselytizing or patronizing his audience. Neat trick. And he's pulled it off perfectly on releases such as Slave and Prisoner. But his latest, House of Exile, is a bit of a letdown. Though he continues to work with the same crew and same sidemen, Dube hasn't been arrested, hassled, or tormented by the oppressors of his homeland lately, and his popularity has simultaneously soared. Exile sure sounds like he's trying to capitalize on that popularity. It's not a bad album, it has its moments -- "You run for your gun/To your surprise it's empty/'Cause we had those bullets/For breakfast" -- and features typically excellent musicianship. But the weight isn't there throughout, as on his earlier work. Try his live album instead, and let's see what he does on the stage.
Ben Peeler is flying in to jam with the Volunteers at Churchill's Hideaway this Saturday.
When it comes to Danzig, the opening act for Black Sabbath on Friday, I've always been willing to play devil's advocate. How the Gods Kill continues to metalize the Doors sound, okay, and give them extra credit for the cover art by the great H.R. Giger.
The last hype: Rock for Choice this weekend at Uncle Sam's.
Butthorn of the week: Ross Perot even looks like a butthorn, but this week's official dishonor goes to those crazy Demos. The big finale song at the convention was "Yesterday's Gone" by Fleetwood Mac (I could swear I heard Peter Jennings attribute the tune to Jefferson Starship). Did anyone bother to clear the song selection with Tipper? Do she and her veepy husband allow their kids to lay down in the tall grass and do stuff? Al Gore himself once claimed in Congressional hearings that he was a fan of Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. I wonder if "Bobby Brown" is Al's favorite Zappa song -- "I can take about an hour on the tower of power/As long as I gets my golden shower" is one of the tamer lines from it. On the other hand, I'm all for two dopers running the nation. Can't be worse than two dopes.
The media circus: Cox Enterprises may have gutted this town's media by murdering the Miami News, but the conglom has returned to publishing in South Florida. Cox-owned WIOD-AM (610) publishes a slick newsletter called Insider. While it's primarily a hype vehicle, you might want to take a look, especially at the Neil Rogers issue now available. Write to WIOD at 1401 N. Bay Cswy., Miami, FL 33141 or call Halcyon at 759-4311.