Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
Plenty of unplugged soloists fill rooms with auditory delights. Xela Zaid, for example, can hunch over a guitar and turn your world black as your heart quivers. But this acoustician stands (actually he sits, in the lotus position, when playing) a world apart from the standard electricity-free dude or chick. After decades of study, training, practice, and performance, Stephan Mikés plays sitar at the master level, placing a karmic chapter in the book of cosmic music. Barefoot and ponytailed, gentle but worldly, taught by the best on the planet, Mikés first enters another realm with his giant, stringed gourd-stick instrument across his lap. Then he begins to play tunes from one of his CDs and takes the listener to outer space and beyond. Musical Valium one moment, fire ants in your eyes another, his is both tranquil and stirring music, complex yet smoothly engaging. Playing sitar is extremely challenging. Playing one as well as he does is as rare as a rabbi in the Himalaya mountains.
When the night ends, it doesn't matter if the artwork altered anyone's perception because, as they say, it was all good. Rocket Projects, at 3440 N. Miami Ave., was at the vanguard of this lowbrow cultural movement, always providing complimentary booze, DJ sounds, and even, on one chilly night, free barbecued chicken out back. OBJEX artspace's soirees tended to be a higher form of lowbrow, but with new digs at 203 NW 36th St., this gallery gets credit for taking the art party movement into ever deeper depths of Wynwood. Lawrence Gartel went even higher (i.e., lower) for an exhibition curated in conjunction with David Lombardi's Roving Fridays. This show, Cyberotica, featured digital art inside the warehouse and painted ladies (literally) who were shaking what they had on a rickety little runway out back. Free vodka drinks, natch. There were many other shining examples of this exciting new trend, but we don't remember them.
Years ago it seemed every kid wanted a guitar. Then all those kids began to trade their guitars in for two turntables, speakers, and a mixer. Some New Jacks even skipped the actual mechanisms, opting for computer programs like ReBirth or Fruity Loops. During the late Nineties, only real-deal rockers dared to take actual guitars and drums onto the stage or into the studio. It was the cut-and-paste, Pro Tools antics of DJs and the 808 drum machine/synthesizer that governed youth-oriented music. These days the role of knobs and computer keyboards in music production are increasingly minimized by objects that were considered rather archaic: guitars, horns, and actual drums (not drum machines). Led by groups such as the Spam Allstars, the modern elements (DJ, rapper, electronic gadgetry) are largely backed by traditional, organic instruments. Local hip-hop groups such as Buddha Gonzalez and the Headless Chihuahuas, Brimstone 127, and Council of the Sun have all put the prerecorded sample on the back burner in favor of the warmer, more dynamic sounds of live instrumental performances. It could be a cue for the comeback of other logical elements of music makers ... like talent.
Okay, so it's not like he plays upstairs at the Van Dyke every other weekend. But when you have a jazz deity living in your back yard, you gotta pay props and do what you can to coax the cool cat out of the bag. Or in this case, out of his Aventura condo and onto a bandstand near you. Jazz fans want him to play as often as possible -- eight nights per week would do. Sparked by a rare planetary alignment or some such harmonically auspicious convergence, the fiery grace of Wayne was upon us for the recent JVC Jazz Festival on Miami Beach, but his live concerts are as rare as Florida panthers. In case you didn't know, Mr. Shorter is a sax player and composer of the highest order, a former member of the Jazz Messengers -- the best Miles Davis band ever -- and Weather Report, and, in general, a living legend. Let us give thanks, for he is among us.
The future of poetry is on the streets. Urban angst and inner-city pressure have inspired the hip-hop generation to take up "spoken word," where emotion and intimation flow from moving lips to open ears. In Miami a young, dreadlocked, dark-skinned man known as Kronos (real name: Yves Verela) performs his poetry at art functions as well as popular poetry nights, and often teams with bands and DJs to lend music to his lexicon. His deepest impressions are planted during conversations with strangers, when the engaging but gentle poet breaks into freestyle verses, always leaving the listener with reflective phrases: "One gets the whole truth half the time." Kronos's life experience as a traveler from his original Haiti to Miami's sunny shores, plus an extended stay in Israel, has certainly contributed to an ethereal multinationalism in his phrases: "I betted, you came, I summoned, you added a smile without the sentimental charge of a Motel 6." For members of a generation short on voices that speak directly to them, Kronos represents a youthful renaissance.
Yeah, Pitbull and Jacki-O generated more hype in 2003, but who really held it down for the M-I-A? Trina, baby, who scored a club hit ("B R Right"), appeared on several high-profile remixes (Cassidy's "Hotel," Chingy's "Right Thurr"), and laid down the law to any new jacks looking to boost her tiara with the scorching mix-tape track "Heated." With a new album due out soon and a dramatically improved rap flow, the self-proclaimed Diamond Princess isn't abdicating her throne anytime soon.
This ten-day tennis tourney at Crandon Tennis Center on Key Biscayne has become the fifth biggest in the world, behind only the four competitions that form the Grand Slam. Last year's singles winners were Andre Agassi and, in a thriller against hometown favorite Jennifer Capriati, Serena Williams, who notched her second consecutive Nasdaq win at the 2003 event (followed by her third at the '04 event). In addition to the finest pro tennis this side of Wimbledon, the event includes a blimp, exhibitions, food courts, and many other diversions. That it pumps millions of dollars into the local economy doesn't hurt.
Is Miami Noise over? Is the scene down to the last of a dying breed? Okay, so the genre never took off like Japanese Noise did. Maybe it shouldn't have lasted as long as it did or received worldwide attention either. But for a minute (that lasted several years) it seemed we had something special going on. Consider this a challenge to young Miami noise musicians: Make a bigger boom in the coming months or we'll have to presume you've taken up disco or joined a hippie band. Oh, and if you don't know the Squelchers by now, um ... no, don't do that. Go to Churchill's on a Thursday and catch the masters. Hell, join them. The Laundry Room seems to be where all the local noise makers end up anyway.