By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Revenge of the Mad Reader
Not everyone in hip hop is violent. Some of us contribute to our neighborhoods. Method Man and Redman do charity work in New York and New Jersey. Fat Joe and Big Punisher held a charity dinner for hurricane victims in the Carribean.
Negativity breeds negativity, and Noel is feeding the cycle. He is taking the easy way out, doing what the mainstream has done: writing us off as violent and misogynistic.
Time of the Assassins
In "Revenge of the Mad Rappers," Peter Noel quoted me correctly, but out of context.
Noel referred to a time line I compiled of seminal events surrounding the assassinations of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls as a "conspiracy theory." The conspiracy I alluded to was on the part of the federal government, whose agents were following and spying on the key players Puffy, Big, Tupac, and Suge as they were when Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were assassinated.
Noel also missed one major point: that magazines and record labels play power games with their artists, photographers, and writers. This often causes friction that leads to violence.
Out of Africa
As an Ethiopian, I was pleasantly surprised to find Douglas Wolk's review of the CDs, Éthiopiques, Volumes 15 ["Different Times," December 1]. Ethiopian music is not as accessible to Western ears as much other African music, and therefore far less listened to and reviewed. I and many others here in Addis Ababa were delighted with and impressed by Wolk's review.
However, I would like to raise a couple of points. Ethiopia in the '50s, '60s, and '70s was not as isolated as Wolk suggests. It is true that then, as now, Ethiopia did not have immediate access to all aspects of pop culture, but music was something that circulated freely throughout Addis Ababa. Not everyone in the city would have heard every James Brown 45, but a significant number of people were exposed to much of the same music heard elsewhere especially musicians. The lack of outside influences in Éthiopiques Volumes 15 that Wolk mentions is due almost entirely to Ethiopian independence and orneriness, not a lack of outside influences. I understand that a future addition to the Éthiopiques series will be a Swinging Addis CD, which will show some outside influences not heard in previous volumes.
More broadly, Wolk writes that in Ethiopia under Haile Selassie, "reportedly, any expenditure over $10 had to be personally approved" by the emperor. This is utterly preposterous. It disturbs me that such reports can so easily be put into print. It is true that Ethiopia wasand still isa poor country, but please do not paint us in such an inaccurate light.
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
As the organizer of "Listen, Listen: The Music of Sandy Denny," I can agree with many of Evelyn McDonnell's assessments about the singers, but she missed a fundamental point about the show ["Guided by Voice," December 1].
McDonnell begins her piece by asking "How do you pay tribute to a voice?" Good question. We were paying tribute to the music of Sandy Denny (see the subtitle) and trying to get her songs across. Since Sandy is known primarily as a singer, I felt that people should get a chance to know her as a songwriter and adapter as well. It is absolutely true that she "earned her fame" as a singer, but it's for that very reason we chose to present the songs that she wrote and adapted.
As for McDonnell's suggestion that I "may have wanted to turn the evening into a hoedown" by "gathering Southern alt-rock cronies," I can only assume that this is McDonnell's perception of what people below the Mason-Dixon line do at night. You know, drink corn liquor from a fruit jar, haul out the banjos, and play Sandy Denny songs while the hounds bay out behind the barn. How absurd and regionalist.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Evelyn McDonnell replies: As my nth-generation Kentuckian mother might say: "It's easier to cry prejudice than accept criticism."
Re Robert Christgau's "Thanksgiving anticelebration" Consumer Guide of "records worth hating" [December 1]: Audra McDonald has won three Tonys not two and her new album, Way Back to Paradise, is more than just a showcase for her octave-skipping gifts. McDonald should be applauded for giving new composers a chance instead of doing something safe.
It's nice to see someone with talent showing it off rather than the lack of talent displayed by some of the performers on Christgau's list of "turkeys." Surely, that should score some points with your resident "cult of the snide" reviewer. Or is it just fun to find something to carve up?
Andrew Hsiao's Press Clips column about mainstream media hyping of environmentalist violence was excellent ["The Green Menace," November 10]. Hsiao explained some of the problems that are happening here in Northern California. There is indeed a movement to call kids sitting in 3000-year-old redwood trees eco-terrorists.