Featured Writing

Sunday Night Hijack - Natacha AtlasAtlas’s Voyage of Musical Discovery (Rolling Stone Middle East)
“Mounqaliba means ‘in a state of reversal,’” a tired (though talkative) Natacha Atlas tells me, nestled into a couch in her Brooklyn hotel after the last stop on a recent U.S. tour. Reflecting on the title of her latest album on Six Degrees Records, she projects a conflicted mixture of despair and hope. “I feel like we’re accelerating backwards. Although we have the technology at our fingertips to solve many problems, it’s all been arrested by the profit machine.”

db-morocco-bridgePathways to Creation: Exploring Sacred Music in Fes, Morocco (PopMatters)
“Fes, yes, that festival is for sacred music from all over the world. If you want Gnawa music, you must go to Essaouira. There you hear the best. But Fes is a very good festival.” The bald-headed clerk at the Virgin Records in the Casablanca airport was more than helpful—he even tore off the plastic from albums to allow me to sample. In the middle of Fes’ famous medina—the largest car-free zone in the world, at 24 kilometers and 9,400 streets large—I was able to listen to Gnawa, malhoun, Sufi and diffusion (electronica) at the 14th Fes Festival of World Sacred Music in June. But first I stopped in that store, where all the albums were bootlegged and cost 20 dirhams apiece ($2.60). I thanked the Virgin clerk and paid for two albums (a bit more at $10.92) before boarding the plane.

db-feature-shiva-ganjaYoga, Shiva & Ganja (MindBodyGreen)
A woman approached me after class last week. First exchanging pleasantries, she went on to describe not enjoying the pre-class music, a few tracks from the latest record by The Roots. ‘Yoga is not about using low-vibrational language,’ she said. I explained that the album, Undun, is actually a concept record that, in part, has to do with overcoming adversity and struggle. Any music, or language for that matter, has to be understood in the context in which it’s used; no word is inherently ‘low vibrational,’ whatever that means. But I understood her point – she doesn’t like the ‘F’ word – and continued to listen. Her second comment was a little more detailed. ‘When you had us go into pigeon and told us to meditate in the pose, you played a track about smoking ganja. You can’t reach higher consciousness when you’re playing music about pot.’

db-featured-homelandHomeland Security’s Inhumane Deportations Continue (Huffington Post)
Farhan Ezad was living what most would consider a fairly typical American life in June 2010. At 35 years old, he had three sons and a decade-long marriage to a loving wife. But the economic downturn had taken its toll in Canadensis, Pennsylvania, and he had just lost his job. He was planning on continuing his employment search on Thursday, July 1, when he heard a knock at his front door at 5 am.

db-featured-oumPlay it Again Sameer: At Festival de Casablanca (Huffington Post)
With festival officials estimating 65,000 cramming into Scène Corniche El Hank to witness hip-hop artist 50 Cent’s first Moroccan visit, I was not particularly shocked to later hear that that number was bumped to 100,000. 50 himself tweeted 200,000. I suppose from the vantage point of the stage, with the endless swarm of raised fists and ‘I Love 50 Cent’ posters, 65k could be two million without much thought. With a reported 70% of Casablancans being under the age of 30, American rappers easily usurp religious icons in a country that is commendably evolving socially, politically and musically. America has much to learn from the progressive kingship and open-minded populace of this nation.

db-featured-declineThe Decline of Men: How the American Male Is Tuning Out, Giving Up, and Flipping Off His Future (PopMatters)
“I didn’t mean to write a negative book,” Guy Garcia tells me. “Because I’m not a negative person. The book was not meant to sound that way, even though I can see it being perceived as such.” It’s tough to imagine this was not his intention, given the title of his latest work, The Decline of Men. Yet given Garcia’s general positive outlook, not to mention the hopeful tidbits he concludes this book with, I wouldn’t call it negative, either. Even so, the path to uplifting one’s self often involves treacherous roads, and the author is not afraid to walk down those dark paths to shed some light on the situation.

db-featured-brokcThe Fear of Inversions (Among Other Things) (MindBodyGreen)
Undoubtedly one of the most anxiety-inducing moments in a yoga class is when the instructor calls out an inversion. For some students, it’s the perfect time to do a number of things, all of which have nothing to do with the pose: run to the bathroom, look at the clock, go to child’s pose, play with their toes. These habits are somewhat understandable, given that our bipedal nature has inclined us towards favoring our feet, not our hands, forearms or head for such a demanding display of stability.

db-featured-bobanBela and Boban in Budapest (PopMatters)
The first phrase to learn in Budapest has to be “Maga sokkal jobban tud angolul, mint én magyarul”, or “Your English is far better than my Hungarian.” On the way to the airport, my fiancé turns to me: “What did we forget?” “Nothing,” I assure her, though fear creeps into my throat. It was not until we arrived in Budapest that I realized our three guidebooks remained on our bookshelves.