Sunday, January 31, 2010

R.I.P. JD, Long Live DP

Some of you may be thinking, "Drew, Dilla's been dead for a while now." Others of you are probably scratching your head, thinking "what is the title of this blog about?" The rest of you have already poured a glass of whiskey and toasted to the interesting and obscure memory of JD Salinger, one of the most influential (if not prolific) writers of the 20th century. At least, that's what we did to commemorate his passing last week.

Back when I was a teenager working on my first album (onescore minus eleven years ago), I also happened to be reading "Catcher in the Rye." I don't think I ever really told anyone, but part of the album is directly inspired by (stolen from?) this book. Here, take a listen and see if you can spot it now:

Well, that's pretty much how I felt about playing the piano for a long time... not exactly shy, just real personal. It really wasn't until I started performing a lot in other capacities that I got real comfortable playing piano "for other people." I'm glad I finally did, because one of my favorite things about traveling abroad is jumping on board with local bands and trying to keep up. From busking in the street with teenagers in Salvador, Bahia, to jammin' with a Mexican reggae band, I've had my fair share of interesting impromptu performances... and they've been some of the most fun of my life.

Last week was no exception, as Tom Rodwell invited me to play a set with him and at the Wine Cellar. If you're not familiar with the music just check out my last post for a taste. Anyway, I was obviously juiced to jump on board, and the show was even more fun than I expected. Tom on guitar, Joe Pineapple on bass, Shadow on harmonica, and me on the old upright! About 3 minutes into the second set, the venue became a sweat box, but that did not stop the ladies on the dance floor (but at least one of them had to change outfits halfway through). Damn, calypso is fun!

So, now your probably thinking, "I still don't understand the title of this post." Well, now I'll finish explaining: last Thursday dead prez (dp) was here in Auckland "Small world!" That's pretty much all Stic.Man could say when I caught up with him coming out of sound check. My friend and Napalm Clique accomplice, Unity, just released some music featuring Stic, so it was cool to finally get it into his hands (I don't think he'd heard the track since the recording session). Here, have a listen:

The show was quality, and it reminded me of being back on Guam. See, New Zealand has its own (ugly) history of oppressed indigenous people, the Maori. We know what side of the argument dead prez is on wherever they go, so it was no surprise when they hung the Maori flag from the DJ booth. I couldn't help but notice the parallel to my Chamorro friends passing the "Reclaim Guahan" banner on stage during Ooklah the Moc's performance at the Guam Music Festival over a month ago.

Whenever I travel, one of my favorite sayings comes to mind: "same sh*t, different toilet." But here, its important to point out some key differences between the status of the indigenous populations on the three islands I've visited.

The government of Fiji is run by native Fijians (Melanesians), after a 2006 military coup ousted a predominantly Indo-Fijian government on the grounds of corruption. The Parliament building still remains empty (except for the maintenance crew that still cleans it everyday), the Constitution has been suspended, and no elections have been held. For this reason, Fiji was expelled from the Pacific Forum last year.

In contrast, the native Chamorros of Guam hold MANY local offices on Guam, but cannot be said to "control" their government. Ultimately, Guam is run by the U.S. Department of the Interior, whose leader (Secretary) is not elected by anyone! Even if you trust Obama, who appoints the Secretary of the Interior, I hope you recognize a slight conflict of interest here in light of the U.S. Government's historic and future plans for the island. To put it crudely, Ken Salazar of Colorado is currently the King of Guam!

The situation in New Zealand lies somewhere in between. Where Guam has the Organic Act, New Zealand has the Treaty of Waitangi of 1840, between the British Crown and the Maori chiefs of the North Island. While both documents are as controversial as they are condescending, the Maori have been able to leverage the Treaty in the last few decades to win many monetary and land concessions or settlements. I have a lot to learn about the subject, but my sense is that the Maori have been gaining ground while the Chamorros have been losing it. May the force be with We Are Guahan!

This week I will be traveling south to Wellington and and other surrounding areas. One place I will be visiting is the last "majority-Maori" area in New Zealand. As always, I look forward to getting my education live and in-person.

Pura Vida,


  1. Now why would you ever want to come back from these amazing islands? :) Every post makes me more jealous!

  2. Nina, every post is specifically designed to have that effect on you. I'm still getting revenge for Mike P! On a more serious note, I checked out your blog and you've been hitting some absolutely fabulous places too... I still haven't made it to Nawlins! Plus, you're the one that's moving to France, so you can't be that jealous...