Mento music is a little known style of folk music and dance native to the island of Jamaica that saw its commercial peak in the 1950s. Sometimes called Jamaican Calypso, it is closely related to that Trinidadian musical form.
Mento bands usually consist of small groups of musicians. Acoustic guitar, fifes, maracas, and the rumba box are all typical elements in the musical production. Banjo however, seems to be central in traditional Mento. Particularly rural groups often featured hand-made instruments such as the bamboo clarinet and saxophone.
A unique style of music, mento is the lineal forebear of reggae, and like blues it is a blend of European folk musics, especially of British Isles and Spanish influence along with many elements of traditional West African music. For reasons that are more intricate than this blog-post is prepared to delve into, Trinidadian Calypso was more marketable than Jamaican Mento, and by the middle of the 20th century it had become the music of the Caribbean.
After Calypso lost its commercial appeal record companies decided to make jazz the new music of the Caribbean and began importing jazz musicians into the islands. Jazz didn’t take root like they had hoped but this injection of fresh blood mixed with the rootsy sound of the Jamaican shanty towns and the new sounds coming from the United States over short-wave radio resulted in the creation of Ska.
Reggae emerges with the dominance of Rastafarian philosophy in the previous style, with typically even slower, more intricate rhythms, lyrics with deep spiritual and socio-political messages. Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and Toots and the Maytals all played defining moments in ska, rocksteady, and reggae, but none of them would have been as significant without Mento.
Few artists have had as much of an influence on me as Tyla J. Pallas. It wouldn’t be too far of a stretch to say that I learned to sing by listening to this man.
I first discovered Tyla when I saw an ad for his band the Dog’s D’Amour and their album release In the Dynamite Jet Saloon in Hit Parader Magazine in 1988. I acquired the album through some means after that, and was fairly pleased by the record. Though you couldn’t tell by looking at the album cover, the Dogs D’Amour were doing something in strong contrast to all the other hard rock bands that were making a name in the mid and late 80s. The songwriting was a striking and refreshing twist on the blues-infused rock and roll pioneered by classic bands such like the Rolling Stones, and Aerosmith.
On top of guitarist Jo Dog’s phenomenal slide guitar work on In the Dynamite Jet Saloon, Tyla’s gritty, bourbon-wrecked vocals defined the sound and personality of the Dogs D’Amour. His fluctuation between growling, mumbling, and quirky melodic deliveries helped create a dynamic and distinct sound. As the primary songwriter, Tyla’s lyrical approach was infused with the dark poeticism of Charles Bukoski, romantic and desperate. It was quite a departure from the party-anthem bands that defined the decade. Tunes like the ballad “How Come It Never Rains” and the acoustic “Billy Two Rivers” stand out the most.
While Dynamite Jet Saloon is a great album, it was only a couple years later when a friend moved to my hometown from England and brought with him the follow up and mostly acoustic albums Errol Flynn and A Graveyard of Empty Bottles that I really became the die-hard fan I still am to this day. These albums were amazingly written. Everything that was good about Dynamite Jest Saloon was doubled-down on and made great. To me, these albums are what the Dogs D’Amour were all about.
Each song on those records is so good it’s difficult to shine a light on any of them over the others, but “Comfort of the Devil” and “Ballad of Jack” probably stand out the most. Both exemplify the mixed styles of blues-rock and country with a distinctly recognizable English interpretation that defined the Dogs. Not only did these acoustically dominated albums convince me of the viability of the approach in an era defined by electric guitar, it reacquainted me with my native County and Western music and put a mark on my musical delivery that is still with me to this day.
Second to the music, or course were the album covers featuring Tyla’s distinctive artwork, mostly paintings. They were personal interpretations of the band in a style that was a mix of naïve and almost comic art, and expressionism. As an aspiring singer and visual artist myself, I found this approach inspiring..
Over the years since these early Dog days, Tyla has produced a host of solo projects and collaborations, while his artistic abilities have developed into a well-crafted, distinct and recognizable style that is the natural visual counterpart to the wicked western blues rock that is Tyla’s legacy.
I went with a friend to see the movie Silence. It looked good and seemed interesting in the previews, and has good reviews online, but to me , it was really slow and boring.
The plot revolves around two Catholic Priests from Portugal in the early half of the 17th century who embark on a trek to Japan to find their missing comrade, and to further missionize the island during a time a great suppression of the religion by the Tokugawa shogunate.
With such subject matter you might think this would be an epic masterpiece of, but instead it was just undynamic and uninspired. The characters seemed flat and undeveloped, and there was virtually no action at all. Good movies tend to have peaks and valleys. This was all valleys. The subject matter was pretty heavy, with the persecution of Christians in Japan during the early half of the 17th century, but I didn’t sense any real depth to the story or characters and comic relief was almost non-existent. That’s just the production side.
I also felt like it portrayed Buddhism as a sinister, despondent cult with no redeemable doctrine. While it emphasized the atrocities committed by the Japanese government against the Christians, portraying Christianity as if it would deliver the people from such abuse, it ignored that at the exact same time in Europe the witch-burnings and torture and killings of heretics was at its height. So, not only did I find the movie boring, I felt like it insulted my intelligence.
If you’re interested in watching Silence because you hope to see representations of feudal Japanese society and samurai customs you’ll be disappointed as there is virtually no culture portrayed in this film.
While watching it I felt like director Martin Scorsese and writer Jay Cocks were more interested in creating sympathy and a sense of righteousness for the Jesuit priests than they were in telling a good story. I can understand why practicing Catholics and other Christians may find the film as providing some form of credibility for their faith, but I just was not satisfied.
I really found the movie to be uninspired, uninteresting, and unenjoyable. It was painfully boring.
Pub Songs on Palafox is a four song, lo-fi EP recorded in the raw as a live-air production that captures the energy and sound of a Lojah solo performance while busking downtown Pensacola, Florida in competition with the various sounds of a bustling city street.
Lojah begins with a rowdy Irish pub tune, Dicey Reilly, about a lush of a woman who spends her life crawling from pub to pub; a sailor’s favorite. The Black Velvet Band is another classic Irish ballad about infatuation, deceit and injustice which takes us out of the pub and away from the Emerald Isle to a penal colony in Australia. Following up is Looks Like Jesus, a rockabilly-blues styled piece and a Lojah original tells the story illustrating the conflict between despair and ambition, shroud with esoteric imagery, set in the Southern atmosphere he calls home. Miss Constance concludes the record, a naughty Caribbean-styled tune about the perils of younger women.
Lojah’s Creolized Roots Music is a style deeply influenced by Caribbean rhythms, Celtic melodies, and blues.
Back in 2006 a friend of mine handed off a bunch of conspiracy “exposés” and badgered me to watch them. Along the way he acquainted me with the Denver Airport conspiracy theories that led me to youtube videos and web pages on the subject. I was especially captivated by the artwork present in the airport, large colorful murals that are the subject of much speculation by fans of conspiracy stories.
I did my own research because so few of the conspiracy enthusiasts could provide me with any facts. At the time I could not even find a conspiracy fan who could provide the name of the artist who painted the murals. His name is Leo Tanguma, a very talented Chicano artist. It wasn’t hard to look up, but it only began appearing on other conspiracy videos after I posted the original upload of the video below. After doing a bit of research into the matter, gathering data and contemplating the artwork I came up with my own assessment of the situation at the Denver International Airport. I was learning how to use video software at the time so this was the subject of my first youtube video, Facts Behind the Denver Airport Conspiracy.
Like the movie-slacker I am, I waited until Christmas Day to go see Rogue One: A Star Wars Story because I don’t care much for long lines and crowded movie theaters.
I’ve been a Star Wars fan since I saw Episode IV: A New Hope in the theater on its first run. I was three years old. Like a lot of old school Star Wars fans, I loved A New Hope (which we always just called Star Wars), and found The Empire Strikes Back to be an even better movie. Return of the Jedi was not as good as the others, but provided us with the answers and closure we needed.
Then sixteen years later the prequels happened and my confidence in the franchise was shaken. After this and Lucas selling the rights to Disney, I was skeptical about Episode VII: The Force Awakens, but it turned out to be a pretty decent reboot from George Lucas’ blunders with episodes I, II, and III. Then with the announcement of Rogue One, I was certainly full of anticipation but was careful not to have too high expectations.
Well, any concerns I had about the quality of this movie were thoroughly assuaged. Rogue One is a brilliant addition to the Star Wars franchise.
It’s Star Wars
Rogue One is a Star Wars story. Unlike the prequels which barely resembled the Star Wars we old-schoolers know and love, and even The Force Awakens to some degree, Rogue One is built from the ground up with the imagery, style and elements of the original trilogy. There are enough Easter eggs and callbacks to the previous films to plant it firmly in the classic Star Wars universe, but done effectively in a manner that didn’t appear cheap or uninspired. Rogue One was more Star Wars than I have seen in years.
It’s a War Movie
Rogue One is a war movie to its core. There’s not a lot of mucking about with deep philosophical themes, political intrigue, romance, or building big mysteries to be revealed in later installments. In fact it resolves some questions we had about aspects of the storyline of A New Hope instead. It’s darker, grittier and more violent than any of those that have come before it. The ground combat scenes are as intense as those in classic war films such as The Thin Red Line, or Full Metal Jacket. The space battle scenes are some of the most epic and action-packed of any of the films.
A Troubled Alliance
I think a lot of times in the past movies it seemed like the Rebel Alliance was a wholly unified and cooperative effort of revolutionaries with only the galaxy’s best interests at heart. In Rogue One we get to see a more nuanced rebellion, a complex network of disenfranchised and dysfunctional systems. We get to see a diverse range of Rebels from senators like Mon Mothma, to radical guerilla fighters, spies of questionable morals, and former imperials.
The impact of seeing Darth Vader in action again is a quality of the film that can’t be overstated. He doesn’t play a huge role in the story, but it’s a significant one that really makes an impression and builds upon the menacing character we got to know in the original trilogy.
A Deeper Perspective on “A New Hope”
Rogue One takes place over a matter of a few days leading up to the opening scene of “A New Hope.” Multiple loose ends are tied and questions answered that had always lingered from the original story. Perhaps most significantly, the two movies fit together more fluidly than any of the prequels or the original trilogy, or most sequels of any movies. They almost seem like two acts of the same very long movie. It’s hard to walk out of Rogue One and not feel compelled to rewatch A New Hope shortly afterward.
No movie is flawless and I’m not such a Star Wars fan boy to not admit flaws when they are present. There are a few criticisms worth mentioning. To begin with the first thirty minutes or so of the movie is a little too fast-paced with scenes jumping around so much that it seems disjointed. Fortunately this a rectified and everything becomes clear in the later acts of the film. While Vader’s scenes are dynamic and dramatic, his suit looks a little off. The chain that holds his cape around his neck in all the other movies is absent and his helmet doesn’t seem to fit properly as the neckline sticks out in front of the chest plate too much. It’s a bit distracting and seems inauthentic but it’s the rest of Vader’s scenes are so great it hardly matters. Michael Giacchino’s musical score isn’t quite up to par with John Williams’ masterpieces in the previous films, but it doesn’t detract from the movie in the least.
In many ways Rogue One is the Star Wars movie I have always wanted, but I got the Skywalker prequels instead. Rogue One is well out of the league of the prequels. It’s more intense than The Force Awakens, and a better all-around production than Return of the Jedi. To me, it’s the best movie since The Empire Strikes Back.
Dee Snyder rose to fame in the early 1980s as the front man of the Heavy Metal shock rock group Twisted Sister. He has never been shy about championing justice whether in his lyrics or in Washington, D.C.
In 1985, Snider along with acid rocker Frank Zappa and folk legend John Denver took on the censorship efforts of the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) and testified before Congress in opposition to their attempts to legislate morality and creativity in music. Throughout the 80’s, 90’s and on to today, Dee Snider has been the sort of unofficial spokesman for rock and roll.
Recently he has been disturbed by the events taking place around the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. The Morton County Sheriff’s Department and Energy Transfer Partners (owners of the infamous Dakota Access Pipeline, or DAPL) have actively engaged in numerous human rights abuses against peaceful demonstrators representing the Standing Rock community’s struggle to protect their sacred places and their fresh water supply. When DAPL workers were confronted while actively destroying Sioux grave sites and spiritual centers their hired mercenaries attacked peaceful demonstrators with dogs and teargas. The Morton County Sheriff’s Department has done as much and more by shooting unarmed and nonthreatening protectors with rubber bullets and water cannons in below freezing temperatures. There have been clear attacks on the First Amendment as officers from North Dakota and Morton County have tried to create an atmosphere of intimidation in order to suppress the people’s right to assembly, and by specifically targeting members of the press for arrest in order to prevent news of the human rights abuses from coming to light.
Now in the face of the Standing Rock efforts to protect their cultural resources and their clean drinking water from an inevitable oil leak by the infamous Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), Snider along with other celebrities have begun to put their media resources to work in support of the #NoDAPL water protectors.
Snider has released his new video “So What” entirely produced with footage from the Standing Rock #NoDAPL protection effort as a testament to the people putting their bodies on the line to protect the few remaining cultural and ecological resources of the Sioux Nation which once dominated the Northern Plains.
Aggressively solemn (if that’s not too much of a contradiction), “So What” is indicative of a much more mature and introspective Snider, but still carries the thunder of I would expect to hear from the mind that gave us such classic rebellious anthems as “We’re Not Gonna Take It” over thirty years ago. “So What,” is less about youthful rebellion however, and more directly about defiance in the face of tyranny.