Category Archives: Media

Rich McDuff: Pioneer of the McGuire’s Music Scene

Rich McDuff is Northwest Florida’s most popular Irish folk music performer.  With a loyal and regular fan base, Rich helped build and define the music scene at McGuire’s Irish Pub while performing there for more than twenty years.


Although the moose-kissing tradition at McGuire’s predates Rich’s arrival on scene, he is responsible for writing the accompanying, and now entrenched “Kiss the Moose” song.  He explains “When I began playing here, asking a first-time patron of McGuire’s to kiss the moose might be met with a bit of confusion and resistance.  The traditional aspect was lost on them.  I figured if there was a song to go along with it, it would give the tradition a bit more validity for first-time visitors to the pub.  And it has worked out pretty well.”  Now every act that performs at McGuire’s plays this song, and the moose-kissing tradition has expanded to include not only the moose but a couple other McGuire’s fixtures as well.

Rich is also known or pushing the bounds of the debauchery which is naturally as part of McGuire’s slogan.  His “Dirty Limerick” song, played to the classic mariachi tune of “Cielito Lindo” contains rhymes that could even surprise a hip-hop fan.  Many of Rich’s regulars eagerly look forward to this point in the evening, awaiting their opportunity to share the stage with him and recite their own limerick specially prepared just for this song.  The best and most classic limericks are written on a scroll and tucked away in the secret archives, only to be taken out upon the performance of this tune.

Even more entertaining, energetic, and amusing is Rich’s version of “Seven Drunken Nights,” with extended responses – a wee bit too naughty to be written down here.  This point of the night is when you are likely to see the most crowd participation.  This rendition of the classic Irish song is memorable, if not for the increasingly lengthy responses, but the reactions and looks on the faces of new comers to the McGuire’s scene.

Crowd interaction is a major part of Rich’s act.  You never know just where the night will lead or how ridiculous the antics are likely to become.

Rich’s set also contains a set of American country, and acoustically played classic rock songs familiar to everyone.  As a classically trained guitarist, Rich McDuff’s musical talent becomes most apparent when he plays a traditional jig or reel or the occasional classical guitar piece.

Rich’s revolving schedule alternates between the pubs in both Pensacola and Destin, Florida.  While he is away, his regulars in Pensacola always look forward to his return.  Some will even make the drive to Destin to see him when he is performing there.

For more information on Rich McDuff, and dates visit his website here.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin and the Secret to Jewish Success

Lapin, Rabbi Daniel (2010) Thou Shall Prosper: Ten Commandments for Making Money, Second Edition, Hoboken, John Wiley and Sons Inc.

LapinThou Shall Prosper is a fascinating exploration into wealth creation among Jews and the values within Jewish communities that encourage financial success.  It is organized into 10 separate chapters, titled commandments in imitation of the Laws given to Moses.  Written by Daniel Lapin, an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi motivated by a desire to research and catalog the cultural traits that have contributed to this, making them available to all people.  The book promotes what Rabbi Lapin calls Ethical Capitalism.

I have always been fascinated by the subject of Jewish success.  It only takes a little attention to notice that Jews are disproportionately successful in business and finance than any other ethnic group in the United States, if not the world.  As Rabbi Lapin explains, this is not to suggest that there are no poor Jews.  But as the most consistently oppressed people throughout 3,000 years of history, the Jewish people could easily have been expected to cease existing altogether.  But they haven’t, and wherever Jews are afforded the slightest opportunity they tend to thrive.

Rabbi Lapin points out that Jews represent less than 2% of the American population, but in any given year may represent as much as 25% of the names on the Forbes 400 list of wealthiest Americans.  Jewish households are also twice as likely to be wealthy as those of non-Jews.  This is a remarkable phenomenon that deserves to be explored and hopefully explained.

Anti-Semitic conspiracy enthusiasts might see all this as evidence of Jewish misdeed in acquiring wealth.* However, genuine social scientists understand that a better explanation lays in some set of cultural values being perpetuated within Jewish communities.  Personally, I have always seen this as admirable, like a mystery to be unraveled.  That’s why, when I found this book on the shelf, I didn’t have to think very long before I happily handed the clerk $24.95 (plus tax) and walked out the door with the book under my arm, ready to read.

Foreseeing the anti-Semitic arguments, early in the introduction Rabbi Lapin debunks the idea of Jews operating jointly as some sort of cabal, plotting their dominance over society.  In fact, Rabbi Lapin explains that Jewish communities are typically just as dysfunctional and full of conflict as most others.

Rabbi Lapin makes many points along the way regarding wealth, Jews, and the world, all of which are worth some serious consideration.

Education is Key

Lapin illustrates early on that education is very important to being successful in business and finance.  Jews, though not necessarily any “smarter” naturally than non-Jews tend to place a lot of value on literacy and a love of books.  Conversely however, Rabbi Lapin suggests that people holding advanced degrees are not necessarily more likely to achieve wealth.  They tend to do poorly with money, and often seek employment at universities rather than focusing on financial independence.

Popular Culture Promotes Poverty

Rabbi Lapin tackles the fallacy embraced by so many in society that business, business people, and money are somehow bad.  He illustrates how “movies and television conspire to make you poor,” showing that since the 1970s, business people are portrayed as villains twice as often as any other demographic.  The constant pushing of this message has effectively brainwashed the viewing public into accepting the narrative.  He confronts this fallacy by explaining that most wealthy business professionals have actually made their wealth by enhancing the lives of consumers.

Lapin also explains that popular culture vilifies wealth, but admires immoral behavior.  He illustrates this last point by showing that many of People magazine’s “Greatest Love Stories of the Century” were in fact cases of marital infidelity.

You Are Already in Business

Perhaps the most valuable lesson in Thou Shall Prosper, is one that is also asserted by many other successful people: the importance of understanding that we are already in business.  By virtue of being alive and independent, our lives are our businesses, whether we realize it or not.  We may even have a board of directors, such as our friends or family whom we ask for advice or guidance in financial matters.  Moving forward with this logic, I suppose we can count our spouses, children, or other dependants as our shareholders so to speak.  By illustrating this, Rabbi Lapin further explains the importance of not being a wage slave.

Make Friends and Contribute to Charity

Wealth is created through human interaction.  In order to be successful in business it is imperative that one have a large network of friends that can help encourage you on your path to prosperity.  Rabbi Lapin does not suggest you should attend business oriented breakfasts and luncheons to make these acquaintances.  Such gatherings, he says are too full of self interest, yours as well as the other attendants.  Instead he recommends joining civic service organizations like the Rotary club.  He also recommends donating heavily to charity.  This sort of contribution raises your consciousness, and may contribute to a karmic increase in our own wealth.

Value the Wisdom of the Ancestors and Ancients

It is important to value ancient literature and history.  This helps you to see patterns in time and human nature, and to gauge the future in order to set goals.  This is not just a Jewish trait.  Many Asian businessmen also apply lessons learned from ancient Taoist, and Buddhist literature to their financial plans and aspirations.

Meditation and Reflection

Regularly disconnecting yourself from daily distractions like television, radio, and other external influences is imperative.  This allows you to clear your head and take notice of things that you might have otherwise overlooked or ignored.  These may be useful thoughts and fully formed ideas.  These are all things that can help you more accurately foretell and plan for the future.  Set aside a regular time and day for such activities during which you can be alone, away from distractions in order to do nothing but reflect on trends, ideas, and set goals.

These are only a few examples of the remarkable lessons that can be found in this profound book, but it only scratches the surface.

Thou Shall Prosper by Rabbi Daniel Lapin is not a typical book on business.  It’s much more than that.  This is a book of finance, philosophy, religion, history, sociology, and self-improvement.  Much like any classic work of philosophy, and like the Torah by which much of this book is inspired, Thou Shall Prosper is not just a one time read.  It’s the type of book that needs to be read, reread, thumbed through, and meditated upon multiple times over in order to get the fullest use out of it.  I highly recommend this book for anyone wanting to improve their life financially and spiritually.

For more on Rabbi Lapin, visit his website here!

* It is unfortunate that I or Rabbi Lapin would even feel a need to mention this, but due to the nature of the real world (and anyone who has spent any time on the internet will know), it must be addressed.

The Pine Hill Haints – Ghost Music in a Punk Scene

The Pine Hill Haints

The Pine Hill Haints are a bit of a modern rockabilly jug-band mixed with a punk rock spirit.  Though singer and primary songwriter, Jamie Barrier might call it “The Spirit of 1812.”

I first saw the Haints at Sluggo’s a few years back, and they have been all over the world and accrued quite a following since their 2000 debut.  Such an innovative musical concoction as the Haints has an appeal much broader than the “folk-punk” category they are often associated with.

The Haints describe their sound as “Alabama Ghost Music.”  It’s a mixed assortment of southern roots music from bluegrass, to ragtime, rockabilly and honky-tonk, upbeat and with eerie and supernatural themes. Named after the Pine Hill Cemetery, the Haints are inspired by local Alabama legends and ghost stories. A haint is after all a particularly deep southern term for a ghost or haunt.

But the Haints aren’t dreary and gothic.  To me, they have a sound that seems to just emanate from the ground of the American South, like the past 250 years of Southern history and culture has taken the form of band.  With songs like “Whisper in the Dark,” and “Tennessee River Rambler” you get a real sense of backwoods punkabilly that would make Buddy Holly proud, while tunes like “Bordello Blackwidow” and “Walking Talking Dead Man” could be Calypso numbers straight from the repertoire of the Mighty Sparrow.

A PHH show is a hootenanny, rowdy and with an anachronistic flair, with lead singer and guitarist Jamie Barrier energetically jumping and jiving behind a handmade wooden mic stand reminiscent of the Grand Ole Opry.

The whole show is reminiscent to a bygone era with an unmistakably modern twist. The sound texture developed by the hodgepodge of Jamie’s guitar, Matt Bakula’s washtub bass and banjo, Ben Rhyne’s snare drum, Katie Barrier’s mandolin and washboard can’t help but make you feel like you’re witnessing an old rock and roll show just upon the invention of electric amplification.

The Haints are a band to see, and hear with wide appeal and a timeless sound that can be appreciated by punk rockers and hillbillies alike, between the ages of 5 and 105.  They are one of those few musical acts that can truly bring different genres, generations and social groups together.


Shadowyze, Native America’s Hip-Hop Activist, Advocate

Shadowyze is not the typical Grammy-nominated hip-hop celebrity. Though his dress may be in the current urban fashion his attitudes certainly are not. Upon first meeting him, many hip-hop officiandos take immediate note of his lack of gold. In fact he has been accosted for not sporting more ‘bling.’

“Some people just want to challenge your hip-hop credentials” Shadowyze explains; “for not being absurdly materialistic or boastful. But I want my listeners to be inspired to do more than just be showy and greedy. I mean, financial success is a good thing, but with the more bling you can afford, I think the more you should be focused on making your community better. Besides, gold really bothers me. I relate so much negative history to it regarding conquistadors pillaging Indian communities for gold throughout the Americas. That’s what greed does to people and I don’t want to encourage that.”

From a background of Muskogee Creek and Scots-Irish heritage, as a writer and producer Shadowyze represents in many ways an atypical strain within an extremely active and empowering social dynamic called hip-hop. Not only does he produce bumping’ tracks and deliver catchy hooks’ but he also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology from the University of West Florida. His lyrics are woven within a fabric of insight and social awareness.

shadowyze

Shadowyze was born in San Antonio, Texas as Alvin Shawn Enfinger and relocated with his family to Pensacola, Fla. at the age of eight. He began rapping as a means to express his ideas on the many issues he witnessed growing up. “My mother was really poor and as a kid a lot of times we weren’t sure if we could afford enough to eat. We were always about one paycheck away from living under a bridge. Some days I’d see cops abusing suspects and on others I’d see street criminals shooting at cops. Through rap I found a way to express my views on these things.”

When he was eighteen, Shadowyze launched his hip-hop career in 1989 when his group, Posse In Effect, released the official theme song “Knock em out the Ring Roy” recorded for then Olympic boxing Silver Medalist Roy Jones Jr. This song received strong support on regional radio as well as NBC Sportsworld. But the big turning point in his career came after spending ten weeks in Central and South America and Mexico in 1998 where Shadowyze witnessed the cruelty of the “low intensity war,” military oppression and poverty imposed upon the Mayan Indian population in Chiapas, Mexico. This life lesson inspired him to speak out and compose his 1999 multi-single Murder in Our Backyard which received a lot of media attention and an endorsement from Nobel Peace Prize winner Betty Williams of Ireland.

In addition to the music Shadowyze delivered on this subject, he also involved himself directly by assisting Ricky Long with his Mayan Indian Relief Fund, taking supplies of clothing, books and medicines to the Indians in Chiapas Mexico where Shadowyze was called Corazon de los Zapatistas or Zapatista’s Heart.

Many publications vigorously supported Shadowyze during this point in his career by running stories on his causes and endeavors. By 1999 Shadowyze was featured in such international Native American Centered periodicals as Native Peoples, Aboriginal Voices, Whispering Wind, News from Indian Country and Talking Stick as well as magazines focused in the musical world such as the underground hip-hop magazine; Insomniac, Word Up and Trace.

In the United States Shadowyze has spoken on Native American issues and performed his music on many reservations including Poarch Creek in Alabama, Big Cypress Seminole Res. in Florida, Shennicock in Long Island, The Pueblos of New Mexico and others. But his experience is by no means limited to domestic affairs. As a performer Shadowyze has appeared in Germany and at the Montrose Jazz Fest in Switzerland and his anthropological callings have led him to visit several different Indian communities in Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Belize and Guatemala.

Shadowyze sums up his experiences with this description; “Even though there is a lot of poverty and despair in some of the areas I’ve been to, it never brings me down. I see a lot of great accomplishments made by Natives throughout the world. It’s really very inspiring to see how many of the communities have adapted to their current surroundings often for the betterment of their societies. And far back in the jungles I’ve gained a lot of insight from experiencing their ancient ways of life. It’s like seeing how my own people lived just a few centuries ago.”

Since his musical career has taken off with Murder In Our Backyard, Shadowyze has appeared on over a dozen compilations and released three full length albums; Spirit Warrior (2001), World of Illusions (2003), and his current 2005 release; the self-titled Shadowyze. This newest album features such respectable names in the music business as platinum Latino recording artist Baby Bash, and the production wizardry of Nashville’s DJ Dev of Devastating Music; production engineer of the triple platinum selling album 400 degrees by Juvenile.

2005 was a good year for the 33-year-old artist. Shadowyze won both the Native American Music Awards and the Pensacola, Florida Music Awards for best hip-hop and has been the focus of several stories appearing in Rolling Stone, Vibe, XXL, Billboard, New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. Through Backbone, Records; Shadowyze’s personally owned and operated record company he also released Guerillas in the Mixx, a compilation in cooperation with Big Lo featuring Public Enemy, The Coup, Michael Franti, Spearhead, Afrika and Litefoot. For 2006, there are plans for the production of several compilations including Dirty South Radio and The Best of Florida Hip Hop vol. 1 that promise to be more insightful glimpses of a mixture of funk-driven rhythms and enlightening lyricism.

Though Shadowyze is always the musical businessman, his humanitarian side is never stifled. Recently Shadowyze has attracted national attention once again by helping to organize and coordinate a Hurricane Katrina relief effort delivering several thousands of dollars worth of supplies to the Choctaw Indian Reservation in Philadelphia, Mississippi. This reservation was ravaged by the great storm and the people have gone mostly unnoticed by the media. Shadowyze explained the frustrations he felt that encouraged him to organize this effort; “While there were TV commercials asking for relief efforts to go to the abandoned house pets in New Orleans, the Choctaws in Mississippi were going hungry.” In fact the load of supplies personally delivered by Shadowyze was the first, large, independent delivery the Choctaws of Philadelphia received.

Shadowyze is not the typical Grammy-nominated hip-hop celebrity. With one foot in the music industry and the other in indigenous socio-political activism, Shadowyze has established himself in a world much richer than the standard glamorization of sex, drugs and violence. Not only does he orate on the social issues he is impassioned to inform the public of, but he has also been a first hand witness to many of them. Well traveled, well rounded and gifted with the ability to poeticize nearly any idea that comes to his mind, Shadowyze is quite animate and enthusiastic when he describes his thoughts. As a spokesman for unity, Native American identity and environmental respect, Shadowyze and the subjects he brings to the table have caught the attention of countless fans seeking music with a message even-deeper than the bass that bumps in their rides.

The Selfish Gene, Book Review


Dawkins, Richard (2006) The Selfish Gene, 30th Anniversary edition, New York: Oxford University Press

The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins is a remarkable and engaging journey through evolutionary theory.  Dawkins’ “selfish gene theory” challenges what he considers common and incorrect notions that the “important thing in evolution is the good of the species.”  Dawkins asserts that evolution is in fact a survival and replication strategy of the gene.  Written most especially for the layperson, Dawkins’ prose abandons much of the technical jargon of science and replaces it with an informal and metaphorical language designed to be read with the same enthusiasm and comfort as science-fiction.

Setting the backdrop for the “selfish gene” theory, the first four chapters cover basic molecular and biological science as Dawkins postulates the possible chemical origins of life and the gene.  Once the gene-centered concept of evolution is thoroughly introduced, Dawkins changes gears and begins to discuss the influence natural selection may have on animal behavior.  This is the basis for the selfish gene theory in which he asserts that the pressures of natural selection which favor the most survivable genes are a catalyst for the evolution of the selfish gene which in turn produces certain behaviors in the individual.  Dawkins says that the individual body of an organism is a “survival machine” created by its genes throughout millions of often violent evolutionary years.  The primary purpose of this survival machine is to provide a protective environment where genes can more efficiently survive and replicate themselves.  Dawkins argues that because these survival machines are essentially programmed with the information carried in their genes, the drive to survive and replicate is thus manifest in a myriad of selfish behavioral characteristics.  In short, the theory states that genes and therefore the species in which they reside evolve behaviors that cause them to act selfishly for their own benefit.  Natural selection favors selfishness.

Altruism represents a possible contradiction to the selfish gene theory, so Dawkins spends much of the early portion of the book addressing this idea. Altruism is a behavior in which an individual acts in a manner that benefits its kin group at the possible expense or sacrifice of its own life.  An example of altruistic behavior in the animal world is when a certain bird gives an alarm call, warning those animals nearby of an approaching predator and thereby drawing attention to itself and exposing itself to a higher degree of danger. Dawkins explains that altruism may actually have a selfish component on the genetic level in its evolutionary function.  If evolution is about “the good of the gene” it is therefore beneficial to sacrifice an individual life in order to protect those same genes existing within the kin group.

Dawkins’ language is constantly peppered with analogies and metaphors which assign many conscious attributes to the genes as they interact with the world.  Such examples are indicative of the title itself; the “selfish” gene.  Dawkins acknowledges that experts in the biological fields are likely to be displeased with his informal, non-technical, and anthropomorphic literary style but he assures us that he speaks only figuratively, that these terms are not meant to convey any truly subjective or moral qualities upon genes or natural selection.  Metaphor is merely his tool in translating scientific jargon and complex equations into the language of the layman.

In the second portion of the book, Dawkins stretches his metaphorical translation to include a cultural concept he calls a meme, from the Greek root mimeme.  He describes the meme as “a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation.”  It is essentially a segment of idea and it functions on a cerebral level, replicating, gene-like as it passes from mind to mind. The uniqueness of the gene and therefore life itself is in their functions as replicators. Dawkins argues that memes are also significant in their function of replicating themselves through culture. Memes, Dawkins asserts, should be regarded as just as much alive as genes.  He seems to use this theory as a means to challenge not only the established perspective on evolution but certainly to challenge the more religiously minded reader with an often fiercely combative tone regarding the “god meme.”

The meme theory or memetics is a very interesting idea on a philosophical level, but at this point the book almost seems as if it has crossed over from science to fiction or perhaps some form of religious atheism.  The analogy breaks down under more empirical scrutiny, but Dawkins speaks about the subject as if he is presenting more than just a metaphor. Comparing memetics to genetics, though entertaining in an analogous context is not a very practical or empirically oriented theory.  The concrete existence of a gene makes for a much more scientifically sound study than the esoteric nature of a thought.

The Selfish Gene is a thought-provoking book, relevant beyond the fields of zoology, and biology.  Students of psychology, sociology, and philosophy would also find this book of interest.  Dawkins’ flowing prose is engrossing and it does in fact read more like good fiction than dry science.  Many of Dawkins’ points are openly intended to challenge people of faith.  This is especially remarkable due to the manner in which he uses metaphor to symbolize complex theory, attributing conscious strategies, personalities and plans to genes.  This technique is ironically reminiscent of the esoteric and hermetic symbolism found in the world’s religions which use similar techniques to symbolize philosophical ideals and translate often ancient esoteric information into popular language and culture.  In doing this I think Dawkins may have found a way to speak the same or a similar language to that of the religious whom he intends to confront and educate.

Dun Aengus: Irish Music and Revelry

The first time I ran into the Irish music duo Dun Aengus was at McGuire’s Irish Pub in Pensacola, Florida in March 2010.  It was the last night of the Renaissance Faire and a handful of us met up at the pub for a drink.  They were a great band that night, playing a lot of the classic Irish drinking songs I’ve known and loved.  I would have gone up to the pub to see them again but they were on tour and leaving for south Florida the next day.

I caught up with them again the following St. Patrick’s Day, once again at McGuire’s.  They were rocking the house with popular Irish and Scottish tunes and a few popular American classics for good measure.  Just like last year, Dun Aengus had the crowd enraptured, gathered on the floor in front of the stage dancing with wild abandon to these classic sing-alongs.  The Irish was certainly high that night.

Jay_Dun_Aengus2011
Lojah performing with Dun Aengus at McGuire’s Irish Pub in Destin, FL.

Hailing from Sweden, Dun Aengus consists of Peter Andersson on banjo and vocals, and Martin Rahmberg on acoustic guitar and vocals.  Martin’s gruff singing style contributes a real rootsy “beer and tobacco” quality while Peter’s smoother harmonies and verses compliment and broaden the sound.  Peter’s banjo leads also carry the melodies that distinctly bring out the Celtic quality of the music.  Their repertoire includes such classics as “Whiskey in the Jar,” “The Wild Rover,” and “All For Me Grog,” and a full night’s compliment of others.

Dun Aengus is an excellent Irish music duo worthy of some support.  I’ll be keeping track of them so I can catch them again next time they‘re in town.

You should keep an ear out for them too.  For more information or to purchase MP3s or CDs by Dun Aengus, visit their website here.

This is a video of Martin and Peter of Dun Aengus, with their other band King Laoghaire, performing “A Place in the Choir,” a really catchy tune which is also available for download on CDbaby.

Mass Media’s Effect on Anthropology, Nationalism and Native Awareness

Modern anthropological studies are placing an ever growing amount of importance on mass media.  This interest came about in large part as a reaction to the up rise of nationalism leading up to World War II, and the growth of mass communication and media.  Since that time anthropology has shifted from the mere study of indigenous cultures into the study of nations, states, political ideologies, institutions, and all the instruments of nationalism.

1980s and World MusicAs the twentieth century came to a close the undeniable influence of mass media upon society and nationalism has made it a subject of great interest to anthropologists and Native communities alike.  Anthropologists have begun to utilize the tools of mass media to further education and understanding across national and cultural lines. More significantly, access to mass media by Native populations has allowed for them to represent themselves through the dissemination of music, art and literature of their own designs independent of the anthropological disciplines.  The knowledge, and primary sources that have historically been imparted through the discipline of anthropology can now be accessible to everyone and is no longer confined to universities and their text books.

Anthropologist Francisco Osorio of the University of Chile in his paper “Why Is Interest in Mass Media Anthropology Growing?” points out that both Anthropology and mass media “… have a common starting point in World War II.”  Since the 1980’s which Osorio marks as the beginning of Modernity within anthropological studies, the study of mass media has been the focus along with science, capitalism and consumption.

The late 1980’s also bore the broad musical category “World Music” which has proven to be a lucrative commercial interest, as well as a strong medium to foster cross-cultural communication and a more profound interest in the social sciences.

World music is a broad genre that encompasses nationalist and regional music from all around the world.  Most often it represents the musical styles of communities that in previous decades would only be heard by outsiders while on vacation, a safari or an anthropological field study.  Styles such as Reggae, Blues, Celtic Music and Powwow drums represent just a small yet broad variation of the World Music genre.  According to Carsten Wergan in “World Music: a medium for unity and difference?” World Music is often intended to communicate the identity of its regional culture to the outside world, to educate each other about their respective cultures through the medium of music.  This has been successful through investments in quality production and mass distribution.   It is by its nature a means to arouse an “anthropological” interest in its listeners.

Native Americans Take Control of Mass Media

In the past, when mass media was more restricted to an elite few, Native peoples were usually portrayed in the basest forms as stereotyped images of their cultures.  But as mass distribution, through networks of independent record labels and the internet has become more accessible to every person, Native Musicians have begun to emerge from their formerly obscure shadows in the mass consciousness of Western society.

In 1989 Tom Bee formed Sound of America Records (SOAR) with the intention of distributing music made by Native Americans. According to his bio; “In 1995, Bee formed yet another company, SOAR Distribution LTD for the sole purpose of providing his clients with one-stop music from other independent labels and artists also producing Native American music.”  Tom Bee was also the driving force behind convincing NARAS to create a Native American Grammy category*.  Tom Bee has been such a significant influence and positive impact on Native American music that he has been the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions, none the least are the Native American Music Awards (Nammy) for Producer of the Year in 1998 and the NAMMY’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999.  He was awarded a Grammy in 2004 for production of “Flying Free” by Black Eagle.  Bee was also recognized for his many successes and his positive impact on native music when Mayor Martin Chavez of Albuquerque, New Mexico proclaimed July 27th, 2002 “Tom Bee Day.”

Tom Bee helped open the door and now Natives of various stripes have found their methods through more commercial avenues of music such as hip hop, rock and roll and alternative music to use mass media as a way to further the cause of their national identities and to demonstrate how corporate interests impact their lives.  Shadowyze whose first album release was produced by Tom Bee uses South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation as the backdrop for the Native American Hip Hop video “BUMPY ROADS,” which conveys the struggles and obstacles of living in a lower economic bracket – something that truly does cross ethnic boundaries – but in the very culturally specific setting of a Lakota reservation.  In this manner artists like Shadowyze, Litefoot and John Trudell have learned to use this medium of music to convey social messages and bridge cultural gaps, helping to portray the values and economic situation of indigenous cultures more accurately.



The Internet Provides a Higher Standard of Cultural Accuracy

The democratization of the internet changed everything in the media.  Websites and blogs are created for little or no cost.  Webmasters can form groups like the old webrings with similar interests and purposes linking to each other, creating a network accessible to the general public.  Native communities have been using the internet to reach out to the world and enlighten them within the comfort of their own living room.  Anthropological oriented sites such as media-anthropology.net or korubo.com are also easily accessed by thousands and potentially millions of people to provide education about indigenous concerns.  Now the internet phenomenon has taken on a new shape with social media like facebook and twitter.  Artists and musicians have free access to their own promotional site, and now unique, cultural and traditional music can be accessed by millions through their computer screen.  These sites are also being more directly utilized to further the education of anthropological studies as groups such as the Amazon Conservation Team, founded by the renowned ethno-botanist Dr. Mark Plotkin sign up and seek “friends” with whom to network.  It seems as technology advances pop culture, more accessible avenues are opened up for advancement in cultural awareness.

As this trend continues and people of different cultures become more aware and knowledgeable about other societies, a higher standard of cultural accuracy in the media increases.  Fewer people are accepting the disingenuous images of the stereotyped savage that has been perpetuated for centuries in American cinema as more Americans become aware of different cultures through the easily accessible mass produced media and the internet.  In this setting all people including Natives can use their own words, music and art to express their own values and views.

A New Era of Media is a New Era of Education

In previous decades anthropological resources could only be accessed through stodgy old books in expensive centers of education.  Many of the experiences that were once confined to anthropological field work and class study can now be accessed by the whole of society through the faculties of mass media.  As society gains more access to and education of anthropological experience through the media it becomes more sophisticated by its exposure to the disciplines theories.  The ability to use film, music and internet capabilities allows people to potentially reach audiences in the millions.  This is quite a difference compared to the mere hundreds that were previously fortunate enough to have contact with the books published and disseminated mostly within the confines of a university.

In the present era Anthropology does not have to be limited to text books.  As mass communication helped bear nationalism in the twentieth century, anthropological theory became more concerned with national faculties such as the media.  In the post-Vietnam War era United States mass distribution of music and video provided the means for an upsurge in nationalistic and culturally specific genres of music now called World Music to have a more international audience.  With the sophistication of technology through the beginning of the twenty-first century and the advent of the internet, the music and arts of the diverse peoples of the Earth can be accessed by each other respectively with the click of a button or the flip of a switch.  The old books of anthropological theories are no longer the sole guide to cultural awareness.  We may for the first time in history be at a point where cross cultural rapport can be achieved on a massive scale through the free access of media throughout the globe.

*discontinued in 2012