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Poetic Justice

Poema

Here’s something that happens, well, never. You’re a new band, playing a show, and an A&R guy from a favorite label happens to be there. You give him your demo, he invites you out to Seattle to showcase, and a week later you have a deal. Thus goes the serendipitous back story of Poema, a folk-pop sister duo from Albuquerque signed to Tooth & Nail Records. Growing up in a musical family, sisters Elle and Shealeen Puckett had ample time to perfect their vocal harmonies and learn their instruments (piano and guitar). The results of their woodshedding can be heard on 2 AM, a catchy acoustic pop number that puts the Puckett sisters’ talents on full display. A sugared ditty about first-date recriminations, the song is cheerfully woeful and rings oh-so-true. But even more than the subject matter, we love the lilting vocal harmonies and hooky melody, which call to mind a youthful, more mainstream version of the Dixie Chicks. Poema’s story is just beginning”can’t wait to hear more from this sister act.

Download of the Week: Philadelphia Slick

Premiere Philly underground hip-hop act, Philadelphia Slick, are hitting the prime time with their new EP, Everything’s Game. Their latest offering blends fresh blasts of jazz, funk, hip hop and other genres to create a unique sound mixture that will surely cause even the most resistant head to move to the beat.

Having ranked first 5 times in 3 different channels on OurStage, the group has had quite the successful run. As this week’s Needle in the Haystack, Philadelphia Slick will be giving away “Everything Must Go” off their new album. Keep an eye out for more from them throughout the week!

Scene & Heard: New Orleans, LA

Perhaps one of the most widely covered natural disasters in recent history was Hurricane Katrina. The storm’s name resonates with where much of it happened: New Orleans, LA. New Orleans’ roots go much deeper than that, however. Having cultivated the jazz and blues scenes for years, it’s no surprise that New Orleans is the birthplace of Dixieland jazz. This polyphonic, horn-driven music conjures up images of street performances, blaring parades and Mardi Gras.

Even though the area is known for and supported through jazz, blues and funk music, it’s important to note a couple other genres that are prevalent. Having already been through Atlanta, GA on Scene & Heard, you know a little bit about the dirty south hip-hop vibes. New Orleans has been home to mainstream rappers like Master P and Birdman. Heavy metal (and more particularly, the thick, bassy sound of sludge metal) has also shown a strong presence in the music scene here; it has forged a unique mixture of upbeat thrash metal, hardcore punk and southern rock.

As mentioned earlier, though, the city experienced a massive upheaval surrounding the flooding and storms of 2005. While the economic, political and social discussion is a bit off-topic, the music scene seems to have been affected in an unusual way. While working as a live musician in any city can be tough, it only became tougher in the post-flood conditions in New Orleans. People seemed to band together around their culture to help their city remain a symbol of hope. Whether via a jazz horn player trying to find work, a blues guitarist playing on the street corner, or a group of Black Indians preparing for Masquerade and Mardi Gras, the city still oozes with culture. To top it off, the influx of tourists and volunteers that came down to either observe or help with the rebuild created more avenues for people to display their music. HBO recently came out with a series based on this struggle, specifically as related to post-flood musicians, called Treme.

Bonerama with OK Go

Like many major music cities, New Orleans divides itself into notable neighborhoods. From places like Congo Square in the French Quarter (often regarded as the location where jazz was born) to more locals-oriented districts like Uptown New Orleans, the city has an array of destinations. At the heart of the French Quarter, right off Bourbon Street, lies the legendary Preservation Hall. This venue has jazz performances almost every night and is home to the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. To hear some rock, funk or blues acts, head over to Rock ‘n’ Bowl on Carrollton Avenue.

According to OurStage jazz/funk band Bonerama, “New Orleans is the Mecca for music.” Trombonist Craig Klein was hard-pressed to pick a single venue that the band liked playing best. “We’ve played at the Maple Leaf, Tipitina’s, Rock ‘n’ Bowl . . . I’d have to flip a coin.” He even suggested one specific section of town for a visitor to go if they want to hear that “NOLA” sound: Frenchmen Street. “There are music clubs and some great places to eat all in a few blocks. Lots of good music goes on there.”

Klein even had a solid recommendation for a band that wants local performance slots and promotion. “I would say to a band that before you get here, send your record and call WWOZ. OZ is a great public radio station that promotes live music in a big way.” In short, the band views the scene as “fabulous.”

Bonerama is a trombone-saturated, rock-influenced, funk band that has brought exceptional stage presence across the country. But they always come back to New Orleans and truly call the place home. And they don’t stop at just a great live set. The band recently embarked on an educational tour where they visited middle school and high school music programs across the country to do performances, lessons and clinics. “Musical education is an important part of a kid’s development. It’s something that all of us are interested in: to share with the kids our take on our music.” This attempt at stimulating interest in music for students moving on to secondary education is not only important to the band, it is an important program to support in today’s music industry (with arts program budget cuts in so many schools across the country).

The band’s activism even moves into the realm of Katrina relief. Since the hurricane, the band has participated in New Orleans fundraising efforts and concerts (as the house band) in support of major artists like Air Traffic Control, Tom Morello, Mike Millis of REM and Damian Kulash of OK Go. In fact, the band formed such a positive relationship with Kulash and OK Go that, shortly after, they wrote a song and performed it on a record with Kulash.

Bonerama is new to OurStage but is already earning some competition credibility. Check out their profile and stay tuned for all of the band’s touring, educational efforts and onstage surprises this coming fall. If you can’t get to New Orleans, at least hear a little “New Orleans flair” from Bonerama.

GuacaMusic: Songs about Immigration

It is not possible to write a blog about Latin music without discussing one of its main themes: Immigration and the struggles of undocumented workers in the United States.

What is most fascinating about immigration songs is that they transcend genres, rhythms and even nationalities. Therefore, it is not uncommon to find similar concepts in many of their lyrics”such as frustration, fear, anonymity, being homesick, escaping the law and performing difficult jobs for little money.

From Juan Luis Guerra’s Visa para un Sueño (translation is “Visa for a Dream”) to Manu Chao’s “Clandestino”, artists have always been passionate about expressing their feelings towards immigration, and OurStage artists are no exception. Let’s take Ben Conga, for example, with Inmigrante,” a reggae flavored track that talks about some of the struggles faced by immigrants from different countries. Ben is a Latin fusion producer/artist from Los Angeles that is currently working with Yordamis Megret, a former member of the Cuban group Bamboleo, who herself struggled to come to the USA from Cuba.

And what about El Inmigrante by Dj Prietoblack/Grupo Kalcomania? This song really makes you want to get up and dance, but that isn’t the point. El Inmigrante conveys a strong message of optimism to all immigrants from Spanish speaking countries living and working in the United States.  Check out the last line of the song: ¡Si se puede! which in English means Yes you can!”cheering for all of those who are struggling to make a living in a foreign land.

Why is it that both of these songs sound so different and yet feel so similar? Could it be that immigration is so deeply rooted in Latin culture that it naturally finds its way into la música?

Keep listening to our Latin Channel and let us know what you else you can hear.

¡Provecho!

Viewer Discretion Advised: Happy Birthday MTV!

After 29 years, it’s safe to say that millions of people across the globe still want their MTV. Since its inception on August 1, 1981, MTV has turned itself into a pop-cultural juggernaut, from helping to mainstream rap music to pioneering the trend toward reality television with shows like The Real World. But the MTV of the 1980s was in a much simpler format, modeled after Top 40 radio; the channel brought in punky and energetic 20-somethings, coined the term “VJ” and the rest is history.

Now MTV is at again, searching for the next “TJ” or Twitter Jockey. My, how the times have changed. But as it is MTV’s birthday, we thought we’d get nostalgic here on Viewer Discretion Advised and celebrate where the music video actually got its origins by remembering the videos that launched a billion views in households across the country.

The most perfect song that could have ever been used in the launch of MTV, we still get chills when it comes on the radio. Never mind the fact that it single-handedly revolutionized the way we would think of music and television together, but The Buggle’s “Video Killed the Radio Star” is a perfectly ridiculous representation of what the ’80s had in store for the future of music videos, featuring everything from tinsel wigs to keyboard melodies matched with out-of-this-world motifs. Up next, Pat Benatar’s “You Better Run,” the epitome of 1980s sex appeal. Dark cat eyes, skin-tight leather pants and punk-rock feathered hair, Benatar cemented her place in video vixen history. The clip below closes out with a word from each of the first 5 original VJs, who all went on to become celebrities in their own right. So happy birthday, MTV, here’s to 29 more magical, musical years.

Vibe Wants To Hook You Up This August!

VIBE is back on OurStage to keep up the heat for the month of August! They are giving one artist the ultimate chance to be featured on not only VIBE.com, but also Allhiphop.com.  Just think, the top destinations for today’s news in hip-hop could feature your freshest track and an exclusive Q&A. All you need to do is enter your best song into the Get Your Music Featured on VIBE.com music channel by August 22, 2010.

Take a look at some of the artists currently tearing up the charts:

Folkin' Around: Pocket Satellite

One of my favorite types of folk music is the male/female duet”like the Matthew Perryman Jones and Katie Herzig song “Where the Road Meets the Sun” which was featured on Grey’s Anatomy. Now, before I get to this week’s Folkin’ Around artist feature, I’d like to get you acclimated to the power of girl-boy harmonies in a folk song. Check out Jones and Herzig performing below:

I wouldn’t have picked this video if I didn’t think that this week’s OurStage folk pick carried on the same great sound that is every bit as organic and well-executed as “Where The Road Meets The Sun”.  Folkin’ Around artist Pocket Satellite was one of the first OS artists that caught my ear, particularly their song “We Chased Soldiers“. The UK band blends acoustic guitar, simplistic drums, graceful strings and, yes, two-part harmonies into some of the most soothing folk pop I’ve ever heard.
The band calls themselves “folk-glock”,  referring to both their instrumentation and the simplistic, relaxed sound that a “glock” often represents.  The band has played numerous shows around the greater London and Sheffield areas. They’ve been featured on BBC radio as apart of the Sheffield’s Raw Talent show with Iain Hodgson and have also opened for Kyte and Jenny Owen Youngs. Last year they released the playfully-named Toy Train EP. Keep an eye out for their next EP which they plan to release in September. I know I will.

Ernie Ball Sponsors The Singer-Songwriter (Female) Music Channel For August!

As August nears, Ernie Ball and Co. are changing their focus to the Singer-Songwriter (Female) Music Channel. This is an amazing opportunity for one high-ranking female singer-songwriter to have everything she needs to ensure she keeps cranking out the hits.  Artists must upload their best original track to the Singer-Songwriter (Female) Music Channel by August 22, 2010, to get a shot at winning a year’s supply of strings and accessories!

Take a listen below to some of the top artists currently in the Singer-Songwriter (Female) Music Channel:

Needle in the Haystack Follow Up: Sydney Wayser

To wrap up this week’s Needle in the Haystack, we caught up with Sydney Wayser for a few moments to see how social media has affected her career and to see what’s next!

Stay tuned for a new Needle in the Haystack on Monday!

This Week on Vibe.com

Check it! Every Friday on the OurStage Blog, we will be featuring exclusive content from the one-and-only VIBE.com. Stay tuned for weekly photos, music, news and reviews coming straight from the source that’s redefining hip hop.

The WINs & FAILs of Prince’s 20Ten

Maybe Prince’s head-scratching declaration that music distribution on the Internet is  completely over, a statement that was met by howls from the tech brigade, was propelled by solid reasoning. That said, how does the music sound? VIBE breaks down Prince’s latest offering. Continue reading on Vibe.com…

3 Reasons Kanye West’s ‘Mama’s Boyfriend’ Is Already Rhyme of The Year

“Pardon, there’s a lot of use of the N word, but I’m allowed to use it¦”

And on that apologetic and somewhat amusing note, Kanye West, in front of a largely white audience of Facebook employees, unleashes a powerful, barebones testimony of the black experience. Mama’s Boyfriend eschews blatant images of former notorious drug kingpins (sorry Ross), brazen gunplay or the standard female conquest. Nope, Kanye doesn’t take the easy way out. His a cappella performance of a new composition, which is tentatively set for his formerly titled forthcoming album Good Ass Job, is a layered dissection of African-American mother-son relationships fostered in a divorced/single parent home. Equal parts insightful, painfully serious, jocular, and introspective, Mama’s Boyfriend is also a leading contender for rhyme of the year. Here’s why. Continue reading on Vibe.com…

A Short Convo with…Dirty Money’s Dawn & Kalenna

Vibe.com guest editors, Dawn and Kalenna of Diddy’s Dirty Money, aren’t only criss-crossing the globe and wearing the hottest clothes out, they are respected singer/songwriters that were asked by Diddy, himself, to join his group. Sure, you make know Dawn from her Making The Band days but a lot has transpired since then. As for Kalenna, she may be a new face to you but she’s earned her strips writing with the likes of Rodney Jerkins and more. Continue reading on Vibe.com…