Your cultural to-do list for the weekend.
August 16, 2012 1:15 p.m.
Valerie Scher, arts journalist.
Claire Caraska, KPBS arts & culture production assistant.
CAVANAUGH: Anything goes is the theme of our weekend preview. What else could you call a series of events that span from the lovely Marston house to the outrageous New Orleans big Frida? I'd like to welcome my guests, arts journalist Valerie sheer. Welcome to the program.
SCHER: Great to be here.
CAVANAUGH: And Claire Caraska is KPBS culture arts and production assistant. Welcome to the show.
CARASKA: Great to be in the studio, Maureen.
CAVANAUGH: Tell us about big Frida.
CARASKA: It's the stage name of Freddy Ross who is a transgender rapper from New Orleans. She refers to herself as she, and so does everyone around her. By day, she runs an interior decoration business. By night, she is lighting up the dance floors in various clubs and bars in New Orleans. And she's a superstar. People know her on the streets. Regarded as the queen diva of bounce.
CAVANAUGH: What is bounce?
CARASKA: Bounce is energetic party music, it's a subgenre of hip hop that was born about 20 years ago in New Orleans. And it's known for fast beats and short repetitive chanting, more like call-outs than rapping, per se. And lots of booty shaking.
[ LAUGHTER ]
CARASKA: So the music itself has been largely underground. But when Katrina hit New Orleans, a lot of the bounce artists were displaced, so they were performing in other cities around the country, and bringing more attention to the music outside of New Orleans.
CAVANAUGH: Let's hear what bounce sounds like. Here's big Frida singing y'all get back now.
CAVANAUGH: If you check out the video, you will find out what bounce is.
[ LAUGHTER ]
CARASKA: It's really hard not to shake it when you hear that.
CAVANAUGH: What are Frida's live shows like?
CARASKA: Short but powerful. She's known for only playing maybe four or five song, 20, 30 minutes. But what's really astounding about them is the energy that they produce. And women are known to circle her and kind of turn their backs to her and bend at the waste, and bounce their booties.
CARASKA: So it's a big old dance party.
CAVANAUGH: Big Frida performs with hot tub and smile now, cry later, tonight at the Casbah in downtown San Diego. Valerie, the La Jolla music society's summerfest continues.
SCHER: Very true.
CAVANAUGH: For a change of pace! And on Saturday, tango master will be performing. Tell us about Pablo Ziegler.
SCHER: I have to say that summerfest has its known bounce! Though not quite in the same way. But Pablo Ziegler is a master of nuevo tango, and he got a lot of grief for it from traditionalists in his native Argentina. He believes that tango should be able to grow and evolve. His mentor was the legendary composer and performer ester Piazzolla. Ziegler was the pianist in his quintet. They proved that it doesn't just take two to tangos, it also takes considerable skill and imagination.
CAVANAUGH: Now, you know in reading about this, it's sort of amazing how very, very seriously people take Argentinian tango music. These people got a lot of grief for being innovators.
SCHER: That's true. And I think what was good about Ziegler and also got him in some trouble was his ability to improvise, being the way you make up musical passages on the spot and blend them into the fabric of a piece. Improvisation gives a jazzy and spontaneous feel to this very sensual music. So it's very different from a standard tango piece which has the same notes from beginning to end. And of at the same time, Ziegler is true to Piazzolla's music. He said that his compositions and arrangements are really beautiful so nobody needs to change a thing.
CAVANAUGH: What works will he be performing this weekend?
SCHER: Saturday's program is titled viva tango: An evening with Pablo Ziegler. So there will be music by Ziegler, as well as by Piazzolla. He'll perform with summerfest's music director. There will be a variety of tangos performed by Ziegler and his quartet, and you can listen to him speak an hour before the concert when we'll be interviewed. I hear the tickets for the concert are going fast. So if you're thinking of going, you should try to get seats soon.
CAVANAUGH: And for something different, what can audiences hear on Friday?
SCHER: On Friday, summerfest presents Beethoven, the other master pieces. It's as if the festival and saying, okay, we all know about Beethoven's fifth, his 9th, here are some wonderful chamber music pieces that are not as well known. So far we're getting two quintet, a trio, a sextet, that are less familiar, but still masterful.
CAVANAUGH: And Sunday, a family affair.
SCHER: We'll have a program called a family affair. Why? Because it stars three accomplished musicians from the Hoffman family. There's cellist Gary Hoffman, and his siblings, Toby Hoffman and harpist Deborah Hoffman. They'll be joined by other musicians that's all about cooperation rather than sibling rivalry. And as the mother of two, I commend cooperation as opposed to rivalry.
CAVANAUGH: Claire, the new documentary searching for sugarman opens tomorrow. It's about a mysterious musician some people actually thought was dead. Tell us about him.
CARASKA: Yes, well, Sugarman is cysto Rodriguez, who goes by his stage name, Rodriguez. Of he is a Mexican American singer songwriter, folk poet and artist from Detroit. He was compared to bob Dylan. He was discovered in a dive bar in the late '60s by two motown producers. He released two hours in the early 70, had absolutely no commercial success here in the states. However a bootleg copy of his album got all the way to South Africa, and he achieved cult hero status. People there say he's bigger than Elvis and the Rolling Stones. His album sold a half million copy, became an anthem for the young SCHER antiapartheid movement. And this of course was in the 70, pre Internet, not a lot was known about him. So rumors quickly spread that he died, and just in horrific way, that he shot himself on stage, that he doused himself in gasoline and set himself on fire. So for decades, people in South Africa are in love with this singer, think he's dead, meanwhile, Rodriguez isn't even aware of this.
CAVANAUGH: He didn't even pursue music anymore.
CARASKA: That's right. He continued working in day labor job, repairing houses and buildings in Detroit. So there are two south African fans that were determined to figure out what happened to our hero, and that's where this film takes you.
CAVANAUGH: Let's hear some of his music. This is Sugarman by Rodriguez.
(Audio Recording Played)
CAVANAUGH: That's Rodriguez performing Sugarman. The happy ending to all this is that he has started to perform, the document sear coming up, and he's going to actually be here, right?
CARASKA: He is. He'll be playing at the Casbah on September 26th. He's currently on his very first national tour. And just two nights ago, he played on Letterman. So he's having a resurgence.
CAVANAUGH: Musical chairs, Valerie. A new exhibition on view at Africa and beyond art gallery in La Jolla. It's about chair, right?
SCHER: Let's say about it's chairs and much more. Africa and beyond is one of the country's leading galleries specializing in traditional African art. And once you climb the ten steps in the staircase that leads from the sidewalk to the gallery, you are truly in a different world far from the downtown bustle of La Jolla. It's masks, instrument, jewelry, textile, weapons, furniture, even forms of currency. And yes, there are chairs. I sat on a little wooden bench from Ghana. And it even had good ergonomics.
CAVANAUGH: It runs now to September 30th. Now, we're going to be talking about the woman who beat out Justin Bieber at the grammies last year. Esperanza Spalding.
CARASKA: She is a musical phenomenon, already pretty accomplished, and she beat out Justin Bieber. She was the first jazz musician to ever win the grammy for best new artist. She's pretty amazing. She was in a category with platinum selling artists and were pretty much only known in jazz circles prior to that win.
CAVANAUGH: She has a new album out.
CARASKA: It's a companion album to her last one, which was called chamber music society. That merged jazz with classical. This merges jazz with more R&B, funk, and soul.
(Audio Recording Played)
CAVANAUGH: It's fortunate point out, she's not just this incredible singer.
CARASKA: No, she's also a jazz bassist, a composer, and all of the songs on her latest album she produced, arranged, wrote. So she's quite a genius.
CAVANAUGH: She performs Tuesday at Humphrey's concerts by the bay on shelter island. And Valerie, you're now going to take us to the Marston house, hay local landmark. You recently visited. People might forget about this house. Why do you want to bring this information to us today?
SCHER: Well, I'd love to do that because San Diego has so many attractions, as we know. Everything from beaches to theme parks. So it's easy to overlook a place like the Marston house. But it's very much worth visiting as I recently discovered. It's near Balboa Park, built in 1905, and it's listed on the national register of historic places. It's cared for by save or heritage organization. There's a lot to take care of, believe me. The house has 8,500 square feet, with 3 stories, 10 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms, grounds and garden, and a gift shop.
CAVANAUGH: That's when a house was a house!
[ LAUGHTER ]
CAVANAUGH: Remind us, who were the Marstons?
SCHER: They were among San Diego's leading citizens. George Marston made a lot of money as the owner of fancy department stores. He was also an important philanthropist, and he supported good causes including Balboa Park.
CAVANAUGH: When you go there, what do you do?
SCHER: I would suggest that anyone who goes there takes a tour because when you take a tour, you will feel like you're traveling back to the past. You learn so much about the house and gardens, everything.