Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Christmas Visit to the Pompidou Center

I hope that you had a very Merry Christmas and are looking forward to ringing in the New Year!

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Yesterday, Tom and I went to the Centre Pompidou to see the Multiple Modernities 1905-1970 exposition. We thought that early on Christmas Day would be a good time to go to avoid crowds and we were right! There was only a short wait to enter the museum and check coats, and we were the only people who thought to use the automatic dispenser to purchase our tickets. We were happily strolling through the exhibit within 15 minutes of entering the building.

I was especially interested in seeing this exposition because it includes a painting by Beauford Delaney. It is the only Delaney painting that the museum holds. Because it is usually kept in reserve, I wanted to be sure to see it hanging in a major exposition. I got my wish!

Untitled
Beauford Delaney
(1957) Oil on canvas
© Discover Paris!
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

This work hangs in Traverse G, the corridor between Rooms 31 and 34.

I was also pleased to discover that there are many other works displayed in this exposition that are by black artists or inspired by the black experience.

Room 36 is devoted to "Modern Africa" and contains works by African artists that have been borrowed from the Musée du quai Branly and the Centre National des Arts Plastiques. Here are images of a few of them:

View of works in "Modern Africa" room from entrance
© Discover Paris!

Untitled painting by Iba N'Diaye and quotation by Leandro M'Bomio
© Discover Paris!

Village Market Scene, Nigeria
Cotton batik
© Discover Paris!

Several covers from the African literary magazine Black Orpheus are displayed in a corridor, along with three journals containing compilations of African prose and poetry.

Black Orpheus covers
© Discover Paris!

Anthology of New Black and Malagasy Poetry, New African Works, and Modern African Poetry
© Discover Paris!

Room 29 is devoted to photographs of North African and black African subjects. There is also a corridor that displays numerous photos by the celebrated African photographer Malick Sidibé.

Room 32 is devoted entirely to the work of Afro-Cuban artist Wifredo Lam.

Umbral
Wifredo Lam
1950 Oil on canvas
© Discover Paris!

Then there are black images in European art, such as A L'Afrique by Paul Joostens. This painting is exhibited in the "Art Deco" section (Rooms 20 and 21).

A L'Afrique
Paul Joostens
1920 Oil on canvas
© Discover Paris!

From an old French film, an excerpt called "Plantation" that features Josephine Baker is being shown in the same room alongside one of Alexander Calder's famous wire sculptures of Baker.

Alexander Calder sculpture Josephine Baker IV and video screen
© Discover Paris!

Opening credit for film excerpt "Plantation"
© Discover Paris!

Josephine Baker in film excerpt "Plantation"
© Discover Paris!

Most interesting for me, next to the Delaney abstract, was the "modern odalisaque" work by American artist Larry Rivers. It is clearly inspired by Manet's Olympia.

I Like Olympia in Black Face
Larry Rivers
1970 Oil on wood, plasticized canvas, plastic, and plexiglass
© Discover Paris!

There are undoubtedly other such works that I did not see during this visit - the exposition is huge and we only saw a fraction of it. It will be shown through January 2015, so there is ample time to return.

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Paris Honors Madiba

After the extraordinary exposition "From Prisoner to President" at the Hôtel de Ville de Paris that honored him earlier this year, Paris turned out in force to pay homage to Nelson Mandela in the wake of his passing on December 5, 2013.

After his death, the City of Paris projected an image of Mandela on the façade of City Hall on Friday, December 6th and Saturday, December 7th.


On December 10th, the official ceremony that took place in Soweto was broadcast on a giant screen at Place de la République.

From December 14th through December 17th, the Eiffel Tower displayed the inscription "NELSON MANDELA 1918 - 2013" in illuminated letters five meters tall and five spotlights shone in the colors of the South African flag. This was organized in coordination with the South Africa - France Season 2012-2013 by the l’Institut français et le National Arts Council d'Afrique du Sud, the City of Paris, and the Société d'Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel (SETE).


A grass roots initiative launched on Facebook succeeded in mobilizing hundreds of candle-carrying citizens to come to Trocadero to honor Mandela on December 15th, the day of his burial.






All the above images are from the Mairie de Paris Web site. To view more photos, visit the Google+ profile for the Mairie de Paris.

On December 16th, Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoë formally proposed to Paris City Council that that garden being built at Les Halles, in the heart of Paris, be named after Mandela. Part of the garden is to be inaugurated today.

Photo from July 2013 exposition
© Discover Paris!

Rest in peace, Madiba.

The Paris City Council voted unanimously to name Mandela an honorary citizen of Paris in May 2013.

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Black Paris Profiles™ II: Nardy Castellini - Part 2

In Part 2 of this Black Paris Profile on Leonardo ("Nardy") Castellini, Nardy discusses the places that he's lived in Europe, his feelings for his homeland, and his life in Paris.

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Nardy Castellini
© Ariel Arias

ETBP: You have lived in Denmark and Spain. Tell us how you came to reside in these two countries, where you lived in each country, and how long you lived there.

NC: I moved to Denmark with a close friend, a trumpet player, who offered me the opportunity to play with the Danish Radio´s Orchestra and a Cuban-Spanish-Danish project called Son en Talla. I lived in Copenhagen for two years. Then I started playing and touring around the world with Cubanismo Orchestra and I moved to Granada Spain, where I lived for more than 15 years. I developed my own musical project and also formed and shared the leadership of a few different styles of musical projects, such as the Granada Blues Band, Four Runners with Dario Moreno, and Domestic Jazz Collective with DJ Toner, amongst others.

ETBP: What did you like and dislike about life in these countries?

NC: Each of the places where I lived offered me opportunities to play music, to collaborate with amazing musicians, and to meet many interesting people. As long as I can play, it means the environment around me is open to music and creativity, which means I am going to be happy. My life is my music so I can easily adapt anywhere and find sources of inspiration and energy every day.

In Denmark for instance, the local jazz scene is incredible and the local musicians are really excellent. A few weeks ago, I went to the “Maison du Denmark” in Paris for a jazz festival and it was a fantastic atmosphere and excellent music. I would love to collaborate again with Danish musicians. I have been very impressed by the lifestyle in Scandinavia—it is a very modern society in my view.

In my years in Spain I spent a lot of time traveling around the world touring with Cubanismo, Klimax and others. From Spain I really got a taste of the world from Thaiti (Tahiti) to Hong Kong, from Mexico to Montreal. I hate airports, because as you can imagine in today’s world traveling with a saxophone is a major challenge, but I love exploring as soon as I touch the ground.

ETBP: How does life in France compare to life in Denmark? In Spain?

NC: It is interesting to try to compare life in different countries. I think in the end of the day you are the same person anywhere you go and you bring in your suitcase your bad and your good habits. You miss things from a country but you compensate with something else you discover and start to like in another country. I probably kept habits that make me who I am in each one of these countries. I have been drinking liters of green tea in the morning anywhere in the world… For instance, my relationship to time is still very Spanish. I cannot have lunch before 2 or 3pm even in Paris, which can be complicated sometimes. I tell people we can meet in the afternoon and I mean 6 or 7pm which for them is early evening.

But to answer better on France, I should say there is so much I love here, starting with food and wine. I love cooking and going to the food market in France is incredible. I love the elegance in France, the sophistication. I am not a great fan of watching the news and keeping constantly up to date with the daily political and economical news. I think it helps me keeping my sanity. It is not that I do not care, but I feel I can have no impact. My only impact is to keep my energy to play well to make people happy in concerts and eventually help them change their mindset for a few hours.

ETBP: How often do you return to Cuba?

NC: Cuba is in my heart, and every time I play and share my music I bring people to Cuba. On the 7th of December I play in Geneva, Switzerland. They organized an entire day around Cuban culture and music and I am playing in the evening. Through a Cuban taste of cigars and rum, through images and sound, we will make people travel. Otherwise I still have my parents in Cuba and I miss them very much. I return as often as I can.

Cuba's Flag

ETBP: Is there a Cuban community in Paris?

NC: Yes, there is a large Cuban community in Paris that started many years ago. I know that the Cuban migration to Paris started around the middle of the XIX century. You can see many Cuban bars and restaurants and there are many Cuban artists. For instance I work with an amazing Cuban photographer, Ariel Arias, who took the picture attached to this article. Ariel is a great friend but above all I have a lot of respect for his artistic work. His pictures reflect deep emotions and I think that you can almost hear my music when you see his pictures.

ETBP: If so, are there places that the community socializes regularly? Places where they eat?

NC: Personally I do not know of specific places where the Cuban community meets, but I know a few well known Cuban restaurants: La Havanita Café (rue de Lappe), Cubana Café (rue Vavin), Ile Changó (rue Fontaine au Roi).

ETBP: What is your favorite leisure activity?

NC: Listening to music is certainly at the heart of my life, when I walk in the street, in the metro, at home, everywhere!

I love going to movies and in Paris it is so easy and there are so many opportunities to just stop in a movie theater. I go to a great cine club called the Pop Corn Club. These people are great! They organize evenings with old movies on specific themes and they invite cinema experts to talk about the movies. But it is also a great social club where people share drinks, food and music at the end of the movie. Paris is amazing for that.

I also like to go to photography exhibitions. Recently I discovered a great gallery and art center called Le Bal near place de Clichy. I love places that mix art with food and drinks to create a real feeling of a community meeting there. Otherwise, as I said before, I love cooking for my friends.

ETBP: What is your favorite neighborhood in Paris?

NC: All Paris is my favorite, but one of the most interesting neighborhoods is the 18th arrondissement. I love the amazing diversity of cultures, peoples and art there. From the traditional Montmartre, to rue des Abbesses, all the way to rue des Martyrs, I love the cafés where you sit outside even in the winter. It is so Paris for me.

I can take walks for hours in Paris and never get bored. I always raise my eyes to look at a façade, or a window. I also like the more modern architecture like the green tube of the Austerlitz Fashion Museum—that place near the river is so cool. I also discovered the flea market in Saint-Ouen on a Sunday morning and thought the place was absolutely unique.

In the end when you get to know Paris well, you discover that it is a collection of villages with their own identity and style. That is what makes Paris so rich.

ETBP: What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of moving to Paris?

NC: Don´t think about it, just do it!!

It is a very challenging environment, especially in arts, because a lot of very talented artists live here. But it gives you energy to show what you can do. Especially in jazz…

Paris has been historically a major hub for jazz musicians. Many of them, starting with Miles Davis, fell in love with Paris and were always sad to leave. Maybe it is the romantic side of Paris, which I know is not the only reality. But Paris touches you deeply and makes you feel you need that special atmosphere that cannot be compared. Even if I love New York and its energy and London and its free creative vibes, Paris has something maybe close to melancholy that makes it special, at least for me. Paris is very jazzy.

A last point I want to make is that in Paris I met amazingly innovative people who are supporting music in a new way. For instance, I became recently a Bandsquare artist. Bandsquare is a crowd funding platform that supports musicians to play live music. We know crowd funding as a means to finance recording of CDs, but Bandsquare is about live music. It’s totally new. The platform was launched in October 2013 by Chloe, a young brilliant entrepreneur who deserves a lot of credit.

As you can see France has a big potential for innovation in the culture market and I want to be part of it!

Le Petit Journal Montparnasse
© Discover Paris!

Nardy will perform on December 17, 2013 at 9:30 PM at:
Le Petit Journal Montparnasse
13 rue du Commandant Mouchotte
75014 PARIS
Telephone: 01 43 21 56 70
E-mail: infos@petitjournalmontparnasse.com

Dinner and concert: 60 euros
Concert plus one drink: 20 euros

For Part 1 of Nardy's Black Paris Profile, click here.

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Entrée to Black Paris!™ is a Discover Paris! blog.

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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Black Paris Profiles™ II: Nardy Castellini - Part 1

I learned about Leonardo ("Nardy") Castellini several weeks ago when I received an e-mail message from "Berry," a woman who supports jazz musicians by promoting their work. Her passion for Nardy's music inspired me to delve into his story, which I found to be fascinating! I am pleased to share it with you on the blog. Here's Part 1.

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Nardy Castellini
© Ariel Arias

ETBP: You were born in Matanzas, Cuba and were influenced by jazz from an early age. You left engineering school to devote yourself to studying the saxophone. Did music other than jazz interest you at that time?

NC: Of course I grew up with all kind of music influences. In Cuba, music is everywhere. Since the age of five, I sang at home with my father? He was an engineer but was passionate about music and played the guitar.

My father was playing what we call the “feeling” style, which is a Cuban way to interpret songs like boleros with very nice lyrics. This style is very close to jazz and certainly influenced me. However, I have been also influenced by soul music, rhythm and blues, and funk.

ETBP: Were you interested in the origins (history and precursor music) of jazz or simply the
sounds of the music itself?

NC: At the beginning, I was mainly touched by the music itself. Later I started to explore the history of jazz, the biographies of the legends like Bird or Miles. It is important to place the origins of jazz in their socioeconomic and cultural context.

ETBP: You state that after touring the world with various groups, you felt the call to go beyond your Cuban roots into a personal quest of your identity and your origins. Please elaborate on this – do you mean your musical roots, your family tree …?

NC: My musical roots cannot be separate from my family tree. My music is about me and my life is driven by my music, so you cannot separate the two.

When I started to work on my first album, I felt I was ready to share my own compositions with musicians for whom I had great admiration and invited them to record with me. Identity is based on Afro-Cuban and Yoruba rhythms, which reflect my personal identity. Identity is also constructed around the language of jazz, or improvisation, which is my musical identity.

That is the reason I invited Sherman Irby, saxophonist from New York and one of the alto sax references in be-bop and hard-bop music to join the band on the recording. I also invited Tata Guínes. His unique way of playing tumbadoras (congas), his sound and the rhythm is so special—for me, he was the master of Afro-cuban percussions. Finally I invited Omar Sosa, who in my view is one of the most innovative Cuban musicians. He has a very unique way of improvising and interpreting Cuban and Afro-cuban music. All these elements reveal the essence of the new and contemporary sound in the album.

ETBP: In what year did you begin this search? How long did it take for the answers that you sought to appear in your music?

NC: I think it just happened organically. I did not decide one day but it has been like a maturation process. When I was on tour with bands in the past I was certainly playing, but you also have a lot of travel and waiting time and I used it to work on my own approach to music. As a result when I started the process of working independently things came together in harmonious way rather quickly.

Origenes album cover

ETBP: What happened between 2002 (Identity) and 2010 (Origenes) to change your music?

NC: For many years I was touring with the Identity album, then I started a project with a Sudanese singer called RASHA, and we toured in Sudán and Egypt. After that, I started a project mixing my music with Nubians musicians, bringing this project to the Jazz Factory Festival in El Cairo, Egypt. My work with Nubians was totally fascinating and I wish one day I could go back to this project and bring them to play with me in Paris.

Traveling to new territories and experiencing new cultures was a major inspiration for Origenes. You find many more Oriental sounds in this recording. This project was going beyond my personal Cuban quest for identity to broader reflections on the origins of African rhythms—indeed, the origins of music considering that the Nubians are one of the most ancestral ethnic communities in the world.

ETBP: When did you move to Paris?

NC: I moved to Paris in late 2011.

ETBP: What influence has living here had on your music?

NC: I am working on the new album and the influences are diverse. Paris has such an esthetic perfection that you can find beauty anywhere. You can find art, creativity, innovation, tradition, poverty, and luxury—many contradictions that reflect today’s world. I play with new musicians, I met new friends, and I get a lot of stimulation in Paris which might lead to an unexpected new album.

ETBP: You say that you play with Cuban musicians, but “not only.” Where do the “other” musicians come from?

NC: For instance, in my last album, Origenes, you can find Spanish, Sudanese, and Moroccan musicians. This year I also collaborated with French, Venezuelan, Greek, British, and Swiss musicians. Jazz is universal and I am really interested in the jazz culture in countries such as India, for instance.

ETBP: Do you select them solely because of their talent or are you looking for them to bring elements of other styles of music to your group?

NC: Often talent brings new concepts, new ideas, different feelings, and different ways of expressing the music that contribute to the richness of the music. I am also looking for good energy and conceptual connection with my music. Finally, I am looking for people who can play well together as a band. Collaboration, respect, friendship are also human values that are very important for me.

ETBP: What is your favorite place in the world to play?

NC: Well first I should say, my favorite place to play is place where I can play. I need to play as often as possible. It is my “raison d’être” and wherever it is I am always feeling alive when I play.

I also would like to explore new places to play. Jazz should not be limited to jazz clubs—we can bring jazz to museums, to universities, and to enterprises. We should be more creative in the way we give access to jazz to more people.

That being said, my favorite festival has been Montreal, my favorite theater has been Radio City Hall in New York, and for my favorite jazz club I would say Ronnie’s Scott in London. What makes a place special is its history, the way the staff cares about musicians, and the warm response of the audience.

ETBP: What is your favorite place in Paris to play?

NC: Paris has a very important and very diverse jazz scene. It is a complex, small world and I am still learning how to navigate this space. I go to play in many jam sessions to learn more about the Parisian jazz community. I am supported by great professionals like Michèle Feriaud at Batida and Co, who has been in that space for many years and helps me find my way around.

Le Petit Journal Montparnasse
© Discover Paris!

More specifically, I have to say that I have a lot of respect for the new team running the Petit Journal Montparnasse. This place is historical and is now going through a “rebirth,” which is exciting. Melanie, the person in charge of programming for the Club, is very nice and welcoming. I am really looking forward to playing there for the first time on the 17th of December.


Nardy will perform on December 17, 2013 at 9:30 PM at:
Le Petit Journal Montparnasse
13 rue du Commandant Mouchotte
75014 PARIS
Telephone: 01 43 21 56 70
E-mail: infos@petitjournalmontparnasse.com

Dinner and concert: 60 euros
Concert plus one drink: 20 euros

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Entrée to Black Paris!™ is a Discover Paris! blog.

If you like this posting, share it with your friends by using one of the social media links below!