“Diversity,” the way it’s used now, is such a damp, earnest word, a good thing promoted into something we need to “celebrate.” Which is why I haven’t made tracks to the Concert of Colors, “Metro Detroit’s Diversity Festival,” in the time we’ve been here. I envisioned a lot of old white men in dreadlocks and young black men in rasta tams, both nodding along to some faux-African world-music thing made with puzzling indigenous instruments.
But a couple years ago I learned that Don Was shows up every year, to lead a cavalcade of Detroit acts in a single show, spanning a wide range of genres and representing almost every corner of the area’s musical heritage — you know, a diverse show — that I started thinking this might be worth my time.
Last year he dug up Question Mark. Huh. Didn’t know he was a local.
And while Saturday was beastly hot, it wasn’t so hot you couldn’t move, and so we headed downtown. The Don Was All-Stars were performing on the main stage of the orchestra hall, free of charge, and it seemed air-conditioning might be involved. It was. And it was quite the show, 15 different performers spanning the range from rock to blues to trip-hop to… I dunno, I get lost in all these genres.
There was this guy, Andre Williams, and be advised that link takes you to a trailer for a recent documentary about him, that the clip autoplays, and the language is NSFW from about the first second. There was also Alberta Adams, who is now 93 years old and performs from a wheelchair. But there was also Ingray, young and loud described as having recently relocated to Detroit from Bosnia (please, hold your witticisms). They played “Immigrant Song.” Doop & the Inside Outlaws brought the country. By the time Kim Weston came out for the finale, in what looked like one of her old Motown gowns, you really couldn’t say you hadn’t been entertained.
As the crowd was filing out, the MC said, “Stop in next door. They’ve got some Punjab house music going.”
Alan said we should. I was dubious. It sounded like everything I’d feared, but it turned out to be the revelation of the night. These guys:
This is Red Baraat, self-described as “bangin’ bhangra and brass funk,” but if that doesn’t help, let me try: If Desi Arnaz left Havana bound for New Orleans, but was detoured through Amritsar, this is the band he would have assembled when he landed. Soprano and baritone saxes, trumpet, trombone and yes, that’s a sousaphone. But the centerpiece is Sunny Jain, the band’s founder, on the Indian dhoul drum. At first I thought we wouldn’t get in, because the crowd was so dense. It turned out there were plenty of seats available because everyone was in the standing-room space in front of the stage, dancing ecstatically. Well, not everyone was ecstatic. One guy was voguing. Some were shaking their bottoms. A couple tried to do a variation on the jitterbug. But most people just moved where the dhoul took them. We saw only three numbers, and left the hall raving, CD-buying fans. A good dhoul player can do that, I guess.
The CD is good, but the show is better. Here’s the tour schedule. If they’re coming to your neighborhood, you are commanded to go.
And that was the weekend, besides the usual pie-baking and a Friday-night movie excursion. Cherry and blueberry, and “I Am Love,” which left me thinking Tilda Swinton is worthy of being the new Meryl Streep (she speaks Italian with a Russian accent, and top that, Ms. Yale School of Drama) and that cherry-pitting is the most tedious job in the summer kitchen. I recommend both, preferably at once — pie and movies.
The Catholic Church is marking the 50th anniversary of the birth-control pill by advocating no birth control other than “natural family planning.” Because birth control is bad, except when it’s their birth control, in which case it’s just fine. I have really fallen far, far away from the church of my baptism, because when I read stuff like this…
“Why does the church do this?” Ponkowski says to about 10 young couples taking a required pre-marriage class. “It wants us to have the best life possible.”
…I sprain my eyeballs, rolling them.
I’ve been catching up with old episodes of “Mad Men” in preparation for the new season. I feared I would be losing Betty Draper, who is not my favorite part of the show, but my God, her clothes. Advance publicity for season one would suggest she’s still a part of the show, and what’s more, she recently bought herself some black opera-length gloves. Oh yah.
Finally, this looks interesting. Haven’t read it. I will, as soon as Wild Monday settles into Somewhat Tamer Tuesday. Have a good week, all.
Photo of Red Baraat by Amy Touchette.