Monday, March 16, 2009

Detroit



I love Detroit more than I can say. I think of it as one of my geographical co-parents. A harsh, hard, beautiful, soulful place, it is the most American of cities -- a lost blue-collar industrial stronghold where folks who had little formal education but lots of gumption could provide (and well) for their families; a one-time magnet for Negroes looking for their slice of the American dream; a former cultural oasis, from the visual arts to a vibrant theater culture, to its multiple musical streams (jazz, blues, Motown, rock & roll, hip-hop) that enriched American culture as a whole. Within its brutal disintegration is pointed commentary on the underbelly of America -- police brutality; unbelievable political corruption and indifference; the true cost of white-flight; the true cost of Negro self-defeatism. Mind boggling violence. Detroit has been a metaphor for the best and worst of this country. Last week saw the media shine a light on my hometown in ways that both broke my heart and made me proud. First up, Time magazine ran a photo-essay by the French photography duo Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre, who have been documenting the city's decline for the last several years by taking photos of abandoned buildings, many of them once-gorgeous landmarks. After the images hit, blogs across the net opined that the fall of Detroit was symbolic of the decline of the American empire. That sounds grandiose and hyperbolic as fuck, but I think there's more than a little truth in it. Click here to see the Time magazine layout (it gives a lot of detailed background on the buildings that were photographed) but be sure to check out Marchand & Meffre's website (a link is provided on Time's site) for additional photos and to see other projects of theirs. It's all well worth your time.

Then the New York Times ran this amazing Detroit related music story.

The Youtube clips above and below are for one of my favorite living musical artists, Moodymann, the Detroit-based electronic music maestro whose stated and often controversial artistic goal is to remind folks that Techno and House are Black American musics, and to inject as much transcendent Blackness in his grooves as possible. His music is gritty, hypnotic, funky, experimental... Detroit.



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