Weekly Highlights: Irene Diaz, Parched at Indian Film Festival, and Best Thing Since new hip hop night

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by Tom Nguyen

Thanks to Irene Diaz and Carolyn Cardoza, I attended my first Sofar Sounds event to see them perform. Sofar Sounds hosts these intimate mini-concerts featuring independent artists in people’s living rooms throughout the world. The all-volunteer event was really well run and the crowd attentive and respectful, about 40 of us all sitting on the living room. Kudos to the homeowner for letting a group of strangers into his home to enjoy a great lineup of 3 artists, who each played about 3-4 songs. Here’s a taste of Irene’s captivating performance with Carolyn by her side on ukulele:

IMG_7309 (1)This Saturday, April 16, Irene and Carolyn will have a video premiere party for the new song “This Cannot Be” at downtown’s Civic Center Studios. They’re putting on this all-ages show by themselves with the help of Elefante Collective and want to make it more than just an intimate music show. There will be snacks, a bar, photo booth by Las Fotos Project and information table by Latino Equality Alliance (LEA) — they want to create a welcoming space for all to share, hear and discuss stories about life, love and hardships in the LGBTQ community. Please come out and support!

 

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“Parched” is one of the most powerful movies I have seen in a long time! Screened at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA), the film follows the lives of 4 women in different situations in their lives amid a very rigid patriarchal society in rural India: Rani (Tannishtha Chatterjee), a widow who arranges her son to marry an unwilling bride Janaki (Lehar Khan), Rani’s village friend Lajjo (Radhika Apte), married to an abusive drunk, and Bijli (Surveen Chawla), an exotic dancer and prostitute who visits whenever her traveling show stops at their village.

Director Leena Yadav has woven a potent story about the abuse that women endure in a male-led society that is multi-layered and complex. We see the conflicted but headstrong Rani who tries to reconcile the misogyny she has endured as well as witnesses against other women, while trying to adhere to tradition and perpetuating many of the same abuses against her new daughter-in-law.

Despite the abuse and violence, each woman finds ways to cope, to resist and in their private moments together, find ways to uplift and nurture each other as a sisterhood. During the Q&A, Yadav says this film is not just about the plight of women in India, but the universal struggle of women against misogyny and patriarchy. Wherever she has screened this film, even in the most gender-progressive countries, like Sweden, she has been approached by women so moved by her film that they relate their own experiences and personal trauma.

It’s not surprising the film won the Audience Choice Awards for Best Feature and all four actresses were honored with the Best Actress award by IFFLA. I’ve seen some incredibly poignant feminist films that are important for all to watch and this one is a must. I hope it becomes available online for global audiences.

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Sunday, April 10, was the first installment of Best Thing Since, a new series of open mic and hip hop nights by a collaboration between CultureFix and Mixed-Race Mixtape. Titled “The Best Thing Since White Bread and Guacamole: Navigating Multiple Identities”, this first show at Angel City Brewery wanted to explore the complexities of navigating multiple identities through hip hop, and featuring an eclectic lineup of 3 artists: Medusa The Gangsta Goddess, Maya Jupiter and Omar Offendum.

Medusa always packs a punch on the mic! As befitting her many titles, the Angela Davis of Hip Hop, the Queen of the West Coast underground scene commanded our full attention with her powerful stage presence. I loved one song with defiant lyrics about being bold, claiming what’s yours and not settling for anything less…”I can’t stand these ceilings; I reached the top…I reached the top of your building. I’m bout to jump off! You better catch your feelings!”

At one point during the song, she had the DJ stop the music and ditched the mic to rap her verses directly to the crowd, which went crazy…THAT’S the connection Medusa sparks with every performance. Medusa will be performing at another great upcoming event Dreaming Beyond The Struggle with rapper Ana Tijoux on Saturday, April 23.

Maya Jupiter followed with a great set that included her new song “Never Said Yes” to educate about affirmative consent and remind folks to gear up for #DenimDay on Wednesday, April 27, to raise awareness on sexual violence. Her heritage, Turkish-Mexican raised in Australia, really stands out in her eclectic music from hip hop to son jarocho.

Omar Offendum, Syrian American rapper, poet and peace activist, ended the night with his powerful verses on war and politics especially on the Middle East conflicts. He asked from the bottom of his heart for us to treat Syrian refugees with compassion and dignity and I’ll leave you with his powerful spoken word.

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