Thursday, July 30, 2015

Jazz in Paris - University of California San Diego Students Study Abroad

For the fourth year in a row, Professor Emeritus Cecil Lytle of the University of California San Diego (UCSD) is leading the UC Global Seminar: Jazz in Paris. On June 29, 2015, Lytle and his students arrived in the French capital to explore this quintessentially American musical genre.

Part of the course description reads as follows:

We spend the summer following in their footsteps to understand how Jazz developed and why it was so enthusiastically received by the Parisians in the 1920s. In addition to historical lectures, films, and live music in class, we will capture the flavor of the period with excursions to the nightclubs, restaurants, concert venues, and cafes owned and frequented by these African American pioneers abroad.

The ability to speak French or read music is not necessary—a passion to learn about American jazz in Paris is required!

Jazz in Paris is open to all UC students and anyone taking summer courses at the University of California. At a time when jazz has fallen sharply out of favor with American listeners, Professor Lytle believes that
…it is imperative that young Americans are taught and reminded of the great gift jazz has given the world. Much of the popular idioms in music, dress, language, and letters today derive their origins in the language and improvisation of jazz that continues to evolve.

This year, 28 students - the maximum number allowed by UC - enrolled in the course. For the first time, the class was evenly balanced with male and female students, which Lytle says is atypical:

Most years, the class is overwhelming populated by female students, who seem much more brave and adventurous than the guys!

Jazz in Paris 2015 - Students at a reception
Image courtesy of Professor Cecil Lytle

Students have reading and listening assignments that compliment the lectures presented Tuesday-Friday at the CEA Centre, 6 rue de Braque in Paris' 3rd arrondissement. Jazz artists visit the class to discuss their lives and music and students usually visit 3-4 jazz nightclubs in Paris during the 5-week summer session. Additionally, students taking the class for UC credit have three quizzes and are required to produce a final paper of 10-12 pages in length.

Among the visitors to Lytle’s class this year was trumpeter/composer Eddie Henderson, whose all-star band, "The Cookers," performed at the jazz venue Sunside in Paris. The highlight of the course was the students' opportunity to meet and interact with saxophonist Branford Marsalis.

Marsalis was the guest of honor at an informal session where students listened to him tell his story and asked questions of him. One of the young men in the class, saxophonist Daniel McFarland, had the privilege of greeting Marsalis that morning and escorting him to the class.

From left to right - Daniel McFarland (student), Branford Marsalis, and Cecil Lytle
Image courtesy of Professor Cecil Lytle

Marsalis spoke of the influence of his home town, New Orleans, on his upbringing and its contribution to the evolution of jazz. Toward the end of the session, Lytle (who is a concert pianist) invited Marsalis to perform with him. They performed Duke Ellington's Come Sunday and jammed on a blues number.

That evening, the students saw Marsalis take the stage at New Morning, one of Paris' most famous nightclubs, where he, Joey Calderazzo (piano), Eric Revis (bass), and Justin Faulkner (drums) performed as the Branford Marsalis Quartet.

Branford Marsalis at New Morning
Image courtesy of Professor Cecil Lytle

The following day, Professor Lytle arranged a discussion with three non-musicians so that the students would have the opportunity to hear other points of view about being an American expatriate in France. The venue was the Théâtre des Ateliers du Chaudron, a community theater in the 11th arrondissement that is frequently used for jazz concerts.

Courtyard outside the Théâtre des Ateliers du Chaudron
© Discover Paris!

The panelists (all writers) were Thomas Chatterton Williams, Jake Lamar, and me.

From left to right - Jake Lamar, Monique Y. Wells, Thomas Chatterton Williams
© Discover Paris!

Lamar, who has participated in previous editions of Jazz in Paris and who sat in on the classroom session with Marsalis the previous day, moderated the panel. To open the minds of the students and stimulate them to ask their own questions, he began the discussion by asking Williams and me to talk about the differences between our lives in France and the U. S. and what we like and don't like about life on both sides of the Atlantic. He asked Williams to talk about his New York Times article entitled The Next Great Migration and he asked me to talk about the work that I have undertaken as president of the French non-profit organization Les Amis de Beauford Delaney. He asked follow-up questions, to which we responded. Then Professor Lytle encouraged the students to ask their own questions.

Discussion was lively and touched on topics as varied as gun control in France, conditions for African Americans in Paris, French immigration controversies, expat life in France, the gourmet tours and activities provided by Discover Paris!, and how the French make friends and socialize. It continued well after we took a group photo and the official session broke up.

Group photo at the Théâtre des Ateliers du Chaudron
© Discover Paris!

Hye Soo Kim (student) chats with Jake Lamar
© Discover Paris!

Thomas Chatterton Williams talks with students in the entrance to the courtyard
© Discover Paris!

With only a couple of days left in this year's edition of the course, Professor Lytle has this to say about it:

The students are different each summer. Many are infatuated by Paris as well as by jazz. In addition to the readings, lectures, and listening assignments, I will certainly continue the activity of inviting musicians and artists to the class to help present a rounded experience of jazz life and the lives of American expats in Paris. A new feature I hope to develop is a tour to visit Josephine Baker's chateau, Les Milandes, in the Dordogne.

For information about the University of California San Diego Jazz in Paris course, click HERE.


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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Cartier Foundation Celebrates Almost a Century of Congolese Art

The Cartier Foundation in Paris is featuring the works of 41 artists from the Democratic Republic of Congo in a pioneering exhibition entitled Beauté Congo – 1926-2015 – Congo Kitoko.

Running from July 11 through November 15, 2015, the show focuses on painting but also includes sculpture, photography, comics, and music dating from 1926 to present.

Following a series of other projects held at the Foundation that featured Congolese artists (solo shows Bodys Isek Kingelez [1999] and J’aime Chéri Samba [2004] and the thematic exhibitions Un Art Populaire [2001] and Histoires de voir, Show and Tell [2012]), Beauté Congo traces almost a century of the DRC's artistic production.

The story begins with the painted huts of Albert Lukabi and his wife, Antoinette, which were located in Katanga. In 1926, a Belgian administrator named Georges Thiry met the couple while visiting their village. He so admired their work that he provided them with paper and watercolors so they could reproduce their art. He did the same for a man named Djilatendo, who lived in the province of Western Kasai.

Lukabi and Djilatendo were the forefathers of modern art in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo. Their works were shown in European salons, galleries, and museums through 1941, after which time there is no further trace of them.

The exhibition goes on to document the founding of the Academy of Indigenous Art (aka the "Atelier du Hangar") in 1946, the rise in popularity of photography in the 1950s, the era of the "popular painters" in the 1970s, and the emergence of a new generation of artists - graduates of the Académie des Beaux Arts in Kinshasa - in the new millenium.

The musical program for the exhibition was conceived "to illustrate the synergy of spirit and energy between the worlds of music and art" and connections between songs and works of art were often inspired through similarities in titles and themes. As an example, the painting La SAPE (2014) by JP Mika was inspired by the sapeur style of dress popularized by Papa Wemba, who is one of the continent's best-known musicians.

Papa Wemba
Screenshot from video "Yolele"

To view an image of La SAPE and other works on display, click HERE

Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain
261, boulevard Raspail
75014 Paris
Tel.: +33 (0)1 42 18 56 50

Open every day, except Monday, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Open Tuesday evenings until 10 p.m.
Everyday at 6:30 pm, visitors with an admission ticket can attend a free guided tour of the exhibition.
Subject to availability.

Entrance fee: 10.5 euros
Reduced rate: 7 euros
(Students, visitors under 25, "carte Senior" holders, unemployed and visitors receiving benefits, "Maison des Artistes", ministère de la Culture, Amis des Musées)
Free (except Nomadic Nights): Children under 13, Visitors under 18 on Wednesdays, "Laissez-passer pass" holders, ICOM members, press card, and disabled visitors.

Métro: lines 4 et 6, stations Raspail ou Denfert-Rochereau
RER: Denfert-Rochereau


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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Henry Ossawa Tanner Works at the Musée d'Orsay

Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937) was the most distinguished African-American artist of the nineteenth century, as well as the first to achieve international acclaim.

Henry Ossawa Tanner
Archives of American Art

Three of his works are currently on display at the Musée d'Orsay (click on the title beneath each thumbnail to view a larger image):

The Resurrection of Lazarus
(1896) Oil on canvas

The Pilgrims of Emmaüs
(1905) Oil on canvas

Christ and His Disciples on the Road to Bethany
(undated) Oil on canvas

The French government acquired The Resurrection of Lazarus and The Pilgrims of Emmaüs from the artist the year after each was painted. Both paintings hung at the Musée de Luxembourg until 1922, when they were moved to the Jeu de Paume museum in the Tuileries Garden. They remained there until 1946. The early provenance of Christ and His Disciples on the Road to Bethany is uncertain.

All three paintings were transferred to the Musée d'Art Moderne in 1946 and were acquired by the Musée d'Orsay between 1977 and 1980.

For the past twenty years, these works have been held in reserve at the museum. They were made available for public viewing during the symposium entitled Afro American Artists and France: In Henry Ossawa Tanner's Footsteps, which was held at the museum in 2011. This event that was timed to coincide with the loan of Tanner's paintings to the Henry Ossawa Tanner: Modern Spirit* retrospective exposition of his work that was mounted by the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA) in Philadelphia in 2012.

The retrospective, which traveled to Cincinnati and Houston after leaving Philadelphia, was the first time that The Resurrection of Lazarus, which won a medal at the Paris Salon of 1897, was ever viewed in the United States.

Tanner was a student at PAFA from 1879 to 1885. He came to Paris in 1891, stopping over on a trip to Rome. So enthralled was he by life in Paris that he would not get to the Eternal City for another five years. Aside from a year that he spent in Philadelphia to recuperate from a bout with typhoid fever, he lived in France until his death in 1937.

The French Government awarded Tanner the Legion of Honor for his work in 1923.

At the time of this writing, The Resurrection of Lazarus can be viewed in the Galerie Symboliste on the ground floor of the Musée d'Orsay. Christ and His Disciples on the Road to Bethany and The Pilgrims of Emmaüs can be viewed in Salle 58 on the first floor of the museum.

*To listen to an audio tour of the Henry Ossawa Tanner: Modern Spirit retrospective mounted by PAFA, click HERE.


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Thursday, July 9, 2015

AFRICA ACTS: African Artists Come Together to Combat Stereotypes

A bold and ambitious event is unfolding this week in Paris.

Performed in a range of spaces across Paris, such as museums and contemporary art centers, jazz clubs, university lecture halls, streets, and plazas, AFRICA ACTS is a program devoted to performance arts in Africa and its Diasporas. It is being held in parallel with the European Conference on African Studies that is taking place at the Sorbonne on July 8-10, 2015.

The inspiration behind AFRICA ACTS is the idea that there is much more to Africa than the commonplace images that people in the northern countries hold of the continent. To combat these stereotypes, twelve performance artists have come to Paris to demonstrate through their works that Africa is brilliant, nuanced, and full of passion and pride.

Tom and I were privileged to attend one of the musical events staged as part of this event on Tuesday, July 7. That night, the Musée Dapper hosted a concert by Serge Kakudji, counter tenor and composer of opera, who sang a large selection of baroque music.

Serge Kakudji
© Discover Paris!

Kakudji discovered opera at the age of seven, when he was surfing television channels in his hometown of Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo. He was captivated by the music, even though it was sung in a foreign language. It so inspired him that he asked to join the choir at the church that his parents attended. Self-taught, he developed his talent sufficiently that he was invited to participate in an international competition in Harare, Zimbabwe in 2006. His talent was recognized by Congolese choreographer Faustin Linyekula and he was invited to participate in Linyekula's show Dinozord, which traveled to Brussels, Avignon, and Lisbon.

During a rehearsal of Dinozord in Brussels, American opera singer Laura Claycomb saw Kakudji perform and encouraged him to sing professionally. As a result, he soon found himself enrolled at the Institut Supérieur de Musique et de Pédagogie de Namur (IMEP) in Belgium.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Kakudji gave a masterful performance. He ended the concert with a song called "Nyumbani" from an opera that he and a colleague composed as the first opera in the Swahili language. ("Nyumbani" means "home" in Swahili.)

Qudus Onikeku, native of Lagos, Nigeria and founder of AFRoPARISIAN Network, is another of the twelve performers that AFRICA ACTS has lined up. He has woven a mix of dance, stand-up comedy, and dance class into a performance called Africaman Original, which he will give at the Collège des Bernardins in the 5th arrondissement today (July 9).

Qudus Onikeku
Image courtesy of Qudus Onikeku

Africaman Original incorporates video clips of African dance and film stock of Brazilian and Afro-American performance that are projected on a screen in synch with recorded music. Onikeku invites members of the audience to come onstage to take part in a dance class that he conducts to the rhythms of Fela Kuti, pioneer of Afrobeat.

AFRICA ACTS is organized by Institut des Mondes Africains (IMAF) and Les Afriques dans le Monde (LAM) with support from l’agence à paris. For information about these groups, click HERE.

For the complete schedule of AFRICA ACTS' performances, click HERE.


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