By Ian S. Port
By Cory Sklar
By Godofredo Vasquez
By Gil Riego Jr.
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
By Christopher Victorio
By Ian S. Port
The performance vehicle of Cuban expatriate German Donatien, Palenque offers some of the area's most legit interpretations of Cuba's son montuno, the harmony-rich, upbeat folk music perhaps best known through the soundtrack to the film Buena Vista Social Club. And while the group's individual members perform this rich, rhythmic musical tradition with zestful aplomb, the intangible deviltry of their sound becomes apparent when vocalist Donatien himself enchants the soaring melodies of son montuno. Donatien's credentials in Cuban music are indisputable: He started as a young man with the chorus of the Cuban National TV and Radio before joining the infamous Cabaret Tropicana in La Habana. Some time later Donatien found himself enlisted as a member of the chorus of the Cuban National Opera, where he performed under the baton of many of Europe's most prestigious conductors. After moving to the United States in 1996, he settled in the Bay Area, where he collaborated with a handful of lauded Cuban and Latin fusion projects, before founding Palenque to return to the traditional performance of the music made famous by Cuban icons like Ibrahim Ferrer and Eliades Ochoa. Donatien's crack band includes drummer Ben Krames (a graduate of the National School of the Arts in Havana and the Berklee College of Music in Boston), percussionist Norman Downing, bassist Steven Parkin, and très guitarist Markus Puhvel (a former student of jazz icon Ray Brown). When these musicians come together to play traditional Cuban favorites or original songs from Donatien's pen, their tightly syncopated rhythms and joyful melodies evoke the fabled sparkle of pre-embargo Havana.
Music Video Artist: Soft Pink Truth
Director: Ryan Junell
This Soft Pink Truth video for "Promofunk" is directed by Ryan Junell, who has made videos for Gravy Train!!!, Sagan, and, most recently, Spoon at a "Trannyshack" party at the Stud where Charo -- yes, the real Charo -- was judging a Charo look-alike contest. Drew Daniel, the electronics whiz behind SPT (also one-half of Matmos), came up with the "Promofunk" concept and brought Junell in to work his magic. Taking clip art with a '70s and homoerotic bent, Junell cleverly uses the color pink in a primarily black-and-white video. "The idea was to 'sample' clip art images in the same way Drew uses microsamples in his own music," the director explains. In a departure from his video work, Junell will be serving as art director for the upcoming Killing My Lobster show Nothing Is Original. Like the show's comedic content, Junell says, "The set will consist mainly of found objects, repurposed as décor."
Video: "All Pleasure"
Dubbing their partnership "Sausage," directors John Benson and Ward Evans have been creating comedic shorts and commercials for years. As the drummer and guitarist, respectively, of their own band, Recliner, the boys worked both sides of the camera to produce "All Pleasure." In what is better known to some as the "Party With Jesus" video, the frat-rock band shows off how cool the Almighty Lord would be to have at your average kegger. The chug-inspiring song and polished look got "All Pleasure" into rotation on Fuse TV. The duo's next video, "Making a Friend" (also the title of Recliner's first full-length CD), was recently showcased on RollingStone.com.
Artist: Itzhak Volansky
Video: "My Parachute Won't Open"
Director: Itzhak Volansky
Israeli-born singer/songwriter Itzhak Volansky says he always knew he was going to be an overnight success. "I just never knew which night." He loves that punch line. As the director and performer of "My Parachute Won't Open," Volansky has embraced the DIY music video and made magic with a cheap camera and some bizarre stock footage. Detailing the tragic descent of a sky diver whose parachute won't open, the video is a head-scratcher that makes us wonder if Volansky is a mad genius or mad crazy. Probably a little of both. As the owner of McDonald's Book Shop -- a 79-year-old Tenderloin institution originally founded by a Canadian Marxist -- and the son of Auschwitz survivors, Volansky has a sharp sense of humor. Besides playing Mondays at the Riptide, he is proud to have just inked a deal with Columbia Records. He says, "All I have to do is buy one CD for a penny, and they send me eight more for free."
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