Thursday, September 15, 2011

In Brief: Native American Raggae, Life In Exurbia, and Goat Cheese In Marfa

Native Roots

Revolutions Per Minute: Indigenous Music Culture is an site that covers an extraordinary range of contemporary Native American music--everything from traditional forms to the electronic "art trash" rap of Glad as Knives. I highly recommend a visit to RPM--I'm excited to have discovered this site, and I look forward to writing in greater depth about it soon. 

Here's RPM writing about Native Roots, a band that bridges cultures and brings people together: 
Native Roots has been making their unique “NDN-Jamaican” music since 1997. Their sound has a solid foundation in reggae but is blended with the band’s Indigenous culture.

The songs incorporate traditional drums, flute and chants, but you can hear the cultural influence in Emmett “Shkeme” Garcia’s vocals as well – his voice reflecting his experience singing traditional pueblo and powwow music

The Texas Mountain Trail Region recently shared this video on their Facebook page, the story behind Marfa Maid Goat Cheese. Surviving in West Texas isn't easy, Malinda Beeman tells us, but she finds that the process of running a successful agricultural business is a lot like the process of making art. 

This gorgeous 12 minute documentary was created by Barefoot Workshops, a non-profit "that teaches individuals and organizations how to use digital video, new media, and the arts to transform their communities and themselves." This organization has created a great deal of work that would interest our readers, so I encourage folks to head to their site and learn more; I'll also be writing at greater length about their films soon. Until then, here's Simple As That, which was filmed, written, and edited by Kari Branch, Russell Walker and Ashley McCue:

Simple As That from Barefoot Workshops on Vimeo.

It's encouraging to hear the story of Marfa Maid Goat Cheese. Their project, and the point in their lives when they commenced this work, suggests there could be a model here for how an older generation of rural citizens can affect local economic change. As a generation of baby-boomers considers "moving home," we may have an example of how (especially in the challenging economy) these returning neighbors do more than just settle down to retire in rural America. 

This suggests "The Road to Exurbia," a recent piece published in Places (see our article on their fiction series from last week): James Barilla offers an extraordinarily insightful essay on rural exurbias--those communities close enough to major cities that they can accommodate folks who really want to live (and raise children) in a rural environment. Mr. Barilla tells his own story, and the story of his father, but also discusses the larger trend of exurbias across the country. Here's the opening paragraphs to this essay:
Each year, by his own calculation, my dad drives as many miles as the circumference of the earth. He gets up while the dawn mist is still clinging to the hemlocks and the horses are still crunching grain in their pails, settles into the car with a travel mug of coffee and a book on tape, and makes his way from a tiny hill town in Western Massachusetts to his job in a city near Boston. He’s been doing it for over 24 years, which means he’s been rotating the earth longer than many satellites.

He lives on a dirt road, not far from the boundary of the state forest. It’s the kind of place where mountain laurel grows in gnarled thickets under the canopy of oak and maple and you can’t see your neighbors. Moose wander up to the barn to make eyes at the horses, coyotes yip to each other at dawn and snakes seize wood frogs under the porch. It’s a place where you can swim in a clear pond in summer and amble across its frozen surface in winter.

“Days like these,” my dad will say on a summer Saturday evening, sitting contemplatively on the deck after an afternoon swim in a nearby lake, “this place feels like a little bit of paradise.”