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Michelle Shocked & Les Chocolats set to perform LIVE @ historic, SoHO Playhouse NYC- May 1
May Day is a generous occasion to celebrate the work of workers, and in this case, it’s the workers who play--Music that is. Always first to the front lines in the fight for human rights, but now it’s artists and musicians whose backs are against the wall, and who will be there for us? Please come out and hear about artist rights – streaming unsustainability, safe harbor reform, fair pay for radio play, and a host of other injustices our tech overlords are deploying to dismantle the indie music ecosystem. We have a rumba-inspired comparsa to follow the discussion that is sure to have you up and dancing at this revolution. Les Chocolats presents “Musical Chairs: A Comparsa for Artist Rights” at the SoHo Playhouse, on Wednesday night, May 1st featuring #IRespectMusic and ECR Label head Blake Morgan. Come hear Blake share tales from the artist rights underground and please join the conversation about the fight for our creative future. For tickets, hit the button below. Can't make the show? Consider purchasing a ticket in support of the event. Thank you for your support!

A Conversation & Listening Session with Playwright/Composer/Musician Todd Almond

I’ve travelled to Cuba three times with Ned Sublette’s Postmambo Studies groups. I’ve fallen madly in love with all things clavé. I met delightful fellow flanarchists on these trips, including, Nelson Gonzalez, my producer and RumbaTap’s Max Pollak, my live performance collaborator .

Todd Almond is a triple threat talent; a terrific actor (Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Girl from the North Country,) playwright (Girlfriend, a musical adaptation of Tale of Two Cities), and composer/musician. We are currently collaborating on a musical theater production of my 1996 album, Kind Hearted Woman.

I’ve recently composed a 10-song cycle dedicated to the cause of artists’ rights, called “Musical Chairs.” Recently I spent a few hours with Todd at his Theater District apartment, playing the new album for him, while Dingo and Choppy, his two rescue dogs, hung on his every word, as Todd shared his impressions with me about my brand new studio sessions.

Michelle: Como Lo Digo Yo Impressions? Thoughts? …

Todd: I love it. I just kept thinking that there’s this thread through time of art speaking to the specific battle of any given day – but how art and song makes it transcend the calendar. The vibe I got was that this song is ancient, in its way, that it’s a song about fighting the oppressor or the enemy, or not even allowing the oppressor or the enemy to have authority over you. And there's something about the choice of song structure and the specificity of Wikipedia, something so potent in the form and the content that felt like, oh, these problems are the big obstacles that people are fighting today, or the oppressor that we feel like we don't have any real power against because it seems so big and it seems so overwhelming. But music like this makes me go, "Oh no, no, it's nothing. It has no power because the real power is humanity,” and of course, of humans, and a protestor at the center saying the name of their enemy or their oppressor. It just felt like the shift of power was so easily attained through art.

Michelle: Beautiful.

Todd: Yeah.

Michelle: So it's that role of art to speak truth to power and yet to do it in the subversive way where you can actually slip in, hit your target and then slip back out again . . .

Todd: Yeah. It made me think of protest songs throughout time that aren’t afraid to name the name of the target. I liked it.

Michelle: Now, doesn't it feel strange that I'm naming a target that you've probably never heard - the name Jimmy Wales - and now that you've heard the name, you infer that Jimmy Wales is someone pretty high up on the Wikipedia food chain.

Todd: Correct.

Michelle: And from that inference, it still comes to the question, “What have you got against Wikipedia, Michelle? What’d they ever do to you?”

Todd: Well, without knowing what Wikipedia did to you, I, as a listener to the song, recognize the sort of digital overlords that have taken over the world and it made me think, "Ugh, all of our lives are tracked right now and everything you've ever done online is in the history books, it's accessible to whomever and will always be accessible. You have no privacy." That's what it made me think of. I wasn't thinking about you when I was listening to the song. I was thinking about me, which I think most art does. I wasn't curious like, “What fight has Michelle had with Wikipedia?” I was like, "Wow, we are humans and the internet, the robots, the algorithms, the lack of privacy that's taking over, that's something we should be worried about," that's what I was thinking about.

Michelle: Right on. One of your first comments was about a sense of historicity, that it feels connected to an ancient song of resistance?

Todd: Yeah.

Michelle: Something I really value and appreciate about Cuban culture is - like in this country, a history rarely told outside of New Orleans - there was, in Cuba, a social class of freemen of color. Spanish and European colonizers were the human traffickers and property owners, and, like here, an indigenous population were targets of ethnic cleansing and genocide. And likewise, Cuba had a population trafficked as slaves from Africa. One of the things that distinguishes Cuba from the US is its slave trafficking was from a different area of Africa. According to the author of Cuba and Its Music, Ned Sublette, the forced labor brought to the US were northern, Islamicized Africans. So northern Africans brought to the US their melismatic musical qualities - you can hear it in our blues tradition - because of their Islamic culturation, whereas Africans from that sub-Saharan region of the Congo, Yorubaland, brought to Cuba and Latin America their Christianized influences.
Michelle continues to shed light on the importance of respecting artists' rights in this touching song entitled, Yo Respeto La Musica! Check out the raw single now on Youtube. Be sure to subscribe to our Youtube Channel to receive all of our notifications. 
Michelle Shocked
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