Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Cole Porter's Pro-Immigration Ballet Gets A Trump-Era Revival



NPR has a fascinating story about American composer Cole Porter

In the early 1920s, before he became an icon of the American songbook, composer Cole Porter wrote the score for a protest ballet. The production, called Within the Quota, criticized restrictive immigration laws that had been passed by Congress. According to Princeton music professor Simon Morrison, who rediscovered the score two years ago in Yale's Porter archives, the show opened in New York at a time of fearful backlash against Polish, Greek and Australian immigrants arriving in the U.S. after World War I.

Now, to protest President Trump's anti-immigrant stance, the Princeton University Ballet is reviving the production. Morrison, who produced the show, says after the election, "[I] looked again at the score and thought about its context and thought, Oh my God, this is actually what it was about. These things were real and actually we're feeling them again now."


May 24, 2017 in Current Affairs, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Your Playlist: Moxie Raia and Wyclef Jean

In this video for Follow Me, interviews with refugees play on the wall behind Moxie Raia and Wyclef Jean as they sing. Here's the chorus:

Follow me I am on your side
But we don't have much time
Momma said there's a war outside
Only the strong survive

Another great song to accompany asylum and refugee law.


May 3, 2017 in Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Listen to the Blues: Eric Bibb Sings the Migration Blues


Eric Bibb from the U.S. performs at the Flux theater in Zaandam, Netherlands March 24, 2017. Picture taken March 24, 2017.

Voice of America reviews "Migration Blues", a new album from veteran bluesman Eric Bibb, uses the sounds of the American South to tell the tale of everyone from 1920s farmers fleeing the Dust Bowl for California to refugees crossing the Mediterranean today.

Along the way are Mexicans seeking a future in the United States, families moving from land the government has just seized for corporate expansion, and a Cajun jig reminding listeners of the expulsion of French Canadians south down the Mississippi.

The album's most contemporary subject is to be found in "Prayin' For Shore", a blues about the plight of millions of Syrians and others who have fled civil wars in the Middle East on sometimes fatal journeys to Europe across the Mediterranean.

"In an old leaky boat, somewhere on the sea/trying to get away from the war/Welcome or not, got to land soon/Oh lord, prayin' for shore," run the lyrics.  The song is about remembering the drowned.

But the fleeing migrants of today are nothing new.

For Bibb, an African American, another key moment in history was "The Great Migration" of millions of southern blacks away from America's segregated South.

By some estimates, more than 6 million left the rural areas for industrial places like Detroit, New York and Chicago between 1910 and 1970.



March 29, 2017 in Current Affairs, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Your Playlist: Running


Stumbled across this gem featuring Grammy Award-winning jazz singer Gregory Porter and Oscar-winning hip-hop artist Common. It's going to kick of my class today.

NPR has an interview with the song's composers that's worth checking out.


March 28, 2017 in Music, Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 19, 2017

RIP Chuck Berry (1926-2017)

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

News from Texas: Deportation Threat in Conference Contracts, Boycott to Follow?


As they say, everything is bigger in Texas.  Here is some big news from the Lone Star state.

Indie-pop band Told Slant announced it was cancelling its performance at the  SXSW Conference later this week in Austin, Texas because of language in the artist contract that allows the festival to “notify the appropriate U.S. immigration authorities” if they “or their representatives have acted in ways that adversely affect the viability of their official SXSW showcase.”

Texas State Rep. Diego Bernal (D-123) later said he was withdrawing from a scheduled SXSW Conference speaker’s panel on the “bathroom bill” to demonstrate his opposition to the artist contract.

Featuring a variety of tracks that allow attendees to explore what’s next in the worlds of entertainment, culture, and technology, SXSW proves that the most unexpected discoveries happen when diverse topics and people come together.  Explore Keynotes, Featured Speakers, and programming tracks below. Stay tuned to SXSW News for the latest 2017 SXSW Conference announcements and updates throughout the season.

Hat tip to Cappy White!



March 7, 2017 in Current Affairs, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 20, 2017

Your Playlist: Sarpinto

In 2011, Turkish musician Sarp Yeletaysi released "Schengen Macht Frei" under the pseudonym Sarpinto. It's an alternative rock ode to the visa hurdles facing Turkish citizens attempting European travel.

Give it a listen.

You can find the full lyrics to the song here. And PRI has an interview with Yeletaysi too. It's the perfect accompaniment to discussion of the admissions process.


February 20, 2017 in Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Your Playlist: Chicano Batman

Okay, it's sponsored by Johnnie Walker. But it's still a great rendition of a classic.


January 31, 2017 in Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 30, 2017

Your Playlist: Marvin Gaye

I will be starting class tomorrow with a Marvin Gaye classic - What's Going On.


January 30, 2017 in Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 30, 2016

Your Playlist: Hamilton Mixtape

Immigrants (We Get The Job Done) is a track on the new Hamilton Mixtape. It's inspired by a line in the Hamilton musical uttered by Daveed Diggs as the Marquis de Lafayette and Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton during the number Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down).

The Mixtape song features verses by K'naan, Snow Tha Product, Riz MC, and Residente. It is equal measures hopeful, desperate, and angry.

Check out these K'naan lines: "Man, I was brave, sailing on graves / Don’t think I didn’t notice those tombstones disguised as waves."

And these from Snow Tha Product: "It’s a hard line when you’re an import / Baby boy, it's hard times / When you ain't sent for."

Or these from Riz MC: "Who these fugees what did they do for me / But contribute new dreams / Taxes and tools, swagger and food to eat."

Click here for the full lyrics. It's good to read them while listening to the music.


December 30, 2016 in Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Today Only: Broadway Musical Allegiance on Screens Nationwide

Today, the Broadway musical Allegiance (about Japanese interment) will be aired in movie theaters around the country. Tickets are still on sale.

I'm sure your plans for the evening can be postponed. Take a night to enjoy Broadway.


Happy theatering!


December 13, 2016 in Current Affairs, Film & Television, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

US Presidential Election 2016

Trump Hillary_Clinton_official_Secretary_of_State_portrait_crop

It has been a "no holds barred" campaign for the US Presidency this year.  As blog readers well know, the two candidates have very different views on immigration.   Stay tuned for the results.


Last night, Bruce Springsteen came out to support Hillary Clinton at a get out the vote rally in Philadelphia the day before the election.  Following a "Thunder Road" that closed with a slight lyric change for the occasion — "Tonight we're pulling out of here to win" — Springsteen spoke to the audience made his case for Hillary Clinton:

Good evening! It's an honor to be here with President and Mrs. Obama, President Clinton and Chelsea, and if we all do our part tomorrow, President-elect Clinton.

The choice tomorrow couldn't be any clearer. Hillary's candidacy is based on intelligence, experience, preparation, and on an actual vision of an America where everyone counts: men and women, white and black, Hispanic and Native, where folks of all faiths and backgrounds can come together to address our problems in a reasonable and thoughtful way.

That vision of America is essential to sustain, no matter how difficult its realization.

Hillary sees an America where the issue of income distribution should be at the forefront of our national conversation, where the progress we've made in reducing our unemployment is not enough — we must do better. She has a vision of universal health care for all that will build on the work of President Obama. She sees an America that needs to be fairer, where our highest courts look to protect the rights of all of our citizens and not just the privileged. She sees an America where the issue of immigration reform is dealt with realistically and compassionately. And she calls for an America that participates in the welfare of our planet — both in world affairs and in global science — and where the unfinished business of protecting the rights of women is not an afterthought, but a priority.

That's the country where we wil indeed be stronger together.

Now, briefly, to address her opponent: this is a man whose vision is limited to little beyond himself, who has a profound lack of decency that would allow him to prioritize his own interests and ego before American democracy itself. Somebody who'd be willing to damage our long-cherished and admired system rather than look to himself for the reasons behind his own epic failure. That's unforgivable. Tomorrow that campaign is going down.

Let's all do our part so we can look back at 2016 and say we stood with Hillary Clinton on the right side of history. That's why I'm standing here with you tonight, for the dream of a better America.

Springsteen introduced "Long Walk Home" as "a prayer for post-election" and closed with "Dancing in the Dark," finally adding, "Let's get out there and vote tomorrow!"

Watch the full performance at


November 8, 2016 in Current Affairs, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 4, 2016

Your Playlist: Neil Diamond

It's Friday and nothing says welcome to the weekend quite like Neil Diamond's hit America. You're welcome.


November 4, 2016 in Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 31, 2016

"Be Aware Brother, Be Aware Sister" -- "Aware Migrants"


 “Be aware brother, be aware sister” is the song that Rokia Traoré has written specially for the Aware Migrants Project.


Malian singer Rokia Traoré has released a new  single – “Be Aware Brother, Be Aware Sister" - as part of the "Aware Migrantscampaign launched by International Organization for Migration and the Italian Ministry of Interior.

The campaign uses the voices of some of the tens of thousands of young West African migrants who leave home to try to find a better life in Libya and Europe to tell their stories and relate their experiences to family and friends left behind. Their testimony aims to inform others – through social media and other channels - about some of the risks and dangers that face them if they also decide to opt for irregular migration and set off across the Sahara.

"For many years, I’ve been meeting migrants who, at the end of my concerts, would tell me about tremendous suffering they faced during their journeys, and would ask me to warn their brothers and sisters back home about how hard and dangerous this type of experience was," says Rokia Traoré.

"There are not enough words, there are not enough notes, to tell the tragedies these people were forced to face. My song is only a small contribution, which should be combined with many other initiatives, to highlight how crucial it is to give a response to this humanitarian emergency. My contribution is a hymn to life."

In “Be Aware Brother, Be Aware Sister," Traoré combines English, French, Arabic and several African languages to warn young people to “Be Aware” before they make a decision that could change their life forever – or end it.

“Our research shows that many migrants still leave their country of origin without a specific destination in mind. Many suffer violence and abuse in Libya at the hands of smugglers and local militias. As a result, many decide to continue their journey to Europe with the smugglers. And many – an estimated 3,453 in 2016 – drown in the Mediterranean between Libya and Italy,” says IOM Rome spokesperson Flavio Di Giacomo.

Listen to “Be Aware Brother, Be Aware Sister” and learn more about the Aware Migrants campaign here.


October 31, 2016 in Current Affairs, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Bob Dylan and Immigration

Bob Dylan | via The Guardian

Days ago, Bob Dylan was awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature for "having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition."

When you think Dylan and immigration, it'd be understandable if your mind jumped right to his song "I Pity the Poor Immigrant." There is something interesting about the first lines of that song: "I pity the poor immigrant / Who wishes he would've stayed home." But the next lines suggest that Dylan isn't really thinking about immigrants in the immprof sense: "Who uses all his power to do evil / But in the end is always left so alone." (Although Trump might get behind that reading). I tend to agree with commentators who see the song as being about "if only" people who are never satisfied rather than migrants. 

The line that I think should resonate with immprofs comes from a different tune altogether: Absolutely Sweet Marie. Near the very end of that song, Dylan sings:

But to live outside the law, you must be honest

That line reminds me of a conversation I had with a federal prosecutor. He told me that it seems unbearably hard to be undocumented in the United States: Since undocumented individuals live outside the law, they can never afford to break any other law. They cannot jaywalk or speed or get into a fight. For any interaction with law enforcement has the potential to lead to discovery of a life outside the law.

It's a lyric that just might kickstart some great conversation about undocumented migrants.

Of course, I cannot talk about music without at least providing you a few links.

Here's the Joan Baez version of I Pity the Immigrant:

And here's Absolutely Sweet Marie:


October 18, 2016 in Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 29, 2016

RIP Juan Gabriel, Mexican Singing Great


330px-Juan_Gabriel_Hollywood_Star Juan_Gabriel_en_Iquique

Juan Gabriel was a Mexican singer and songwriter. Also called El Divo de Juárez, Gabriel was known for his flamboyant style and broke barriers within the Latin music market. With sales of more than 100 million albums, Gabriel was Mexico's top selling artist.[6] Gabriel's album, Recuerdos, Vol. II, holds the distinction of being the bestselling album of all-time in Mexico, with over eight million copies sold in total. During his career he wrote around 1,800 songs.

On August 28, 2016, Gabriel died in Santa Monica, California, while on tour.  Born in Mexico, Gabriel lived most recently in El Paso.


August 29, 2016 in Current Affairs, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 22, 2016

Music Break: Juanes, Tom Morello, and Fher Olvera Black Magic Woman / Oye Como Va Santana Kennedy Center Honors



July 22, 2016 in Current Affairs, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Immigrant of the Day: Luis Enrique, Singer (Nicaragua)


Luis Enriqueis a Nicaraguan-born singer and composer. He attended high School in Whittier, California, near Los Angeles. He started his career in the late 1980s and achieved success in the 1990s earning the title "El Príncipe de la Salsa" (The Prince of Salsa). Enrique was a pioneer in the salsa romántica movement of the 1980s. He received two Grammy Award-nomination for "Best Tropical Latin Performance" for album Luces del Alma and his song Amiga. In 2009, his album, Ciclos, was nominated for numerous Latin Grammy Awards. The album won the Grammy Award for Best Tropical Latin Album.

Enrique immigrated to the United States in 1978  He will be sharing his story as an undocumented immigrant in the United States in an upcoming book, Enrique will tell of his personal journey from Nicaragua to making a home in L.A. He was undocumented for about 10 years. 



July 10, 2016 in Books, Current Affairs, Film & Television, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Your Playlist: Sting

Today is just the day for an 80s throwback. I give you Sting's immigration hit - Englishman in New York.



July 2, 2016 in Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Los Illegals: Seminal Chicano Punk Band's Bassist Slams Non-Confrontational Artists and Activists


Colorlines reports on Los Illegals, which "picked its band name in part as a big middle finger to the xenophobic bias plaguing Chicanos in East Los Angeles. As the historic band's bassist Jesus Velo explained in a new interview, the group's name pissed off many Latinos—but not for the obvious reasons."  "So Los Illegals are [hybrid]–'Los' [in Spanish] and 'Illegals' in English, which the Mexicans gave us shit for," Velo told Remezcla. "'What's with this? You don't like saying it all in Spanish.' It was like, give us like a fucking break!"


June 29, 2016 in Current Affairs, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)