Tru Ruts artists spotlighted in Wiretap Magazine

Paper Chase:
Hip-Hop for My America

My America is using art to change immigration policy.
By Geoffrey Dobbins

The traditional view of Thanksgiving, like many holidays, is full of irony. For many Americans, it seems strange, even offensive, to celebrate the arrival of English colonists when that arrival was quickly followed by centuries of racism, oppression and genocidal brutality toward indigenous peoples. These days, that celebration even exists alongside an increasingly ugly rage about “illegal immigration” along the Mexican border — when individuals, most of them descendants of indigenous peoples, cross borders that European immigrants drew.

Anyone looking for artists that express the current struggle for immigrants’ rights will find that My America, a benefit CD for the movie “Papers,” does a particularly good job. The CD was put together by Molina Soleil and Aju, a music duo from Denver, CO that specializes in their own multilingual fusion of jazz, soul and hip-hop.

My America and “Papers” both tell the stories of undocumented youths whose parents brought them into the United States when they were children. Some have siblings that are citizens, and a number of them spend most of their lives not even knowing they are undocumented. But the moment they turn 18, the law views them as criminals.

These young people don’t have “papers” — citizenship documentation like social security numbers and birth certificates. Without “papers,” they can’t live normal lives in the country they grew up in — hence the name of the movie and the album’s Spanish-peppered, hip-hop single, “Without Papers.”

The 16-track album by CHiTT Productions features songs from a range of musical styles. “Quero a Paz” by Quilombolas, is a funky, guitar-scratching track with a strut reminiscent of slower jams by Carlos Santana or War. “Pyramids” by See More Perspective — with its lyrics about pride in the artist’s Hispanic heritage and the greatness of the Inca civilization — is a pretty old-school rap song that approaches a bumping, party-like feel.

Overall, Molina Soleil and Aju’s CD presents a consistently meditative mood, often straddling the uncertain line between spoken word poetry and rap. A full hour of this kind of political and intellectual intensity may be too much for some. And several pieces — like Rodrigo Sanchez-Chavarria’s “Land of the Incas” — disrupt the flow with completely unaccompanied spoken word performances that offer no reprieve from the heavy content.

But these artists definitely have a reason to be so serious. Without a birth certificate or a social security number, it is extremely difficult — if not impossible — for the people depicted in the music and the movie to attend college. If they try to work, vote or even drive, they break the law. And though they grew up in the United States, these “immigrants” constantly face the threat of being deported to a country that many of them don’t even remember. In the movie, many of the undocumented youths remind viewers that if they were deported to their parent’s country, they couldn’t even speak the native language there.

The musicians and the filmmakers are ultimately trying to get Congress to pass the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act). The DREAM Act would provide a path for these young people to gain legal status. The bill was re-introduced in March of 2009 by a bi-partisan group of senators after similar bills had been railroaded for years. Critics condemn the DREAM Act as “amnesty,” an ill-suited word, considering the fact these youths are being “forgiven” for choices they didn’t make in the first place.

Screenings of “Papers” are taking place all over the country to generate support for the Dream Act, and those who can’t host a screening can still use My America as another way to raise awareness. The proceeds from the benefit CD go towards distributing “Papers” to more audiences, while lyrically the music carries the message of young people desperate for a chance to succeed.

Geoffrey Dobbins is current Arts and Culture Fellow at WireTap who learned how to write for magazines, newspapers and blogs at the University of Cincinnati. Between runs to the local comic book shop, he’s been a contributor for Cincinnati Magazine, The News Record, The Cincinnati Herald, The Root and WireTap magazine.

Originally posted on WireTap Magazine on 27 November 2009.

Guante, e.g. bailey + Sha Cage at Fong Lee Benefit Concert

fong lee benefit flyer - guante eg sha - oct 3rd (700pxl)UP IN ARMS: A Night of Hip Hop and Spoken Word to Honor Fong Lee and End Police Brutality
Saturday, October 3rd, 8 p.m. (doors at 7:30)
Kagin Commons at Macalester College
1600 Grand Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55105

Featuring performances by Magnetic North (NY), Nomi of Power Struggle (Bay Area), Michelle Myers of Yellow Rage (Philadelphia), Maria Isa, Blackbird Elements, Guante, Rodrigo Sanchez-Chavarria, e.g. bailey, Tou SaiKo Lee with PosNoSys, True Mutiny, Shá Cage, Kevin Xiong with Pada Lor, Tish Jones, Maipacher, Logan Moua, Bobby Wilson, Poetic Assassins, Hilltribe, and special guests. Tou Ger Xiong and Amy Hang will emcee and DJ Nak will be on the one’s and two’s. $5-$10 suggested donation.  All proceeds go towards legal costs for the Family of Fong Lee.

Tru Ruts artists featured on ‘Papers’ documentary compilation

my america - papers benefit compilation - front cover (600pxl)

Tru Ruts artists e.g. bailey, Sha Cage, Guante, Quilombolas and See More Perspective are featured on the My America music compilation created to benefit the making and distribution of Papers, a full-length film documentary by and about undocumented youth.

The compilation, produced by Wyoming-based arts collective, CHiTT Productions, is an independent music compilation which features the work of emcees, spoken word artists, DJs and musicians from communities across the U.S., including the Bay Area, Denver, Albuquerque, Minneapolis and Harlem. The diverse collection of poetry and music addresses race, gender and social class issues, challenging dominant notions of immigration, democracy and citizenship. All proceeds from the compilation will go to support the Papers documentary, which will begin screening in U.S. cities in September 2009.

Papers is a story about undocumented youth and the challenges they face as they turn 18 without legal status. Currently, there are about two million undocumented children who were born outside the U.S. but raised in this country. For more information about Papers, visit www.papersthemovie.com.

Graham Street Productions is producing the film in partnership with Film Action Oregon. They are working in collaboration with youth who want to tell their stories and community organizations around the country who are working to change immigration policy on behalf of these young people. Youth are actively involved in all aspects of the production.

Supporters can purchase the CD and make tax deductible donations on the website.  All money collected from mail orders and donations from the free download (via papers website, which allows people to contribute more than $15 if they choose) goes directly to Graham Street Productions, to support the production of the documentary. Individuals, schools, and organizations interested in co-hosting a screening of the film can also contact Graham Street Productions via the website.

Support the DREAM Act. The DREAM Act, which was reintroduced this Spring and provides an opportunity for undocumented youth to earn a path to citizenship, will likely be included in a comprehensive immigration reform bill. Click here for more on the DREAM Act.

Hard copies of the compilation can be ordered at: http://www.papersthemovie.com/myamerica.html

Free MP3 Download of compilation available at: http://www.chittproductions.com

To make a tax-deductible donation for the MP3 download, or to order a hard copy via Paypal, link here:
http://www.papersthemovie.com/donations/index.html

Facebook Event Page:
http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=115135248776

The Common Past – Quilombolas

common-past-album-cover-front-600pxl

TRU RUTS/SPEAKEASY RECORDS presents ‘THE COMMON PAST’

DEBUT ALBUM from Global Fusion Group QUILOMBOLAS

March 3rd marks the official release of, The Common Past, the long awaited debut album of global fusion group, Quilomobolas, and the 10th album release from innovative underground record label, Tru Ruts/Speakeasy Records. Called ‘the auditory equivalent of a really tasty fusion restaurant’, the multilingual band melds Afro-Brazilian, Rock, World Beat, Afro-Funk and Hip Hop sounds. Appreciated for the new sound they’ve brought to the Minneapolis scene, critics have called them “…as intriguing a trio as you’re apt to come by for quite a while. These guys are serious to the bone with cold-blooded chops. Their groove has a Band of Gypsys feel – sharp, elemental funk with wizened, coat-pulling lyrics.” (Dwight Hobbes).

Members of the group share a diasporic background that includes Brazilian, African American and Israeli ancestry. Shelia Regan, of the Twin Cities Daily Planet, writes, “True to the spirit of their name, the Minneapolis band Quilombolas have a sense of defiance, and also a sense of freedom. The band’s style is passionate, satirical, and very entertaining. Blending Brazilian rhythms, hip-hop, Israeli melodies, and funk, Quilombolas create a unique sound with smart lyrics and a danceable beat.” Lead singer, Eric Silva Berimba comments, “Quilombolas’ music is about blending, mixture, and harmony. It is music that doesn’t conveniently fit into one particular genre, but fuses many styles. A musical feijoada or jambalaya.”

The album co-produced by Paul Harding, of Near and Far Records, features performances by Maria Isa (Sota Rico) and Rodrigo Sanchez-Chavarria (Palabristas). Reminiscent of albums of the 60s and 70s, mixing musicality with a message, with a new twist for a new time, the album doesn’t pull any punches in its lyrics. Berimba comments, “Lyrics for ‘Quero a Paz’ were written in a cemetery in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2003 shortly before attacks on Iraq began. An eerie premonition of things to come…There’s still plenty of work to do regarding liberty and equality for all but making politically conscious multilingual music is the vision behind the work.” Tru Ruts label exec, e.g. bailey, adds “With it’s melding of varied traditions and cultures, the essence of Quilombolas and it’s music is the striving for a more humane world.”

Celebrating the global legacy of unity and diversity, Quilombolas is ready to make its mark with this first offering. It’s sure to draw fans of established acts such as Ozomatli, Michael Franti, Manu Chao, Kassin+2, Chico Science, Nação Zumbi and others. Rob Van Alstyne writes, “…the global pop mash up masters in local outfit Quilombolas blend funky horns, traditional Latin American rhythms and hip hop into a worldly mixture of sounds that’s hard to neatly categorize but easy to enjoy and certain to appeal to fans of similarly ambitious groups like Ozomatli.” The album is available at Electric Fetus, Cheapos, Fifth Element, CD Baby and directly from Tru Ruts at myspace.com/truruts.

Rock inspired-Global music ensemble, Quilombolas, has been steadily building an audience over the last several years, and has been featured at the Twin Cities’ Afrifest, the Earthfusion Festival, on Fox 9 Morning News, in addition to collaborating with noted Twin Cities artists including Maria Isa, Truthmaze, e.g. bailey, Rodrigo Sanchez-Chavarria, and others. They recently featured at the Mid American Music Festival, the Ripple Effect festival and Vive Minnesota! El Festival, in addition to opening for PM Dawn.

For more information, see myspace.com/truruts, myspace.com/quilombolas. Interviews, booking inquiries or promotional copies can be directed to Tru Ruts at info@truruts.com or 612-288-9491.