Culver Club Chit-Chats

Image courtesy of Dissolve

On October 30, 2009, my buddy, classical music basoonist and pianist, Rudolph Porter, had agreed to locate a spot "and we can hang out." Culver Club was the place. He had performed there before. And Culver Club is where West Coast finest jazz pereformers display their arts, and it is a place of hangout for jazz enthusiasts on Fridays, on the Westside. On this particular day while Rudolph and I were poking around the lobby my phone vibrated and a friend's text message had timely popped up on my screen to check what I was up to and how I'm doing.

This fella, Ebere, loves African-related media hyped issues, news and views, and he is so fascinated about it, especially when it comes to show-biz and the tap of fine leather we call Ahia Mgbede.

Knowing my spot, he hopped on his car and found himself at where Rudolph and I were hanging out for the evening. On his arrival, after our bumping fists, he noticed jazz at the Culver Club was alive and well as the November line-up and schedule of performers was all over the place. The Culver Club sits on the lobby of Radisson Hotel's L.A.'s westside, the hub of nightlife and promenades.

The line up for November had some interesting, upcoming gigs: Chris Benneth Quartet; Ernie Andrews Quintet; Dr. Bobby Rodriguez' Latin Jazz "Birthday Dance Party" featuring Justo Almario, Joe Rotondi, Eddie Resto, Luis Conte and Richie G. Garcia; Tony Russell Quartet; Rhonda Benin Quartet; and Ryan Cross & The Soul Funk Band.

The music in the lobby was mellow; some contemporary jazz of 94.7 FM the Wave kind of flow. We talked about a whole lot of stuff over some drinks and good, delicious dishes -- college football, the Nigeria 2009 FIFA U-17 World Cup played in several Nigerian cities, the Orange CAF Championship, Nollywood and African films, Naija politics, Igbo Diaspora, Fela, President Barack Obama's visit to China and M-Net Face of Africa's new season, among others -- becoming one of those evening happenings around my neck of the woods.

Surprisingly, Ebere first raised the issue of Los Angeles Times' veteran music critic, Robert Hilburn's new book, "Corn Flakes with John Lennon and other Tales From Rock 'n' Roll Life." I did not read the book, but I did comb some pages about three weeks ago, I believe, at Borders, while cooling off from a bumper-to-bumper, crazy-dubby Los Angeles traffic. Frankly speaking, I was never a Lennon fan and that does not mean he was not good, but I did love the Beatles'years when the incredibly Liverpool kids -- Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr -- had it going on with a lasting blast that rocked America in the 60s.

Ebere, who loves the Beatles, also, gave most credits to Lennon he said "made it happen for the Liverpool kids." I'm not really sure, though, I did not know Lennon's mom left him (Lennon) in a relatives care for much of his childhood...and reunited when Lennon was in his teens until Ebere gisted us on the excerpts he read from the L.A. Times. I agree with Ebere that the Beatles' years was what changed America and the concept of rock and roll.

On college football, it's obvious no one liked the goings-on with USC's football program this season and a little bit not impressed, he said "all but full of uncertainties with a team that has gone through a whole lot including scandals, on and off campus." Not bad, since USC has lost only two games at the time of the Culver Club Chit-Chats. Coach Pete Carroll's choice of a freshman quaterback as starter was not what we wholly talked about, but that of the offensive and defensive linemen. And what they are saying is that Jethro Franklin's approach has been working wonders for Trojans defense. "I dunno about that."

We talked about college sports in general and how it's good for academia. We talked about how USC has played a very significant role in the renaissance of our hood and Downtown Los Angeles. As one of the nation's finest private research universities, USC is a major contributor to the City of Angel's economic growth, creativity and cultural diversity. An institution that enrolls more international students than any other American university.

We talked about USC being a builder of people and of society with its intellectual capital known to have built enormous bridges. Many of the nation's best doctors, lawyers, judges, teachers, dentists, pharmacists, urban planners, and government officials are USC-trained. Compared to Nigerian universities, he was pissed. Check this out;" he would say. "Last year alone, USC's faculty, staff, students, and friends donated $1.1 million through the USC Good Neigbors Campaign to fund education, health, and safety programs for the 16,000 children who live near USC's campuses or who attend one of the 14 neigborhood schools USC has adopted.

"Does such exist in your fabricated nation-state called Nigeria?" he would question sarcastically. "USC's faculty, staff and students also work as volunteers in these programs, tutoring school children, advising enterpreneurs on business plans, bringing high-schoolers into university labs to do hands-on scientific research, providing dental care for young people, and helping neigborhood kids prepare for college.

"Can you say that about your contry's retarded and ill-equipped higher institutions despite its huge human capital?" he would again utter.

On Nigeria 2009 FIFA U-17 World Cup played in several Nigerian cities, he talked about how technology has significantly changed bringing the world so close to our fingertips. "Without physically being in Nigeria, we watch Nigeria Television Authority news live. We read the newspapers online immediately they are released. We watch the movies -- Nollywood Babylon, Pretty Woman, Secret Fantasy, Yankee Girls, Lord of Host, Sister's Love, Escape, Blood on Ice, Keep My Will, War Game, Extreme Measure, On My Wedding Day, Reloaded, Girl's Cot, Women's Cot, Coincidence, Osuofia in London and uncountable others -- in our living rooms without stepping out.

Ebere was very sure Nigerian Golden Eaglets "will pull that one out," and that the Latin American teams would be the obstacle even though there had been upsets in the First Round of the tournament. "Latin American teams are masters of the game and they do know how to finish," he would lament. Again, that I was not sure for a lot of reasons: time has changed and it is a different era. Ebere was wrong. Latin American teams could not "pull that one out" and the Golden Eaglets lost in the Finals.

On the Orange CAF Championship which I did not pay attention to and never had, he was sure the Owerri Heartland FC will lift the African Championship League trophy and its $1.5m prize tag when Heartland meets Congo DR TP mazembe on a homecourt and away aggregate score saying he has faith in Kelechi Emetole and his boys. Heartland lost. Ebere was wrong.

On Nollywood and African films, he talked about Sophie Okonedo's Anthony Fabian directed movie, "Skin," now showing in select theatres, among them: L.A.'s The Landmark on Pico Boulevard in Westwood. He talked much about how Nollywood did improve in its film editing, score, adaptation and visual effects. He talked about the industry being bent on the same concept in its movie-making, that it needs to drift to more creative stuff to allow room for unversal awareness as in the Oscars and other global film festivals that would enhance Nollywood.

On Naija politics, he talked about why Niger-Delta militants shouldn't have given up arms yet, based on the fact that for fifty years the "damn oil" has been flowing from under the feet of the people to the barren and rat-ridden lands of the murderous, northern Islamic Jihadists. He asked "how could fifty years mean fifty years of misery and hopelessness when our own resources is being used to feed fat the northern caliphates and blood-thirsty cannibals? Enough is enough and the fight must continue."

So pissed on nasty Naija politics, he said Charles Chukwuma Soludo, Anthony Anenih, OBJ, Alex Ekwueme, Andy Uba and a bunch of the raggedy ass politicians are all whack, and it sucks. He talked about how Soludo had been in the nation's political gimmicks.

Soludo, a man of high integrity. A financial scholar. A learned man who could have left the ugly political atmosphere with dignity and honor, but rather reduced himself to mudslinging Anambra politics run by greedy bastards and thuggish elements of Chris Uba's ilk. That Soludo is now akin to Anambra political thugs.

Soludo has become an example of infallible men who had thought they got it all figured out in not realizing they had deliberately opened up their vulnerability to riffraffs who had taken charge, including the "profound laws" of the land in their own hands, and not knowing they will be destroying their character and "political career" in a state of empire and anarchy. Such tragedies follow infallible men when they take their political allies and foes for granted. He is paying the prize and has lost every credit.

Of greed and coercion. A volatile "Anambra State." A people without human consciousness. A confused, infallible Diaspora bunch. A case of sad reality and critical situation where fixing the problems of Anambra could only be done by the people of Anambra; and if they don't, they can go to hell and leave the rest of us out of it. Anambra politics has destroyed every aspect of Igbo ideals one begins to wonder if it's the same Anambra we once knew -- the home of Chinua Achebe, Cyprien Ekwensi, Nwafor Orizu, Louis Mbanefo and the rest.

On Igbo Diaspora, he laughed so hard his ribs began to hurt him. Starting from an impotent World Igbo Congress, he said the bunch and casts of money-chasing, pot-bellied "chiefs," the so-called Igbo umbrella are not real. "These are gullible, vulnerable, crumbs-seeking red cap chiefs of an organization that is desperately going to hell and the only way out being dissolution," he would say. A bunch that has lost touch with reality and had no clue what had been done to them by a mouth-watering, misleading "executives" and "board members" who found it comfortable keeping funny books.

On Fela, the Chief Priest, he hailed Baba for all he did in using his music as a weapon to send his message across, fighting a bastardized and corrupt regimes of the military juntas including the civilian embezzlers. Fela is just king and he has been resurrected by Tony Award winning director, Bill T. Jones in a manner that makes the legend more accessible to Western audiences.

Fela's Broadway resurrection takes the audience into the legendary nightclub, The Shrine, where the musical icon and political activist played for several years, perfecting his music and criticism of the military juntas in a fabricated nation-state.

Ebere recited some of Fela's songs and (he) kept talking about the legend. The spirituality in his perfomances on stage. The invocation of the gods and the evils of colonialism -- all in English, pidgin English and Yoruba. The smoking room and spirits. "Fela's the man, ah, baba!" he would continue.

On M-Net Face of Africa's new season, he called it "Africa's media sensationalism," and that it's all hype which do not take the aspiring models far enough to reach out globally. He said it's only the winners that takes it to another level leaving the runners-up and other contestants abandoned and vanishing to the thin air. He did not go further.

On President Barack Obama's visit to China, he brought up the president's half brother, Mark Okoth Obama Ndesandjo, who lives in China, married to a Chinese and has written a new book "Nairobi to Shenzhen," which is about the author's bad memories of his childhood. Born to the third wife of Barack Obama Sr., President Obama's father, Ndesandjo moved to the United States, earning degrees in physics from Brown University and Stanford, and an MBA from Emory University. He plans to donate 15 percent of the proceeds from the book to a charity for children.

Ebere was so excited about Obama's presidency. "Whoever could have imagined that after all the pains of slavery, the separate but equal laws, the Dred Scott Case, the 1890 Louisiana statute -- Plessy Vs. Ferguson -- the Civil Rights movement and things of that nature, that eventually America will do the right thing -- electing a black president?"

On societal ills and global problems, grand and small, he said "Obama cannot do it alone. He will need the unconditional input of global (political) leaders including religious leaders."

Ebere talked about how we should see the poor and how we need to always start with the poor because they are totally left out in today's society. That the poor aren't in our same networks. That they cannot afford our networks. That they do not belong to councils and committees. That the poor don't have access to anything. School is free and so too are other social programs out there; but the poor do not see it and we must reach out to them for them to have access to all the available social programs and benefits out there in the public.

He talked extensively to near exhaustion about teaching the poor help themselves and not by giving them handouts, which goes with the saying "give me a fish and you feed me for a day; but teach me how to fish and you feed me for life." "We should always try to help the poor help themselves." He summarizes his analysis on the poor quoting Pope John Paul II on the Papal's 1988 Encyclical on social concerns:

"Because of our love of preference for the poor, we cannot but embrace the immense multitudes of the hungry, the needy, the homeless, those without medical care and, above all, those without hope of a better future. It is impossible not to take account of these realities. To ignore them would mean becoming like the 'rich man' who pretended not to know the beggar Lazarus lying at his gate (Luke 16: 19-31).

Unfortunately, instead of becoming fewer, the poor are becoming more numerous, not onl;y in less developed countries but -- and this seems no less scandalous -- in the more developed ones too. It is necessary to state once more the characteristic principle of Christian social doctrine. The goods of this world are originally meant for all. The right to private property is valid and necessary, but it does not nullify the value of this principle."

On suffering and what it means, Ebere came to the fore of the Holy Scriptures with what most of us, if not all, have encountered in life. The question of why me when every other thing is going on well for others while "yours" keeps going down with severe pain and no end in sight. He goes on to lament suffering being punishment for foolish or sinful behavior; or a discipline, an experience from which we can learn and become better persons; or suffering being for the benefit of others, citing running backs, quarterbacks and athletes in general who sacrifice themselves and their own glory for the good of their team; firefighters who risk their lives to save others; and Martin Luther King Jr. who was killed for proclaiming the gospel of justice and freedom, and his witness having significance for all Americans.

He talked about Nelson Mandela and the suffering and sacrifice to free his people from bondage which bordered on understanding the redemptive value of suffering; that is, the idea that the suffering of one person (or group) may benefit many others.

He enumerated a stretch of biblical verses regarding suffering. Among them: Proverbs 11:3; Deautronomy 30: 15-20; Eccl 7:15; Luke13: 1-5; John 9:3; Isaiah 52:13-53:12 and Job 4-37.

He (Ebere) had turned our evening of smooth jazz, lullaby, good feelings and good times into the temple of the Lord, like in a spiritual revival, rejoicing and invoking the name of the Lord. "Jesus is Lord, Amen! Amen!

Finishing his sermons on the Holy Scriptures, he changed the whole subject entirely and talked about what our women are doing to us and what we are in turn doing back to our women. Though I tried not to dabble into what he was about to say regarding the morally outrageous relationships that has become a commonplace thing on the shores of our adopted land -- America -- I asked him if he would marry again since his near fatal bitter divorce.

"Of course, I will marry again, but this time around since I have learned my lessons the hard way, I will keep her ass in my village and she will never smell America, never, and you can quote me on that," he replied.

Ebere's touch was magic but we were kind of getting the buzz when Rudolph chipped in with some more booze as he began to tell his own stories. Rudolph had done all kinds of stuff. He'd sold cars. He'd been Muhammad Ali's special guest when he entertained at Ali's home back in the 70s. He'd played gigs alongside jazz greats -- McCoy Tyner of which he was at backstage when Tyner performed at UCLA's Royce Hall last weekend. He had been everywhere and seen everything. In South Central Los Angeles, back in the 50s, he rolled at then Babe's and Ricky's Club on 50th Street. He's a regular at the historic Leimert Park, the home of World Stage Performing Arts Gallery's jam sessions and voice overs. And according to him, "at 60 I feel great!"

So was such an evening on the Westside around the neck of my woods.


Anonymous said…
Another masterpiece, my brother! Ya gazie!
Emmanuel said…
Ol' boy make u dey yab dem as Fela go say dem be yeye people. make u dey yab them abeg!
Unknown said…
Ambrose, just curious is Fela ur idol?
Unknown said…
Broadway musical shows the importance of Fela and his music. His music lives.
Unknown said…
Broadway musical shows the importance of Fela and his music. His music lives.
Unknown said…
Fela's Broadway musical is good for the promotion of Afro Beat.
Big G said…
Wazzzuuup LA? You guys rock!
Anonymous said…
Apparently you wrote about Niger-Delta militants in this article and they maybe listening to you. The ceasefire now appears to be under threat as army soldiers destroyed the home of one of their commanders.
Anonymous said…
Apparently you wrote about Niger-Delta militants in this article and they maybe listening to you. The ceasefire now appears to be under threat as army soldiers destroyed the home of one of their commanders.
Jeun said…
wetin shenshema mi wo
ago tell u o
ago telu you
you go hear am o
you go say wait me

Obviously the most orinal musical now on Broadway.
Leonard said…
Reading and going through your blog show how independent you are in reporting. You have covered a wide variety of issues from accountability journalism which is gainfull following your analysis and detailed investigative reporting that is declining in our newsrooms. And the problem is the work of newsrooms in our communities are being ignored.

Fela, for instance, no Nigeria news media is taking his Broadway musicals seriously. That tells how timid the Nigerian news media is.

Keep flattering them if you would!
Alphonso said…
What's up with the Obama bow, folks! Is that unAmerican?
Brandon said…
John Lennon thought he was famous than Jesus Christ. No wonder he got shot.
Su Papra said…
Things are really looking up for Broadway musicals with an improved home of selling Fela and Afrobeat. Nice move on the part of the producers and managers.
Ambrose said…
Last night was another hectic jam as yours truly partied all night long. The World Stage Performance Art gallery in Black Township's Leimert Park exploded with casts of the hoodies. D - Black was celebrating his 50th birthday, and, believe me, every poet and performer from around the hood stopped by - stretching from Hollywood.

I hanged out again with basoonist and pianist Rudolph Porter and he did was talk, talk, talk about our recent hangout and the piece that followed. It was a full house.

But anyway, thanks all and I will making a detailed commentary on Fela's Broadway musical; so atay tuned!
Abami Eda said…
"If even only 5000 Nigerians started imitating Fela, it would soon be very chaotic here!"

------Moore & Kamara 1981

Baba lives!
Matt Gibson said…
For Broadway show to portray the life of the late Nigerian multi-instrumentalist and political activist with investments thrown on the line by Jay-Z and Will Smith must be bigger than life.
Ambrose said…

I couldn't have said it better. Someone, I think Georgia said Fela seems to be my idol. Well, for one who grew up in the hippie years, an absolute yes!
Jamie said…
Good this is pointed out. With sahr Ngaugah Fela's show has moved from 299 seats to 1050 and it's spreading fast by word of mouth...
Sikam said…
Sayon Sengbloh plays Sandra Isidore in Fela opening at the Eugene O'Neil Theater on November 23. Cool
Fela Boy said…
Let's pay tribute to chereographer Bill T. Jones, the leading light of American modern dance for bringing Fela back to life. Fela lives!
Anonymous said…
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