Fly Favorites: February 2012

Black Bird Shelia Nutt in 1966. Image source: Parlour Magazine

  • Don + Whitney =

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kv4Cq6yEs-k&feature=youtu.be]

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Parabéns to Carnival Winners Mocidade Alegre + Unidos da Tijuca!

Image: Nacho Doce/Reuters

The 2012 Carnival season in Brazil has ended with a couple of surprising samba school parade winners in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, both of which sported themes from the country’s culture-rich, rain-poor, poverty-stricken Northeast.

Yesterday, Mocidade Alegre took the title at São Paulo’s Sambadrome with a theme honoring prolific Bahian author Jorge Amado and the mystical Afro-Brazilian world evoked in his novel Tent of Miracles. Xangô, the Yoruban deity of fire, opens the presentation with power and glory:

Click here to see photos and video of Mocidade Alegre’s first-place show!

Meanwhile, Unidos da Tijuca won first place in Rio’s Sambadrome today with an homage to popular folk musician and forró king Luiz Gonzaga. The acrobatic rainbow slinky represents the soul of the accordion, Gonzaga’s signature instrument. Very cool:
Click here to see photos and video of Unidos da Tijuca’s win!

Man, I love Carnival!

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It’s Carnival Time

WATCH CARNIVAL IN BRAZIL LIVE! LINKS BELOW.

Yes, my good people, Carnival is this weekend in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo and Salvador and Venice and New Orleans and Barranquilla and Trinidad and Port-au-Prince and Panama City and Santo Domingo and the Canary Islands and anywhere else people go buck wild just before their 40 days of Lenten fasting.

Leading up to the event in Brazil each year, popular TV show Caldeirão do Huck has the queens of each samba school in Rio and São Paulo compete for the title of Carnival Muse (sash, cash and whatnot), one of the few times darker-skinned Brazilian women even appear on television. One of my favorites of all time: Luciana of Rio’s Mangueira samba school, seen here discussing her Carnival diet and the costume designed by her friend and “personal stylist” back in 2009.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Yj1JwARsl0]

Watch live streaming video of the Carnival parades in Brazil:
São Paulo (February 18-19, 9pm ET) (click Desfile Carnaval São Paulo)
Rio de Janeiro (February 20-21, 9pm ET)
Salvador (February 17-21, all day)

Have you been to Carnival?

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5 Things I Like About Atlanta

1. The Skyline
Atlanta’s sparkling skyline stretches over two miles from Midtown to Downtown, a line of striking, gem-cut towers punctuating the Southern sky. Whether it’s heading towards the city along one of Atlanta’s interminable freeways, catching surprising vistas of the array peeking above the treeline, or ambling amongst the towers on a Friday night bar crawl, the commanding presence of the city’s skyscrapers asserts‬—physically and visually, at least—that as a metropolis, Atlanta ain’t no small potatoes.

2. The World’s Largest Hub
Delta Air Lines and AirTran (quickly becoming Southwest) call Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport home, but it’s Delta that is known for its mega-hub at ATL—the world’s largest, with 1,000 daily flights to 215 destinations around the world. As a Southerner, I’ve always been more than a little bit proud of not having to traipse all the way up to New York to access the rest of the globe, and as an airline geek, that’s just a cool fact. I love that Delta’s inspiring presence—“Fly Delta Jets” one vintage billboard reads—is felt throughout the city.

3. The Legacy
There was Selma, there was Montgomery, but Atlanta formed the epicenter of the American Civil Rights Movement that earned equal treatment under the law—on paper, anyway—for the black citizens of this country. The combination of a large and upwardly-mobile black professional class, influential black colleges and universities, and fearless campaigners like MLK set the city aloft as a beacon of black cultural, political, and socioeconomic achievement. It didn’t last (see: integration not exactly being the great societal panacea it was cracked up to be), but the historical legacy—and way more than a few black folks in Benzes—remains.

4. The Food
Say what you will about the healthiness of Southern cooking, soul food, barbecue, and what not, I have but two words to offer you: Waffle House.

5. The Accent
Many of us grew up with the clichéd dichotomy of Scarlett and Mammy informing us of what someone from Atlanta (or a plantation in the immeejit viciniteh might sound like), but anyone who takes the time to actually listen to the fashionable ladies shopping at Phipps Plaza or the round-the-way girls on the MARTA can perceive that native speech patterns include a little bit of both. Living abroad, urban Southern speech (NOT hick tawk, ya heah meh?) is one of the things I miss most about the States and it’s one of the first reminders that I’m back home. It’s just nice, like unlimited refills of sweet tea.

What are the things you like about Atlanta?

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Travel, Inspired by Prince

Princely crown.

The recent, tragic death of cultural steward and soul master Don Cornelius got me thinking heavily about inspiration, so when I ran across this photograph of the unadulterated musical genius Prince as a young man, I knew I had to pay homage to one of the very first popular proponents of out-of-the-box thinking that I ever encountered.

Not only was his music daring, provocative, and unlike anything else played on urban contemporary radio in the ’80s and ’90s, Prince pushed the boundaries of identity and cultural expectation in a way that I could relate to even before realizing it. I was ten years old when Under the Cherry Moon first came on cable TV. Ridiculous script and laughable acting aside (though the “Wrecka Stow” scene is hilarious), it’s the brilliant cinematography, exotic setting (Nice, n’est-ce pas?), and lush, phenomenal score that still makes me want to―just for a moment―run off and be a gigolo on the Riviera.

Let Prince take you on a trip to the Moon:

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Wading in the Waters of Iemanjá

OUR lady.

In Brazil, February 2nd is dedicated in the Catholic tradition to Our Lady of Seafaring, a manifestation of the Virgin Mary who watches over sailors and fishermen. But the larger celebration isn’t of the Catholic saint, but of the Afro-Latin deity Iemanjá, goddess of the two greatest tidal forces on the planet—motherhood and the sea.

Originally part of the Yoruba pantheon of gods—called orishas—Iemanjá (in Portuguese), or Yemayá (in Spanish), was brought over to the Americas by her African devotees during the slave trade and maintains a prominent place among the syncretic religions like Candomblé and Umbanda in Brazil, Santería in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, and Vodou in Haiti. These syncretic religions fuse cultural elements and faith systems from African, indigenous American, and European traditions, and while still ignorantly characterized as witchcraft by some sections of the general population, the fact that homages to the goddess are sometimes held as government-sanctioned events shows just how important non-Christian spiritual traditions remain in Latin American societies. And anyone in the States familiar with that fly, old school salsa from the ’70s ought to have heard Yemayá’s name come up on more than one occasion.

Singing, drumming, dancing, and offerings of food and flowers are made to the goddess year-round (especially in Rio on New Years Eve), but in the Brazilian state of Bahia, where Afro-Brazilian culture is most palpable, February 2nd is Iemanjá’s day.

Observe:

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