Blog Archives

Monday Morning Music: Jungle

I LOVE dance music videos. Yes to the vintage Adidas. Yes to the fresh choreography. Yes to the perfect medium for showcasing dance and the music that moves hips.

Here’s one of my favorites from 2014: Busy Earnin’ by a group called Jungle. The song is fantastic and the video is so simple yet so effective. Just a group of hip hop dancers in an empty warehouse space, but oh how mesmerizing.

Jungle are known for their dance videos, most notably Platoon, which featured six-year old dancer, Terra, as well as The Heat, with its skating duo known as High Rollaz. Jungle are a two-man British collective that’s only been around since 2013, but their self-titled debut album – released in the middle of 2014 – is a confident, funky mix of midtempo numbers. Already nominated for a Mercury Prize, they’re part of the modern soul resurgence going on in the UK at the moment. Not as pop as Sam Smith or Naughty Boy, but more accessible than SOHN, Glass Animals and the red hot FKA Twigs.

You can check out all of Jungle’s videos at:

http://junglejunglejungle.com/

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THEROCKMOM SUPERLATIVES: My Most Popular Post

After five years of posts – music-related, parenting-related, Hong Kong-related, comedic, serious, somewhere in between – my most-read post remains this one. It didn’t require any research or interviews, no field work, no iTunes purchases. Just over 500 words about how I spent an afternoon at my girls’ school. In terms of page views, it’s received almost twice as many as the next most popular read, American Village Idiot: Green Day in Hong Kong.
 
I don’t know why this post touched a chord with readers, but it did. I suppose that’s what we’re all looking for when we write – that satisfying moment when we put in to words what we’re feeling and we find out others feel the same.
 
Thanks for looking back with me this week and thanks always for your support. Have a good weekend!
 

The Serious Business of Talent Shows

It was one of those lump in your throat moments. A flashback to my younger self and a bittersweet flash forward of a young girl growing up in front of my eyes.

It was my daughter’s talent show.

The Year 5 and 6 talent show was not meant for parents. But I happened to be at school that day helping in my younger daughter’s class, so I asked my older daughter’s teacher if I could quietly perch in a corner of the hall for the show.

The group of five girls was dancing to (oh, irony) Lady Gaga’s ‘Just Dance’. One of the girls, who goes to a hip-hop class, had choreographed the routine. There was considerable back and forth about costumes: black t-shirts, jean shorts check. Hair up, hair down? Baseball caps on or off?

They had discussed and rehearsed during lunchtimes and breaks. We parents had nothing to do with this performance at all. We didn’t even have to arrange carpools!

When I told my daughter I might pop in to watch she didn’t seem to mind. When I asked her if I could bring along a big poster a la American Idol and yell out some whoop-whoops, she screamed and pummeled me with her fists.

‘What?’ I asked, ‘You don’t want me to embarrass you?’

She screamed louder. I promised to behave.

The show began with a group of Y6 girls sort of dancing, not quite karaoke’ing, but mouthing the words to ‘Fireflies’ by Ocean Eyes. Their teacher sat near me, reminding her students in the audience to show ‘big smiles’ and ‘encouragement’ and clap for those courageous kids on stage.

The acts that followed – a tap dancing duo, a drum solo and a comedy skit (boys in crazy wigs, always good for a laugh) – revealed an earnestness and seriousness of purpose that can still surprise me. Maybe the joy is in finishing?

It was now the Ladies GaGa’s turn. My daughter and the choreographer took the front two spots while the other three (taller) girls stood behind. Turns out the back three didn’t know the routine quite as well, and they spent a good portion of the dance giggling at each other and trying to catch up.

But those front two? Man, they owned it.

They sang along and danced with confidence, wonderfully free and unembarrassed. The steps were simple hip-hop moves – neither raunchy nor suggestive – and everyone clapped when it was over.

My daughter is changing so much. I turn around and her new self appears before me, taller than yesterday and oh so competent.

Many years ago, my friend, Christine Chapa, and I danced to “Night Fever’ at our elementary school talent show. We wore pink shorts and t-shirts with our names ironed on the back. I remember walking home from school that day under a brilliant blue sky. I still had my costume on, and I felt like a fluffy white cloud up there.

At my daughter’s show, I felt the same high. I also felt my eyes moisten, and I wondered why I get so emotional.

But right at the end, I managed a slightly muffled whoo-hoo!

Monday Morning Music: Das Fluff

There’s music for the country, music for the city, music for driving the open road and music for riding the subway, music for day and music for night. If you’re in the mood for some cool urban, night time tunes, look no further than Das Fluff. They’re a British group and they’re not easy to categorize. You could file them under electronica, dance, punk, goth, alternative and be correct on all counts.

I had the pleasure of meeting them last time they were in Hong Kong (read about it here), and have been listening to their latest release over the last few weeks. There’s a gritty, filmic quality to Das Fluff music – makes me want to grab a camera, go out and film the shit out of neon streets and questionable alleyways. The new album, Meditation and Violence, is a great soundtrack for urban dislocation and alienation, where edgy songs like ‘Drop Break Slip Crash’ and ‘100%’ share space with the icy and beautiful ‘Moonsong’ (my favorite on the album).

Not surprisingly, Das Fluff has a large following in Japan. ‘Tokyo Daisuki’, an industrial ode to all things Nippon, came out last year but is on the new album. Here’s the video:

Das Fluff are currently on tour in the UK, supporting Lydia Lunch, but if you can’t make a gig, you can preview the entire album by clicking here.

Check them out and tell me what you think!

Embrace the Dance

Let’s begin with a little lyrical inspiration, courtesy of a short-lived but lovely television show called ‘Bunheads’. Watch this with your child, it’s beautiful. Then keep reading, then watch this again, because you’ll want to.

I think I’m back. Well, the kids are in school, I’m writing, editing, organizing carpools, meal planning, all the stuff we’re lucky enough to take a break from over the summer. Honestly, having your parents cook and buy groceries when you’re visiting is heaven on earth.

We had a wonderful summer, even if it involved a lot of schlepping around the States on the family roadshow. But the trip made me appreciate how: 1. it’s impossible to get tweens to function before noon; 2. a fast rollercoaster can actually make you cry with laughter; and 3. country-hiphop as a genre (aka ‘Cruise’ by Florida Georgia Line) is just a really, really bad idea.

I also realized that my kids are becoming these people who are amazing and funny and wonderful to be around. I know I’m gushing here, but it’s true. They’ve always been like that  (she says humbly), it’s just that growing up has a wonderful way of banishing those obstacles – car seats, potty training, sippy cups – that can often get in the way of enjoying them as people. We still have our battles, don’t get me wrong, but we’ve hit our stride as a family and it is a delight. I keep saying to EO and YO, ‘You know you can be 10 for as long as you want’ or ‘Why don’t you stay 12 for like 3 more years.’ That would be fine with me.

In a similar vein (bear with me here), lately I’ve had several conversations with Moms about ballet. Their daughters are three, four years old and are keen to take ballet lessons. What’s interesting is that, as we talk, these Moms sound somewhat embarrassed, as if they should apologize for their daughters being girly. That maybe there’s something old-fashioned or retro (and not in a cool Mad Men kind of way) about pink leotards and tights and buns. Not ‘unfeminine’ so much as ‘unfeminist’.

Mind you, most of my friends are sporty types. And my daughters and their friends are all athletic. But my EO took ballet for eight years and she loved it. And I loved being a dance mom. Man, I could put together an awesome bun, I tell you. EO has stepped away from ballet this year to focus on swimming and I feel a little sad that she won’t get the chance to dance. For her, I think, it was 45 minutes twice a week of pure simplicity. One teacher, a bare studio, music, and a small group of girls – friends from different schools – skipping and sashaying and leaping across the floor. How many of us get to enjoy that on a regular basis?

When YO was taking hip hop a couple years back, we went to the Christmas recitals and got to see the kids perform a whole range of styles: tap, classical, lyrical, jazz, street. I always marveled at the older girls who just threw themselves in to their modern dance routines. They ranged in age from 14 to 18, and they weren’t all tall, willowy types. They were good, but to be honest, we were never going to see them on ‘So You Think You Can Dance’. But, you know what? That didn’t matter. Dance is one of those things, like singing, that the amateur can embrace as much as the professional. Fully committed, free of doubt or self-consciousness, these girls felt the music; they owned their emotion. And as I watched them, I felt like something was right with the world. That it wasn’t uncool for young girls to express their angst or joy or confusion with step-hops, grapevines and jazz hands. With contemporary routines choreographed to pop songs. With the everlasting, life-affirming idea to turn to your friend and say, ‘Let’s make up a dance!’

So, I tell you sporty/strong/modern Moms out there, embrace the tutu! Let your daughter dance! Self-expression, like a 60 mph rollercoaster, is good for the soul.

The Serious Business of Talent Shows

It was one of those lump in your throat moments. A flashback to my younger self and a bittersweet flash forward of a young girl growing up in front of my eyes.

It was my daughter’s talent show.

The Year 5 and 6 talent show was not meant for parents. But I happened to be at school that day helping in my younger daughter’s class, so I asked my older daughter’s teacher if I could quietly perch in a corner of the hall for the show.

The group of five girls was dancing to (oh, irony) Lady Gaga’s ‘Just Dance’. One of the girls, who goes to a hip-hop class, had choreographed the routine. There was considerable back and forth about costumes: black t-shirts, jean shorts check. Hair up, hair down? Baseball caps on or off?

They had discussed and rehearsed during lunchtimes and breaks. We parents had nothing to do with this performance at all. We didn’t even have to arrange carpools!

When I told my daughter I might pop in to watch she didn’t seem to mind. When I asked her if I could bring along a big poster a la American Idol and yell out some whoop-whoops, she screamed and pummeled me with her fists.

‘What?’ I asked, ‘You don’t want me to embarrass you?’

She screamed louder. I promised to behave.

The show began with a group of Y6 girls sort of dancing, not quite karaoke’ing, but mouthing the words to ‘Fireflies’ by Ocean Eyes. Their teacher sat near me, reminding her students in the audience to show ‘big smiles’ and ‘encouragement’ and clap for those courageous kids on stage.

The acts that followed – a tap dancing duo, a drum solo and a comedy skit (boys in crazy wigs, always good for a laugh) – revealed an earnestness and seriousness of purpose that can still surprise me. Maybe the joy is in finishing?

It was now the Ladies GaGa’s turn. My daughter and the choreographer took the front two spots while the other three (taller) girls stood behind. Turns out the back three didn’t know the routine quite as well, and they spent a good portion of the dance giggling at each other and trying to catch up.

But those front two? Man, they owned it.

They sang along and danced with confidence, wonderfully free and unembarrassed. The steps were simple hip-hop moves – neither raunchy nor suggestive – and everyone clapped when it was over.

My daughter is changing so much. I turn around and her new self appears before me, taller than yesterday and oh so competent.

Many years ago, my friend, Christine Chapa, and I danced to “Night Fever’ at our elementary school talent show. We wore pink shorts and t-shirts with our names ironed on the back. I remember walking home from school that day under a brilliant blue sky. I still had my costume on, and I felt like a fluffy white cloud up there.

At my daughter’s show, I felt the same high. I also felt my eyes moisten, and I wondered why I get so emotional.

But right at the end, I managed a slightly muffled whoo-hoo!