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Botswana Bushmen win land after DiCaprio appeal

December 14th, 2006 | No Comments | Posted in Books/Magazines, Charity, Film/Television, General, Politics

Botswana Bushmen await ancestral land decisionEarlier this week the NY Daily News rang the bell on the newest blood diamond match this time between Russell Simmons and Blood Diamond director Ed Zwick. The director’s critisism comes as the latest part of the fallout from Simmons’ fact-finding African diamonds mission. Since last week’s press conference, Russell has been fending off all kinds of hits about what many perceive as his being a puppet for DeBeers. Everyone from the hip-hop press to Rush Limbaugh have an opinion on diamonds now. I think Russell hurt his business more than ever. As Zwick and Simmons continue their match, the winners of the week seem to be Botswana’s Kalahari Bushmen who just won their diamond filled land back from Botswana’s government. It seems they have Leonardo DiCaprio to thank.

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Akon nominated for 2007 Grammy Award

December 7th, 2006 | No Comments | Posted in Events, Film/Television, General, Music

AkonSo word’s in on the 2007 Grammy Awards nominees and my boy Akon is front and center. These are the categories and which he and other African artists have been nominated in. The awards ceremony will be begin at 8pm EST on February 11, 2007 and will be shown live on CBS
* African artists are in red.

Best Rap/Sung Collaboration
(For a Rap/Sung collaborative performance by artists who do not normally perform together. Singles or Tracks only.)
• Smack That
Akon Featuring Eminem
[SRC/Universal Records]

• Deja Vu
Beyoncé Featuring Jay-Z
[Sony Urban Music/Columbia]

• Shake That
Eminem Featuring Nate Dogg
Track from: Curtain Call — The Hits
[Aftermath/Shady/Interscope Records]

• Unpredictable
Jamie Foxx Featuring Ludacris
Track from: Unpredictable
[J Records]

• My Love
Justin Timberlake Featuring T.I.
Track from: FutureSex/LoveSounds
[Jive Records/Zomba Label Group]

Best Traditional World Music Album
(Vocal or Instrumental.)
• Music Of Central Asia Vol. 2: Invisible Face Of The Beloved: Classical Music Of The Tajiks And Uzbeks
The Academy Of Maqâm
[Smithsonian Folkways Recordings]

• Endless Vision
Hossein Alizadeh & Djivan Gasparyan
[World Village]

• Hambo In The Snow
Andrea Hoag, Loretta Kelley & Charlie Pilzer
[Azalea City Recordings]

• Golden Strings Of The Sarode
Aashish Khan & Zakir Hussain
[Moment Records]

• Blessed
Soweto Gospel Choir

Best Contemporary World Music Album
(Vocal or Instrumental.)
• Tiki
Richard Bona

• M’Bemba
Salif Keita

• Wonder Wheel
The Klezmatics
[Jewish Music Group]

• Long Walk To Freedom
Ladysmith Black Mambazo
[Heads Up International]

• Savane
Ali Farka Toure
[World Circuit/Nonesuch]

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African diamond facts according to Russell Simmons

December 6th, 2006 | 2 Comments | Posted in Business, Charity, Events, Fashion, General, Music, Politics, Travel

Russell Simmons at his African diamonds press conference in New YorkAs I mentioned, yesterday I attended Russell Simmons’ press conference to reveal the results of his fact-finding Africa mission. In attendance was Russell Simmons, Dr. Ben Chavis, Kimora Lee Simmons (Russell insisted she’s still his wife), Rev. Run(Run DMC), the Dipset’s “capo” Jim Jones (again I say, WTF does he have to do with diamonds beside speaking ignorantly about it? update: Jim Jones quote below), actor Jeffrey Wright (said to be doing work in Sierra Leone), Scott Rauch (president of Simmons Jewelry Company), and a bunch of DeBeers and World Diamond Council people. I must admit I was still skeptical about the purpose of the trip and what I felt the results would be. From the video released last thursday, I began to have some hopes about the degree to which Russell was going to find the facts and re-enforce my image of him as the godfather/guru extraordinare of our hip hop generation. I went into the conference with an open mind, and looking to hear from Simmons himself that the mission was a successful one. Ultimately I was disappointed by the whole event.

While news sources report about Simmons’ Green Initiative, and (get this) Diamond Empowerment Fund (DEF) , which will “raise money for the development and empowerment of people and communities in Africa where diamonds ar a natural resource”, one key point resounding throughout the press conference was, why didn’t Russell’s entourage visit the countries which are at the heart of the blood diamond debate. As a representative of Global Witness and another reporter (I think she was from AOL Black voices) mentioned, the controversy surrounding diamonds relates more directly to countries like Sierra Leone, Angola, Liberia, and Ivory Coast, none of which were visited by Simmons delegation. Instead the focus of the conference and the trip was on Botswana, South Africa, and Mozambique, three countries which, despite reports of displacement of Native Bushmen in Botswana, have very little to do with the conflict diamonds controversy. It’s like saying there’s no racism in America and pointing to Condoleza Rice as an example. Now, some people would say that these three countries are part of the discussion since their diamond production process is a “role-model” for other diamond producing African countries, but there are still many faults even with that. During his short speech a representative from the Debswana Diamond Company, was reminded by Simmons to disclose to the press that the company at the heart of the “successful” diamond mining in Botswana was a 50/50 ownership with DeBeers, the primary company accused of profiting from the blood diamond trade. Simmons had mentioned earlier in the conference that 85% of Botswana’s profits go back to the people of Botswana for education, AIDS treatment, general health insurance and a good portion of the profits from his Simmons Jewelry Company would be re-directed to “help Africans”. But the question kept coming up; why didn’t the delegation leave the confines of the structured Botswana tour and venture into even the smaller towns within the country where reports of exploitation and human rights abuse were coming from. Couple that with the fact that the Simmons’ DEF fund contribution will go to the same Botswana that they claim is so successful in providing for it’s people and you can see why I’m not convinced.

While I think Simmons, and Chavis can do a great deal of good in Africa, my main concern is with the timing of the whole thing. With all the stories going around and reports of the diamond industry spending $15 million on preemptive measures in regards to the effect of the Blood Diamond movie, I can’t believe that Simmons got himself in the middle of this. True, he has a business to run, AND Amnesty International approached him first, but at least he could have attempted to make the “fact-finding” mission look impartial. Everything about the whole mission pointed to a spin campaign on the part of the diamond industry, to the point where a representative from the World Diamond council got up to make a speech about how they are “appreciative of the attention” the movie has brought on their efforts with the Kimberley Process. Even Russell mentioned that he was happy that Leonardo DiCaprio was talking of not boycotting diamonds. As I exited the press conference I ran into the President of Botswana, Festus Mogae, who had reportedly just taped an interview for the Charlie Rose Show which will air tonight on PBS. Russell, I still have faith in you. Do something to make it right.

Quotes from the conference:
• Russell Simmons:
“My (only) agenda is to uplift African people … and all people”
“(I want to ) help strengthen the Kimberley Process”
“Diamonds empower Africans”

• Dr. Ben Chavis:
“The diamond industry promotes good in Africa”
“(I encourage the media to) get the opinion of people who live and work in Africa”
“…most disturbing thing to me (from the trip) was seeing that the reality (of the African diamond situation) was not being covered (by the media)”

• Scott Rauch
“This continent needs help”

• Sheila Khama (De Beers Botswana Chief Executive)
“Please cut us some slack. A lot of good has happened in Botswana because of diamonds.”

• Jim Jones
“As rappers we spend tens of millions of dollars a year on jewelry alone. Not just me myself, I’m talking about as a general effort. It’s a service that goes back to the African people that’s been mining all the diamonds that we wear. We should learn about purchasing from them, as opposed to just giving everybody our money because we like what we see.” source

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Russell Simmons returns from African trip

December 5th, 2006 | 1 Comment | Posted in Charity, Events, General, Music, Travel

I just got back from Russell Simmons’ press conference for his fact-finding mission to Africa (Mozambique, Botswana, South Africa). All I can say is Jim Jones?!!! WTF does he have to do with anything. More of my reaction later. In the mean time read up on the blood diamond controversy and hear what LA Weekly’s Nikki Finke has to say about the trip.

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Nas shines on with diamonds video

December 4th, 2006 | No Comments | Posted in Charity, Film/Television, General, Music, Politics

Nas, Leonardo DiCaprio in studio - Blood Diamond soundtrack
With a new album nearing release, one of hip-hop’s elder statesmen and baddest lyricists, rhymes about blood diamonds. This video is for the track “Shine On ‘Em” from the Blood Diamond movie soundtrack which Nas is reported to have scored. Good work Nasir. Now you need to let a real Sierra Leonean in on the track. Kanye did.

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Afrobeat’s Tony Allen joins Gorillaz’s Damon Albarn’s new music project

December 4th, 2006 | 1 Comment | Posted in General, Music, Politics

Tony Allen - Fela Kuti's drummerThe Good, The Bad and The Queen is the name of the new supergroup which legendary Nigerian drummer/Afrobeat icon Tony Allen is currently in. Most known as the beat behind Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat sound, Allen has been busy making a name for himself in both the world music and popular music worlds. As a child growing up in Ghana/Liberia Fela Kuti’s music was a staple of any party I went to and Tony Allen’s excellent drumming helped bridge Fela’s sound between traditional African and 70′s soul music (James Brown, Marvin Gaye etc.). Now showing his range and ability to update his African sound, Tony Allen has joined with Damon Albarn (Blur, Gorillazz), Paul Simonon (bassist for The Clash), Simon Tong (guitarist for The Verve), and Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton ( producer for Gorillaz, Danger Doom, Gnarls Barkley, etc ) for the new supergroup.

The project was born in 2004 when Albarn and Tong travelled to Lagos, Nigeria to record with Tony Allen, recording an album’s worth of material with local musicians in the process. The band’s website features some video clips of the group rehearsing, as well as the an initial single from the CD (“Herculean”), which is available for free download. The self-titled album is due out January 2007.

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Video of Russell Simmons’ African diamond trip

December 1st, 2006 | 1 Comment | Posted in Business, General, Music, Politics, Travel

Russell Simmons in Botswana, AfricaHip-Hop mogul Russell Simmons touched down in South Africa on Monday without his rumored love interest supermodel Petra Nemcova and immediately released a statement about his fact-finding tour. “I am here because the most important and powerful Muslim minister and the most important and powerful Jewish Rabbi I have met in my lifetime – The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and Rabbi Marc Schnier – both, individually, told me to come here,” Simmons told in a statement. From South Africa Mr. Simmons traveled to Botswana and visited the Jwaneng Diamond Mine, the largest and richest diamond mine in the world by value, with Dr. Benjamin Chavis who is part of the fact finding mission. Upon returning to the United States, on December 5th Simmons is scheduled to hold a press conference at New York City’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel at 2 p.m. There, along with wife (or is it ex-wife) Kimora Lee Simmons, Scott Rauch (both co-owners of Simmons Jewelry Company a partnership with DeBeers) and Dr. Benjamin Chavis (co-chairman of Simmons’ Hip-Hop Summit Action Network), Simmons will “announce major historic initiatives pertaining to Africa and the diamond industry.” Let’s hope so. I’ve already expressed my initial opinion about the trip, but as always am hoping he proves me wrong.

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The Independent names 50 best African artists

December 1st, 2006 | 1 Comment | Posted in Art, Books/Magazines, Fashion, Film/Television, General, Music, Politics

K'NaanThis is an excellent article from today’s Independent newspaper. As part of the World AIDS day Product (RED) issue, the article emphasizes the importance of African cultural expression.

“African leaders need to be more conscious of the role that culture can play, particularly economically. Many Western economies – such as Britain – have benefited hugely from the showbusiness and music sector. It generates huge amounts of money and provides significant opportunities to work. Everyone in Africa – whether a politician, musician or businessman or woman – needs to appreciate the role that culture can play in our development.”

The full list is below and the full article is here

The 50 greatest cultural figures shaping a continent
• Oga Steve Abah, Playwright (Nigeria)
• Chinua Achebe, Author (Nigeria)
• David Adjaye, Architect (Tanzania)
• Newton Aduaka, Film Director (Nigeria)
• Mahmoud Ahmed, Musician (Ethiopia)
• Ama Ata Aidoo, Playwright (Ghana)
• Amadou And Mariam, Musicians (Mali)
• Ayi Kwei Armah, Author (Ghana)
• Les Ballets Africains, Dancers And Musicians (Guinea)
• Biyi Bandele, Author (Nigeria)
• Sokari Douglas Camp, Artist (Nigeria)
• Boyzie Cekwana, Choreographer And Dancer (South Africa)
• Souleymane Cisse, Film Director (Mali)
• Lueen Conning, Playwright (South Africa)
• Tsitsi Dangarembga, Author (Zimbabwe)
• Toumani Diabate, Musician (Mali)
• Dilomprizulike, Artist (Nigeria)
• Cesaria Evora, Singer (Cape Verde)
• Samuel Fosso, Photographer (Cameroon)
• Flora Gomes, Film Director (Guinea-Bissau)
• Pierre Atepa Goudiaby, Architect (Senegal)
• Mahamat Saleh Haroun, Film Director (Chad)
• Delia Jarrett-Macauley, Author (Sierra Leone)
• Salif Keita, Musician (Mali)
• Khaled, Musician (Algeria)
• Abdoulaye Konate, Artist (Mali)
• Konono No 1, Musicians (Congo)
• Femi Kuti, Musician (Nigeria)
• Faustin Linyekula, Choreographer And Dancer (Congo)
• Vincent Mantsoe, Choreographer And Dancer (South Africa)
• Zola Maseko, Film Director (South Africa)
• Souad Massi, Singer (Algeria)
• Youssou N’dour, Musician (Senegal)
• Kettly Noel, Choreographer And Dancer (Haiti/Mali)
• Idrissa Ouedraogo, Film-Maker (Upper Volta/Burkina Faso
• Tracey Rose, Artist (South Africa)
• Ibrahim El Salahi, Artist (Sudan)
• Ousmane Sembene, Film-Maker (Senegal)
• Abderrahmane Sissako, Film Director (Mauritania/Mali)
• Wole Soyinka, Dramatist, Novelist, Poet (Nigeria)
• Rachid Taha, Musician (Algeria)
• Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, Author (Kenya)
• Tinariwen, Musicians (Mali)
• Rokia Traore, Musician (Mali)
• Binyavanga Wainana, Author (Kenya)
• Zola, Musician (South Africa)
• Athol Fugard, Playwright (South Africa)
• K’naan, Rapper (Somalia)
• Oumou Sy, Fashion Designer (Senegal)

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Today is World Aids Day

December 1st, 2006 | No Comments | Posted in Books/Magazines, Charity, Events, General, Music, Politics

Today is World AIDS day and The RED campaign continues it’s campaign.


The Independent World AIDS Day  Project (RED)issue

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Blood Diamond NY premiere

December 1st, 2006 | No Comments | Posted in Charity, Events, Film/Television, General, Politics

Djimon Hounsou, Jennifer Connoley, Leonardo DiCaprio at Blood Diamond NY screeningLast night (November 30th) the Museum of Modern Art in New York hosted a screening of the new movie “Blood Diamond” starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou, And Jennifer Connelly. Despite the serious nature of the movie and the controversy surrounding it, the screening was reported to be a very festive one. I wonder if Sorious Samura, the Award-winning Sierra Leonean filmographer and who was the primary consultant for the movie was in attendance. Mr. Samura’s movie “Cry Freetown” was a major inspiration for director Ed Zwick’s (“Glory”, The Last Samurai”) “Blood Diamond” movie. The movie will be released on December 8th.
More pictures

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