Friday, March 23, 2012

Arts Arcata! Busking everywhere. Arts and Music Behind the Redwood Curtain

As the the sun falls behind the trees, The plaza comes alive. The art is hung everywhere. There are wonderful smells in the air, from fresh baked goods to the pungent smell of garlic and Italian spices.  Merchants set out trays of cheese, crackers, fresh vegetables, and small delights for customers. Non profits set up tables full of local wines for donation.

At 6 pm the streets fill with community and for a few hours a overwhelming sense of joy falls on the city and its people. Worries are forgotten, connections are made and friendships are renewed.  The cultural event is one of the highlights of humboldt life. A social event where people of all ages, beliefs, politics, and classes come together to enjoy the moment.

On any other day, The city can enforce its ordinance against drumming and street performances but this night all is forgiven and music is welcome and invited by local merchants.  Musicians scramble to find a corner, a doorway, or a retail shop where they can play. Each setting out a open guitar case or hat hoping to entertain the crowd and for a dollar here and there.

Veterans for peace and the women in black protest the war, standing on their corner. arms distance from one another facing Bank of America and the local bakery in silence. Edna lou,rolls into town, she is a old 1960's School bus converted into a mobile tea house. Her owner quickly sets up shop, heating a hot pot of water. Tea is free and there's no catch other than there are no to go cups. Visitors crowd around,  and with a warm smile, He lovingly offers steaming hot mugs of herbal tea to anyone regardless of class. The hot beverage warms the hands, taking the edge off the cold. Holding no expectations, asking nothing in return except, enjoy the tea and return the mug. Recipients of this simple gesture slowly sip their tea and chat, exchanging a few words of kindness.

It is touching to see community members compassionately engage each other passing hugs and small talk as they wander the street, checking out the food, art and music, while grabbing a little nosh here and there. It is the one night in Arcata where on a communal level, it seems all is forgiven between rivals. Lovers hold hands and passions ignite the very air we breathe with wondrous possibilities and sweet hope. God I love Arcata, This is my home and these are my people. We have very strong opinions when it comes to economics, politics and our rights, It is good to know that culture can bring us together and heal any slights at least one night a month, rain or shine. Arcata is a beautiful place to live with small town values and a big heart. I will live here till my last breath. It is home. 

Meklit Hadero: Arts and Music Behind the Redwood Curtain

I had the pleasure last night of seeing Meklit Hadero perform at the Arcata Playhouse. Born in Ethiopia, she grew up in Iowa, New York, and Florida. After studying political science at Yale, she moved to San Francisco. Hadero became deeply involved with the Red Poppy Art House for a few years while she learned all the elements of show production and performed regularly fine tuning her craft and sound. 

The Red Poppy Art House was established in 2003 as a neighborhood micro-center for artistic and intercultural life in San Francisco. Operating from an urban storefront of 650 square feet, it seeks to demonstrate the unique, powerful and irreplaceable capacity of small and intimate spaces, charting the course for an alternative model for community engagement in the arts - Red poppy art house

Hadero is a Singer and a poet, blending elements of Ethiopian, soul, jazz, and hip hop.  Her voice is smooth and controlled rolling into a tenor pulsating vibrato. With a slight crisp gesture, a nod, a count, her fellow musicians respond to her as if they were the heartbeat in her chest and blood pulsing through her veins. She took us all on a journey from her birth place of Ethiopia back to the US and ending in back in Ethiopia.   

Hadero is leading a Social project in Africa that touches musicians in 11 countries that run along the Nile. The Nile is one of the world's great waterways. It is one of the most culturally significant natural formations in human history. Flowing northward from remote sources in the mountains of Ethiopia and central Africa and draining into the Mediterranean Sea.

Despite sharing a river, these countries do not share music.  Hadero has started the Blue Nile project to  change that. (Check out the video The Blue Nile Project ) In February of this year Hadero and her project partner Egyptian ethnomusicologist,  Mina Girgis completed a successful Kickstarter campaign for the first leg of the Nile project. They raised $11,192 for the April 2012 trip to the nile to scout for musicians for the second phase of the project.  Hadero received a Ted Senior Fellowship for this project. She will be attending four TED conferences over the next two years. She is in the company of many other inspiring fellows. The TED Fellows program brings young innovators from around the world into the TED community in order to amplify the impact of their projects and activities.

Constantly moving forward, Hadero just completed another musical project, a Ethiopian Hip-Hop Space Opera known as CopperWire’s Earthbound. The album is due to release on April 17th on Porto Franco Records. This album was a collaboration between Appsynth Media, Gabriel Teodros, Burntface, Chris Coniglio, and Hadero, with star sounds from NASA. She describes this album as a new direction in her exploration of music.

The morning after the concert I had the pleasure of interviewing the artist. In the next few weeks the video of this interview will appear on Humboldt's own Access Humboldt TV.  Eloquent and soft spoken, Hadero shared about her musical journey and the work it has taken to get to this place in her life. When I asked her what one piece of advice she had for other musicians and artists She said "Whatever you want to do in life, go hard, dont stop..."

To learn more about Meklit Hadero go to
More You tube Videos:

Links of interest:
Red Poppy Art House (415) 826-2402

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Karen Savoca and Pete Heitzman - Art and Music Behind the Redwood Curtain

I have never been to a private house concert. At first, I felt a bit awkward in this home settled in the hills of Humboldt. From the outside the home appeared humble and small, the inside was a recently remodeled designers dream with a large, single level, open floor plan perfect for a cradle to grave home. Perfectly polished light pine everywhere, hard wood floors and huge picture windows overlooking the bay. A stage had been setup in a alcove off of the living room, that seemed made for a small stage area.

As people settled in, a friendly loving peace came over the room, old friends greeted each other and introduced new. The hosts served little plates of gourmet cheese and crackers, local brews and wine. The sound man slipped into the corner and local Americana-folk singer-songwriter Jan Bramlett and bassist Craig Carroll stepped on the stage. The two put on a terrific opening set sharing really sweet original tunes. Carroll is a lively multi -instrumentalist. Bramlett is quite the storyteller about her humboldt life in Manilla where she serves on the community services board.  The two can regularly be found playing at Old Town Coffee & Chocolates and at the Wine Spot in Eureka. 

After a brief intermission New Yorkers, Karen Savoca and Pete Heitzman took their places on stage. Savoca behind a large drum and Heitzman at the acoustic guitar. Savoca easily transitioned from a sexy powerful rasp to her voice in one song to a voice gentle and soft in tone, drippy and smooth in the next. She carried us on a lyrical spiritual-like journey through the night. The song "Last night on Earth" off her new album Promise, had me in very deep thought. It reached a part of me deep to the heart.

Savoca first met Pete Heitzman at a jam session and she immediately recognized him as an ideal musical partner. His playing comfortably wraps itself around her words.  Heitzman is clearly a well seasoned guitarist. He bent the strings of his guitar in ways that are typically reserved for a stratocaster electric guitar creating mind blowing sounds that are a harmonic complement to Savoca's beautiful voice. Their web site bio describes Heitzmans playing as transcendent, with a broad pallet of tones and textures, he paints ideal landscapes for Savoca's engaging songs." I wholeheartedly agree.

Between songs the two told stories and joked with the audience. Overall the music of Savoca and Heitzman reminded me of sweet sticky honey comb stolen fresh from a old oak in a meadow on a breezy warm summers day.  I loved every minute of the concert, When these two come back to Humboldt and play a larger venue, find them, It will be a concert not to be missed.

For more information on Karen and Pete check out their web site at

Monday, March 12, 2012

Tony Furtado and Luke Price: Arts and Music Behind the Redwood Curtain

On Sunday night I walked into the concert hall eagerly anticipating the show. I was not disappointed. Audience members were treated to a stellar performance of original bluegrass and Americana Music.  Tony Furtado is a two time national champion on the American banjo. He also plays the slide guitar and is a singer/songwriter. He was joined on stage by two-time national fiddle champion Luke Price.  Price has been a fiddle teacher and has played with several Portland based bands.

The Humbrews concert hall is on the short list of favorite venues to take in the best music Humboldt has to offer. Only 35 to 45 people attended the event. It was competing against the opening premiere of a documentary about Judi Bari and Darryl Cheney, community activist and that event was sold to capacity two nights in a row. I have often found that Sunday night events in Arcata are intimate and filled with  devout music fans of our community. Typically we are catching a great act taking a day of rest before cruising the 101 to greater venues in large metropolitan areas. The intimate experience this affords is unsurpassed.

The men riveted the audience as they sang in perfect silky harmony spinning tales of life, love, and woe. I felt like I was taken on a emotional journey through the night. Fingers and bow seemed to flow like magic over the strings. Each song building on the next, the music was pure artistry.  At one point in the night Fertado said "You are all so polite, We have played alot of rowdy roadhouses on this tour"  Feeling the community vibe, Furtado and Price came off the stage for the last two songs.  We were asked us to pull our chairs closer. We were encouraged to join with them on the songs chorus.  Audience members were eager to do so and remarkably we sounded like the choir for these amazing troubadours of blue grass and Americana music.

Furtado was born in Oakland, California. He studied art and music at Cal State Hayward. He currently resides in Portland, Oregon. He first picked up a banjo at 6 years old and never put it down. Luke is originally from Idaho and also resides in Portland, Oregon. The two are on tour and have a marathon of St Paddy day events planned at establishments in their home town. To date Furtado has close to one dozen recorded albums. Furtado easily reminds me of Ry Cooder and other seasoned blue grass and Americana musicians I have come to appreciate on my musical journey.

For booking this duo can be found at

For more about Tony Check out his web site at

Tour dates can be found at:

A bio and detailed review of Tony Furtado can be found on wikipedia

Friday, March 9, 2012

Joshua Boronkay: Humboldt Music Behind the Redwood Curtain

On Sunday March 4th, I walked into a concert called Monsters of Folk not exactly sure what I was in for, The three players were Berel Alexander, Joshua Boronkay and Cyber Camel. All excellent musicians in their own right but each very different from one another. I had a wonderful time sharing a slice of life with this thoughtful, articulate storyteller who charmed the audience with his original lyrics and sound. Boronkay easily tells intimate stories of life, love,and loss openly sharing his vulnerability and passion. Near the end of his set he called the band from Cyber Camel up on stage with him and easily went from folk to funk bringing the entire audience to their feet filling the dance floor.

Jaoshua Boronkay, Arcata Playhouse 3.4.12
Joshuah Boronkay graduated from Humboldt State University with a music major in Bass. He played with Berel Alexander and the Bucky Walters band for a few years. He now lives in Oakland and has been singing with the Oakland interfaith choir while developing his solo sound. He recently traveled to Los Angeles where he recorded his first EP .His vocals are strong and inviting. He has a unique sound and has clear pitch, and tight control of his voice. My prediction is that this gentleman is one to watch in the years to come.

Boronkay is putting out songs he has written with the intent of exempting himself from any genre outside of being a songwriter and singer. He will be releasing an Americana EP, then an indie-pop release and finally a big production blues/funk release.There is no doubt this entertainer can easily fill a room. He has and will find a passionate and dedicated fan base. You can friend him on Facebook.
For booking or press you can contact him at: joshuaboronkay @ gmail . com
Check out more of his sound

To contact for booking:
joshuaboronkay @ gmail . com

Berel Alexander and the LowDown: Humboldt Music Behind the Redwood Curtain

Video shot by Bob Doran of the North Coast Journal                            Berel Alexander, Photo taken by John Chapman

Humboldt Behind the Redwood Curtain: 
Berel Alexander and the LowDown

Six years ago I slipped into my local coffee house on open mike night. A fresh faced young teen was on stage singing original lyrics with a mature vibe. I have had the pleasure of watching the development of this singer and song writer. His message is clear and consistent speaking to love, current issues and positivity. He regularly travels with his 9 piece band, The Lowdown across the country entertaining the masses.

If you want to smile from ear to ear, be sure to check out the last video on this post. "So good to be alive" is a beautiful happy moment caught at the Zoo, a recording studio. The song is a reminder to just take life as it comes and celebrate what you have, A message we can all relate to.

Berel has built a strong Northern California fan base since the 2009 release of his debut album, Hooked. He is poised to be a breakout musical act of 2012. His musical influences range from 1970's soul and R&B, to folk giants like James Taylor, and all the way to modern neo-soul and hip-hop.

In 2010, he won the Malibu Music Awards "Unplugged" category for his catchy love song, "Started With A Handshake". Most recently Berel and the vibe-y backing band performed at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, where he played a sold-out show. Alexander is currently in the studio recording tracks for his next release, an EP titled, All Over It, as well as developing music for the upcoming independent feature film, Messina High.

The handsome hipster soulfully crafts his message of peace, positivity and social justice. Berel has been supportive of local charitable events. One of these events has been organized by the bands own Brian Swizlow, keyboard player. Will jam for food is a series of collaborative music events held at the Red Fox in Eureka. The events raise canned food donations for the children served by Food for People food bank in Eureka. Berel is a independent thinking, counter-culture folk-indie musician with a creative, intelligent  witty banter. He can easily fill a room and get fans to their feet, dancing to his affirmative groove.

To check out more on Berel Alexander and his ensemble go to: