Coming Summer 2013 – AfterSix Productions to Release “What Love Is”

A6PI have been waiting a LONG time to make this announcement. Finally, AfterSix Productions (A6P) will be blessing us with the long-awaited release What Love Is, a collection of smooth grooves and tight vocals centered around love and relationships.

I first introduced you to What Love Is back in March 2012 (Read Mr. Fresh and The Sunday Soundtrack) when I wrote about Mr. Fresh, one half of the A6P team. DBassist rounds out this talented duo of musicians and music producers.

Aside from the music itself, I appreciate the title of the release. Instead of exploring the question “What Is Love?” the project gives us a bold statement of the answer. In other words, it’s time to stop seeking and start embracing the answer to the question. According to Mr. Fresh, the release counters the “forlorn, negative” messages of today’s love songs and brings a “positive and uplifting” voice to the project.

That’s all I have to say about What Love Is…for now! Check out A6P on Facebook, Twitter (@a6productions), and YouTube, where you can find promos and teasers like the ones below. I hope to sit down with these two masters of music production for an interview that I will gladly share with the This and That crew. And of course, we will spotlight What Love Is with a full review after its release. Summer 2013 – find out What…Love…Is…

I can’t wait!

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A Father’s Day Tribute

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My Dad, Edward Campbell

This is a reprint of an original article from my June 12, 2011 column on MortarNBrique.

Years ago, my sister, my best friend and I were in the car with my parents, on our way to dinner on Mother’s Day. R&B favorite “I’ll Always Love My Mama” by The Intruders was playing on the radio. We thought of all the different songs dedicated to mothers, and when I asked what song was written for fathers, there was a brief pause and then the three of us said simultaneously, “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone,” chuckling at our answer. But in all seriousness, there is less of an effort to give Father’s Day the same attention as Mother’s Day. Perhaps it is the difference in the roles mothers and fathers play in the family, or maybe the absence of fathers in many households. I am not here to speculate on the state of fatherhood. I just want to spend a few moments honoring my father.

I do not take for granted the fact that my parents were in an almost 50-year marriage and that I was a Daddy’s girl to the bone! Edward Campbell was born in Harlem Hospital in NYC on December 13, 1933, but shortly afterward moved with his parents to their home in Richmond, Virginia, where he stayed until he graduated from high school and went into the US Air Force. He and my mother met when my maternal grandfather pastored the church Daddy and his family attended in Richmond. They ended up in New York City after Daddy was discharged from the service and when my mother came up North to attend nursing school. Here our family’s New York roots were planted.

My father worked for the US Postal Service for over 40 years. He was a faithful and active member of the church, serving at various times as a Steward, Trustee and Church Treasurer. He had a beautiful baritone voice, and could croon with the likes of Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra and Billy Eckstine. But most of all, my Daddy was my superhero, the smartest man I knew, my friend, and the first man who ever loved me. His death in 2006 was a blow I only recovered from because of God’s divine comfort and protection for the baby I was carrying in my womb – the baby who would have been his first grandchild, my son Izzy. Growing up, I felt sorry for Daddy because he had two daughters and no sons, so I was always hanging out with him, learning from him. Daddy taught me how to hang wall paneling – the summer he paneled the house I learned what a level, mitre box, studs, and 2x4s were. Daddy answered questions like a Google query – a quick answer at first, but with a lengthy background story to follow. A simple question often turned into a 1-hour Heathcliff Huxtable-type monologue!

Daddy taught me how to cook, although when he was throwing down in the kitchen, there was no time for idle chatter. You just sat and watched. During the holidays, he made smothered rabbit for Christmas breakfast, and his famous fruitcake and eggnog, both of which had enough kick to give you a contact high before anything made it past your lips! He was a master bowler and in a painful 3-hour lesson, he taught me how to bowl. To this day, I remember the stance, the approach, the follow-through, the poetry he exhibited on the lane.  He took me driving and taught me one of the most valuable lessons I have ever learned. The first day we went driving around the mall parking lot and I thought I was good – doing a slow 25 mph. He asked me what my hurry was. I couldn’t understand why he was being so hard on me. But he said, “Just give the car some gas, then take your foot off the pedal and coast. Take control of the car and steer WITHOUT the extra speed…you drive the CAR, don’t let it drive YOU.” I have applied that lesson in my life and am thankful to have had such a great father to teach me and to share.

I last saw my father during the Christmas holiday in 2005. The day before I was to leave Florida for home, he asked me to drive him to the hospital and then his doctors’ offices to deliver cookies to the staff. That’s the kind of guy Daddy was…he had a quiet way of doing for others. Well what should have been a 30-minute errand turned into an all-day adventure! He had me driving all over the state of Florida…to the Cadillac dealership for an oil change, to the grocery store for some pig feet he planned to cook for New Year’s, then to a new meat market some 1 ½ hours away! But during our excursion, we had such a wonderful conversation. In his later years, my father and I became like friends and realized that we shared so many things in common. I would often bring up something he had taught me years before, and he was amazed that I had remembered and absorbed his lessons. But what I remembered most about that day was the moment he said, out of nowhere, “You know, you have become a beautiful woman and I’m very proud of you.” All Daddy’s girls seek their father’s approval, and although I had felt his approval throughout the years, there was something special about what he said. It was then that I realized he had purposely stretched out our day to spend some extra time with me. Unfortunately the day tired him so that he was unable to drive with my mother and me to the airport the next day, and the last visual I have is of him sitting tiredly out in the living room, waiting to say goodbye.  I did not know that this would be my last time seeing him and on March 24, 2006, he passed away. I did not get to say goodbye to him…

So on this Father’s Day, I salute the life and memory of my father.  And let me say to all the fathers out there – HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!! You are loved and appreciated!

Music Notes: TweetChat Series from Jua Howard

Music guitar

Earlier this week, I participated in a wonderful TweetChat entitled, “Soundtrack of Life,” (Twitter #chatwithjua) the latest installment in a series of TweetChats hosted by friend to This and That With Calandra and vocalist extraordinaire, Jua Howard. Here’s how Jua described the pending conversation:

Like myself, I am sure each of you have signature songs that remind you of those priceless moments in your life. What song reminds you of your first kiss? What song best represents your freshmen year in college? What was the first song you danced to at your prom? What was your self-selected theme song that got you through your first rough breakup? Come TweetChat at #chatwithjua and share with me the music that comprises the soundtrack of your life!!!

It was a nice conversation with other audiophiles about some of the music that influenced each of us over the years. Even more interesting than the actual song choices, were the common themes. I noted that most of the songs mentioned were ballads. It seems that we associate slow songs with the most memorable times in our lives – first kisses, proms, first crushes. Many of us remembered the music that our parents played during road trips and Saturday morning chores. Parental influence was a big theme. We were thankful for the variety of music styles played in our homes while we were growing up. We heard jazz, R & B, soul, gospel and other genres that stayed with us into adulthood. It shows that parents are not just a child’s first teacher in terms of the basic building blocks of reading, writing and arithmetic, but also the first music educators. Personally, I am grateful for my early introduction to all types of music. I shared with the group that my young children are now being exposed to different forms of music and they have already begun forming their own preferences. Many afternoons there is a fight between Izzy, who wants to hear The Time, and Yvette, who wants to hear Slave! Other days, they can’t agree on whether to listen to gospel or Bob Marley. I am so proud of my little audiophiles!

I think it is important for us to continue these conversations. There is so much music out now that has no rhyme or reason (literally!), that it is always great to share with others the music of our past. The soundtrack that shaped our childhood, helped us navigate our turbulent teen years, and then led us into adulthood, now gives us an appreciation for the importance of good music. It’s a soundtrack that we can share with ‘the youngins,’ who need to understand that the sample they just heard in some new hip hop track originated from a funk band, or R & B group of the past – from real musicians that played real instruments and wrote real lyrics and created real music! Because of this appreciation, we can also tune our ears to great new independent music, crafted by artists who respect real music.

Thanks Jua for providing such a great forum to share and reminisce!

Team Natural Roundup

IMG_0001I’m such a bad naturalista! Yesterday I was discussing natural hair with a young lady at work and I mentioned to her that I blogged about natural hair. Knowing that I blog about a lot more than just natural hair, I corrected myself and added that I blogged about “other stuff too!” At her request, I passed along the link to This and That. I was messing around on the blog and decided to review what was located in the Natural Hair Care category and was disappointed that not only had I not posted about natural hair in a while, but that I didn’t have much to say on the blog about natural hair PERIOD!

So, after slapping myself on the wrist with my trusty rattail comb, I realized that I have so many natural hair go-to gurus, I don’t really spend too much time actually talking about it on the blog. However, I post a lot on Pinterest and on the This and That With Calandra fan page on Facebook. So…I’ve decided to at least offer a quick roundup of my favorite naturalistas. Here goes:

Black Girl With Long Hair – blackgirllonghair.com

Hair Gets Kinky When Wet – hairgetskinky.com

Lexi With the Curls – lexiwiththecurls.comYou can also check out Lexi’s YouTube channel.

My favorite beauty blogger, Patrice Yursik, aka Afrobella (aka “Calandra’s hair crush”!) – afrobella.com

Last but not least, my favorite naturalista – not just because of her hair, but because she’s such a cool chick! Whitney aka Naptural85 on YouTube!

Enjoy!

Music Notes: All That Jazz!

The Resurgence of Dexter Gordon

The Resurgence of Dexter Gordon (Photo credit: comunicom.es)

Lately I’ve been neglecting my favorite “sub-genre” of jazz, what might be considered ‘classic’ jazz. A few weeks ago, I was on the Internet and stumbled upon a great documentary on saxophonist Dexter Gordon. Of course I knew who he was, but I didn’t know his story. As a side note, I LOVE biopics and documentaries, but I have a soft spot for musicians. To me, a musician’s life story is also the story of his/her art. In order to best appreciate the music, one needs to be able to appreciate the artist’s story.

So I watched this documentary in awe and drawn to his music. I’ve actually never been a fan of the saxophone, but something about Gordon’s story and the life he poured into the instrument just touched me. Now I can’t get enough Dexter Gordon! Along those lines, I started listening (again) to Newark, New Jersey-based and listener-supported jazz station, WBGO, the ONLY local radio station that plays “Real Jazz, Right Now.”

I find jazz to be the most interesting music genre. There are so many forms of jazz, each one with unique and varied styles. Acid, bebop, classic, fusion, smooth, contemporary – all terms used to describe different forms of a music style that grew from African-American culture in the early 1900s. My father introduced me to jazz (namely what I call ‘classic jazz’) when I was a little girl; we listened to WBGO in the car while running errands, and he would encourage my reading by learning the names of artists on his album covers. I distinctly remember learning the name “M-A-Y-N-A-R-D F-E-R-G-U-S-O-N”! As a young girl of 10 or 11, I appreciated the ‘organized confusion’ of jazz – I was fascinated by piano riffs, bass solos and horn playing that was so improvisational, it sounded like a hodgepodge of random sounds. And yet, those sounds came together and made beautiful music. I think jazz is best enjoyed live, or the recording of a live set, simply because the magic is in the improvisation. Jazz musicians always seem to be in a perpetual jam session. Songs go on and on, and you get caught up in the music. Classic jazz is a style of music that doesn’t necessarily put me in any particular mood. It is a style that just encourages me to listen and enjoy the pure musicianship. It is an incredible feeling to just LISTEN to the instruments.

I have always said that if trapped on a desert island, with only one genre of music at my disposal, I would easily choose classic jazz. The thought of me on an island with the likes of Dexter Gordon, Count Basie, Art Blakey and a host of other jazz greats gives me life!

What About the Children?

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D’aja Robinson, 14

Gabrielle Molina, 12
Gabrielle Molina, 12

I’ve put this post off long enough. A few weeks ago, two tragedies hit relatively close to home in my hometown and current place of residence, Queens, New York. A 14-year-old girl was fatally shot on the bus after attending a party. The shooting took place a few blocks from my home. On the day of the funeral, I learned from my first-grade son that the victim was the cousin of one of his classmates and the funeral was held at the church that runs my children’s school.

A few days after the shooting, a 12-year-old girl hanged herself with a belt from a ceiling fan in her bedroom, the result of being cyber-bullied. This little girl attended the same school as my best friend’s daughter, whose classmate was friends with the little girl.

Like many others, I am deeply affected by tragedies that involve children. When a child’s life is cut short, due to accident, senseless violence, abuse, or even at the child’s own hand, it cuts me like a knife. But something about these two stories, so close to home, and so close to each other time-wise, just shook me. In reading about the suicide, I learned that the little girl, who was a beautiful little girl, had been bullied about her looks and had once been attacked by girls at school, who then posted the attack on YouTube. Her parents were aware of the bullying, because the father had complained to school officials about the YouTube video. She also had Facebook and other social media accounts, where the cyber-bullying was taking place.

My heart goes out to the parents of the 14- and 12-year-old girls. And I can only imagine what goes through the mind of a parent whose child has taken her own life. Of course, I turned to my children, and my parenting choices. Please, don’t misunderstand; I am IN NO WAY saying that the actions of these parents had anything to do with the outcomes of the situations.  I just think all of us would ask ourselves if there were signs of what was to come. All one can do is tighten the verbal communication reins, and more closely monitor, eliminate, or continue to keep our children away from social media.

How much do we talk to our children? Even at a young age, our children are experiencing far more than we did growing up. My six-year-old son told me last week of what a terrible day he had had – filled with ‘minor’ disappointments at school (not getting a toy during a school trip, a disagreement with a classmate, etc.). Even more important than how much we talk to our children is HOW we talk to them. How do we react to what they are telling us? Do we blow off their concerns, thinking “Oh it’s nothing”? Or do we show genuine concern and help them to sort out their feelings? Bullying is a lot different than it was when we were growing up. I find it interesting that the subjects of taunting are still the same – a child’s looks, grades, interactions with other kids, etc. However, the internet and social media outlets takes the bullying to a different level – instead of just being between the victim child and a small clique of bullies, the hurt is magnified as it spreads to other schoolmates over the internet and throughout social media.

The question also arises of how old children should be before they are allowed to have social media accounts, if allowed at all. I polled Facebook friends of This and That With Calandra. The average age was about 15, and some felt it depended on the maturity of the child. But all agreed that at any age, there should be strict parental monitoring. I have my own opinion about young teens and social media – they don’t mix. Who in the world do they need to be in contact with? As my mother used to tell us about using the telephone during the week, “You’re gonna see them in school tomorrow. Get off the phone!”

It’s tough being a kid these days. When we were growing up, the most we had to worry about was an after-school confrontation. We did not have to worry about being shot as an innocent bystander, or feeling so in despair about bullying that we needed to take our own life. The other thing that breaks my heart is the devastation done to their classmates. Growing up, because these things just didn’t happen, we didn’t have a need to see grief counselors, or have nightmares of some vicious attack on a schoolmate. I just continue to pray for the children, for the parents.

On a final note, This and That With Calandra would like to express our heartfelt sympathies to the family, friends, classmates and teachers of Gabrielle Molina, 12 and D’aja Robinson, 14. May they rest in peace.