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Reggaeton Redemption: Balvin, Bunny Top Latin Grammy Nods

At last year’s Latin Grammy Awards, popular reggaeton and Latin trap musicians such as J Balvin, Bad Bunny and Ozuna were dismissed in the show’s top categories. This year, they dominate.
Balvin scored a whopping 13 nominations for the 2020 Latin Grammys, including two nominations for album of the year and two for record of the year. The Latin Academy announced Tuesday that Bad Bunny and Ozuna are behind Balvin with nine and eight nominations, respectively.
Balvin has a chance to win his first album of the year prize — a category with 10 contenders — thanks to his fifth solo album “Colores” and “Oasis,” his collaborative project with Bad Bunny. Other nominees include Bad Bunny’s sophomore release “YHLQMDLG” as well as albums from Ricky Martin, Carlos Vives, Jesse & Joy, Kany García, Natalia Lafourcade, Camilo and Fito Paez.
For record of the year, which also has 10 nominees, contenders include popular hip-hop-flavored Latin songs that have dominated the Latin music charts and earned hundreds of millions plays on streaming services, with some even reaching the billion-mark on YouTube, including Karol G and Nicki Minaj’s global hit “Tusa” and “China” by Anuel AA, Daddy Yankee, Karol G, Ozuna and Balvin. Other nominees include Balvin’s “Rojo” and Bad Bunny’s “Vete.”
“Tusa” is the sole Latin trap nominee in the song of the year category, where 11 tracks are in contention. It’s a departure for Karol G, who didn’t receive a single nomination last year and was part of the group of uber-successful Latin trap and reggaeton artists who were dissed in top categories like album, song and record of the year.
This year, the Colombian performer who was named best new artist in 2018 has four nominations, including two shared with Minaj. Karol G’s fiance, Puerto Rican rapper-singer Anuel AA, marked a major breakthrough this year as a first-time nominee. He scored seven nominations, including a bid for best new artist.
“Over the last year, we continued engaging in discussions with our members to improve the awards process and actively encouraged diverse Latin music creators to join and participate,” Latin Academy President and CEO Gabriel Abaroa Jr. said in a statement, calling this year’s nominees “a group that reflects the constant evolution of Latin music.”
As a result of last year’s debacle social media exploded as Latin artists posted images of the Grammy logo with a large red “X” across it, with words on the image reading in Spanish: “Without reggaeton, there’s no Latin Grammys.” Balvin even skipped the live show and Bad Bunny, who won best urban music album during the telecast, told the audience: “With all due respect, reggaeton is part of the Latin culture.”
To honor Latin rap and reggaeton performers, the Latin Grammys added new categories this year, including best reggaeton performance and best rap/hip-hop song.
Balvin’s 13 nominations includes several categories where he will compete with himself: Outside of album and record of the year, he’s a double nominee in the best urban music album, best urban fusion/performance and best reggaeton performance categories. Ozuna and Bad Bunny will also compete with themselves in several categories.
Others who scored multiple nominations include Juanes, Martin, Alejandro Sanz, Camilo, Carlos Vives, Kany García and Residente, the most decorated winner in the history of Latin Grammys. Rosalía, who won album of the year last year and became the first solo female performer to win the top honor since Shakira’s triumph in 2006, earned four nominations this year.
Apart from Minaj’s two nominations, other popular American artists who will compete for awards include rapper Travis Scott (best short form music video for “TKN” with Rosalía); jazz master Chick Corea and his Spanish Heart Band (best Latin jazz/jazz album for “Antidote”); DJ-producer Diplo (best urban song for “Rave de Favela” ); and rapper Tyga (best reggaeton performance for “Loco Contigo” with DJ Snake and Balvin). Justin Bieber’s right-hand songwriter, Jason Boyd aka Poo Bear, earned an album of the year nomination for his work on Jesse & Joy’s “Aire (Versión Día).”
The 21st annual Latin Grammy Awards will air live on Nov. 19 on Univision. The nominees in the 53 categories were selected from more than 18,000 entries. Songs and albums released between June 1, 2019 through May 31, 2020 were eligible for nomination.
 

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Cross-Cultural Music Project Goes Beyond Borders, Politics

Three countries, three musical traditions, one shared dream. Slavalachia is a cross-cultural collaboration of folk musicians from Belarus, Ukraine and the Appalachian region of the US. The project was meant to be just about the music, but then reality got in the way. Mariia Prus has the story.
Camera: Kostiantyn Golubchik  

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Alexie, Pilkey Books Among Most ‘Challenged’ of Past Decade

Toni Morrison is on the list. So are John Green and Harper Lee. And John Steinbeck and Margaret Atwood. All wrote books that were among the 100 most subjected to censorship efforts over the past decade, as compiled by the American Library Association.  Sherman Alexie’s prize-winning “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” came in at No. 1, followed by Dav Pilkey’s “Captain Underpants” picture book series and Jay Asher’s young adult novel “Thirteen Reasons Why.” Objections raised by parents and other community members have ranged from explicit language and depictions of drug use in Alexie’s novel to Asher’s theme of suicide.  “A lot of the books on the list also reflect a growing trend in recent years to challenge books by people of color and books from the LGBTQ community,” said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the library association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. Examples include Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye,” about a Black girl raped by her father; Alex Gino’s “George,” about a transgender child; and Justin Richardson’s and Peter Parnell’s picture book about two gay penguins, “And Tango Makes Three.”The list was announced Monday as the library association prepares to mark its annual Banned Books Week.Green’s debut novel, “Looking for Alaska,” was ranked fourth, with others in the top 10 including E.L. James’ explicit blockbuster “50 Shades of Grey,” Raina Telgemeier’s graphic novel “Drama” and Lauren Myracle’s “Internet Girls” series.  As with its yearly snapshots of most challenged books, the ALA defines a challenge as a “formal, written complaint filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness.” The list is based on news reports and on accounts submitted from libraries and others in the local community, although the ALA believes many challenges go unreported. The association does not formally count the number of times books are removed from a library shelf or from a school reading list.The decade list overall is a mixture of old standards such as Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” and Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and more recent works such as Stephen Chbosky’s “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” and Suzanne Collins’ multimillion selling “The Hunger Games,” which has been accused of being anti-family and promoting violence. Others included were Atwood’s Dystopian classic “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” and J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye.”  Most of the books are fiction, but the list also includes such nonfiction works as Jeanette Walls’ memoir about growing up with dysfunctional parents, “The Glass Castle,” and “Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl,” which has faced challenges for the Jewish girl’s emerging sexual feelings and physical changes as she and her family hide from the Nazis in Amsterdam during World War II. Frank was 15 when she was captured in 1944, and she died in a concentration camp the following year.  “There are actually two lines of objections to the Anne Frank diary,” Caldwell-Stone said. “One line is about her physical attraction to a boy (Peter Schiff, whom she met in school) and there were also objections that it was inappropriate for someone 12 years old to learn about the Holocaust. It was too much of a downer. It was not uplifting to young people.”

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3 Bollywood Stars Questioned in Drug Investigation

Three Bollywood actors, including top star Deepika Padukone, were questioned by India’s narcotics agency on Saturday as part of an investigation into the movie industry’s alleged links with drug peddlers and cartels, officials said.Padukone was the first to arrive at the Narcotics Control Board’s office in Mumbai. She had received a summons earlier in the week while shooting a movie in the western beach resort of Goa.Video broadcast live on Indian TV news channels later showed Shraddha Kapoor and Sara Ali Khan also reaching the agency’s office for questioning.Details of the questioning were not immediately available.The narcotics agency said in a statement that it started the Bollywood drug probe after the death of young actor Sushant Singh Rajput, whose body was found at his Mumbai residence in June. An investigation is ongoing.Padukone is one of more than a dozen people working with the Hindi movie industry who have been questioned by the agency in the past two weeks. Her manager Karishma Prakash was questioned on Friday.A top Bollywood filmmaker, Karan Johan, said in a statement Friday that allegations of narcotics being consumed at a party hosted by him in July last year at his residence were “false and baseless.” His response came after an old video from a star-studded party at his residence surfaced on social media. 

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Mythical (But Possibly Real) Creatures That Roam the USA

Mysterious creatures like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster are more than just fun scary stories that we tell ourselves. Myths and superstitions that are passed down through the generations can provide insight into a culture’s perspective. As VOA’s Dora Mekouar  reports, they can also function as a warning.

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For Standup Comics, a Tricky COVID Comeback

From dark, crowded venues, to social-distanced back yards, stand-up comedians are adapting to life in the nation with the world’s highest death toll from COVID-19.  VOA’s Veronica Balderas Iglesias found comics in the Washington, DC area who, despite their own struggles, are still succeeding to make people laugh.
Camera, producer: Veronica Balderas Iglesias

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Zimbabwe’s Rescued Wildlife Joins Jerusalema Dance Challenge

The Jerusalema Dance Challenge, a South African internet craze, is sweeping the African continent.As the Jerusalema spreads across Africa, in Zimbabwe, the wildlife is joining in. Staff at Zimbabwe’s Wild is Life sanctuary for rescued wildlife have seen their online dance video with elephants, giraffes and other animals go viral.The song “Jerusalema,” by South African DJ and record producer Master KG and vocalist Nomcebo, went viral during the coronavirus lockdown.Dancers, both professional and amateur, began posting their performances to the song online – including with some wildlife. Roxy Danckwerts, the founder of Wild is Life, said they used their phones to record the video.Sorry, but your browser cannot support embedded video of this type, you can
Roxy Danckwerts, founder of Wild is Life, is seen in at a computer, in Harare, Zimbabwe, Sept. 23, 2020. (Columbus Mavhunga/VOA)Danckwerts said she hopes it will help support Zimbabwe’s wildlife tourism industry.South African tourist Phillipa Meek said she decided to visit the Wild is Life center with her friend Ben Fowler after seeing the video online.South African tourist Phillipa Meek says she decided to visit the Wild is Life center in Harare after seeing the video online, Sept. 23, 2020. (Columbus Mavhunga/VOA)”I have been watching a few of the Jerusalema videos, and the Wild is Life one was absolutely amazing. With all the animals and baby elephants, they were so cute, the giraffes and all the spirit in the video was absolutely fantastic, and I thought it was one of the best Jerusalema videos that is out there and it really encouraged me, because I am from South Africa, to come here and I just see it for myself,” Meek said.Like much of Africa, Zimbabwe’s tourism industry has been suffering since the pandemic began in March. But even before the pandemic, Zimbabwe struggled to attract visitors.Godfrey Koti, the spokesman for the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, said the pandemic has brought the industry worldwide to “ground zero” and it is time for Zimbabwe to take off.Godfrey Koti, spokesman for Zimbabwe’s Tourism Authority says he wants to see tourism’s contribution to the country’s GDP increase from the current 8% to between 15%-18%, for a total $5 billion, in Harare, Sept. 23, 2020. (Columbus Mavhunga/VOA)”And we are starting with domestic tourism, making sure that everything is in place from a domestic perspective. For us to be successful, we need a sound domestic product, then we can go to the region and effectively send it to the international market and increase our arrivals, thereby increasing our contribution to the GDP, which is currently at 8%. We are looking at maybe between 15% and 18% and obviously, this will give us a very healthy $5 billion contribution to the fiscus,” Koti said.Zimbabwe has seen triple-digit inflation, adding to the country’s economic problems. Tourism is one of the industries Zimbabwe hopes will revive the country’s struggling economy.

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Sir Harold Evans, Crusading Publisher and Author, Dies at 92

Sir Harold Evans, the charismatic publisher, author and muckraker who was a bold-faced name for decades for exposing wrongdoing in 1960s London to publishing such 1990s best-sellers as “Primary Colors,” has died, his wife said Thursday. He was 92.
His wife, fellow author-publisher Tina Brown, said he died Wednesday in New York of congestive heart failure.  
A vision of British erudition and sass, Evans was a high-profile go-getter, starting in the 1960s as an editor of the Northern Echo and the Sunday Times of London and continuing into the 1990s as president of Random House. Married since 1981 to Brown, their union was a paradigm of media clout and A-list access.  
A defender of literature and print journalism well into the digital age, Evans was one of the all-time newspaper editors, startling British society with revelations of espionage, corporate wrongdoing and government scandal. In the U.S., he published such attention-getters as the mysterious political novel “Primary Colors” and memoirs by such unlikely authors as Manuel Noriega and Marlon Brando.  
He was knighted by his native Britain in 2004 for his contributions to journalism.  
He held his own, and more, with the world’s elite, but was mindful of his working class background: a locomotive driver’s son, born in Lancashire, English, on June 28, 1928. As a teen, he was evacuated to Wales during World War II. After serving in the Royal Air Force, he studied politics and economics at Durham University and received a master’s in foreign policy.
His drive to report and expose dated back to his teens, when he discovered that newspapers had wildly romanticized the Battle of Dunkirk between German and British soldiers.
 “A newspaper is an argument on the way to a deadline,” he once wrote. He was just 16 when he got his first journalism job, at a local newspaper in Lancashire, and after graduating from college he became an assistant editor at the Manchester Evening News. In his early 30s, he was hired to edit the Daily Echo and began attracting national attention with crusades such as government funding for cancer smear tests for women.
He had yet to turn 40 when he became editor of the Sunday Times, where he reigned and rebelled for 14 years until he was pushed out by a new boss, Rupert Murdoch. Notable stories included publishing the diaries of former Labour Minister Richard Crossman; taking on the manufacturers of the drug Thalidomide, which caused birth defects in children; and revealing that Britain’s Kim Philby was a Soviet spy.
“There have been many times when I have found that what was presented as truth did not square with what I discovered as a reporter, or later as an editor, learned from good shoe-leather reporters,” he observed in “My Paper Chase,” published in 2009. “We all understand in an age of terrorism that refraining from exposing a lie may be necessary for the protection of innocents. But ‘national interest’ is an elastic concept that if stretched can snap with a sting.”
Meanwhile, the then-married Evans became infatuated with an irreverent blonde just out of Oxford, Tina Brown, and soon began a long-distance correspondence — he in London, she in New York — that grew intimate enough for Evans to “fall in love by post.” They were married in East Hampton, New York, in 1981. The Washington Post’s Ben Bradlee was best man, Nora Ephron was among the guests.  
With Brown, Evans had two children, adding to the two children he had with his first wife.
Their garden apartment on Manhattan’s exclusive Sutton Place became a mini-media dynasty: He the champion of justice, rogues and belles lettres, she the award-winning provocateur and chronicler of the famous — as head of Tatler in England, then Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, and as author of a best-selling book about Princess Diana.
Evans emigrated to the U.S. in 1984, initially serving as editorial director of U.S. News & World Report, and was hired six years later by Random House. He published William Styron’s best-selling account of his near-suicidal depression, “Darkness Visible,” and winked at Washington with “Primary Colors,” a roman a clef about then-candidate Bill Clinton that was published anonymously and set off a capitol guessing game, ended when The Washington Post unmasked magazine correspondent Joe Klein.
Evans had a friendly synergist at The New Yorker, where Brown serialized works by Monica Crowley, Edward Jay Epstein and other Random House authors. A special beneficiary was Jeffrey Toobin, a court reporter for The New Yorker who received a Random House deal for a book on the O.J. Simpson trial that was duly excerpted in Brown’s magazine.  
Evans took on memoirs by the respected — Colin Powell — as well as the disgraced: Clinton advisor and alleged call girl client Dick Morris. He visited Noriega’s jail cell in pursuit of a memoir by the deposed Panamanian dictator. In 1994, he risked $40,000 for a book by a community organizer and law school graduate, a bargain for what became former President Barack Obama’s “Dreams from My Father.”
Evan’s more notable follies included a disparaged, Random House-generated list of the 100 greatest novels of the 20th century, for which judges acknowledged they had no ideal how the books were ranked, and Brando’s “Songs My Mother Taught Me.”  
As Evans recalled in “My Paper Chase,” he met with Brando in California, first for dinner at a restaurant where the ever-suspicious actor accused Evans of working for the CIA. Then they were back at Brando’s Beverly Hills mansion, where Brando advocated for Native Americans and intimated that he had sex with Jacqueline Kennedy at the White House.
After a follow-up meeting the next afternoon — they played chess, Brando recited Shakespeare — the actor signed on, wrote what Evans found a “highly readable” memoir. He then subverted it by kissing CNN’s Larry King on the lips, “stopping the book dead in its tracks,” Evans recalled.
Evans left Random House in 1997 to take over as editorial director and vice president of Morton B. Zuckerman’s many publications, including U.S. News & World Report and The Atlantic, but stepped down in 2000 to devote more time to speeches and books.  
More recently, he served as a contributing editor to U.S. News and editor at large for the magazine The Week. In 2011, he became an editor-at-large for Reuters. His guidebook for writers, “Do I Make Myself Clear?”, was published in 2017.
“I wrote the book because I thought I had to speak up for clarity,” he told The Daily Beast at the time. “When I go into a cafe in the morning for breakfast and I’m reading the paper, I’m editing. I can’t help it. I can’t stop. I still go through the paper and mark it up as I read. It’s a compulsion, actually.”

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