At Your Home Without You: Jerry Wonda Shares Music He Loves
When I connected via Zoom with producer and former Fugees’ bass player Jerry Wonda Duplessis, I was greeted with music and rhythm, Bowie’s Let’s Dance! Seated with his bass guitar at arms’ reach at his Minnesota studio, minutes away from Prince’s home and the sadly well-known street where George Floyd was choked to death, Wonda is doing what he loves the most, sharing the music he loves.
His music of course. That includes hits such as Fugees’ cover of Killing Me Softly, Shakira’s Hips Don’t Lie, Carlos Santana’s Maria Maria, Melissa Ethridge’s Pulse and more recently the viral success of Newark’s Mayor Ras Baraka’s What We Want.
Music from others as well. That day, Wonda was in the mood for the period-worthy Harold Melvin’s Wake Up Everybody and a song he and I both like dearly, The Eagles’ iconic Hotel California. With some of his musical friends, Wonda launched early May ‘Share Music You Love,’ an initiative to raise funds for MusiCares and help musicians while concerts are halted. A UN Goodwill Ambassador for Haiti, Wonda is also working on bringing music, voices and musicians, professionals or not, from all over the world into a song to symbolize unity.
Born in Haiti, Wonda has never forgotten the donkey he rode to school before he moved to East Orange, New Jersey, into the home of his cousin, Wyclef Jean. He now lives for sharing his luck and dreams with others, children who like him, are born into poverty. “I went to school to be a recording engineer,” Wonda told me, “but I wanted to be Quincy Jones. I wanted to make the music, I wanted to be a producer. I wanted to produce a lot of Michael Jacksons!”
And so, he did.
At Your Home, Without Me: Ramatuelle, Jacqueline Franjou’s Essential Festival
Tonight, August 1st, 2020–and until August 10th. If you are in Ramatuelle, a little village above the Mediterranean Sea near Saint Tropez in the South of France, you might be among the luckiest people. While almost all summer cultural events have been canceled in France, Jacqueline Franjou is opening the 2020 Festival of Ramatuelle, a series of plays, stand-up comedies, and concerts under the stars and the songs of crickets. A must attend annual event, a rarity this year.
This summery feast has been scheduled every August since 1985. But with movies, theaters, operas and museums still closed in most places around the world because of containment and a very much still present covid19 pandemic, the mere possibility to see comedians and musicians on a stage has become an extraordinary experience. This year’s Festival is an act of audacity and resistance, against all odds, a small, yet safe step to keep us on the pace of being humans, together.
I was fortunate to attend last summer and I remember fondly the performance of French actor Gérard Depardieu (Golden Globe 1991 for Peter Weir’s movie Green Card) sing Barbara’s most iconic songs in a soft and elusive voice.
I cannot go this summer but will have a special thought for Franjou, the co-founder and President of this Festival, a woman I was lucky enough to work with for a few years and who has never been afraid to be disruptive to keep all of us thinking beyond the obvious. We need this festival, we need culture to fill our hopes and dreams, we need words and scores and stories to pave our immediate future.
Next is the translation from a French interview I did with Franjou while I was still confined in New York and she was already planning this week’s performances (published in Le Petit Journal).
At Your Home Without Me: The Artistic Mankind of Betsabeé Romero
“Art needs to express itself to safeguard humanity.” These are the words of Betsabeé Romero, a Mexican fixture, sculptor, and a generous, greedy painter who is exhibited around the world. She is a poet and activist too. This humanity—a damaged, confused and self-reflecting humanity—was not prepared to face the brutal consequences of the Covid19 pandemic.
Betsabeé Romero is now listening to the suddenly silent streets of Mexico City, North America’s largest city.
From her little street house in the Villa de Cortés district, the artist is on the lookout for the sadness that invades the world faster than the disease. The absence of funerals. the hidden violence against the women and children in her country. And of course, her own personal fight fight for female artists.
Confined, she writes, draws, and reads, mostly philosophy at the moment. She is thinking about art installations to illustrate the staggered mourning that many people will experience. Incidentally, she has been invited to create and speak on this topic at the Frieze in London this Fall, as well as in Sydney and Rome.
The Art of the Virus with Olivia Tournay Flatto
A moving body, notes in harmony, an emotion, a knowledge, a narrow door toward a new idea, an engine inherent to life, to the mere concept of human beings’ survival, science and art maintain an intimate relationship, two mirrors reflecting each other and focusing on the hope of creation.
A professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) actually just metamorphosed Covid19 into a musical existence, similar to the work of a composer, an exceptional melody that could help science to better understand the mechanics and weaknesses of this devastating virus.
Art in the service of science, science in the service of art. Olivia Tournay Flatto is no stranger to the crossover between these two fields.
A scientist herself and President of the Pershing Square Foundation, she has developed a fund to support young researchers with bold and new ideas in the fight against cancer. Passionate about ballet, she is a member of the Board of the Friends of the Paris Opera and President in New York of the American Friends of the Paris Opera & Ballet (AFPOB), created 35 years ago in response to Rudolf Nureyev’s request to support a tour in the United States of the ballet company, which he directed.
The halls of the Palais Garnier and the Opéra Bastille are now closed until further notice; laboratories are mostly concentrating their research on a Covid19 vaccine. Yet science and art—brain and heart—remain more than ever the essence of our lives.
Marc Levy Beyond the Walls
There is a small bookstore on the corner of 10th Street in the West Village. In this little shop so reminiscent of the past, old and new books squeeze together on the shelves and give off that special scent of cracked ancient floors and living pages. Just a block away, if you look up, you can see through an open window that belongs to the most widely read French novelist and storyteller in the world.
A conversation with Marc Levy usually takes place over a good lunch on the terrace of Sant Ambroeus café. But Sant Ambroeus is closed now, as is the Three Lives & Company bookshop.
We could have also dined on a dish he would have cooked. But Marc Levy is currently a recluse in his haunt, sitting at his desk, among his books, computer screens and ancient typewriters. Surrounded by his characters, he gathers the letters of the alphabet and creates stories, like the one he just published in Des Mots Par La Fenêtre.