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Cy and Jamedra's Picks: A Neo-Soul Innovator, a Melodrama on Race, and a Showcase for Women's Audio

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Zoe (Sydney Morton), the octoroon of 'An Octoroon' takes a light to America's racial tragedy. (Photo Kevin Berne)

The days are long, perfect for lounging at the park. But when dusk turns to nighttime, The Do List wants you to find the perfect show. My co-host this week is Jamedra Brown Fleischman, former social media specialist for KQED Arts, and a co-host of The Cooler podcast from KQED Pop. Now here’s our picks.

July 29Meshell Ndegeocello can do just about anything musically, including jazz and hip-hop, and the songs are intensely emotional. Jamedra notes she’s credited as the founder of the neo-soul movement, with Erykah Badu, Goapele, Maxwell and others following suit. Ndegeocello has worked recently with director Ava Duvernay on the TV series Queen Sugar — but for Jamedra, her voice will always conjure up one of her favorite movies, Love and Basketball (2000), in which she sings about a love betrayed. Details for Ndegeocello’s show at Freight & Salvage are here.

A poster for the Asian Art Museum‘s attempt to set a Guinness World Record for the largest human flower
A poster for the Asian Art Museum’s attempt to set a Guinness World Record for the largest human flower. (Photo: Courtesy of Asian Art Museum)

July 15: Here’s a chance to win a prize, make history, and celebrate the lotus, a flower that expresses Buddhist and Hindu ideals of purity and beauty. Following the trend of unusual world-record attempts in the Bay Area, the Asian Art Museum is hoping to set a Guinness World Record for the largest human flower as part of its Flower Power exhibit, timed for citywide commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love. Already, 2,500 people have signed up, and the museum is hoping for 3,000 or more. The current Guinness record for largest human flower featured 2,297 people at the Rochester Lilac Festival in 2014. And to help pad the numbers for this attempt? Jamedra’s bringing her kids.


July 14 & 23: Seun Kuti is very much like his father, the late Nigerian political activist and musician Fela Kuti. He leads his father’s former band, Egypt 80, and sings of protest and the fight against oppression from banks and politicians of the left and right in Africa — and in Flint, Michigan (check the anti-IMF video above). Seun preaches the lyrics over irresistible Afrobeat rhythms. Raise your fist, dance your butt off. Details for his show Friday at the California WorldFest in Grass Valley are here. And he plays the New Parish in Oakland on Sunday, July 23; details here.  

M'Closky (Lance Gardner) is all villain in 'An Octoroon' by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins.
M’Closky (Lance Gardner) is all villain in ‘An Octoroon’ by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins. (Photo: Kevin Berne)

June 23-July 29: An Octoroon is the most fascinating and confrontational play I’ve seen this year. This West Coast premiere from Branden Jacobs-Jenkins opens with actor Lance Gardner speaking: “Hi everyone. I’m a black playwright. I don’t know exactly what that means. But I’m here to tell you a story.” And then Gardner puts on whiteface, as another actor dons redface to play an American Indian. There’s blackface too, so, as Jamedra says, if you’re not offended in some way, you’re not paying attention. Much of the play is Jacobs-Jenkins deconstruction of a 19th Century melodrama by Dion Boucicault about the fate of a Southern plantation. But there’s also running commentary on what it’s like to be an African American on the American stage. Br’er Rabbit gets a part too, and just when you think it’s okay to laugh at the racist attitudes of characters from 160 years ago, Jacobs-Jenkins slaps you with an image or line forcing you to recognize how things haven’t changed very much at all. Check out our critic John Wilkins’ review here. Details for An Octoroon at Berkeley Rep are here.

July 26: Oakland’s Star Ahmerasu, a queer black trans woman who wears her heart and soul on her sleeve; Oakland’s Siri, “the trippy princess”; and soul singer Simmi, and DJ Arumi — they’re all “local sirens,” new faces on the Bay Area music scene. They also comprise the lineup for a quarterly showcase staged by Women’s Audio Mission, whose goal is to get more women involved in the music industry, which is more male-dominated than Hollywood (and that’s saying something). Details for this free Women’s Audio Mission show at Pianofight in San Francisco are here.

Thanks so much to Jamedra Brown Fleischman for co-hosting the show this week

Jamedra Brown Fleischman and Cy Musiker
Jamedra Brown Fleischman and Cy Musiker (Photo: Chloe Veltman/KQED)

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