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Is There a Harvey Weinstein of Jazz? #MeToo

(Trigger warning! rape, child abuse)

The #MeToo movement has been bringing about changes in the entertainment industry, especially film. Many of us wonder "Is there is a Harvey Weinstein of jazz?"

The most significant difference between the film and jazz industries is that we no longer have influential gate-keepers in jazz. Record company executives, managers, booking agents, producers used to be extremely powerful. But today, they no longer make or break one's career in jazz. We have to "make it" on our own. Except for faculty members at educational institutions, nobody could take advantage of young female jazz musicians today.

But it doesn't mean that I have never been sexually harassed or made to feel uncomfortable on the bandstand or off. Until recently, many jazz musicians used to make inappropriate jokes and offhanded comments. But I always told myself to have a thick skin, and ignore the comments. I also used to receive unwanted sexual advances back…
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Not Feeling Jewish Enough? Here's a 15-min. Cure!

Being the second day of spring, the Passover just around the corner, all I see is white in my window. Mind you; I live in Harlem. Whether you are Jewish but not feeling it, or you aren't Jewish at all but want to feel Jew-ish, there are ways you can feel more Jewish without guilt or doing anything involving clearing out bread from your kitchen cabinets.

Here is my personal "FOUR ANSWERS" (playlist) for the week anticipating Passover!

No. 1
Alberto Mizrahi Trio Globo "Dayenu"
featuring Howard Levy, Eugene Friesen, and Glen Velez (YouTube)

No. 2
Pharaoh's Daughter  "Taitsch" (Exodus) 
(YouTube)

No. 3
NPO Trio "Exodus and Emancipation" from NPO Trio Live at The Stone 
(Bandcamp) 

No. 4
Louis Armstrong "Go Down Moses" 
(YouTube)

Admit it! You hate Jazz.

Okay. You say you like jazz. But not avant-garde jazz. What the heck is "chamber jazz" anyway? Here are three reasons why you should check out NPO TRIO LIVE AT THE STONE today!

Reason #1
Because you HATE avant-garde jazz.
You will like this album.- New music that sounds familiar and foreign, improvised but sounds composed, and Yiddish melodies made fresh! You will feel invigorated.

Reason #2
So you have a go-to "small talk" at your next function and be the most cosmopolitan and sophisticated person in the room. "Have you heard the new 'NPO Trio Live At The Stone' album yet?"

Reason #3
Because you are our friend after all.


Check it out today! iTune, Apple Music, Bandcamp, etc.

NPO Trio Live At The Stone by Meg Okura, Sam Newsome, Jean-Michel Pilc

Why Was a Harlem 4-Year-Old Screaming “Let My People Go!?"

Our guests don’t ask four questions, but one. "When do we get to eat?” We tell them to eat something before if they don't want to be hungry staring at a shank bone and parsley while we read for two hours. To make the matters worse, every year at our Passover seder, our Afro-Asian Jewish American daughter passionately sings “Go Down Moses” crescendoing into the part “Let my people go!”
The song exemplifies the parallel between the Jewish people's enslavement and departure from Egypt and the African-American slave experience in the United States. The parallel that I only draw once a year on Passover. “Exodus and Emancipation” is one of the tracks from one of my new albums, a debut album by the NPO Trio (Sam Newsome on sopranos saxophone, Jean-Michel Pilc on piano, and Meg Okura on the violin) to be released on March 15 from Chant Records, a newly established avant-garde, and world music label.

I first met Jean-Michel Pilc almost 18 years ago when I used to play with a group…

What Would MLK Say in 2018? Nine Questions You Must Ask Youself!

by Meg Okura
Whenever I see a four-foot-eleven black elderly woman in a perfectly pressed dress suit with ever so fashionable glasses that scream intellect, I get scared. You know she is judging me. In fact, she is, but most lovingly - she is my mother in law. A granddaughter of a former slave who was born in Salisbury, Maryland in 1934. According to her account, she was always at the top of her class. In her 30’s, thanks to Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement, she was even able to pursue a doctoral degree and became a professional. She was able to support her family, was a multiple-time homeowner, married not just once but twice, and helped everyone around her with her time and money. My mother in law is one of many thousands of examples of successes in America.
Exactly four years ago, on the day of MLK celebration, my daughter who had just turned three at the time and I became Jews by choice. We chose Judaism so our daughter will be raised with progressive Jewish valu…

Here is Why Seeing Is Not Believing

I recently had my adult Bat Mitzvah, and chanted from my Torah portion called “Re’eh” which means “see” in the imperativeform. It is basically telling the Israelites how to go about destroying the holy sites and idols of the Canaanites- “...and you shall tear down their altars, smash their monuments, burn their asherim, cut down the graven images of their gods, and destroy their name from that place.”

Pretty awful stuff. We know G-d of the Bible to be harsh at times, but here, he is advocating violence. I am vehemently against all violence, regardless of who commits these violent acts. Left or Right. Christians or Jews. Black or Japanese. The ordering of destruction of other people’s idols makes God look really petty and immature. But I have an idea as to why Moses of all people found the idols of the Canaanites to be such a threat. Remember the Golden Calf after his recent stint on Mount Sinai? He must have been really disappointed by the Israelites who were allured to the hedonistic …

Am I A Plain Old Person?!

My 5-year old said, "Did you know that Beth and Laura in my class speak Chinese?" "That's impressive!!" I said excitedly. "Not really. Their moms must speak Chinese." "Oh. Have you heard them speak Chinese?" I asked. "No. but their moms totally look Chinese." Okay. "They do, huh?" "Yes, totally!!" So I ask  "Do I look Chinese?" "No" "So what do I do look like?" She looks at me and says "You just look like a plain old person."

"Plain old person?" I said and gave her the tightest hug I could ever give. This was a very special moment for us as a mother and daughter. Until this moment, she had always looked at me as "the other"- the opposite of the "plain old person". Even before she could speak, she often compared my pale skin with her beautiful mocha complexion. And as soon as she learned to speak a few words,  "Me, Daddy brown. Mommy, whi…