Today’s show lets me reach back into the archive for a conversation with a remarkable man who died far, far too young. That man was the Sudanese-Canadian musician, singer, lyricist, music producer, and band leader Tarig Abubakar.
Abubakar came to Canada in 1988 to build his fame and fortune in North America, and despite a rocky start he’ll tell you about in this episode, he formed his pan-African band the Afro-Nubians, toured the country four times, and delighted hundreds of audiences across Canada. He also released three superb albums: 1994’s Tour to Africa, 1995’s The Great Africans, and 1997’s Hobey Laik. His bandmates included guitarist Adam Solomon, Joe Slant, and Mohammed Hagelamin. Together they were named band of the year at the Toronto African Music Awards.
Tragically in 1998 while visiting his home country, Abubakar died in a car accident. He was only 34. In 2005, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation released a CD of two Afro-Nubians’ concerts. Thanks to streaming services, you can access some of the albums any time you want.
In the summer of 1995, I met Abubakar at Edmonton’s Mayfair Hotel the afternoon before his gig at the now-long-gone Sidetrack Café. We discussed:
On a personal note, twenty-two years ago when I recorded this interview, I was a young man who’d lost little in my life. I had no idea that Abubakar had only a few more years on this planet. In the decades since I’ve lost far more than I ever expected, including some of the most important people in my life. I’ve been producing today’s show over the last two days and hearing Abubakar’s voice and his stunning music from back before I lost all those people. And as it’s August 14, 2017, I’ve also been reacting to all the horrible news about the terrorist attack in Charlottesville and wondering about how we’re all going to defend ourselves, because it’s going to get worse, I’m sorry to say.
So hearing Abubakar and his ideas and his songs has been especially powerful. We lost him when he was too young and he had so much more to give, especially with his message of unity and his undying love of African peoples. I hope wherever he is, he knows we still remember his music and we still remember him.
This show is mostly about creators in various fields showing and proving what they know about how to make what they make and how to make money from what they make.
Today we get to combine two fields: making movies and making novels. Jeff Carroll is an amazing creator. He's worked as a booker at comedy clubs and also managed comedians, which gave him access to plenty of working comics whom he could cast the movies he wrote and produced, including his Blaxploitation/ B-Movie/ Grindhouse films such as Holla If I Kill You and the award-winning Gold Digger Killer.
When his distributor went belly-up and took his money beyond the grave, Carroll leveraged his existing intellectual property by turning one of his features into a novel. He's also a speaker and known online as Yo Jeff the Hip Hop Dating Coach. So the man definitely knows how to hustle to keep on reaching audiences through multiple venues.
In today's episode of MF GALAXY, Jeff Carroll discusses:
We spoke by Skype on June 23, 2017.
Hip hop at its finest is a poetical, political voice for those whose voices have been silenced; it speaks to the anger, the dignity, and the triumphant joy of the oppressed. If hip hop is the music of the dispossessed, then no one in North America should have a greater claim on it than the First Nations. Combine that revolutionary rage and cultural crucible with artistic passion and power, and you have what was Canada’s finest hip hop band—WAR PARTY.
Formed in 1995 under the leadership of Maskwacis Cree artist, lead vocalist, and executive producer Rex Smallboy, and co-vocalists Cynthia Smallboy, and Thane Saddleback, War Party won the Canadian Aboriginal Music Award for Best Rap Album in 2001, and were the first Indigenous crew featured on Canada’s Much Music channel. The video for “Feeling Reserved” exploded across Canadian television in 2001 with a powerful set of voices and images that was thankfully bling-bling- and booty-shaking-free. Instead, the video showed everyday people with extraordinary voices and lyrical intelligence, denouncing settler-colonial genocide.
War Party performed with Ice-T, Wu-Tang Clan, Guru, Maestro Fresh Wes and K-OS among many others, and recently Chuck D. recorded an introduction for the new album “The Resistance.” The band got global attention by representing Canada at the World Expo in Nagoya, Japan and for performing for the First Americans Festival at the Smithsonian Museum.
Fiercely proud of their Cree heritage specifically and their First Nations heritage generally, the band refused to fall into the trap of not wanting to be known as “Native rappers.” Their embrace of their heritage made them universal, in the same way that Miriam Makeba, Public Enemy, or Nusrat Khan are emblems of their people, and emblems of human culture, struggle, and aspiration generally.
While the group has since splintered into factions, one of which is named RezOfficial, their original ground-breaking work lives on. Rex Smallboy continues to make albums and also works as a motivational speaker.
In the summer of 2004, I spoke with band members Rex Smallboy and his then-wife Cynthia at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. You can hear Cynthia Smallboy in the bonus content for today’s show. Rex and I discussed:
Note that our conversation includes reference to the Cree Nation’s reserve that was once called Hobbema, about 90 minutes south of Edmonton. The reserve finally discarded that German name and is now called Maskwacis.