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Screening: The Education of Auma Obama


Branwen_FINAL_lowBy David H. Anthony | KUSP -

Event info

On the second week of February, Santa Cruz shall be afforded a rare opportunity. On Wednesday February 10, Nigerian born Branwen Okpako will be present at a free public screening her widely acclaimed 2013 film, The Education of Auma Obama, about the Kenyan half sister of Barack Obama, at the Landmark Nickelodeon Theater, at 7:30 p.m. Director Okpako will be fielding questions following the screening.

The following day Thursday February 11 Okpako will be screening her 2000 TV documentary Dreckfresser, Dirt for Dinner at 10 am in Coll 8 240 for my History 30, The Making of Modern Africa. Dirt for Dinner is a 2000 about Sam Njankuo Meffire, son of a Cameroonian exchange student in East Germany and a German mother.

Both The Education of Auma Obama and Dirt for Dinner treat the subject of African emigration to Europe in general and Germany in particular. Branwen Okpako, herself of mixed heritage, is the daughter of a Nigerian father and a Welsh mother. After college in Wales and Bristol in the UK Okpako studied film in the German Film and Television Academy and lived in Germany before relocating to the US. Okpako currently teaches at Hampshire College.

At 6pm Okpako will be discussing her work and showing excerpts of her films for the Living Writers Series in Humanities Lecture Hall on the UCSC campus.

Few topics are of greater concern than immigration and Branwen Okpako has devoted years to the subject, not only intellectually, but as one who has lived in the space between Africa and Europe. Since embarking on her film career she has dedicated the majority of her artistic and family time to elucidating stories of Afro-Germans. Moreover, she is herself the mother of Afro-German children.

These details give a level of depth to the immigration debate that leaves viewers profoundly moved. Having seen both Dirt for Dinner and The Education of Auma Obama, I eagerly urge you to be present to witness the craft of this gifted cineaste.


Album Review: ‘Black Star’ by David Bowie – Goodbye From the Spaceman


bowieOn Friday, January 9th, the day of his 69th birthday, David Bowie released his acclaimed new album Black Star.  I listened to it several times that day and well into Saturday trying to figure what exactly he’s singing about on this densely layered and intense record.  On Sunday, Bowie died.  By Monday the lyrics had a completely new meaning and suddenly much more became clear.

Haunting  track

The haunting and much talked about track “Lazarus”, which is also the title of Bowie’s new musical adaption of his 1976 movie “The Man Who Fell To Earth”, contains these words “looking down from heaven. Now everybody knows me”.  The eerie companion video shows Bowie wearing a rag mask with buttons for eyes, singing from a bed as his body tries to resist levitating upwards and downwards. No explanation needed.

“Black Star” is ten minute opening title track dramatizing three somewhat obtuse song plots stitched together as one bewildering tale. It seems to involve the death of a mysterious leader and the black star that takes his place. When he finishes, Bowie takes a recorded deep breath and launches into “It’s a Pity She’s a Whore” that will forever be known for this choice Bowie-ism: “She punched me like a dude”.

New band and new direction

For Black Star, Bowie jettisoned the usual cohorts he’s worked forever in favor of a group of NYC up and coming young jazz musicians. An alien saxophonist himself, Bowie has formed a sort of cosmic jazz band where horns dominate over guitar. It’s an entirely new musical direction impeccably guided by longtime Bowie producer Tony Visconti. Former Santa Cruzian Donny McCaslin supplies outstanding sax and flute. He’s an absolute killer throughout the album right down to the final touching track, “I Can’t Give Everything Away” punctuated with a  tasteful solo as Bowie takes his final bow.

Black Star is an album that it may take many spins to fully comprehend its fascinating lyrical complexity. It’s one last journey through familiar Bowie themes that ponder life and death, anxiety-alienation, space and time, and of course, an infatuation with the cosmos.  David Bowie’s Black Star is an eloquent goodbye from this visionary Star Man.  - Eric Berg


JD McPherson to ‘Let The Good Times Roll’ at KUSP


JDMcPhersonHear JD McPherson and band play live on KUSP 88.9 this Saturday afternoon, January 16 at 3 pm in conjunction with his evening performance at the Rio Theater in Santa Cruz at 8 pm.

From KUSP’s BergAlert | By Eric Berg

Vintage Tones

Americana songwriter and  rocker, JD McPherson has new album called  Let The Good Times Roll. It’s a smokin’ sophomoric follow up to his Signs and Signifiers debut that ‘s made it on to several best of 2015 lists including mine.

A former art teacher and Oklahoma native turned singer-songwriter, McPherson skirts the “retro” pigeonhole with his uncanny knack of successfully mixing vintage tones with rock n roll and making it all seem…uh…modern.  He takes just the right amount of traditional Americana roots– particularly country blues and knockdown rockabilly and lately, soul – and adds a few twists of infectious contemporary rock that’s impossible to ignore or remain seated.

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KUSP Succeeds at First Membership Drive Since Format Change

Independent public radio station exceeds “mini-drive” challenge by 25%, secures Community Foundation Santa Cruz County Challenge Grant.

KUSP's new 2016  logo

KUSP’s new 2016 logo

The success of a two-day, on-air “mini campaign” indicates strong listener support for the new music format adopted by independent public radio station KUSP 88.9 fm.

The December 30–31, 2015 membership campaign was the first on-air pledge drive since the station switched from predominantly news and information to a music-centered format on November 1, 2015. Listeners from throughout the Monterey Bay region and from outside the area – who listen online at kusp.org – made financial contributions.

Read a related January 9th article in the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

“The team had a lot invested in this membership drive,” said Interim General Manager Lee Ferraro. “It was important to see how the community would respond after listening to the new format for two months. The results indicate a healthy level of interest in what’s being broadcast on 88.9 fm and a willingness on the part of the community to support KUSP’s music format.”

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The Agony Column Literary Magazine Show:
Dr.Rachel Naomi Remen, Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman and Chef Dave Wells


kt-wisomBy Rick Kleffel  - Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen: Creating and Teaching the Curriculum for The Healer’s Art”, Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman: “Shrinks; The Untold Story of Psychiatry” and Chef Dave Wells: “From Hunger With Love”.

Tonight on the Agony Column Literary Magazine, in a season of spectacle and special effects, we celebrate the power of storytelling and a single, soft voice with Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen.  She’s the author of Kitchen Table Wisdom and My Grandfather’s Blessings.  She’s also a founder of the Cancer Help Program at Commonweal Institute, better known as Commonweal and the founder of a medical student curriculum called “The Healer’s Art” used in medical schools throughout the United States.

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Wire: Manchester’s Best Kept Secret


wireEric Berg | KUSP’s BergALERT -

Wire is one of those great – I suppose the word is “alternative” – rock bands no one’s ever heard of.  At least, not in these parts. Hailing from Manchester, England, this band’s been at it since the 70’s. Far as I can tell, Wire remains largely unknown in the States and I just don’t get it.

The band has just released a new self titled album, Wire, their fourteenth, kicking it off with “Blogging” drawing in with sneaky dirty guitar chords against biting sarcastic commentary about society’s obsession with cellphones, the internet and FB.

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New GM Blog Post (December 14, 2015)

This past week we implemented the final programming revisions at KUSP and a few people have asked how decisions are made about what programming to put on a particular day and time.

To arrive at our new program schedule that, first and foremost, underscores the need to build a sustainable service, we held a meeting with representatives from KUSP’s Community Advisory Board, the Board of Directors and radio staff.

Our discussions were guided by three wisdoms of radio success:

  • Programming creates audience
  • Radio stations succeed when they have a clear identity with a distinct appeal
  • Continuity, consistency and character contribute to identity and trust

Thus a diverse music format must have consistent hosts and be available as often, or better yet, whenever listeners want it. So KUSP’s music mixes, our main format, needs to be broadcast regularly seven days a week. To augment our unique mixes we aimed to align affinity programs that would attract many daytime mix listeners as well as draw new listeners. Additionally, respecting the music legacy of KUSP and the Monterey Bay region were high, internal priorities.

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Last Man Standing: Buddy Guy was ‘Born to Play Guitar’


buddy_guy_born_to_play_guitarBy Eric Berg | KUSP’s BergAlert

Now that BB King’s gone to that great juke joint in the sky, 79-year-old Buddy Guy is the last bluesman standing. And he knows it. He’s just released his latest, Born to Play Guitar, a tribute to the Chicago blues greats including himself.

Chicago Blues

Buddy Guy certainly was born to play guitar and blues from the day he arrived in Chicago, a young 22 yr. old in 1958. He’s played with them all – Muddy, BB, Howlin’ Wolf,  Otis Spann, Little Walter and had a long performing partnership with harmonica player,  Jr. Wells.  And.. Guy’s made many Central Coast appearances.  A couple of cuts like “Kiss Me Quick” feature Kim Wilson on harp capturing that classic Chicago blues style.

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New GM Blog Post

By Lee Ferraro, KUSP Interim General Manager -

November was a very eventful month at KUSP. My kudos to the staff, my thanks to the community (including the KUSP Community Advisory Board) and my appreciation to the Board of Directors for their unwavering support. The switch over from a mixed NPR news/info/volunteer music format to a format centered around music discovery is one month old today!

Initial feedback from the community about the music programming has been very positive. Comments emailed to us about the music mixes have been running nearly three to one in favor. The staff and I truly appreciate all feedback, both positive and less so. We want the station to be reflective of the region, so your input truly matters — please keep it coming to musicmatters@kusp.org.

The next phase of programming changes is expected early this month, tentatively December 7. Phase One launched on November 1 and focused on the “dayparts” affected by the move away from NPR programming. Phase Two will address changes to the evenings and weekends to better align these “dayparts” with the weekday schedule. The guiding principal here is that more consistent adherence to an overall format will give KUSP its best chance at long-term sustainability.

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Blues Magic at Aptos BBQ

Makin’ magic at Aptos BBQ on a Sunday night! From the left: John Harmon, Rick Estrin, Malachi Johnson, and Kid Anderson.

Makin’ magic at Aptos BBQ on a Sunday night! From the left: James Harmon, Rick Estrin, Malaki Johnson, and Kid Anderson. photo: EB

By Eric Berg | The BergAlert

It was one of those nights when everything clicked. Blues great James Harmon played at Aptos BBQ, Sunday night Nov. 22.  The ever tasteful Big John Atkinson backed him on guitar with Malaki Johnson on drums. Harmon hasn’t played this area in over a decade so I was surprised the place wasn’t wall to wall people. As it was, Harmon and Atkinson got low down and dirty and played two intimate sets of hot blues.

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