Nearly every Monday night for six years, Barbès house band Chicha Libre smushed together surf guitar, acid accordion, and Afro-Caribbean rhythms into some of the city’s most intelligently entrancing live dance music. After two wonderful albums and the satisfaction of having almost single-handedly revived the Peruvian cumbia variation known as “chicha” from ghetto obscurity, the sextet founded by club owners Olivier Conan and Vincent Douglas are hanging up their collective güiro for the foreseeable future (one percussionist moved to India, the accordionist to Virginia). The band’s going out with a bang, however, and tonight’s “last cumbion,” in one of Brooklyn’s best new performance spaces, will feature sets by Los Crema Paraiso and Sonido Chichadelico in addition to Chicha Libre’s suavecito swan song.

Fri., Nov. 21, 7 p.m., 2014


Oran Etkin

Capping off the Israeli Jazz Festival, multireedist Oran Etkin imports a multicultural array of influences gathered on tour in Indonesia, China, Japan, and his native Israel. His latest album, Gathering Light, took its title from the Jewish myth of the primordial light that scattered Babel-style at the beginning of time. Alongside guitarist Lionel Loueke, bassist Ben Allison, drummer Alvester Garnett, and Israeli cellist Yoed Nir, Etkin has the filaments to radiate some of that magical stuff. Most moving is “Shirim Ad Kan,” a prayer for peace by dovish Israeli poet Natan Yonatan, who lost a son in the Yom Kippur War.

Thu., Nov. 6, 7:30 & 9:30 p.m., 2014


Polygamy in Bali: Power, Violence, and Divorce Explored in Bitter Honey

In the marital hierarchy of Indonesia, where polygamy is still legal and semi-regularly practiced, a man’s second wife is known as his honey. Robert Lemelson’s cleverly titled documentary, which follows three polygamous families in Bali over the course of seven years, doesn’t belabor the latent subservience of these arrangements, nor does it need to — the women speaking about their marriages in a candid, conversational way say plenty.

One man, Darma, can’t remember all his kids’ names off the top of his head; the seventh and 10th wives of Tuaji, who cops to having been involved in his country’s communist purge of the 1960s, are sisters. (Tuaji’s admission makes Bitter Honey something of a cousin to Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing and The Look of Silence.)

Lemelson’s interviews can be repetitive in their direct staging, but there’s inspiration in his conceit of using a shadow-puppet performance set to gamelan music as interludes. The segments these brief passages divide are arranged according to different aspects of polygamous marriage: power, violence, divorce.

According to old lore, we’re told in one of these segments, men gain power from having many wives. Yet for all the cultural, even mythical explanations, one passing joke may explain it best: “Men are like cats: Give them a fish and they’ll eat it.”



East meets West at the Modern Sky Festival, an annual Beijing event since 2007 making its United States debut. Divided fairly equally between domestic and Chinese acts, the two-day event kicks off this afternoon with Deserts Chang, a poetic folk experimentalist akin to our own Cat Power, who headlines tomorrow’s lineup. Picks to click include Beijing’s self-critical postpunk funk group Rebuilding the Rights of Statues, Gang of Four devotees who really know from the Gang of Four. Seattle punk refugees and Brooklyn meta-rockers Liars fill out a bill topped by “Atomic Bomb!” The Luaka Bop label’s wonderful tribute to the brilliant Nigerian Afrofunk recluse William Onyeabor features Sinkane and the Mahotella Queens. Art-folkies Omnipotent Youth Society, surf-rockers Queen Sea Big Shark, and Peking-operatic glam fetishists Second Hand Rose open tomorrow’s day-long bill.

Sat., Oct. 4, 5 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 5, 8:30 p.m., 2014


I Am Eleven Explores a Number Rather Than Lives

Here’s how an 11-year-old French girl describes the future. “There are flying cars, dogs who eat screws and batteries, and aliens have captured the world,” she gushes. But then she slows, thinks harder, folds her arms, kicks her legs in their black leggings. Inspiration strikes: “And every human being has a huge house, and human beings don’t have to do anything because the robots do everything.”

Her forecast is paranoid and utopian, imaginative and shopworn, a goony improvisation and possibly revelatory in the manner of play-therapy. Rather than explore it, or ask a follow-up, director/interviewer Genevieve Bailey just cuts away, to another kid elsewhere in the world, talking about wanting to grow up to be an actress.

Bailey’s I Am Eleven travels the world, pointing the camera at 11-year-olds and just letting the kids rip. She favors contrasts over context, presenting her subjects in a restless montage that never lets up. The thoughts of an Aboriginal girl in a Melbourne housing complex might be followed by those of Goh or Jack, kids in Thailand astride elephants, or the Swedish boys, both Muslim, who want to be rappers one day. Jianfang in China shows off pigs, horses, and chrysanthemums; a global-minded French boy declares, “I love snakes, and I don’t like racist people at all.” The States are well represented by a Georgian boy who, after reading National Geographic, wants to grow up to be a scientist — although he acknowledges that he won’t be able to crack cold fusion by himself.

“I wanted to make something energetic, optimistic, universal, and real,” Bailey announces in voiceover as the movie begins. She’s certainly accomplished that, but it’s too bad she didn’t also aim for vital, illuminating, or consistently compelling. She cuts from kid to kid so quickly that we rarely get the chance to feel we know them, and I Am Eleven devotes too little time to the circumstances of a child’s life in, say, India or Bulgaria. (The kid from the latter sports an eyepatch and says he would fight anyone anywhere “for love.”) One wrenching surprise works its way in in spite of Bailey’s approach: Shy Siham, in Morocco, answers questions about herself, but is continually interrupted by a local woman just offscreen, presumably her mother: “Tell her we don’t have electricity.”

“Why?” Siham ask, beaming but nervous. “Do you think if I tell her she will connect the electricity?”

The woman continues: “Tell her your family is poor. Your father is a laborer. Whenever someone needs him, they call him, otherwise no income. Tell her . . . the women cannot work.”

Siham obliges, telling Bailey some of this stuff, but both subject and interviewer seem more comfortable once the conversation turns back to the young girl’s hobbies. (“Study, sport, and travel.”) Even while facing relentless poverty, kids say the darnedest things.

Just how little I Am Eleven reveals about the kids is laid bare by the movie’s unfortunate website. Here’s actual captions from some of its striking photos of these kids: “Siham is from a small village in Morocco where she lives with etc etc.” “Goh lives in the former capital of Thailand Ayutthaya with his family and elephants etc etc.” That dummy text — the first thing I found online when searching for Siham — is, sadly, what most viewers of the film will walk away with.

Any isolated 10 minutes of I Am Eleven would make for excellent viewing. (Witness the charming girl in India who says, “I didn’t know what an interview was before.”) But heaped together into a feature, these brief introductions prove frustrating, unrevealing of any greater truth, and weighed down by the soundtrack’s jaunty ukuleles, which too often suggest those commercials where banks insist they’re as unique as you are.

Bailey’s thesis is that 11 is the age “when the world feels big in a good way — and at our feet,” and her film plays as a meditation on that simple idea. I use the term “meditation” advisedly: I Am Eleven asks you to sit in the dark and contemplate an upbeat idea for 90 minutes, even as the world — in the form of poverty, inequality, and the commands of that offscreen woman — batters against it.

She’s dedicated, and she sticks with it. No matter how interesting the world around these kids might seem, Bailey’s always ready to shut it out and move on to etc. and etc.


29 Ways to Better Yourself This Fall in NYC


Theater and Performing Arts

What would dance be without its costumes? Those tutus, those sequins, the occasional jazzy bowler hat. Still, clothes aren’t much without some accompanying footwork, so the Fashion Institute of Technology will offer a variety of dance classes in the fall. Courses include “Contemporary Urban Dance,” “Dances of the Middle East and India,” “Afro-Caribbean Dance,” ballet, modern, jazz, and flamenco.

Sure, there are advantages to being a solo artist. Full creative control, first pick of backstage snacks, not having to share groupies. But a musician can get lonely. If you’d like to learn to play well with others, Mannes School of Music, an affiliate of the New School, offers a variety of ensemble programs. You can register for “Community Orchestra,” “Baroque Chamber Ensemble,” “Guitar Ensemble,” “Flute Ensemble,” and for Renaissance Faire enthusiasts, “Recorder Consort.”



Shopping your closet would be a lot easier if your closet had a lot more new stuff in it. But Bird River Studios in Williamsburg has a compromise. In the sewing workshop “Jean Re-Fab Bag,” you’ll learn how to turn your worn-out jeans into a brand-new purse. And in “T-Shirt Re-Fab,” you can learn no-sew techniques to transform old tops into wardrobe statement pieces.

If the shoe fits, wear it. Designing and building a shoe based on the shape of your particular foot might really help with that whole fit thing. At the Brooklyn Shoe Space in Williamsburg, you can learn how to create your own footwear. Begin with an introductory session covering “footwear structure, resources for materials, and measuring your feet.” Then move on to pattern making and working sessions.



If you browse a bookstore’s classics section, you’ll find a preponderance of books by dead white rich men. And those books are pretty great, but the NY Writers Coalition has dedicated itself to making sure a greater variety of voices is heard. The coalition partners with social-service agencies to arrange workshops for veterans, geriatrics, the recently incarcerated, and those with physical and mental disabilities. For the general public, it also sponsors a free weekly workshop at the central branch of the Brooklyn Public Library each Monday afternoon.

What’s the use of having written the next great American novel if no one can read it? “The Next Bestseller Workshop” promises to help you make your opus just a bit more magnum. At this weekend seminar in Soho from November 7 to 9, you’ll learn to “practice and polish your pitch with direct access to book publishing industry professionals, Hollywood, and the media.”


If you have a nagging desire to sculpt, consider learning at Chateau Stables, a stable for theatrical animals in Hell’s Kitchen. This class will cover sculpting basics: building an armature, building sculptural muscle mass, creating fine details. And it will provide extra inspiration of the four-legged variety by providing several horses to serve as live models. Who’d say neigh to that?

Has all the color drained from your relationship? You can try revivifying it during “1-Nite Couples Painting Class Party” at the Art Studio NY on the Upper West Side. Here you’ll receive instruction in “color mixing, brushwork, composition, texture” and leave with a canvas you create together. If it goes poorly, you can console yourself with the free wine. And if not even wine can improve things, you might be ready for Art Studio NY’s “BYOB Singles Night Painting Class Party.”

For Children and Teens

Does it seem as if your kid is always a move or two ahead of you? If you think your tot (aged four and up) might make a grandmaster or -mistress, you can sign him or her up for lessons at Chess NYC in the West Village. Opt for individual chess club lessons or group chess buddy tutoring. But don’t blame the school if you become just a pawn in your spawn’s game.

New York City used to boast a dazzlingly rich aquaculture, its bays teeming with striped bass, cod, oysters, and clams. Actually, New York still has plenty of fish, though you might want to exercise some caution before consuming them. You can decide once you and your child learn to catch them, with free lessons via Big City Fishing, which run through August at a variety of piers. Big City provides “rods, reels and bait, as well as formal instruction.”


If only a film actually ended once you yelled “Cut!” on the final scene. But how to sort through all those different takes, sync that dialogue, fade in those songs? And where should you place all those CGI fire-breathing dragons? A six-week course in “The Art of Film Editing” at the Edit Center in DUMBO can help. Students will learn Final Cut Pro and Avid Media Composer while working on a full-length narrative film or feature documentary.


Food and Drink

This is a golden age of ice cream. Gelato, too. Also sorbet. Even much-maligned frozen yogurt. If you’d like to learn to make your own quiescently frozen confections, it might help to study with an expert. At the new Ample Hills in Gowanus, Brooklyn — the venture that developed the worryingly addictive Salted Crack Caramel — you’ll learn “how to transform a few natural ingredients and a dream into a cold, creamy treat.”

Let’s all take a moment to thank that long-ago ancestor who first thought to roast his or her mammoth steak over an open flame. But grilling has come a long way since prehistoric times. Bring yourself up to speed at the Institute of Culinary Education in the Flatiron. You can start with “All About Grilling,” then move on to “Grilling and Roasting the Chinese Way” and “Grilling Seafood Seven Ways.”

Even in the midst of summer’s swelter, New York City can feel very far from the tropics. But you can bring the islands (not Staten, Randall’s, or Ellis) just a little closer with “Tiki Time” at the Astor Center in the East Village. In this two-hour seminar on August 20, you’ll learn “the history, the décor, and, of course, the cocktails that launched the 1950s Tiki bar craze,” and get hands-on experience in zombie and mai tai mixology. Baby, we were born to rum.


What would you like for lunch? A salad, a sandwich, a stiff drink, a sleeve of breath mints, or maybe just some serenity? If you’d rather feed your spirit than your stomach, the Giving Tree Yoga Studio in Astoria offers the Vinyasa class “Lunchtime Bliss,” while also presenting “Noon Awakening,” which incorporates “pranayama, meditation and unique sequencing.”

Maybe you’d like to discover better health by optimizing your energy meridians. Or maybe you’ve always felt a certain envy watching the human pincushion at Coney Island. Either way, you’ll enjoy “Community Acupuncture” at the Maha Rose Center for Healing in Greenpoint. In this massage class, you’ll learn the “basics and benefits of acupuncture.”


Do you believe in love at first site? Maybe you will once you’ve taken “Web Development 1: Building Websites” at the Noble Desktop in Soho. You’ll begin by learning basic HTML and CSS, then put that coding into practice, exploring various layouts, links, structures, and designs, until you’re ready to upload your masterpiece to the web.

How many millions of us wanted to reach into our computer screens just to bring harm to Clippy, Microsoft’s unfailingly jaunty office assistant? If you need help with word processing, there are better ways, such as classes in Microsoft Word at the Career Center in Murray Hill. Choose from eight levels of instruction — everything from creating a document to spellchecking your final draft.


Charlemagne said that to have a second language was to possess a second soul. But what if you’re interested in a third, fourth, fifth, and sixth soul? If you’ve been looking for a place to learn some more exotic tongues (and a couple of dead ones), consider the continuing-education courses at Columbia University. Offerings include everything from Armenian to Zulu, with Pulaar, Sanskrit, Telugu, Tibetan, Uzbek, and Wolof in between.


Some of us still have warm feelings for the Barbies of our youth. But it’s a rare adult who feels any nostalgia for Ken. If you think you can improve on his worryingly smooth plastic frame, consider the August 24 doll workshop at Chelsea’s City Quilter, where you’ll make “a male doll to dress as you wish.” Tiny sequin tuxedoes and toreador outfits not included.

Paper cutting! It’s not just for snowflakes and those weird Thanksgiving turkeys you make by tracing around your hand anymore. At “Papercutting Explorations” at the Center for Book Arts in the Flatiron, you’ll learn how to produce “silhouettes, colorful collages, basic pop-ups, and paper sculptures, as well as multiple prints.” It’s probably best not to try out your new skills on the center’s tomes.


It’ll be another four years before the U.S. can lose another World Cup. But why not at least dominate your pickup game in the meantime? At Soccer Beyond — hey, it’s up to the rest of the Earth to call it football — you can take coed lessons emphasizing skills such as passing, dribbling, ball control, attacking, and defending. At Pier 25 in Tribeca, Soccer Beyond also offers boot camps, scrimmages, and one-on-one coaching.

When Henry Hudson first navigated our waterways, did he ever suspect that some 400 years in the future the river to which he gave his name would host “Beachfit Bootcamp”? Manhattan Kayak Company offers an amphibious twist on the typical exercise class, with cross-training both on land at Pier 84 in Hell’s Kitchen and in the water, using a paddleboard.



They’re in your food, your tea, your soap, your medicine. Good god, herbs are everywhere! If you’d like to learn more about them, consider the two-session course “Herbs: Historical Significance and Contemporary Use,” beginning August 29 at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx. If you’re up for more after pondering the “physical properties of herbs and their roles within traditional cultures,” you can follow up in September with “Nature’s Pharmacy.”

New York is home to nine species of bats, none of them vampiric. (Though a few are rabid.) Some may fear them, but these are fascinating creatures, even the smallest of which can devour hundreds of insects each night. For those who’d like to better appreciate them (and their prey), NYC Audubon hosts “Twilight Bat and Insect Walks” in Central Park, designed to educate strollers about bats and their importance in the urban environment. Bring a flashlight and bug spray.


Legendary photojournalist Robert Capa quipped that if your photos weren’t good enough, you weren’t close enough. Actually, there are a host of other reasons your photos don’t dazzle, flaws you can remedy with “Photojournalism and Documentary” at PhotoManhattan in Union Square. Classes include a study of the work of famous photojournalists, as well as weekly assignments and group critiques.

Digital photography is cheap, easy, and practical. But these aren’t necessarily selling points. If you long for something just a bit less evanescent, enroll in the “Analog Film Lab,” a one-day intensive course on August 29 at BKC Brooklyn Central in Bushwick. After learning how to load film into the camera, you’ll master focus and the light meter before heading out to shoot. Then you’ll learn how to develop your film and print your pictures. Assuming all goes well, you’ll leave with a set of 8-by-10 glossies.


Henna has been used for cosmetic purposes for 6,000 years. So you might feel just a little guilty not yet having learned how to use it. In the two-hour henna workshop at Henna by Kenzi in Bed-Stuy, you’ll learn how to prepare and apply henna paste, plus the all-important aspects of henna aftercare. Or, if you prefer your cosmetics less natural, try “Airbrush Makeup and Sunless Tanning Workshop” at CHIC Studios NYC.



It was probably inevitable that some bright experimentalist would appropriate the rich and colorful-sounding metallophones and gongs of Indonesia to gnarlier ends. Which is precisely the case with OOIOO’s brilliant new Gamel, a kaleidoscopic blend of Javanese gamelan, brain-searing acid-rock guitar, and Japanese girl pop. Led by Boredoms co-founder (and Flaming Lips muse) Yoshimi P-We, OOIOO oscillates between slow, stately rhythms and ringing climaxes in a series of transcendent permutations. Their music is modular and cyclical, surprising yet repititious in the best possible way. American minimalism’s roots may lie in gamelan, but Yoshimi’s maximalist take suggests an altogether more euphoric variation. OOIOO is bringing two gamelan players along on this rare American tour which continues with a Sunday-night appearance at Le Poisson Rouge.

Fri., July 18, 9 p.m., 2014



In Indian music, a jugalbandi (Hindi for “entwined twins”) signifies two solo musicians performing together as equals, trading songs and improvising. The first American appearance by Shubha Mudgal and Bombay Jayashri, who’ve been getting rave reviews across the pond, also marks a meeting of India’s two classical traditions: the northern Hindustani and southern Carnatic styles, respectively. You may already have heard Jayashri: She sang “Pi’s Lullaby” which played over Life of Pi’s credits, but is better known as part of a new wave of young Carnatic specialists. Mudgal, who has been performing classical music since the 1980s, is one of India’s most recognized vocalists. Embar Kannan (violin), Aneesh Pradhan (tabla), J. Vaidhyanathan (double-headed mridangam drum), and Sudhir Nayak (harmonium) accompany, and should bring plenty to the party themselves.

Sat., May 31, 7:30 p.m., 2014


The Raid 2 Offers More, More, Argh

A grave has been freshly dug in the opening shot of director Gareth Evans’s ultra-violent Indonesian flick The Raid 2. It’s a start, but Evans is going to need 400 more.

In the first few minutes, Evans dispenses with three-quarters of the survivors of 2012’s The Raid: Redemption, the writer-director’s brutal mini-epic about a police mission gone wrong, leaving only good-hearted, fleet-fisted husband and father Rama (Iko Uwais) to solve corruption in Jakarta (population 9.6 million, about half of whom the Raid movies estimate are evil). The city is ruled by two family heads: Bangun (Tio Pakusadewo) and Goto (Ken’ichi Endo), gentleman gangsters who have maintained a decade-long truce. But corrupt cops and upstart mobster Bejo (Alex Abbad), a slithery goon with leather gloves, want bigger pieces of the market. And Rama, secretly embedded as the right-hand man to Bangun’s prissy son Uco (Arifin Putra, a clone of young Elvis), is fine killing everyone if it means he can safely return home.

“This is a question of ambition, really,” says Bejo. Which is also true for 33-year-old Evans, a Welshman who moved to Indonesia to shoot a documentary on the native martial art pencak silat — good for maiming enemies with knives, sticks, and kicks — and wound up jump-starting the country’s dormant action film industry and creating international proto-stars from athletes who just five years ago were anonymous deliverymen and silat instructors.

This sequel is bigger and bloodier than its predecessor, which is no easy feat. People kill each other with broomsticks, hammers, and baseball bats in restaurants, prison bathrooms, and nightclubs. Five men get their necks sliced with box-cutters for no reason I could fathom, even after the second watch that’s probably mandatory for anyone trying to figure out who’s murdering whom and why. The plot is as gratuitous as the violence. At 148 minutes, it feels both rushed and endless, so laden with double-dealing and intrigue that Evans can’t even pause to give characters names. One of the climatic fights is between Rama and, uh, That Guy Who Uses Hooked Knives.

Uwais’s Rama is a blue-collar hero, Bruce Lee by way of Bruce Springsteen. He fights in cargo pants and knockoff Converse sneakers, and has an abashed charisma, as though he’d rather not become Hollywood’s latest trendy import. Early on, Bangun and Uco order him to strip to prove he’s not wearing a wire and we get a flash of his utilitarian, almost soft stomach that makes pretty-boy vanity muscles look as foolish as a stripper with silicone triple Js. He performs amazing stunts under exacting constraints, say, battling 15 guys in a concrete box. Yet we’re most impressed when Evans has him shadowbox a wall, the best way to gawk at his extraordinary speed; it’s like watching a hummingbird buzzing its wings.

Like him, the raw ingredients of Raid 2 are superb. But the overall effect is gluttonous and queasy. Instead of one memorable assassin, Evans crams in three — let’s call them Knife Guy, Hammer Girl, and Baseball Bat Dude — but doesn’t have time to give them dialogue. He resurrects five-foot-tall fan favorite Yayan Ruhian (Mad Dog in the original) and burns through him like a match. Though the flick’s best scenes are pared-down bouts — two men in a kitchen, five men in a car — Evans wrestles with (and loses to) his impulse that bigger is better, that 35 corpses are more effective than one.

Are American audiences more comfortable with mass murder if the dead don’t look or talk like us? I don’t know. But judging by the awkward titters and hoots in my crowd, it’s a question worth asking, even if we might not like the answer. Take one massacre, where Uco and his men machine-gun a warehouse of people over a 5,000 rupiah debt. Five thousand rupiah is 43 cents. Even if something got garbled in the subtitles, and the value was supposed to be closer to $5,000, that would still mean that in this world, each human is worth just a few hundred bucks apiece. Life shouldn’t be this cheap.

By the last act (after several people had fled my screening either from nausea or tedium), we’ve seen so much death that our eye sockets feel bruised. I’m not opposed to onscreen death. I’m opposed to pointless death. Eventually, the bloody face-offs feel as inhuman and pitiless as the contests at a cockfight. Ironically, Evans is so strong an action director that he could have shaved off 40 minutes and hundreds of victims and wound up with a more effective final cut. A more conscientious director, however, might have avoided confusing monochrome battles between men dressed in identical black, or between 60 men slathered in mud, or at least asked himself why, in the middle of a film that looks like summer, there’s suddenly a fight in the snow.

Still, I doubt I’ll see a better action beat all year than a pause Evan takes during a two-man battle to the death. Amid vast, vapid slaughter, these two weary warrior animals allow each other to gulp what could be their final breaths. Then they lunge again. And we understand not just the need to kill, but, almost inspiringly, the urgency of survival.



Secretary of State John Kerry recently named a special coordinator for Tibetan issues, and China — surprise! — is displeased. The longtime standoff between these two cosmically mismatched powers provides the customary backdrop to minimalist composer Philip Glass’s 24th annual benefit for Tibet House, which packs a festival’s worth of dependably eclectic performers into Carnegie Hall for a night of intercultural consciousness raising. Following an invocation by Drepung Gomang monks, this year’s lineup includes New Order, Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, and members of the National; Tibetan traditionalist Techung; and Glass protégé Nico Muhly. While some of the evening’s more charming moments inevitably arise from Glass’s casual piano accompaniment, expect Smith to bring down the suitably opulent house.

Tue., March 11, 7:30 p.m., 2014