Listen to Africa’s Singing Giants
By Joshua Eferighe
Terrific Independent Films
Love Jones. In addition to being a must-watch indie classic, Love Jones is perfect for this time of year. Romance. Music. Chicago. What else do you need when the temperatures begin to drop? Starring a young Larenz Tate and the incomparable Nia Long, this ’90s rom-dram follows the entanglement of a poet and a photographer — and explores what happens when love is tested. The moral is useful too: When someone says they love you, believe them.
Heading South. What happens when three white women — a college professor from New England, a housewife from Georgia and a middle-class Canadian — go to a Hatian resort in the ’70s in an attempt to revitalize their lives? Well, you’d have to watch this 2005 film from Haiti-based Danish filmmaker Jørgen Leth to find out. This weekend, indulge in some tourism through three separate short stories about three very different women.
Half of a Yellow Sun. This 2013 film isn’t a documentary, but it does use archival footage of the Nigerian Civil War, which serves as the backdrop. Anika Noni Rose and Thandie Newton play twin sisters pursuing very different lives in 1970s Nigeria as their country becomes nearly unrecognizable. If you love the movie and want more, read the Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie novel it’s based on.
Great Fall Food — South American Style
Picanha. Brazil’s signature steak — pronounced pee-KAN-ya — is wildly underappreciated outside of Brazil, so much so that if you want to cook it yourself you have to ask your butcher for a particular cut, also known as top sirloin cap. The hard part is getting the meat. Once you have it, just salt the steaks, season with a dry rub, and then grill them. Let rest at least five minutes (we know it’s hard to wait that long) before chowing done.
Parihuela. It’s soup season! Even if you’re not a soup lover, give this Peruvian seafood broth a try. Akin to San Francisco’s signature cioppino, it’s an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to seafood, with squidi, shrimp, clams, mussels and fish all thrown together into one delicious dish. What makes it special is the ají panca — a Peruvian chili pepper that will leave you sweating but wanting more.
Arroz con Coco. This sweet-meets-savory Colombian side dish can also function as a dessert in a pinch. Simmer coconut milk with salt and sugar into a paste, then brown and coat rice in the mixture before cooking it to perfection. Top with shaved toasted coconut, and mix in a handful of raisins if you want to amp up the sweetness.
Explore The Universe In VR
Ecosphere. If you’re into Animal Planet, Planet Earth and other programs providing a look into our planet’s different ecosystems, Ecosphere is the VR app for you. From the savannas of Kenya to the jungles of Borneo, this app reimagines natural-history storytelling and conservation filmmaking by bringing them into your living room — or whatever room you choose.
Titans of Space. OK, so it won’t answer the question of whether there’s life on Venus. But the immersive Titans of Space takes you on a VR tour of the solar system in a much fancier, socially distanced version of the classic planetarium field trip. It’s also available on mobile and Steam, in case you don’t have access to VR yet.
Ocean Rift. Which is cooler: space or the ocean? This VR aquatic safari park will help you answer that question. (But, c’mon, the answer is definitely the ocean — space is boring!) Explore all sorts of ocean environments, including prehistoric seas and the Arctic. It’s a lot more educational than watching The Meg yet again.
Legendary Singers From Africa
Sidiki Diabaté. From Bamako, Mali, the Diabaté family are known as pioneers of Guinean pop. In 1970, Sidiki Diabaté recorded the first-ever album of music on the kora, a traditional West African string instrument. His son Toumani also became a renowned kora player, and his grandson, also named Sidiki, is a music producer.
Umm Kulthum. Umm Kulthum is a Middle Eastern icon who’s still relevant 45 years after her death. If you aren’t familiar with this Egyptian vocalist, you’re missing out. Watch footage of her perform, and you’ll see her massive range and distinctive tone, which has kept her beloved since the 1930s.
Sauti Sol. You don’t know boy bands until you’ve gotten into this Kenyan boy band. Their shirtless antics have played well all over the world since they got together in 2005. Sauti Sol released a new album this summer (perhaps they realized that everybody needs happiness in their lives right now). Fun fact: They’ve also signed on to do a reality show for an African streaming service.
Disgrace. There are few books that capture the racial tensions in South America during apartheid quite like J.M Coetzee’s Disgrace.Published 20 years ago, the Nobel Prize–winning novel follows a middle-aged Cape Town English professor who loses everything — and eventually has to reckon with the pain he’s caused.
The Red Tent. This 1997 Anita Diamant novel fleshes out the minor Biblical character Dinah — the daughter of Jacob and Leah and the sister of Joseph, he of the coat of many colors — to tell a compelling story about ancient womanhood. While Dinah and her tragic life are the focus, the novel’s heart is her relationship with her four mothers, Jacob’s four wives.
The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace. Fiction writer Jeff Hobbs turned to real life for this book about his college roommate, who escaped the streets of Newark to get to Yale, only to return to New Jersey and die tragically. It’s a compelling, heartfelt narrative, and a tough look at race, class, community and education in the U.S.
Common Ground. This nonfiction doorstop from the ’80s might be languishing in the back of your local used bookstore. Now is the time to rescue it. The Pulitzer Prize winner by J. Anthony Lukas is a real-life epic, uncovering the origins of the Boston busing riots of the ’80s via a detailed look at three families and their roles in a system of oppression.