Kim Jong-il Dropping The Bass: In Memoriam

Maybe all along, the Dear Leader's starvation and darkness deal with his oppressed people was just his way of keeping them slim and hot, for fun in the dark, because we all know only fun things happen in the dark right? Like that Lady Gaga song "Dance In The Dark".

Alright, that's mean as hell, considering as the late Christopher Hitchens noted that North Korea was full of "starving and stunted dwarves, living in the dark, kept in perpetual ignorance and fear, brainwashed into the hatred of others." Well, that actually sounds like your local mall during the holidays. Or Internet commenters.

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Roadtrippin': The Eight Track Museum In Dallas

Photos By Craig Hlavaty
Last week while this member Rocks Off was in Dallas for the 48th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination and our annual trek to Dealey Plaza, we stopped in to the Eight Track Museum in the Deep Ellum district of the city.

The opening rumblings of the small museum, located in the back of store front in Big D was heavily covered by our sister paper the Dallas Observer, with a line of blogs and ink was just beckoning us to swing on by. The Huffington Post also weighed in on the collection, with glowing praise.

We aren't really devotees of eight-tracks -- we only have a handful of Stones eights -- but music mania and collecting is our life, so it was a must. The crates and crates and numerous boxes of wax and compact discs in our house should start paying rent. Plus, a chance to see a trove of Rutles eight-tracks was worth the drive alone.

Bucks Burnett's baby is a one-of-kind journey back to a nearly-hidden chapter in music history, when cassette tapes were still a few years off, and portable recorded music was still in it's infancy. Of course, vinyl was always king, and even today as it continues it's reign over our bank accounts. But eight-tracks are something special and dear to Burnett.

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BollyHood MC Deep Cold "Drips" Hip-Hop Bhangra

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We can't remember where we read this recently, but it was a truism. It read something like, "Old music doesn't exist. There's music you've heard and there's music you haven't."

We wonder if the same applies with life. "Old stories don't exist. There are those you've read about and those you haven't."

Rocks Off has music and a story that you probably haven't heard or read about.

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iFest's Second Weekend Brings It All Back Home

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Jason Wolter
Texas Connection: Joe Ely, Lucinda Williams and Townes Van Zandt (not pictured)
See lots more iFest pictures from Saturday and Sunday (and some food) in our slideshows.

Yes, it was hot at iFest this weekend. Houston hot. Sunday afternoon, partway through Lucinda Williams' surprisingly nostalgic set, both the temperature and humidity were in the low 90s and Rocks Off felt like we were losing weight by the gallon.

But the thing that stood out to us most about the Houston International Festival's second and final weekend of 2011 was how easy it can be to drop that "International" out of the equation. And how satisfying - even international - a "Houston Festival" can be.

Unlike last weekend, Rocks Off did not (accidentally or on purpose) stumble across anything as alien to our Southwestern ears as Kora Connection or the Homayun Sakhi Trio. We sat and watched Bollywood Blast's surreal and fairy tale-ish performance for a few minutes, and walked through the castle-like Great Wall of China replica, where the gong about two-thirds through was especially popular with the kiddos, if not so much any adults within earshot.

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Dengue Fever: Nothing Lost In Translation

Lauren Dukoff
Cambodian pop-rock seems like an odd choice musical genre to try to earn a living, but Los Angeles-area sextet Dengue Fever is closing in on ten years.

All signs are that the band is set for a much longer run: They've just released Cannibal Courtship, their fourth album and successor to the wildly successful Venus on Earth, which made iTunes' list of best world-music albums of 2008.

The band toured Cambodia in 2009 and documented the experience with the film Sleepwalking Through the Mekong, which included concert footage as well recording sessions with Cambodian master musicians.

Rocks Off caught up with Dengue Fever founder and keyboardist Ethan Holtzman as the band was preparing to depart for the three-day Texas tour that brings them to Fitzgerald's Saturday.

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iFest's First Weekend Thick With Music, Humidity

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Jimmie Vaughan (left) and his band gave the large iFest crowd some saxual healing Saturday.
Lots more iFest in our slideshows: The bands, the performers, the crowds and even the food.

For something that was still going on 24 hours ago, the first weekend of the Houston International Festival sure seems like a long way away now. That's what happens when one of the most monumental events of your lifetime happens when all you're trying to do is wind down from a long weekend of outdoor music in a muggy Bayou City spring.

Now, in hindsight, iFest's choice of "The Silk Road: Journey Across Asia" as its theme this year seems especially poignant. If you need to brush up on your world geography, the Silk Road is a network of overland trade routes that has been in use since ancient times. Effectively, it forms a belt between the Mediterranean and China - making Afghanistan and Pakistan the buckle.

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Free Radicals Blend Break-Dancing, Capoeira Into Fitz's Show

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The Free Radicals remain an institution of incredible sound here in H-town, having amassed 13 Houston Press Music Awards in the realms of jazz and funk since their inception in 1996, as well as making a name for themselves as one of the city's most prolific protest bands. So when founder Nick Cooper emailed us to tell us he had something new and different, we were all ears.

They'll be playing a show tonight at Fitzgerald's - free for the drinking age crowd, $4 for the children - but what's new about that? Free Radicals regularly annihilates all over the city, after all. Well, tonight the music forms only part of the entertainment, as Cooper and company will mesh together their own brand of jazzy funk with the excitement of break-dancing and capoeira.

If you need break dancing explained to you, we will give you a minute to go rent Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo while we sit here and weep for the failure of your parental units. Capoiera may not be as familiar to the non-Tekken-playing crowd, though, so we'll explain.

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Keyboardist Seeks Arabic Players To Explore Local Scene

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Rocks Off combs through Craigslist's postings hoping to find the genesis of some great musical endeavor. So when we saw a posting looking for Arabic singers, we were intrigued.

After all, this is a time of mosque burnings and our upstairs neighbors passing anti-Sharia laws. It must take a hefty bag to start an Arabic music project. We sat down with keyboardist Alshed Al-Badri to learn some more about it.

Rocks Off: Are you looking for an Arabic speaker, or just someone of Arabic descent?

Alshed Al-Badri: Doesn't matter.

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Friday Night: "Jai Ho: The Journey Home" At Toyota Center

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Photos by Marco Torres
A.R. Rahman
"Jai Ho: The Journey Home"
Toyota Center
September 17, 2010

The Indian film-score composer A.R. Rahman, now widely known as the winner of two 2009 Academy Awards for Slumdog Millionaire, is the master of the movie-musical genre known as Bollywood. He is also one of the top-selling recording artists of all time, with 150 million records sold, and engineered the aural and visual feast on display Friday evening at Toyota Center.

The 160-minute set was supported by perhaps one of the largest world-music productions ever brought to town - Vegas-type circus acts, captivating dancers, a powerful vocalist and an arsenal of top-notch musicians. Paired with the dynamic staging and cinematic video work, the eclectic and fiery music created a journey to India with all the attendant Bollywood glitz and glamour.

Toyota Center was an array of bright clothing and shimmering saris as thousands of people flowed into the arena. As the air simmered with colorful chatter and anticipation, the lights lowered and fire-engine-red streaks of light covered the stage. Whistles, cheers and shouts filled the air as traditional Indian music rushed into the strains of the tour's main theme, "Journey Home."

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Bollywood's Greatest Western Hits: Beatles, Elvis, "Thriller"...

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Tonight, prolific Indian film composer/choreographer A.R. Rahman comes to Toyota Center to make up a July date he had to cancel after his tour was plagued with set malfunctions. In the wake of a near-disaster in Detroit back in June, Rahman and his company postponed dates in order to get their rigs and set-up back in safe, working order.

From what we have heard and read, Rahman's "Jai Ho Concert: The Journey Home" is a spectacle on par with the biggest Western pop concerts anyone could imagine. (Even Lady Gaga.) With Houston's large Indian population, the show is sure to be a packed affair.

Rahman is one of Bollywood's biggest names, so much so that he has been dubbed "The Mozart Of Madras" in some circles. Bollywood isn't a completely insular enterprise, though, taking numerous cues from Western musical trends while keeping their own heritage at the forefront. Over the years they have bitten off plenty from Western pop culture, including the British Invasion, hairy boogie-rock, and most perplexingly, Michael Jackson.

We found five instances of Bollywood dipping into the cultural stream with toe-tappingly interesting, if sort of creepy, results.

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