After Hurricane Sandy devastated the Breezy Point community in Queens, the neighborhood bagpipe band lost nearly everything. But they've found a way to recover – just in time for the big parade. NBC's Stephanie Gosk reports.
After Hurricane Sandy devastated the Breezy Point community in Queens, the neighborhood bagpipe band lost nearly everything. But they've found a way to recover – just in time for the big parade. NBC's Stephanie Gosk reports.
A program called Musicians on Call strives to bring music to the bedsides of patients too sick to leave their hospital beds. NBC's Lester Holt reports.
At the Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in Nashville, Tenn., it is not uncommon for the crisp, clean, soothing sound of an acoustic guitar to echo down the hallway.
Patients, their families, and medical staff members alike light up when musicians come in to sing. Patients’ smiles grow, their eyes widen, and they sometimes dance along to the beat of the songs from their hospital beds.
Courtney Butcher, a 17-year-old patient suffering from chronic stomach pain, was particularly excited about her personal musical performance because, she admitted, “I like all music.”
It’s all part of a program called Musicians on Call, whose mission is to bring music to the bedsides of patients too sick to leave their hospital beds. The program exists in numerous health care facilities in six different cities: New York, Philadelphia, Miami, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and Nashville.
The program relies heavily on local musicians. There is, however, a handful of more famous, celebrity musicians who are active participants.
Darius Rucker, of Hootie & the Blowfish fame, is one such volunteer.
Darius Rucker, who became famous as the front man for Hootie and the Blowfish and is now a solo country music artist, tells NBC's Lester Holt that playing for sick children in the hospital as part of 'Musicians on Call' can be emotional, but he puts that aside to help the kids feel better.
Having recently embraced the country music world, he performs mostly in the “music city” of Nashville.
"The singing stuff, that’s cool and it’s my job, but I really enjoy when … Musicians on Call, or the children’s hospital down in Vanderbilt or Charleston [calls]," Rucker said. “I love doing that stuff.”
Rucker says his success in the country music world fits perfectly into Musicians on Call because “the storyline of country music…it's such…emotion filled music. The storyline's always about kids and families and stuff like that.”
Thirteen-year-old Brooke Kreger, who has been in and out of the hospital since Christmas, thought Rucker was “awesome” and that his performance was “really good.” Her father, Tony, was thankful because Rucker’s performance broke up the “monotony of the day.”
The performances have physiological benefits for patients, too, including “pain control, lowering blood pressure, and lowering stress,” said Leslie Faerstein, the executive director of Musicians on Call.
The emotional benefits are evident, too, in boosting the morale of patients, their families, hospital staff, and even the volunteer performers.
A faithful believer in music therapy, country musician Randy Houser is also a Musicians on Call volunteer in Nashville.
“It doesn’t surprise me that there’s healing power in music,” said Houser. “Music has always been very therapeutic for me.”
Faerstein continues to see the benefits of the program as it expands.
“Once somebody does it, and they hear about it from another musician, they realize what an incredible experience it is, not just for the patient, but for the musician, him or herself,” Faerstein said. “It really affects everyone.”
Rucker does admit it can be difficult sometimes.
“I've been in a couple rooms where the kids were real sick,” Rucker said. “I've walked out of rooms where…you really have to stop for a second … so you don't go in the next room crying.”
Nevertheless, he and many other talented musicians across the country, continue to go back and share the joy of music with the patients.
“It’s one of those things that when you do it…it’s amazing,” Rucker said. “And when you’ve done it – you can’t – you don’t say no.”
Earl Gibson III/Getty Images
At a candlelight vigil for singer Jenni Rivera on Dec. 10 in Long Beach, Calif.
The memorial - called a "Celestial Graduation" by her family - will be held from 10 a.m. to noon PT and be led by the Rev. Pedro Rivera Jr., the singer's older brother.
"We will celebrate the graduation into heaven, with honors, of our beloved mother, daughter and sister Jenni Rivera," the statement read. "We appreciate the privacy and discretion given to the family on the day she is laid to rest. The burial services will be privately held."
Rivera died when the private plane she was traveling in crashed in a mountainous region of Mexico.
Born in Long Beach, Calif., to Mexican immigrant parents, Rivera sold more than 15 million albums worldwide throughout her career and was a household name in Mexico and to Spanish-speaking communities throughout the United States.
The 43-year-old mother of five was one of the biggest stars of banda, a brass-based, percussive form of Spanish-language pop music invented in northern Mexico but played heavily throughout the American Southwest. Banda traditionally was the domain of men, and Rivera's emergence and eventual dominance in the genre was groundbreaking.
Rivera's fame was expanding prior to the crash, thanks to a stint on television as the star of her own reality series, "I Love Jenni," on Telemundo's mun2 cable channel, and the recent announcement that she had signed to take the lead role in a sitcom for ABC.
The company that owns the luxury jet on which she was traveling is under investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and the agency seized two of its planes earlier this year as part of the probe.
The Rivera family requested that in lieu of flowers at the memorial, donations be made to the Jenni Rivera Love Foundation - the charity founded by the singer, which offers support services to single mothers and victims of both domestic and sexual abuse.
Updated at 1:25 a.m. ET: Rock legends ranging from Roger Waters to The Rolling Stones to Paul McCartney with Nirvana joined together Wednesday night for a massive six-hour concert to raise money for the Robin Hood Relief Fund benefiting victims of superstorm Sandy.
The musicians set a serious tone, wearing mostly black and gray onstage as they encouraged people to call and donate money to help those affected by the devastating storm that killed at least 140 people and destroyed or damaged homes and properties in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and other areas.
Alicia Keys, who grew up in Manhattan's Hell's Kitchen, closed the show with her New York anthem "Empire State of Mind," as doctors, nurses, firefighters, police officers and others joined the piano-playing singer onstage. They ended the night chanting "U.S.A."
Keys was one of two women who performed at "The Concert for Sandy Relief." Diana Krall backed McCartney, who sang his solo songs, Beatles songs and played the role of Kurt Cobain with Nirvana members Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic and Pat Smear.
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street band kicked off the concert with "Land of Hope and Dreams," and followed it up with "Wrecking Ball."
"Tonight, this is a prayer for all of our struggling brothers and sisters," Springsteen said. After performing a third song, the rocker brought out Jon Bon Jovi, and the pair sang "Born to Run" together.
"I can't believe that Bruce Springsteen is my opening act," Billy Crystal joked after the set. "You can feel the electricity in the building, which means Long Island Power isn't involved." He also reminded viewers about the devastation the storm left behind. "More than 100 people died ... entire neighborhoods wiped out. ... Tonight with your help, we are going to emerge stronger than before."
Pink Floyd's Roger Waters, who recently toured with his show "Roger Waters The Wall Live," performed "In the Flesh" and "Another Brick in the Wall" from the band's classic album. He then launched into "Money" and "Us and Them" from "Dark Side of the Moon."
Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder then joined the group for "Comfortably Numb," taking turns on the lyrics with Waters.
Don Emmert / AFP - Getty Images
Roger Waters performed songs from "The Wall" and "Dark Side of the Moon."
Adam Sandler then took the stage with Paul Shaffer on piano for a little fun, with the comedian tweaking the lyrics to "Hallelujah" to suit the evening. "Hallelujah, Sandy screw ya! We'll get through you, 'cause we're New Yorkers!" the duo sang.
During the show, celebrities -- including Susan Sarandon, Ben Stiller and Jake Gyllenhaal -- manned the phone bank to handle call-in donations. There were so many stars there to help, "You can't swing a dead cat without hitting a celebrity," Brian Williams joked during the concert.
"Twilight" star Kristen Stewart also made an appearance to urge viewers to donate. She reminded the audience of the massive amount of damage that the storm left behind. "Now is your chance to be Jersey Strong with us," she said before introducing Bon Jovi's performance. The Jersey native kicked off his set with "It's My Life."
"When this storm hit, we all knew that the healing process would be beginning, but that it was going to take a long time," the rocker said. "(The performers) knew the people we were doing it for wouldn't be able to hear us, to see us. ... This recovery is not going to be quick. ... But we are strong. We are New York. We are New Jersey."
Larry Busacca / Getty Images
Jon Bon Jovi performed "Livin' on a Prayer" and other hits during his set.
Eric Clapton also delivered an energetic set of his own that included "Nobody Knows When You're Down and Out" and "Crossroad Blues."
He was followed by The Rolling Stones, who were introduced by Jimmy Fallon. Frontman Mick Jagger encouraged the crowd to dance and cheer as the band launched into "You Got Me Rocking" and the singer showed off his own slinky moves.
"This has got to be the largest collection of old English musicians ever assembled in Madison Square Garden," Jagger later joked of the night's lineup.
Don Emmert / AFP - Getty Images
Ronnie Wood, Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts of The Rolling Stones perform.
Comedian Stephen Colbert also added to the humor. He said that when Sir Paul McCartney asked him for advice on being cool, he told the musician to lose the hair cut and the accent. Colbert then pointed out that helping is also cool. So cool, in fact, that it's like "doing a line of uncut goodwill" and that donating "is the new skinny jeans."
New Yorker Alicia Keys later delivered an emotion-packed performance, first with new tune "Brand New Me" then "No One." After the two-song set, she said, "My city, New York City, is the most resilient city."
After the slower set, The Who kicked things back into high gear with an energetic performance of "Who Are You?" during which singer Roger Daltrey seemingly dropped an F-bomb. While performing "Bell Boy," the band showed video of drummer Keith Moon, who died in 1978. Images and videos switched to those of the storm's destruction during "See Me, Feel Me." They ended their long set with "Tea and Theater" and a loud expletive for beer instead.
Like Colbert earlier, comedian Chris Rock used his humor to urge viewers to donate what they could. "We have raised so much money tonight, the shift's over! We fixed everything! Jersey's fixed, Staten Island, it's all like Beverly Hills right now!" he joked. "Now please go online and donate! One hundred percent of the money raised tonight will go to me! No, to the Robin Hood Relief Fund."
He then introduced the "always humble" Kanye West, who performed "Mercy," "Jesus Walks," "Diamonds Are Forever," "Gold Digger" (a seemingly odd song choice, considering the purpose of the concert) and more.
Kanye was followed by Billy Joel, who started his set with "Miami 2017." The Piano Man had also performed the tune at a benefit concert for the Sept. 11 attacks and an earlier Hurricane Sandy show. His performance also included "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," "New York State of Mind," "River of Dreams," "You May Be Right" and closed with "Only the Good Die Young."
Chris Martin of Coldplay was then introduced by actress Blake Lively. The rocker appeared on stage alone with just a guitar in his hands to perform the hit song "When I Ruled the World."
"I'm so grateful to be here. ... I know you really wanted One Direction, but it's way past their bedtime, so you get one quarter of Coldplay," Martin joked. "I tried to get the guy from 'Gangnam Style,' he wasn't available." Instead, R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe appeared and the pair did a duet of the hit "Losing My Religion." According to Brian Williams, Stipe was a surprise performer, even to those who planned the show.
Quentin Tarantino, Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz introduced Sir Paul McCartney.
"I love New York!" the former Beatle declared before kicking off the band's rocking tune "Helter Skelter," followed by "Let Me Roll It," "Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five," "My Valentine" and "Blackbird."
"So recently some guys asked me to go jam with them," McCartney said. "So I showed up, ready to jam, and in the middle of it, these guys said, 'Well, we haven't played together in years, you know?' ... I finally understood I was in the middle of the Nirvana reunion!"
The Beatle then jammed with Nirvana's Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic and Pat Smear to a new rock tune. Afterward, he took on the Fab Four's "I've Got a Feeling" and followed up with a firework-infused performance of Wings' "Live and Let Die."
McCartney ended his set by asking "the heroes of Hurricane Sandy" on stage and shaking their hands. He then brought Keys back to wrap up the show with her anthem to the city, "Empire State of Mind."
"Dedicated to all the heroes in New York and beyond," the songstress said in closing.
The show, which started at 7:30 p.m. ET at New York's Madison Square Garden, was broadcast live on 37 television stations in the United States and more than 200 others worldwide. It was to be streamed on 30 websites.
To make a donation, call 1-855-465-4357, or donate online at 121212concert.org.
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Detectives at the Los Angeles Police Department's Robbery-Homicide Division are trying to make amends with Christopher Wallace (aka Notorious B.I.G's) family for releasing his autopsy report prior to notifying them.
Mark Lennihan / AP file
Notorious B.I.G. in 1995.
Calling the "premature" autopsy release an "administrative error" in a statement, the LAPD said detectives in the division intended to notify his family before releasing the report.
"Our detectives personally spoke with the Wallace family last night, and apologized for not notifying them prior to the release" Commanding Officer of Robbery-Homicide Division Captain Billy Hayes said. "Obviously this has been a challenging case for us to solve. We hope that witnesses or other people with information will come forward and give us the clues we need to solve this case."
Detectives said they hoped the release of the report would "stimulate additional interest or bring forth witnesses or clues in the case," which is still under active investigation.
The Los Angeles County Department of Coroner made the 23-page, gruesome autopsy report public Friday, which detailed how the "Hypnotize" rapper died, after the LAPD approved its release.
The LAPD released no new information about the hip hop legend's death, however, which didn't sit well with Biggie's family.
"What legitimate lead could be stimulated by releasing an autopsy that says 'Mr. Wallace was shot,' when everyone knows that? Why don't they release some of the clues they have?" Perry Sanders Jr., an attorney for the Wallace family, told the Los Angeles Times.
"The family has been advised by the ex lead detective that the case has been solved for several years," Sanders also told E! News in a statement. "If that is true, the family wants to know why an arrest has not been made."
Wallace was gunned down while leaving a music industry event outside the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles on March 9, 1997.
A live televised concert to benefit victims of Hurricane Sandy brought in nearly $23 million, the American Red Cross and NBCUniversal said Saturday.
The Red Cross said website and phone traffic exceeded that of telethons supporting the charity over the previous five years.
“We are incredibly grateful and humbled by this outpouring of support for those who are suffering as a result of Superstorm Sandy,” American Red Cross Chief Marketing Officer Peggy Dyer said in a statement.
The one-hour, commercial-free telecast organized by NBCUniversal, "Hurricane Sandy: Coming Together," included appearances by Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Jimmy Fallon, Steven Tyler, Mary J. Blige, Tina Fey, Jon Stewart, Whoopi Goldberg, Danny DeVito and NBC News' Brian Williams. TODAY co-anchor Matt Lauer was host.
"We haven't seen a storm like this in 100 years," said Lauer.
The show also featured Bon Jovi surveying the devastation in New Jersey. He then performed an unplugged version of "Living on a Prayer." Images of the destruction caused by Superstorm Sandy were also interspersed throughout the show, along with victims pleading for aid, reminding viewers just how immense the damage was.
"New Jersey was hit really hard. Some beaches were destroyed. Boardwalks were torn apart. But they will be rebuilt," said late-night host Fallon. "This song is dedicated to all the good times ahead." He then joined Tyler, Joel and Springsteen for an upbeat cover of "Under the Boardwalk."
The stars reminded those affected by the storm that people care.
"My prayers go out to everyone who was affected by the hurricane," Mary J. Blige said. "Things are gonna get better, so please hang in there, be strong and have faith. And please, everybody watching tonight, give something, anything. Every penny counts." She performed "The Living Proof," a song she wrote about surviving difficult times and the brighter days ahead.
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band closed the show on a message of hope with a rousing rendition of their tune "Land of Hope and Dreams."
Money collected during the concert will be donated to the American Red Cross relief efforts. The Red Cross is providing shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance to those impacted by disasters such as Hurricane Sandy.
To donate, visit RedCross.org, call 1-800-HELPNOW or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
This article includes reporting by Reuters.
For one Toby Keith fan in Houston, the singer's Sept. 8 concert wasn't just a night out, it was a huge homecoming surprise.
A video just now making the rounds shows Keith pulling a woman onstage (she's managed to keep her name out of the press). Keith tells her he'll play his hit "American Soldier" as a tribute to her husband, Major Pete Cruz, who was stationed in Afghanistan.
As the song ends, Keith and his band segue to "The Star Spangled Banner," at which point a man in fatigues comes on stage to give Keith a different guitar.
And surprise! The man giving Keith the guitar is the woman's husband back, and the entire audience gets to witness the couple's reunion.
Watch the above video to see how it all plays out (spoiler: go to just under the 3:00 mark for the big reveal).
What do you think of the reunion? Tell us on Facebook.
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Epping Police Department via AP
This series of booking photos shows Joyce Coffey after being arrested four times in 26 hours on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Joyce Coffey of Epping, N.H., just didn't seem to get it -- or care -- when she was arrested four times in 26 hours earlier this week. The police run-ins stemmed from loud AC/DC and Guns N' Roses music police said could be heard blasting from her house as well as Coffey allegedly throwing a frying pan at her nephew.
Epping police said they first visited Coffey's home on Tuesday at 3 p.m. local time, when they warned her to turn down the music, WMUR-TV in New Hampshire reported. They returned an hour later, found the music was still playing, and arrested her.
Coffey, 53, was released on $500 personal recognizance bail, the Manchester Union Leader reported, but police returned to her home about five hours later -- again because of a report about loud music.
She was arrested a second time around 9:20 p.m.
Coffey was then released on $1,000 bail, but a mere four hours later, after yet another loud music complaint, the police returned at 1:10 a.m. Wednesday.
She was at this point arrested for a third time -- and released a short time later on $10,000 bail.
Police said they heard AC/DC's "Highway to Hell" as well as music by the group Guns N' Roses coming from Coffey's home during their first four visits, reported WMUR.
The final call to Coffey's home was for a report of a domestic disturbance. Police said Coffey's nephew alleged she threw a frying pan at him, hitting him in the head, when he tried to get some of his belongings from her house.
She was arrested a fourth, and on Thursday a judge ordered her to undergo a mental health evaluation.
If she completes the evaluation, the judge said, she will be released to home confinement with electronic monitoring.
The judge also suggested that Coffey, who is due back in court on Oct. 15, use headphones to listen to music, WMUR reported.
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Zayn Malik of the band One Direction performs at the Beacon Theatre in New York City on May 26 during a U.S. concert tour.
As the British-Irish boy band One Direction soared in the pop charts, making teen and tween girls around the world swoon and scream, band member Zayn Malik tweeted a message that would perplex a large segment of his fans, while being immediately recognizable to millions of others.
"La ila ha ill lalla ho muhammed door rasoolalah." The 47-character tweet is a common declaration of faith among Muslims: "There is no god but God and Mohammad is the prophet of God."
It was one signal from Malik that as part of his public persona he would embrace a religion that is often feared and reviled in the West, while otherwise acting the traditional teen idol alongside his four floppy-haired band mates in One Direction.
But to Wajahat Ali, a San Francisco-based screen writer who is a practicing Muslim, Malik represents progress.
"It is empowering for Muslims worldwide to see the success of a pop star who also happens to be Muslim. It sends that message that a person can be respected for their talent, and their "Musliminess" will not exclude them from the public arena and culture," said Ali. "It’s also good business. You have a Muslim in a five-person boy band… and you have captured an audience of Muslim girls worldwide."
$50 million business
One Direction is a creation of Simon Cowell, TV producer and famously blunt judge on "X-Factor" and "American Idol." to In 2010 Cowell pulled together the five boys — then 16 to 18 years old — to compete as a band on "X-Factor" after each had auditioned as soloists on the show. He later signed them on his Syco Records label.
In a blinding rise to global stardom, One Direction’s first album, "Up All Night,” became wildly popular in the UK in 2011, and debuted at No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard 200 in 2012, launching the top 10 singles "What Makes You Beautiful," "Gotta Be You," and "One Thing."
As of June, the album had sold 2.3 million copies worldwide, and the band has become a $50 million business, CEO of Sony Music UK Nick Gatfield told MusicWeek.com, a British record industry publication.
TODAY's Jenna Bush Hager talks with heartthrob boy band One Direction, who reveal what it's like being a pop sensation and how they deal with fame and giggling girls.
One Direction is the latest in a well-established tradition of boy bands that goes back to Ricky Nelson, and the Everly Brothers in the 1950s, and continued through the Osmond Brothers, the Jackson Five, through the Backstreet boys, Spice Girls (same idea, different gender) and N’Sync.
"The whole movement… was created and geared to selling records to teenagers," said John Covach, a music historian and professor of music theory at the University of Rochester in New York. He said even the Beatles started out as a boy band. "They were good looking and funny. And they were marketed at first as teen idols."
Covach compares the One Direction video of "What makes you Beautiful" — depicting a zany seaside frolick — to the 1964 film based on the Beatle's "A Hard Day's Night."
Zealous fans — who call themselves "Directioners" — home in on their favorite band members who in turn cultivate their fan base minute by minute via social media, especially Twitter.
Valuable toast and glorious eyelashes
Louis Tomlinson is the funny one.
Liam Payne is seen the father figure on the band, and sometimes referred to as "Daddy Directioner."
Harry Styles, 18, with a head of curly brown hair and dimples is generally regarded as "cutest" — and known for allegedly dating a couple of much older women.
Niall Horan, a blond 19-year-old from Ireland, got worldwide coverage when, after tasting vegemite spread during an appearance on Australian TV, the uneaten portion of the toast was auctioned on eBay to raise money for charity — reportedly fetching $100,000. He tweeted to his 2.5 million followers that vegemite was not to his liking.
For Malik, being Muslim is not his only distinction. In chat rooms he is adored for his long dark eyelashes, and his rhythm-and-blues style.
But his occasional references to Islam is something new for a teen idol in the West and fans have taken note — though the band has barely hit the radar of most of their elders.
"You are amazing, and you act so normal, you don't fake anything and you speak what's on your mind. You are a guy that most girls want,” swooned fan Hana Fifaii, posting to Twitlonger on March 30. "I loved your tweet ‘Translation la ila ha ill lalla ho muhammed door rasoolalah’ ... It shows you're connected to your religion. You are a wonderful person and you are so God damn hot! My friend made fun of you & i practically killed her :$."
Fans watch One Direction perform live on stage at St James Theatre on April 22 in Wellington, New Zealand.
In chat rooms, Muslim and non-Muslims engaged in spirited debates about Malik’s beliefs.
Karina Alifa: Can somebody tell me, is that true that Zayn Malik is Muslim?
xavellene : Yeah he's Muslim.
Angel x: Why everyone wants to know what his religion is? This is just so weird. Whatever he believes in, just let him be. Knowing his religion does not make any difference. The same goes with the question if he is gay. Please stop asking stupid questions.
Sabby: it matters to muslim girls cuz we r muslim.. n we cant marry a non-muslim guy.. so am so proud he is muslim n he is keeping it up even thoh he grew up in UK! so am so proud and excited! … i guess u wont understand cuz ur not muslim.. so its like big thing for us!
Out in the twittersphere, kids in countries with large Muslim populations, including Egypt, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, repeatedly urge Malik to visit during the Muslim celebration of Ramadan.
Boy band jihad
Not all the responses were as positive.
As One Direction tours the United States, packing concert halls from San Francisco to Atlanta, one well-known American anti-Islam commentator warned readers to “keep your daughters away from Zayn Malik’s enticing jihad."
"He’s no dummy," wrote Debbie Schlussel in her blog on June 7. "(Malik) knows the power he has over these mindless girls and is using that influence to preach the Islamic faith to them and try to convert them. It’s dangerous."
Schlussel did not respond to the reporter’s request to discuss these comments further.
But Zudhi Jasser, an American Muslim who frequently warns of Islamic radicalization, didn’t agree that Malik was proselytizing or dangerous.
"I would say all the power to him to be respectful to his faith and be proud of it," said Jasser. He said the American Muslim culture needs more cultural icons who are American and Muslim, but not Islamist – like athletes Karim Abdul Jabbar and Mohammad Ali.
But he also notes that conservative Islamists would likely frown on many aspects of Malik’s behavior—his smoking, his tattoos (albeit written in Arabic), ear piercing, and song lyrics that — while saccharine — probably would not be seen to glorify God.
There are conservative Islamic countries where One Direction would not be allowed to perform -- and Malik might be the target of conservative clerics for his style of faith.
Ali, the screenwriter, said that even if more conservative Muslims don’t agree with Malik’s behavior, he could help expand the artistic boundaries for young Muslims.
"What we have seen in the last 10 years is that you can be an artist who is Muslim and can be practicing and doing art that is inspired by your beliefs, but does not have to be overtly Islamic or using religious language," he said. "A guy like Zayn Malik can really help open those minds and convey that as a generation we are moving ahead."
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Robin Gibb, one-third of the Bee Gees, died Sunday after a long battle with cancer, his spokesperson has confirmed via a statement. Gibb was 62 years old.
"The family of Robin Gibb, of the Bee Gees, announce with great sadness that Robin passed away today following his long battle with cancer and intestinal surgery," reads the statement. "The family have asked that their privacy is respected at this very difficult time."
Two years ago, Gibb battled colon and liver cancer, but despite making what he called a "spectacular recovery," a secondary tumor recently developed, complicated by a case of pneumonia.
Gibb was born in Manchester, England, in 1949, along with twin brother Maurice. (Maurice died in 2003 of complications from a twisted intestine; eerily, Robin had surgery for the same medical issue in 2010.) Along with their older brother Barry, the brothers began harmonizing as a trio in Australia, where the family moved in 1958. Although the Bee Gees had some success in Australia -– they hosted a weekly variety show there –- they didn't truly arrive until they returned to England and signed with manager Robert Stigwood. Robin's quivering, vulnerable voice was featured prominently on several of the group's earliest and most Beatles-eque hits, including "New York Mining Disaster 1941," "I Started a Joke," "Massachusetts," and "I've Gotta Get a Message to You."
Although he looked and sounded like the meekest Bee Gee, Robin grew into the family rebel. By 1969, he and Barry were feuding over whose songs should be singles, and Robin, then 20, was declared a "ward of the state" by their father when his drinking and partying seemed to take over his life. "It happened so fast that we lost communication between us," Gibb later recalled. "It was just madness, really."
But it also Robin who, in 1971, made the first call to Barry to reunite with his brothers. Robin's solo career had stalled, and Barry and Maurice's attempts to continue as the Bee Gees as a duo had floundered as well. "If we hadn't been related, we would probably have never gotten back together," Robin said at the time. Robin's voice was heard, beautifully, on the chorus of their minor 1972 hit "Run to Me."
The Bee Gees' massive second wind arrived with their proto disco hit, "Jive Talkin'," in 1975; two years later, their contributions to Saturday Night Fever made them bigger stars than ever. Most of the hits from that era featured Barry's falsetto voice, but the brothers' vocal blend remained an indelible apart of their sound.
The group entered another fallow period during the early Eighties, although during this time, Robin produced a semi-hit album by Jimmy Ruffin, brother of the Temptations' David Ruffin. The last Bee Gees album, "This Is Where I Came In," was released in 2001. Two years later, Maurice died, and with his passing the Bee Gees ended. (Their other, younger brother Andy died in 1988.)
Robin and Barry reunited periodically –- in 2010, they made an appearance on "American Idol" and inducted ABBA into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame –- and talked about a duo tour, but nothing materialized. Robin, though, kept his hand in music. With his son Robin-John, he wrote an ambitious piece, "The Titanic Requiem," a mix of orchestral and vocal pieces telling the story of the doomed liner on the 100th anniversary of its sinking. "It's a serious subject and it's not a rock opera," Gibb said before its debut. "There are no backbeats. This could have been written 300 years ago."
Featuring the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the work had its world premiere in London on April 10th. But in a sign that Gibb's health had taken a turn for the worse, he wasn't able to attend.
Share your memories of Gibb and the Bee Gees' music on our Facebook page.
Skirball Cultural Center
Orchesta Kef, a band from Argentina, was denied a visa in November 2009 to perform in Los Angeles.
The next time Orquesta Kef gets invited to play in the United States, it may actually be able to get into the country.
The band of young musicians from Buenos Aires, who blend Klezmer music – traditional instrumental music of Eastern European Jews – with Argentine tango and folk, were denied entry in November 2009 by U.S. immigration officials. A U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services director recommended against issuing the group a so-called P-3 a visa to perform at a “Fiesta Hanukkah” concert in Los Angeles, saying there was no proof the group’s act was “culturally unique.”
After public blowback, an appeals board re-examined the case and reversed the decision – but by then Hanukkah had passed and Orquesta Kef never got to play in L.A.
This week, Citizenship and Immigration Services announced it was officially clarifying its definition of “culturally unique” to specify that it “is not limited to traditional art forms, but may include artistic expression that is deemed to be a hybrid or fusion of more than one culture or region.”
The new definition will apply to reviews of future applications for P-3 visas from foreign performing artists and entertainers.
“It was something that needed to have a more fine-tuned definition,” said immigration services spokeswoman Sharon Rummery. “It’s going to make it easier for us to adjudicate cases like these in the future."
People who want to perform in the U.S. typically need one of the following: a P-1 visa, issued to internationally recognized athletes, artists and entertainers; a P-2, for artists or entertainers in a reciprocal exchange program; a P-3 visa, issued to entertainers participating in a culturally unique program; or an O-1, known as the “genius” visa, for individuals with extraordinary ability in the arts, athletics, education or sciences (NBA star Dirk Nowitski of Germany, for example, has an O-1).
In its original P-3 denial, an immigration official concluded of Orquesta Kef:
“The evidence repeatedly suggests that the group performs a hybrid or fusion style of music, incorporating musical styles from other cultures and regions. A hybrid or fusion style of music cannot be considered culturally unique to one particular country, nation, society, class, ethnicity, religion, tribe, or other group of persons.”
The band had been booked by the Skirball Cultural Center, a Jewish cultural institution in Los Angeles, to perform at its annual Hanukkah holiday concert. In the visa application, Skirball included a short biography of the band, describing the ensemble’s “unique musical style” as “based on the millenary force of tradition and the powerful emotion of the Jewish culture, mixed in with Latin American sounds.”
Skirball also provided letters from music experts who testified to the group’s unique sound.
“How more culturally specific can you get than Jewish music of Latin America?" Jordan Peimer, Skirball’s vice president and director of programs, thought at the time.
The visa denial was the topic of several scathing columns, including a blog post on Foreign Policy magazine’s website sarcastically titled “Keeping America safe from Latin Klezmer bands.”
Peimer, who said the initial denial was “a huge missed opportunity,” called the latest decision “a vindication for the band … and also a vindication for the American people.”
“It says our government works,” he told msnbc.com on Wednesday.
Alejandro Filippa, a New York immigration attorney who specializes in artist visa applications, said the immigration agency’s clarification of the definition of “culturally unique” was a positive step in a world of increasingly diverse and interdependent cultures.
“The door is now more open for an entire new wave of artists to perform in the United States,” Filippa said in an email to msnbc.com. “Unfortunately, the fact this application was initially denied is indicative of the cultural ignorance of some USCIS officers in adjudicating cases that are more reflective of the modern, diverse international community we now live in.”
As for when Orquesta Kef might finally play in the U.S., Peimer says he hopes to book the band for a future Hanukkah concert.
Courtesy of Ramon Rivera
Members of the Wenatchee High School mariachi band get ready to perform at the Washington Apple Blossom Festival in Yakima, Wash., on April 28.
Mariachi is resounding in hundreds of U.S. public schools offering the festive Mexican folk music as part of their band classes, music experts say. Many student musicians will get a chance to show their passion for it at events surrounding Cinco de Mayo on Saturday.
“Its popularity has exploded, and music programs all around the country are bursting with enthusiasm,” said Ramon Rivera, the mariachi program director for the Wenatchee School District in Wenatchee, Wash. His mariachi program boasts 300 students, he says, and draws more young players every year from the community of 30,000 residents in north-central Washington.
Mariachi bands are no longer confined to states along the U.S. border or American cities with growing Hispanic populations, said Daniel Sheehy, a mariachi expert and director of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage in Washington, D.C.
At least 500 U.S. public schools now offer mariachi as part of their music curricula and there are local and state competitions, Sheeny said. He said members at the Music Educators National Conference have created a task force to see how many mariachi programs had taken root in the last five years.
"Mariachi has all the ingredients to make it a powerful movement," Sheeny said. "It’s infectious and honest music and a touchstone of identity." Sheehy has studied the genre for nearly three decades and is the author of "Mariachi Music in America: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture."
Many school bands are gearing up for Cinco de Mayo celebrations. “There is a saying that we live and breathe mariachi in Texas, and that’s no joke,” said Robert Rodriguez, a mariachi director for the Victor Independent School District in Victoria, Texas. “Cinco de Mayo is one of the biggest days for us. We’ll be playing all day long, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.” He said he teaches mariachi to 50 students from the district’s two high schools.
In the Las Vegas area, the Clark County School District's mariachi program has experienced a boom. "We started with four schools and about 250 students in the first year," said Javier Trujillo, who was recruited to help develop the program in southern Nevada in 2002. He said within a decade, the program blossomed to include 15 schools, 16 instructors and 2,500 students. He said he doesn't teach in the schools anymore, but plays in a mariachi band.
Marcia Neel, who retired this year as coordinator of secondary fine arts for Clark County schools, said Trujillo was being modest about the mariachi program's growth in Las Vegas.
"I would say the numbers of students involved in mariachi is somewhere near 3,000 students," she said. "Mariachi is so popular that I have made it my own personal business, and I have been busy."
She said school districts in Iowa, Tennessee and northern Nevada have invited her to help start mariachi programs at their middle and high schools.
"It is folk music of a country that engages not only the child, but the parent and the entire family," she said. "What is not to love about it?"
The growing number of Mexican-Americans has helped bump up the number of youths interested in the music from their homeland, music instructors say.
But students say it's the beat and the joy of the music that drew them.
"It's my passion, I love it," said Monica Moreno, 14, from Wenatchee High School.
She said she grew up listening to mariachi in her home, where her parents often danced to the music.
"I couldn't stand it," Moreno said. "I hated listening to it while I was growing up. Then everything changed when I watched a performance of mariachi performers at high school. They had passion. They had smiles. They were having fun and that's when I knew I wanted to play in a mariachi band."
Moreno plays the violin in Wenatchee High School's ninth-grade program.
"I will never stop doing it," she said.
The music of mariachi originated in the state of Jalisco, in Mexico, sometime during the 19th century. While no one knows for sure how mariachi started, the style is certain. Musicians wear elaborate traditional suits of the horseman, traje de charro. Love, betrayal, revolutionary heroes, even animals are common themes of mariachi songs. Common instruments are violins, trumpets, guitars, vihuelas (a five-stringed relative of the guitar), and the guitarrón (a large-bodied acoustic bass).
Megan Howard, a 12-year-old seventh-grader at Pioneer Middle School in Wenatchee, says she had always wanted to play guitar but wasn’t interested in classical instruction.
Howard said she first learned how to play mariachi music in fifth grade and now wants to try out for a spot on the high school's mariachi team.
“The music is beautiful, upbeat and fun to play,” said Howard. She said her heart beats along to mariachi.
“Through the music and the musicians I learned about how Mexicans care [about] their land,” she said. “I’ve learned not only to play, but learned to appreciate things that are important in life. Mariachi has changed my life.”
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