Entertainment Spotlight

  • Catching Up: Santana, Taj Mahal and a déjà vu ‘Blue Christmas’

    Posted by Ben Fong-Torres

    By Ben Fong-Torres It’s short shrift time. I have a life that’s ripe (and slightly wrinkled) for blogs and tweeting; for facebooking and updating. I’m just no good at it. My last column here on AsianConnections was about the memorial in late July for my sister Shirley. My last posting on the authors’ site, Redroom, was about a radio promo tour I did (20 stops, all on the phone...

She's Asian American, She's 25 and She's Got the Blues

Ben Fong-Torres

Ben Fong-Torres discovers an Asian blueswoman, plus an online locker for all your music.

I was at Biscuits n Blues, a combo plate of blues nightclub and restaurant (with a Southern accent) in downtown San Francisco, working on a feature about a band comprised mostly of chefs. At B n B, the Back Burner Blues Band likes to invite people from the audience to jam, and, as I sat at the bar, taking notes, I couldnt help but take special note of a young Asian woman with long black hairand an electric guitar.

Heres how shes introduced in the article I wrotepublished in a recent San Francisco Chronicle. Im quoting one of the chefs, Gordon Drysdale , telling why he likes the jam sessions.

Its nerve-wracking, but exhilarating, and weve had some great moments. Like this woman, Angelawow! The ferocity with which she attacked everything. Im under-confident, so to see anybody get up there and do it with such convictionIve had to rethink how I approach everything.

Angela is Angela Lum , a 25 year-old with flowing black hair, dressed in a cowboy shirt and jeans, slinging a guitar and wailing an original blues ('B Minor Slide') with a throaty, gravelly voice, the flip side to (Back Burners co-lead vocalist) Leah Tysses smooth gospel tones.

Turns out Lum is a tech consultant (specializing in Web 2.0) from the Napa Valley. She met a couple of the chef-rockers at a blues club in the wine country a few months ago, and they invited her to play with them at Biscuits n Blues, where they play the first Monday every month.

I showed up, but I chickened out, Lum told me. Theyre really intimidating; theyre awe-inspiring, because theyve got all these other things going on. The following month, she got up her nerve and got up on stage.

It was the coolest thing, she said. I did my song, and then Midnight Special. And, yes, she knows that her low, gruff voice can catch people off guard. Ive always had that voice, she said. Im told I should talk on the mike first!

Lum began on piano, and recalls playing a recital at age two or three. But I wasnt a prodigy. There was music in the familya grandfather played piano; her Dad played some guitarand in high school, she picked up the guitar herself. She learned folk songs, but blues came quickly after that. But, it appears, Lum likes all kinds of music, from Sarah Vaughan and Odetta to Janis Joplin . She also likes all kinds of instruments. Besides guitar and keyboards, she can play bass and drums. She performs with a friend (who plays violin and bass), and has a couple of tracks up on her site, www.angelalum.com.

My goal is to play as much as I can, she said. "I may work to feed my body, but I play music to sustain my soul." Or, to put it another way: " I work because I want to eat. I play music because I need to breathe."

Your Music Library at Your Fingertips

Last time out, I told you how to get free local and international calls by signing up with Skype. People seem to like freebies. So, this time, how about I hip you to a virtual music locker, where you can place your entire mp.3 collection, and pull down songsor entire playlistswherever you may be, as long as you have access to a computer and can get online?

So, what, you may say. I can carry lots of music on my iPod and hear it wherever I am. I can have music on my phone. I have iTunes, or Napster, or URGE, or whatever. Big deal.

But heres the thing about the Oboe locker, which you can get via www.mp3player.com. You can upload all your musicor spoken-word stuffand hear any of it at any time, not whatever your mp.3 player or phone or PDAs capacity may be.

Lets say you have the 4 GB Nano from the iPod people. You can load up 1,000 songs. Or you sprang for the 30 GB video-photo-music iPod. That can handle 7500 songs, more than most people would ever need.

But what if you were one of those music freaks who have, say, 20,000 songs in your digital library? And what if you dont always have your little music player with you? Or you have it, but the batterys shot?

Thats where the Oboe begins to play, ever so sweetly. All your music and the music youve borrowed from your friends, in fact is there. Its unlimited storage. When I was in New York City in the spring, 3,000 miles from home, I called up the Oboe site, entered my password, and there were my (then) 25,000 tracks, ready for me to pick and play.

And all for only $39.95 a year.

Wait a minute here. What about it being free? I was just kidding. Actually, you can have a free locker, and itll store any and all music you find on the Internet. (Oboe helps out with a sideload feature, allowing you to grab and store free music.)

But for a locker thatll store all the music you already haveplus anything you add, from your own CDs, stuff you buy or get free online, or make up yourselfyou need the premium locker. And its a bargain at three bucks or so a month. Its unlimited storage.

But now, the caveat. Its nice to know that all 20,000 (or however many) of your audio files have been backed up online, and you can get them almost wherever you are (Oboe is busily making deals with cellphone companies and others, so you can access the music even more easily). But if you have a huge library, youll need to be patient with your uploading of files. The company says that it can grab 100 tracks an hour, but if you have a huge library, forget it. The process will take days, even weeks. Still, you can use your computer throughout the process, and theres a reward. Oboe keeps track of its clients (almost 30,000, so far) and offers a ranking of whos got how many tracks loaded, updated daily. Depending on how few or many youve placed in your locker, you can be a roadie or a groupieor a rock star or legend.

Right now, Im at about #25 at www.lockerenvy.com. Hint: Im not Ben.

For a jam...of info and celebrity photos, check out Ben's myspace page--myspace.com/fongtorres (he's got a parody song about Dick Cheney that he wrote and sang), or his home page at www.benfongtorres.com.