A Docavic look at music

The music section of this year's Docaviv Festival offers a broad and intriguing artistic and cultural spread.

The music section of this year's Docaviv Festival offers a broad and intriguing artistic and cultural spread. Brother Yusef, for example, provides generous insight on what makes 85-year-old jazz musician Yusef Lateef tick, and what keeps him searching for that ever elusive perfect note. The festival's screening of Brother Yusef follows Lateef's recent eight-show tour of Isarel with the Belmondo Brothers band from France. The tour was based on the combo's recent Influence double album, which exhibits a typically multi-faceted range of material. The documentary provides a fascinating glimpse of an unusual man's life journey through his musical and spiritual evolution. Lateef was one of the first black American jazz musicians to convert to Islam, which he did in the early Fifties, and he has largely stayed out of the jazz mainstream for over half a century. He was one of the first jazz musicians to look to Africa, the Arab world and the Far East for inspiration, and he has doggedly pursued the connection between music and spirituality ever since. Brother Yusef explores a fascinating vignette of Lateef's long life as he takes us through his quest for higher meaning. Over at the far end of the social, cultural and artistic spectrum, Beijing Bubbles casts an undoctored eye on the plight of punk rockers in China. In view of the iron grip the Chinese authorities wield over almost all media ventures, one wonders how the German filmmakers managed to shoot the mostly candid interviews that comprise the film, and how they got the footage out to the west. At 82 minutes, Beijing Bubbles looks at the (mis)fortunes of the members of punk rock bands Joyside, Hang on the Box, Sha Zi, T9 and New Pants. The youngsters tend to speak freely about their dreams and frustrations while their over-30 counterparts seem somewhat more guarded and considered in their comments. One, for instance, takes some time before opening up about his feelings on the way the student demonstrations in Tiananmen Square in 1989 were quashed. Surely, not so long ago, it would have been impossible to make such a documentary in China. Back in the West, To Tulsa and Back offers a tender portrayal of one of the lesser-sung heroes of the American musical community, JJ Cale. While Cale may not be as famous as some, his songs have become hits for some of the titans of the rock world. Take, for instance, "Cocaine" and "After Midnight," performed and recorded with great financial success by none other than megastar Eric Clapton. In many ways, To Tulsa and Back - also the title of Cale's new CD, his first studio recording in eight years - offers us a glimpse of Middle America. Cale takes us around his old stomping grounds in Tulsa, and talks candidly about his modest upbringing, substance abuse and failed marriages. The man appears to have pretensions or artistic affectations, and maybe not even any enemies. While Clapton raked in the huge revenues with his high profile shows and unfettered guitar technique, Cale preferred to take the laidback, scenic route. To Tulsa and Back is a refreshing and entertaining portrait of an unassuming musician.