“PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV (102.3 FM), Ep. 7: Boyfriend, Michael Tisserand, OperaCreole and Virginia’s Harem

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Over the past few weeks as we’ve gotten “PopSmart NOLA” off the ground, we’ve focused almost every show on a certain topic, whether it’s challenges facing the transgender community, life for artists and the Affordable Care Act, or how the creative community deals with sexual harassment and assault. But as the holidays approach, we took a little break and had a little fun. On Saturday’s show we welcomed:

  • Boyfriend, the rap-cabaret artist who needs to hustle over to St. Claude Avenue herself for her “Bounce Around the Block” appearance at the AllWays Lounge.
  • Writer Michael Tisserand, author of “Krazy: George Herrimen, A Life in Black and White”
  • Givonna Joseph and Aria Mason of OperaCreole, the amazing opera troupe — dedicated to researching and performing lost or rarely performed music, and sharing with the community the contributions of our people to this musical art form, in New Orleans, and around the world.
  • The all-female comedy troupe Virginia’s Harem, which performs Dec. 17 at The New Movement on St. Claude Avenue


I was really excited to start off the show by welcoming Michael Tisserand, who’s been writing about New Orleans and Louisiana culture for some 25 years now, including a stint as the editor for Gambit Weekly (where I served under him as A&E Editor from 1998-2005). He literally wrote the book on one of America’s original music forms with “The Kingdom of Zydeco” and wrote the Katrina memoir, “Sugarcane Academy.” Now, after years in the woodshed, he’s come out with another definitive work, “Krazy: George Herriman, A Life in Black and White,” which captures the influence and complexities of the Krazy Kat cartoonist and New Orleans native.

We had Michael place Herriman’s life in perspective — especially as a New Orleans native who left the city as a young age, and his place in America’s pop-culture landscape in maybe the same way we think of such icons as Louis Armstrong.

Check out his reading from the book, as well. (I ran an excerpt from the book earlier this week.)


We were really thrilled to welcome Boyfriend, whose rap cabaret features some fascinating influences — from her time behind the desk and on the stage at Rick’s Cabaret as well as burlesque performances with troupes such as Trixie Minx’s Fleur de Tease, but also rap music that eventually saw her open for New Orleans’ own Big Freedia.

One of the many cool things we discussed was the nature of art and identity and the ongoing debate about burlesque (and stripping) as empowerment.

And, how so much of her work is infused with wit.


As noted in their biography, “Opera and classical music in New Orleans and around the world have always included the contributions of persons of color. Since the 19th Century, Creoles of New Orleans have made contributions to the music and culture of New Orleans. It is their participation in opera, as well as the music of Africa, Spain, and Haiti that contributed to the birth of jazz. OperaCreole is a non-profit company that’s dedicated to researching and performing lost or rarely performed music, and sharing with the community the contributions of our people to this musical art form, in New Orleans, and around the world.”

We were honored to welcome the dynamic mother-daughter duo of Givonna Joseph and Aria Mason to discuss how their work makes them something akin to culture detectives, given how much African-American culture has been lost over the years.

I also asked Givonna if there was a particular obscure work they found that they’re hoping to present soon, and loved her answer. (Hint: May!) 


Our final guests were from the all-female sketch group, Virginia’s Harem, which was formed in early 2015 and is comprised of Erica Goostrey, Alicia Hawkes, Kirsten Macaulay, Lianna Patch, Maggie Ritchie, and Emily Slazer. They met through taking classes at The New Movement-New Orleans, and that is their home base. Their shows are a blend of high-energy sketch comedy and short, low tech videos. Their aesthetic is accidentally 1090s-ish as it is shaped by their lack of technological expertise and an exuberant lack of concern about that lack of expertise. Their collective group personality is kind of like a weird, drunk aunt or Miss Havisham on one of her good days.

We asked the performers present — Erica Goostrey, Alicia Hawkes, Lianna Patch and Emily Slazer — to discuss their upcoming performance on Saturday, Dec. 17, at The New Movement for a “post-apocalyptic holiday romp.” Set in the very near future, “Season’s Greetings From the Bunker” is the holiday special no one asked for but everyone is living: manic, terrifying, and distinctly Trump-laced. Eggnog. Christmas carols. Nuclear fallout. Billy Joel. Santa Claus. Fascism. All of the holiday hits you know and love. Check out their Facebook event page for more info.

If you like what you’re hearing on this, the radio show version of “PopSmart NOLA” you can “like” us on Facebook. We’re also on Instagram at @popsmartnola, and I’m on Twitter as @dlsnola504.

Please join us next week for another edition of “PopSmart NOLA” — our special super-sized holiday edition, with special guest co-host and DJ Alex Rawls of My Spilt Milk and an appearance by the one and only Debbie Davis with “Oh Crap, it’s Christmas!” It’s all on WHIV (102.3 FM) — radio dedicated to human rights and social justice. END ALL WARS. You can also listen online at whivfm.org.

Thanks again for listening to “PopSmart NOLA,” and please remember to keep the intelligent conversation going.


OperaCréole sings out against gun violence with “Concert Across America”

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Music lovers might have missed out on OperaCréole’s performance at the Rayne Memorial United Methodist Church on Sunday (Sept. 25) for the “Concert Across America,” co-sponsored with Ashé Cultural Arts Center, and part of a nationwide musical response to gun violence at more than 200 venues.

OperaCréole is a beautiful group to witness as it covers classical music across the African Diaspora, so it’s sometimes puzzling to see what at least feels like a lack of greater popularity in the New Orleans area. (I first saw, and wrote about, them at the 2015 New Orleans Jazz Fest, and with better photos.) But Sunday was a delight, if a somber one, given the tone of the evening as leader Givonna Joseph rooted the music in our nation’s long history with gun violence — stretching all the way back to the beginnings of slavery.

The performance was broken down into four major themes:“Mourning Our Ancestors: Africa to Reconstruction,” “Freedom Fighters,” “For Our Children” and“Change for the Future.” Working in collaboration with the Rayne Memorial United Methodist Church’s Chanel Choir, OperaCréole provided a space for each of its members to shine. OperaCréole opened with a beautiful team effort on “Great Creator” from Samuel Coleridge Taylor’s long-lost work, “Thelma” (rediscovered in 2012, a century after its debut), and then deftly blended “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” with the spiritual “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen.”

Tenor Prentiss Mouton delivered a stirring version of Hall Johnson’s “Po’ Moner Got a Home At Last” (with accompaniment by pianist Marcus St. Julien). Bass-baritone Ivan Griffin dug deep on his take on Glenn Burleigh’s traditional “Go Down Moses.” Soprano Kenya Lawrence Jackson wished a sweet “Prayer” from Langston Hughes by way of Ricky Ian Gordon. Mezzo-soprano Aria Mason (Joseph’s daughter) had to literally compose herself for her personal tribute to a former student, George Carter III, a local third-grader, who later became a victim a gun violence as a teen, with her “Being Good” from “Hallelujah, Baby!”

Kathleen Halm paid lovely tribute to Verdi’s “Requiem” (1st movement) and then joined OperaCréole on Moses Hogan’s “Walk Together Children.” Everyone chimed in on the finale, “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” with members hoisting signs marking the cities that have experienced the most recent tragedies of gun violence. While the program encouraged the audience to contact legislators and community advocates to speak out against gun violence, the song was an apt coda on peace: Let it begin with me.