Tag Archives: Rap guide to evolution

Interview with Baba Brinkman on the occasion of his Rap Guide to Evolution performance in Vancouver, November 2013 edition

Baba Brinkman is in the words of his eponymous website’s homepage,

Baba Brinkman is a Canadian rap artist, writer, actor, and tree planter. He is best known for his award-winning hip-hop theatre shows, including The Rap Guide to Evolution and The Canterbury Tales Remixed, which interpret the works of Darwin and Chaucer for a modern audience.

Originally from British Columbia and now living in New York City, he has brought his Rap Guide to Evolution which has been an off-Broadway show, a festival performance, and a DVD project to Vancouver. The last time he performed this show, which morphs as new information is received and as it is adapted for different media and performance types, to Vancouver was in 2011 (my Feb. 17, 2011 posting features a pre-show interview he gave),. This time he’s at Vancouver’s East Cultural Centre, (The Cultch) from Oct. 29, – November 10, 2013 (tickets here).

Baba has very kindly (especially since the show just opened a few days ago) given me a second interview. Without more ado, here’s the interview,

  • Could you describe the full theatrical version of the Rap Guide to Evolution that played in New York? And is this what you’ve brought to Vancouver or has it been adapted either due to cost and/or venue and/or geographic location?

The show running in Vancouver is the full off-Broadway production, which includes music and live turntablism by Jamie Simmonds, visual projections by Wendall Harrington and lighting design by Jason Boyd. All of these production elements were added in 2011 specifically for the New York run, and they create a full immersion experience with lights and sounds and visuals and words all weaving together to tell the story of Darwin’s intellectual impact on the modern world.

  • In Adrian Mack’s Oct. 23, 2013 piece in the Georgia Straight) newspaper, you talked about karma, Vancouverites’ belief in it, and the science of it. How did you come to a scientific understanding of karma and could you explain what you mean by ‘cheater detection’ and ‘evolved deterrents to free-riding behaviour’?

Karma is *often summarized as “what goes around comes around” and for most people it’s a belief that the universe is somehow keeping score, rewarding goodness and punishing badness. The dark side of the widespread belief in karma, in Vancouver and elsewhere, is that it could just as accurately be summarized as “whatever happens to you, good or bad, you deserve it” which doesn’t sit right with most people when they think it through. We constantly see people around us being unjustly rewarded for bad behaviour and punished for good behaviour, and we see a lot of randomness too. Not many of us would tell a pedestrian who was hit by a drunk driver: “that’s karma”, but if you give a homeless person a dollar and later find out that you’ve won a big prize in a raffle draw *you might think it’s karma. Hence, we usually only invoke the concept of karma when we encounter seemingly random events that appear to repay like with like.

The scientific view is that our minds misattribute causality to these kinds of random events, but we do it for a good reason. Humans are social primates, and social groups share the mutual benefits of cooperative efforts, but those benefits are constantly undermined by individuals who claim the rewards without paying the cooperative costs, ie cheaters and free-riders. Evolution will favour free-riding behaviour unless there are mechanisms to punish or suppress it, but punishment itself is costly, so there are a whole series of obstacles to evolving cooperation. One way to overcome these obstacles is with psychological mechanisms for “cheater detection” (seeking and identifying non-cooperators) and “altruistic punishment” (enforcing costs on them through reputation-damage, ostracism, loss of liberty, etc), both of which humans have been experimentally shown to have in spades. We care about who’s a fraud, a thief, and a cheater, and we want to see them pay for it. Denouncing and locking up Bernie Madoff feels good.

Hence, the concept of karma can be redeemed as a social as opposed to metaphysical phenomenon. The reason we feel like the universe adheres to the principle of “what goes around comes around” is because we are evolved to pursue that model through our social interactions, so we project it onto the physical world. The universe doesn’t enforce good behaviour, but your peers certainly do. If you doubt it, try ripping them off and see what happens.

  • I see you were an artist-in-residence at the US National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS) which is located at the University of Tennessee. Could you describe the experience especially in light of the fact that Tennessee is the state where the Scopes trial took place? (The trial is famous for bringing two of the US’s best known lawyers of the 1920s [William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow] to argue whether or not evolution was scientific and should be taught in schools.)

I was expecting the Tennessee residency to be a lot more controversial, but in fact most of it was spent interacting with post-docs and grad students, learning about their research, going to lectures, and going to live music events at local bars. Major evolution vs creationism showdowns reminiscent of Scopes did not feature prominently in my time there, but in retrospect that isn’t surprising since I was a guest of a national scientific research centre and was situated on a university campus. The one exception to this general tranquility was my performance at Union County High School, which generated some controversy, summarized in my “Tennessee Monkey Trials” blog. I thought I was there to fight a culture war, but mostly I just drank local craft beer (and moonshine) and listened to live bluegrass music. *The end result was The Infomatic EP  produced by Jamie Simmonds, who was in Tennessee with me for most of the residency.”*

  • How have you and/or your work changed since you embarked on rapping science?

The biggest change is that I have come to identify as a skeptic, atheist, and philosophical naturalist, whereas before I would have called myself agnostic or spiritual. I was never religious before, but I was sympathetic to the idea of a nebulous spiritual “force” at work in the world. However, the more I read about evolution and psychology and the scientific method, the less seriously I was able to take supernatural or miraculous explanations for anything at all. Now I write rationalist anthems like “Naturalizm” and “Off That“, which are very different in tone than the music I was making six years ago.

  • Where are you off to after this?

My next tour is the Norway Hip-hop Festival in February, and then a big tour of Australia in May/June, including the Sydney Opera House. In the meantime, my wife is pregnant with our first baby, due in late November, so I’m going to spend the winter learning to be a father, which is pretty exciting. Darwin would be proud.

  • Is there anything you’d like to add?

I hope your readers will come to the show, if they are able. It runs until November 10th in Vancouver. Or, if they can’t make it, download the album and bump it in your headphones. Scientific literacy never sounded so good!

Baba, I very much appreciate the interview and the gift of your precious time writing this up just after you’ve opened your show here in Vancouver. As well, congratulations to you and your wife!

Also, thank you for that explanation of karma and science and, especially, for this bit, “The dark side of the widespread belief in karma, in Vancouver and elsewhere, is that it could just as accurately be summarized as “whatever happens to you, good or bad, you deserve it” which doesn’t sit right with most people when they think it through. We constantly see people around us being unjustly rewarded for bad behaviour and punished for good behaviour, and we see a lot of randomness too. …” Many times I’ve lovely well-meaning individuals do damage with advice that includes blame via ‘karma’. Thank you for being much more articulate about it than I’ve been.

As for anyone who likes to see reviews, the only one I could find is from Colin Thomas who in an Oct. 30, 2013 review for the Georgia Straight which was further elucidated in a Nov. 1, 2013 posting on his eponymous blog, had issues not with the performance (“Smart writer. Handsome production. But no. Just no. ” [from the Oct. 30, 2012 review]) but the content and the politics regarding rap and gender, in particular. I gather Thomas found the show thought-provoking.

* Two corrections made: ‘ofter’ to ‘often’ and ‘raffle and you might’ to ‘raffle you might’ in the response to the Karma question and one sentence added to the end of the Tennessee question on Nov.4, 2013.

Hip hop infused science rap theatrical experience travels from off Broadway (New York) to Vancouver (Canada)

Baba Brinkman is now back in town to perform the latest version of his Rap Guide to Evolution at Vancouver’s East Cultural Centre, (The Cultch) from Oct. 29, – November 10, 2013, There’s a special deal from now (Oct. 14, 2013 to midnight Oct. 18, 2013) where The Cultch is offering a 50% discount off tickets for the first five days of performances,

OFFER BEGINS: October 11 at 10 am
OFFER ENDS: October 18 at midnight

Canadian actor and rapper Baba Brinkman returns to his home town of Vancouver, BC to perform his unabridged production of The Rap Guide to Evolution from October 29 to November 10! A smash hit at the Edinburgh Fringe, in New York, and around the world, The Rap Guide is at once provocative, hilarious, intelligent, and scientifically accurate. Get a sneak-peek of the production and find out more here.

The Rap Guide to Evolution has earned Baba accolades from The New York Times and landed him spots on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC show  and TEDxEast. Don’t miss out on the production everyone is talking about!

SAVE 50% with promo code EVO50 online or by phone through The Cultch Box Office at 604-251-1363. Valid for performances Oct 29-31 and Nov 1, 2. Valid for A+B seating only. Act now – offer expires Oct 18!

PLUS! Join us for Halloween fun! Come dressed up on Oct 29, 30, 31 and you’ll receive candy and the chance to win prizes for best costume!!

When purchasing online simply enter the code into the “Discount Coupon” field at the checkout page. Cannot be combined with any other offer. No cash value. Offer may not be applied on past purchases.

Tickets are priced at $17.14, $29.52 and $38.10, respectively.. As best I can tell, the prices don’t include tax, are the same for both evening and matinee shows, as for the cheap seats I can’t tell if they are available for all performances (I found the online ticketing function a little confusing).

The show does ‘evolve’ so I’m not positive (although I’m pretty sure) this particular piece will be performed. Here it is anyway, just because I find it provocative and because it gives you some idea of his approach and music,,

I’ve mentioned Baba and his Rap Guide to Evolution several times including this Feb. 17, 2011 posting which featured an interview with him prior to a Vancouver performance of his Rap Guide and I then offered a commentary on  that performance in a Feb. 21, 2011 posting. I hope to see what he’s done with the Rap Guide since adding a DJ and redeveloping the piece for theatrical purposes although I have to admit to a certain fondness for the ambience of that 2011 performance at Vancouver’s Railway Club.

ETA Oct. 14, 2013 4 pm PDT: You can find Baba Brinkman’s website here.

Baba Brinkman’s hip-hop theatre cycle features Chaucer & a live onstage science peer-review in New York City

I’m happy to see that Baba Brinkman’s IndieGogo crowdfunding campaign was successful (my Jan. 25, 2013 posting), so he can introduce the first hip-hop theatre cycle (Evolutionary Tales) to the world. He will be performing three of his shows, Ingenious Nature, Rap Guide to Evolution, and Canterbury Tales Remixed in repertory off Broadway in New York City on weekends (Fri. – Sun.) starting Friday, May 31, 2013 and then, throughout most of the month of June. Here’s more from Baba’s May 29, 2013 announcement,

Greetings from the Player’s Theatre! We’ve spent the past two days setting up not one but three shows here, preparing for the world’s first-ever hip-hop theatre cycle: Evolutionary Tales.

We launch on Friday with a performance of Ingenious Nature, which was recently nominated for an Off-Broadway Alliance Award in the category of “Best Unique Theatrical Experience” (which we didn’t win, but it was a nice acknowledgement). Use the code “Genious” to get $29 advance tickets.

Then on Saturday we’re taking the “peer-reviewed rap” theme to the next level, with a World Science Festival presentation of the Rap Guide to Evolution featuring Dr. Helen Fisher, Dr. Stuart Firestein, and Dr. Heather Berlin providing a live post-show peer-review talkback. Use the code “Darwin” for discount tickets.

Finally, on Sunday the Canterbury Tales Remixed will have its first off-Broadway performance since early 2012, tracing the evolution of storytelling from Gilgamesh to Slick Rick via Chaucer’s masterpiece. Use the code “Tales” for discount tickets.

We run until June 23rd, Fri/Sat/Sun. …

The Evolutionary Tales website offers a bit more information about each show,

 INGENIOUS NATURE
Evolutionary psychology, sex differences in behavior, and the modern dating scene. Can science serve as a road map to romance? It turns out, ovulation studies make for awkward first-date conversation.
Fridays 8pm, May 31 – June 21
RAP GUIDE TO EVOLUTION
Rap Guide to Evolution interprets Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution for the hip-hop age, exploring the links between bling and peacocks’ tails, gangster rap music and elephant seals, and the species-wide appeal of Afro-centricity.
Saturdays 8pm, June 1 – 22
CANTERBURY TALES REMIXED
Canterbury Tales Remixed brings you a collection of the world’s best-loved stories, supplementing Chaucer’s masterful character-driven Tales with artful re-tellings of the epics of Beowulf and Gilgamesh. The evolution of storytelling!
Sundays 5pm, June 2 – 23
115 Macdougal Street, NYC
Ticket Info (866) 811-4111

This link will take you to the calendar where you select the show(s) you’d like to attend and click through to purchase one or more tickets.

I’m fascinated by the idea of live science peer-review onstage. I imagine that too is a world first, along with the hip-hop theatre cycle. I wish Baba and all his collaborators the best of luck.

Darwin meets Chaucer off Broadway, Baba Brinkman’s latest off Broadway show is looking for impresarios (financially speaking)

Mentioned here several times for his various ventures into hip hop, rap and science (my Nov. 23, 2012 posting  for his Ingenious Nature show in New York City; my May 24, 2011 posting about his Rap Guide to Evolution show at the Prince Charles Cinema in London, England; and my April 25, 2011 posting about the première of his Chaucer/Gilgamesh/Beowulf mashup rap in Vancouver, Canada; amongst many others) Baba Brinkman strikes again.  From Brinkman’s Jan. 24, 2013 newsletter,

Darwin Meets Chaucer Off-Broadway

Crowdfunding An Extension, and A Unique Experiment

Two weeks ago we finished up the initial run of Ingenious Nature, and immediately an offer came up to extend not just that show but all three of my shows, at a better-located theatre right on NYU’s main campus in the heart of Greenwich Village. The producers of Rap Guide to Evolution, Canterbury Tales Remixed, and Ingenious Nature would have to combine forces to make this happen, and they are now ready to partner on the project, but we have to raise the funds first. That’s where you come in.

I’m starting a crowdfunder drive with IndieGogo to get this never-before-tried theatre experiment launched. You can watch the pitch video here. If successful, we’ll run all three productions in rotation for one month off-Broadway, with two performances of The Rap Guide to Evolution and one each of the other two shows every week. And if that month goes well, we can extend this run indefinitely.

Here’s more from Brinkman’s indiegogo project page,

Help produce the first-ever hip-hop theatre cycle in New York!

Baba Brinkman and Jamie Simmonds have co-written (lyrics and music) and performed three critically-acclaimed hip-hop plays off-Broadway over the past two years. This crowdfunding drive will launch a never-before-tried concept, presenting all three plays in rotating rep for a one-month initial run right in the heart of New York’s Greenwich Village, with the possibility of extending indefinitely.

Located amidst the NYU downtown campus, the Player’s Theater offers a rare opportunity to showcase these original and groundbreaking works, each of which transforms a traditionally academic subject into a thrilling entertainment event. The 200-seat Player’s Theater is available for us to rent beginning in March, four shows per week for an initial four weeks, at $1,000 per show. To cover this $16,000 rental cost, plus the overhead for (your!) funder perks and Indiegogo’s 4% fee, we need to raise $20,000.

With turntablism by DJ Jamie Simmonds setting the mood, Baba’s skillful wordplay uniquely interprets the writing of scientists, literary scholars, the classics, and modern psychology, smoothly merging today’s most important ideas and stories with comedy, theatre, and hip-hop: cutting-edge intellectual entertainment at its best!

First and formost, [sic] contribute whatever you can! Even the lowest funding amount gets you an amazing (and hilarious) live album, recorded off-Broadway in January 2013. Above that the perks just get more and more interesting.

Second, please help us to spread the word! Use the share tools and post the YouTube video to your Facebook and Twitter sites. The more this crowdfunding drive goes viral, the more chance we have of sharing these performances with the widest possible audience, including future tours of your area.

At this point (Jan. 25, 2013), they have raised $1,215 and have 31 days left to reach their $US20,000 goal.  Here’s a sampling of incentives, from the project’s indiegogo page,

$10+

Digital Download

Exclusive digital download of Baba Brinkman & Mr. Simmonds brand new live album, Ingenious Nature, delivered in a personal Thank You email.

Estimated delivery date: February 2013

$50+

VIP Tickets & CD

Two tickets to one of the shows (same parameters as above). Includes a signed Baba Brinkman CD of your choice and a digital download of the new album.

Estimated delivery date: March 2013

$2,000+

Full Performance With DJ

…Full performance from Baba and DJ Jamie Simmonds at any venue of your choice (up to one hour in length, subject to both of their availability, travel and other applicable expenses not included). Includes ten tickets to any of the shows and a t-shirt, signed CD, and digital download.

Estimated delivery date: December 2013

Good luck Baba and company!

Geek rap, Björk, and science communication

I came across a June 29, 2011 article in Physics Today [online] by Steve Corneliussen about ‘geek’ rap. From the Corneliussen article,

Science rap is no flash in the pan according to Dennis Overbye, the high-visibility New York Times science writer. This week he proclaimed that “‘geek rap’ … is becoming one of the most popular and vital forms of science communication.” Immediately he added: “Few exegeses of the Large Hadron Collider match Alpinekat’s ‘Large Hadron Rap’ for punch and rhythm, and Stephen Hawking’s robot voice and puckish wit have spawned a host of imitators, like M C Hawking, rapping about black holes and entropy.”

Poetry and/or music, in combination with science is not new. Take a few more recent examples, James Clerk Maxwell, in addition to his scientific accomplishments in the 19th century, was also a poet and Tom Lehrer (pianist and mathematician) set the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements to music (The Elements) in the 1950s.

One can stretch back further to De rerum natura, an epic poem about physics and Epicurean philosophy written by Lucretius in the first century BCE (before the common era). From the Wikipedia essay on De rerum natura,

The poem, written in dactylic hexameter, is divided into six books, and explores Epicurean physics through richly poetic language and metaphors. Lucretius presents the principles of atomism; the nature of the mind and soul; explanations of sensation and thought; the development of the world and its phenomena; and explains a variety of celestial and terrestrial phenomena. The universe described in the poem operates according to these physical principles, guided by fortuna, “chance,” and not the divine intervention of the traditional Roman deities.

It’s good to see that rappers are keeping the traditions alive and reinterpreting them for modern audiences. Dennis Overbye, the New York Times science writer mentioned in the Corneliussen article, recently highlighted Baba Brinkman, a Vancouver-based rapper, (mentioned here a few times a list of those posts follows), who’s currently  performing his Rap Guide to Evolution at an off Broadway theatre. From Overbye’s June 27, 2011 article of Brinkman’s show,

Don’t sleep with mean people.

That’s a lesson some of us learn painfully, if at all, in regard to our personal happiness. That there could be a cosmic evolutionary angle to this thought had never occurred to me until I heard Baba Brinkman, a rap artist and Chaucer scholar, say it the other night. Think of it as the ultimate example of thinking globally and acting very, very locally. We are all in the process of recreating our species in our most intimate acts:

Don’t sleep with mean people, that’s the anthem

Please! Think about your granddaughters and grandsons

Don’t sleep with mean people, pretty or handsome

Mean people hold the gene pool for ransom.

Writing on NYTimes.com last year, Olivia Judson, the biologist and author, called the evolution rap show “one of the most astonishing, and brilliant, lectures on evolution I’ve ever seen.” On a humid night last week the crowd spilled out of the playhouse and down the streets of SoHo after the show, chatting about the technical and social aspects of natural selection.

Björk has taken her own approach to science, music, and, in her case, song with her new show Biophilia. From the July 1, 2011 article by David Robson for The New Scientist’s Culture Lab blog,

As the lights dimmed and we waited for Björk to mount the stage of the Victorian market hall, the last thing I expected to hear was a recording of the dulcet tones of David Attenborough, waxing lyrical about nature, music and technology.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised, though. The show does, after all, take its name, Biophilia, from Edward O. Wilson’s theory about the instinctive bond between humankind and nature, which he claims is a necessary consequence of our evolutionary origins. And the Icelandic singer has made it clear that she is a life-long fan of the British naturalist. “When I was a kid, my rock star was David Attenborough,” she recently told Rolling Stone. “I’ve always been interested in science.”

And boy, did she manage to pack a dizzying amount of it into the show. There were songs about plate tectonics, galaxy formation, crystallisation, DNA and heredity, equilibrium, gravity and dark matter. Then there were the novel instruments, including four harps driven by 10-foot pendulums and a gigantic Tesla coil that sparked in time to the music. We’re told that the structures of her compositions, too, were inspired by scientific ideas – the beats to some of the songs were based on prime number sequences, for example.

While Baba’s rap is peer-reviewed, Björk’s work is aimed a little differently. As David Bruggeman (Pasco Phronesis) explains in his July 3, 2011 posting,

They [reviews of Biophilia] suggest that Björk is not even thinking of encroaching on Baba Brinkman or They Might Be Giants science music turf anytime soon.  While she shares their enthusiasm for science, expressing that enthusiasm, rather than explaining the concepts underneath it, seems to be the main science emphasis of the work.

Here’s a demonstration of the Tesla coil synth prior to a Biophilia performance in Campfield (ETA July 5, 2011: This is where Bjork premiered Biophilia June 27, 2011 at the Manchester International Festival, more details in July 5, 2011 note added after this  post),

There are more Biophilia-related video clips but this was one of the shorter ones.

As for the Baba Brinkman posts I mentioned earlier, here are the most relevant ones from the earliest to the latest,

Darwin theme: Rap about Darwin & evolutionary biology and Darwinism in quantum dots

Rapping science

Interview with Baba Brinkman who performs his Rap Guide to Evolution in Vancouver on Feb. 20, 2011

Performance, feedback, revision: Baba Brinkman’s Feb.20.11 performance

Baba Brinkman launches his new Lit Fuse record label website and a Vancouver debut performance of his Chaucer/Gilgamesh/Beowulf adaptation

2011 World Science Festival and a couple of Canucks

Prince Charles, evolution and Baba Brinkman

Here’s very recent news (from a July 4, 2011 email) about Baba’s CD,

First thing’s [sic] first, I have a new CD out! The Rap Guide to Evolution: Revised is a brand new 14-track album produced by Mr. Simmonds. It started out as a “remix” of the original RGE CD from a few years ago but soon took on a life of its own with all new music, new collaborations, and most of the lyrics re-written (performance, feedback, revision), plus three completely new tracks. We’ve been working on this album all year long and finally finished it last week. Click here to listen to the evolution of the rap guide, and download it Radiohead-style (pay what you like).

I like the fact that there’s a range of approaches to science communication, poetry, and music. I think there’s room for everybody.

ETA July 5, 2011: There’s a July 4, 2011 article by Simon Reynolds of The Guardian that offers a little more information about Biophilia and Björk (from the article),

Originally formulated by scientist Edward O Wilson, the biophilia hypothesis suggests that human beings have an innate affinity with the natural world – plants, animals or even the weather. Yet it’s not biophilia but good old-fashioned fandom that has drawn a small band of Björk obsessives to queue outside Manchester’s Campfield Market Hall since 10am this morning. Not that there’s anything old-fashioned about the woman they are here to see. Biophilia is the Icelandic singer’s new project – the word means “love of living things” – and promises to push the envelope so far you’ll need the Hubble telescope to see it.

A collection of journalists have already had a preview at a press conference in the Museum of Science and Industry over the road. Björk is absent, preparing for tonight’s live show, her first in the UK for over three years, which will open the Manchester international festival. Instead, artist and app developer Scott Snibbe, musicologist Nikki Dibben and project co-ordinator James Merry talk through Biophilia’s many layers. There will be an album in September, with an app to go with each of the 10 songs. There will be an education project, designed to teach children about nature, music and technology – some local kids will embark on it next week. There will be a documentary. And then there will be tonight’s show, performed in the round to a 2,000-strong crowd including journalists representing publications from New Scientist to the New York Times, as well as the diehard fans waiting outside.

There you have it.

Prince Charles, evolution, and Baba Brinkman

It’s the Prince Charles Cinema in London’s Leicester Square not the prince himself that I’m talking about. Baba Brinkman, the Vancouver-based rapper whose Rap Guide to Evolution performance is about to be launched in a June off-Broadway show in New York, is launching yet something else tomorrow, May 25, 2011. From Baba Brinkman’s May 23, 2011 newsletter,

On Wednesday May 25 at the Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square, London, we will be premiering the Rap Guide to Evolution Music Videos [emphasis mine], sponsored by the Wellcome Trust. The new website, www.rapguidetoevolution.co.uk, is now live, please take a moment to check it out! Over the next few months the site will be populated with a whole series of new music videos, links to evolution news and information, resources and discussion, all in aid of teaching evolutionary science through rap.

Here’s a preview of one of the new videos which will be premiered tomorrow night,

Here’s one more tidbit from Baba’s newsletter,

I’ve also just had word that Charles Darwin’s great-great-grandson, Randal Keynes, who has written a biography of Darwin and whom I had the pleasure of meeting two years ago in Cambridge, will be the opening speaker at the event. I just spoke to Randal half an hour ago and he said he’s really looking forward to the launch as well.

David Bruggeman at the Pasco Phronesis blog has more details about this launch in the UK (excerpted from his May 16, 2011 posting),

The new phase of the project is visual, with a grant from the Wellcome Trust and over 12,000 additional pounds (raised from volunteers) used to shoot and produce videos for each of the tunes. It was prompted by requests from teachers for a DVD edition of the Rap Guide. There is also a new track out, which Brinkman says is the first track from a forthcoming remix album. The project gets a proper U.K. rollout (the home of the Wellcome Trust) in London on May 25th.

Good luck to Baba Brinkman and the various teams working with him to produce these videos and shows.

Baba Brinkman launches his new Lit Fuse record label website and a Vancouver debut performance of his Chaucer/Gilgamesh/Beowulf adaptation

Tonight, April 25, 2011, you can attend the launch of Baba Brinkman’s (Vancouver-based rapper) new record label website, Lit Fuse Records, from the Home page,

Explosively intelligent music. Explosively contagious music.

Founded by Baba Brinkman in 2007, Lit Fuse Records is currently home to five solo acts or groups, and has released a dozen albums and counting. Our songs have appeared in feature films and on US Network television, and our artists tour the world and make music with a social impact.

The poster for the event at Baba’s blog, states that the launch will feature Baba Brinkman, Smoky Tiger, and Aaron Nazrul & the Boom Booms. It also states that the doors open at 8 pm ($5 at the door) with a music performance at 9 m at the Library Square Pub, 300 West Georgia (Vancouver, Canada). However, I also checked the Library Square Pub’s website and if you click on the event poster there, the times are listed as 10 pm to 2 am ($5 at the door).

Baba’s second Vancouver event is on Thursday, May 5, 2011, 9:30 pm ($10 at the door) at the Rio Theatre (1660 East Broadway). It’s a performance of Rapconteur, his Chaucer/Gilgamesh/Beowulf adaptation (scroll down the page to find the event poster).

Catch him before he leaves for the UK and the May 25, 2011 launch of his Rap Guide to Evolution DVD at the Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square (London) and an Off-Broadway run starting June 17, 2011 at the Soho Playhouse for live performances of his Rap Guide to Evolution. Baba has other events on his schedule as well, including TED East and the Science Festival in New York. It could be a long time before he’s back in Vancouver.

Performance, feedback, revision: Baba Brinkman’s Feb.20.11 performance

Last night (Feb.20.11) was Baba Brinkman’s first Vancouver (Canada) performance in a few years and it may be another two years or more before he’s back. His Rap Guide to Evolution shows (commissioned by a UK scientist in 2008/9) led to a soon-to-be enhanced DVD (he raised the $$$ by crowdsourcing his funding) and to an off-Broadway run in a few months (as he noted in an interview featured in my Feb.17, 2011 posting).

Couple the scarcity of local performances with the fact that Baba performs an acclaimed (sometimes controversial) peer-reviewed rap, likely the only one of its kind at this point, then throw in a legendary Vancouver music venue, The Railway Club, and you have what amounts to an irresistible invitation (in my mind anyway).

An account of events from the Feb. 20, 2011 The Rap Guide to Evolution performance at Vancouver’s Railway Club: The venerable Charles Darwin took the stage first. Dressed in clothing reminiscent of the Victorian period and carrying a book, the actor (?), gave a history of his (Darwin’s) life and his theory of evolution. (ETA Feb.23.11 via Twitter: The “actor” at my show was
Dr. Greg Bole, biology professor at UBC and sometime Darwin impersonator.)

Generally speaking I wouldn’t expect a crowd with a few beers under their collective belts to welcome a history lesson. Well, it was a friendly crowd in the first place. Many of them were friends, family, members of the Centre for Inquiry, associates of RadioFreethinker and/or CITR 101.9 FM, as well as, Aaron Nazrul & the Boom Booms’ fans, etc. Plus, the actor (sadly, I don’t know his name) was very good and, after a few minutes, he managed to get the audience’s full attention and the room grew quiet.

That all changed when Baba took the stage. Somewhere in there, Charles Darwin/the actor left and we embarked on The Rap Guide to Evolution. The performance’s organizing metaphor was that of a book (also, Darwin read from a book) and each chapter reveals a new rap, lecture, and/or visual. There is data, as well as, music and rhyme and, at the end, Baba provides a list of the reference books he consulted when creating the ‘guide’.

Amazingly, he pulled off a very good performance about creationism, religion, belief, social constructivism, poverty, violence, gender, dating and mating mores, and, memory fails, other stuff too. There were even graphs to illustrate his statistics along with lots of music and audience participation on such songs as ‘I am A African’ (originally by Dead Prez) and ‘Performance, Feedback, Revision’ (an original by Baba where he sums up evolution).

It’s thoughtful, provocative work.

As for Aaron Nazrul & the Boom Booms, I had to pass up the opportunity to hear them this time, I hope there’ll be another.

Interview with Baba Brinkman who performs his Rap Guide to Evolution in Vancouver on Feb. 20, 2011

Peer-reviewed and rap music are terms that don’t usually go together unless you’re talking about Vancouver-based rapper, Baba Brinkman.  (ETA Feb.17.11 Baba’s website) The performer has developed a rap about evolution that’s been extensively toured in the UK. Sunday, February 20, 2011, Brinkman brings his evolution rap home to Vancouver (Canada) for a performance at the Railway Club presented by the Centre for Inquiry and others. From the event webpage,

The Centre for Inquiry Vancouver, Radio Freethinker and CiTR 101.9FM are proud to present Baba Brinkman and the Rap Guide to Evolution!

Baba brings his rationalist rap back to his home for a special show of his popular spoken word rationalist rap – The Rap Guide to Evolution! The New York Times has said that this is the only hip-hop show to talk of mitochondria, genetic drift, sexual selection or memes. For Brinkman has taken Da rwin’s exhortation seriously. He is a man on a mission to spread the word about evolution — how it works, what it means for our view of the world, and why it is something to be celebrated rather than feared.

Baba’s work has been called:

“Brilliantly conceived and effervescently performed…not only is it factually correct, it’s also dazzlingly intelligent…after seeing this show, you’ll never look at a hip-hop music video in the same way again!” – The Scotsman

Event details:

Sunday, February 20th 2011 at 9:00 pm – 12 am
The Railway Club, 579 Dunsmuir Street, Vancouver BC
Tickets: $8 at the door
Special Guests: Aaron Nazrul & the Boom Booms

Prior to his Sunday performance, Baba very kindly answered some interview questions:

(a) Is this the first time you’ve given a performance of ‘The Rap Guide to Evolution’ in Vancouver? And how did this performance come about?

This won’t be the Vancouver première of the Rap Guide to Evolution since I was featured as part of the 2009 Vancouver Evolution Festival with performances at UBC, SFU, and at a club venue in Gastown, but the show has evolved considerably over the past two years and it is my first performance in Vancouver since achieving any recognition for the show.  In terms of the show’s origins, I was performing a rap adaptation of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales a few years back and encountered a geneticist named Dr. Mark Pallen at the University of Birmingham in the UK who challenged me to “do for Darwin what I did for Chaucer”. Dr. Pallen had a grant from the British Council to organize a Darwin Day celebration in 2009 and he commissioned me to write the show for his event, and then after that I brought it to the VanEvo festival, the Cambridge Darwin Festival, the Edinburgh and Adelaide Fringe Festivals, and numerous college campuses, plus an off-Broadway showcase in New York, so it’s been a busy couple of years.

(b) I understand this ‘evolution’ rap was commissioned and is the only ‘science peer-reviewed’ rap in existence. How much research did you do on evolution before you started rapping about it? What did you learn that you didn’t know?

I got the commission officially in September 2008 so I had approximately five months to read-up on evolutionary theory before I started rapping about it. I read books by E O Wilson, Richard Dawkins, Jared Diamond, Joseph Carroll, Dan Dennett, D S Wilson, Geoffrey Miller, and Mark Pallen’s own “Rough Guide to Evolution”. There were other books as well but those are the authors that significantly influenced the writing. What I learned is that the explanatory power of Darwin’s theory is far more vast that I had imagined when first accepting the challenge. I was familiar with evolution from taking biology and human origins courses at University, but I had never heard of Universal Darwinism or Evolutionary Psychology or Costly Signaling or any number of key concepts that ended up featuring heavily in the show.

(c) How has your rapping practice (scientific and otherwise) evolved?

My rapping practiced has evolved in the same way that everything else evolves, gradually and haphazardly in response to changing environmental circumstances. For instance, I would never have guessed when I started rapping at the age of 19 that I would end up in a science rapping niche, but each step seems to have followed effortlessly enough from the last along the way. I still attend to the same stylistic and musical concerns as before so that I keep improving my skills, but the content has taken some surprising turns. There’s an apt expression in hip-hop for this process (also the title of a Too-Short album): Get In Where You Fit In.

(d) Is there anything you’d like to add?

The Rap Guide to Evolution will be transferring to New York for an off-Broadway run in a couple of months, so come see the show while you can, since I might not be back for another two years at this rate!

I’m hoping to get there for Baba’s performance and his last comment definitely provides motivation in addition to the incentive provided by the sweet sounds of his special guests, Aaron Nazrul & the Boom Booms.

I have featured Baba and his work previously in these posts:

Darwin theme: Rap about Darwin & evolutionary biology and Darwinism in quantum dots

You wouldn’t expect someone with this pedigree,

… Professor of Microbial Genomics at the University of Birmingham since July 2001. … is dually qualified as a scientist (PhD) and as a medic/clinical bacteriologist (MBBS, MRCPath), and benefits from Research-Council funding for both bioinformatics and laboratory-based molecular bacteriology projects. His interests focus on bacterial pathogenesis and the exploitation of sequence data, particularly genome sequence data.

to commission a piece of rap music but that’s just what Professor Mark Pallen did last year to honour Darwin’s anniversary (150 years since the publication of Darwin’s theory and 200 years isnce his birth). He contacted Baba Brinkman, a Vancouver, Canada -based rap artist, to commission a series of raps about Darwin and evolutionary biology. The project has become The Rap Guide to Evolution. You can find more about the work at Pasco Phronesis (thank you for the pointer) which also features a number of Brinkman’s videos. There’s also a Brinkman ‘evolutionary’ video on the CBC 3 (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) site. In that video, Brinkman spontaneously adds some lines to his rap. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to improvise while you’re presenting for any length of time but it’s not easy and Brinkman actually manages to do this while rhyming about evolutionary biology in front of an audience that’s somewhere between 200 and 500 people (I can’t be sure of the number).

There are some places I don’t expect to see any mention of the theory of evolution and quantum theory is one of those places. From the news item on physorg.com,

Physicists have found new evidence that supports the theory of quantum Darwinism, the idea that the transition from the quantum to the classical world occurs due to a quantum form of natural selection. By explaining how the classical world emerges from the quantum world, quantum Darwinism could shed light on one of the most challenging questions in physics of the past century.

The basis of almost any theoretical quantum-to-classical transition lies in the concept of decoherence. In the quantum world, many possible quantum states “collapse” into a single state due to interactions with the environment. To quantum Darwinists, decoherence is a selection process, and the final, stable state is called a “pointer state.” Although pointer states are quantum states, they are “fit enough” to be transmitted through the environment without collapsing and can then make copies of themselves that can be observed on the macroscopic scale. Although everything in our world is quantum at its core, our classical view of the universe is ultimately determined by these pointer states.

How researchers have used quantum dots  to provide evidence of quantum Darwinism and the link from quantum physics to classical physics is covered in the rest of the news item. The researchers’ study is published here,

A.M. Burke. “Periodic Scarred States in Open Quantum Dots as Evidence of Quantum Darwinism.” Physical Review Letters 104, 176801 (2010). Doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.104.176801