Concrete Park Co-creators Tony Puryear and Erika Alexander took to the airwaves of Karachi, Pakistan this week with a groundbreaking interview on CityFM89’s “89 Chapters” with host Mahvesh Murad.
The two-hour interview on Pakistan’s premiere radio station covered a wide range of topics from creator-owned comics to to screenwriting to racism in Hollywood. Mahvesh, whose show features books and authors from around the world, spun a custom Concrete Park playlist of classic tunes hand-picked by Tony and Erika, including “Spanish Harlem” by Aretha Franklin and “Sukiyaki” by Kyu Sakamoto. Click the link below to hear the show in its entirety.
“We were thrilled to be asked to do this prestigious show” said Tony Puryear. “Mahvesh’s show reaches an audience of more than a million in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. Concrete Park may not be widely available in print in these cities, but with digital downloads from the Dark Horse website, anyone, anywhere in the world can buy our book. This chance to get the word out to 89 Chapters listeners, whom we know to be motivated readers, was very important to us”. Erika Alexander said “Getting to spin some great songs and talk about them with Mahvesh and her listeners was icing on the cake. She’s a book and music lover with great taste. Her questions were incisive and we really enjoyed talking about our book with her, but just as importantly, together, for a couple of hours one afternoon, we hosted a dance party Karachi will remember for a long time.”
Songs played on the show by the Concrete Park co-creators included “Funky Nassau” by The Beginning Of The End, “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)” by Pete Rock and C.L.Smooth. All of the songs played had a connection to Concrete Park. Some, like “Sukiyaki”, might actually be heard on Radio Gigante, the gang-controlled radio station of Scare City featured in the Concrete Park graphic novel. Some, like “Funky Nassau”, are just the kind of ageless, hard-core jams someone might spin at a Scare City dance party.
Other songs, like “Spanish Harlem”, were inspirations for the story. Tony Puryear said: “The image of a rose ‘growing in the street/right up through the concrete’, of something beautiful blooming in an unexpected place, was key to all of our work on this project. In addition to being a dystopian hell, the world of Concrete park is also a place where the miraculous can happen.” Another touchstone song for the show was Santana’s cover of Tito Puente’s monster 50s latin dance hit, “Oye Como Va”. In this song, the singers invite you to check out their cool rhythm, “Oye como va/mi ritmo”. They boast that it is a “mulata” rhythm, neither all black nor all white but something new and mixed. The idea that the more famous, Santana version is being played by a skinny kid from Jalisco, Mexico who grew up in San Francisco listening to Tito Puente’s Puerto-Rican cha-cha-cha (and now being grooved to somewhere in Karachi) is just a testament to the world-spanning power of this crazy mixed up rhythm.
The Concrete Park team looks forward to doing more international radio in the future. Said Puryear: “It’s all about reaching people where they are. Radio is unique in that we think of it as ‘broadcasting’, but for the listener, it’s remarkably intimate and personal.”
About Mahvesh Murad:
Mahvesh reads a lot of books. She loves dystopian fiction and lives in Karachi, Pakistan, sometimes pretending the two aren’t related. She writes book reviews and hosts two shows on Pakistan’s largest English radio station CityFM89. You can hear her talking about books on 89 Chapters, and indulging in the blues on Voodoo Nights. You can hear archived shows here:
Concrete Park Co-creators Tony Puryear, Erika Alexander and Robert Alexander brought a little piece of the future to Central America as they took their Concrete Park Earth Tour to Belize for a series of Comic Book Clinics and to kick off a nation-wide Comic Book Competition for Schools.
From October 26 through October 29th, 2012 Team Concrete Park staged five clinics for high school and college students in Belize City, in Placencia, in San Ignacio and Belmopan, in venues from the University of Belize to high school art classrooms to the enormous stage of the famous Bliss Institute. We also appeared on the nationally televised Open Your Eyes morning show to promote the clinics and the competition.
Why teach the basics of comic book creation in a country of 300,000, a country where comics are not even for sale? Why encourage school kids to try and to compete in this medium? Erika Alexander explains: “Whether you live in the first world or the developing world, ideas are the most valuable currency there is. Our message is that your story is unique and valuable. Pencils and paper are cheap, and comics, whether self-printed or self-published on the web are a simple, accessible medium for expressing ideas in stories. In teaching comics creation, we are also teaching storytelling, business skills, entrepreneurship and connectivity.”
Tony Puryear adds: “The kids we met in Belize didn’t have many of the things their counterparts in America take for granted. Some of their families can barely afford books or school supplies, but they all had something I’ve seen in kids everywhere, a burning desire to express themselves, to connect, to matter. Though Belize is relatively poor, the kids there still have an opportunity to reach a global audience with their stories. There is a cell phone for every man, woman and child in the country, and they are beginning to explore the powerful mobile platform that’s already in their pockets.”
The trip was a learning experience for the Concrete Park creators, too. Robert Alexander says: “In Belize, when you tell your family you want to be an artist, you get a sad look. This is a country where, for generations, being an ‘artist’ has all too often meant being the man or woman in the tourist village selling painted souvenirs. Things are changing, though. The kids we met seemed really interested in the larger potential for their drawings, their stories, their films, to reach outside their towns and neighborhoods. They were more media-savvy than we expected; they upended some of our assumptions, and our next clinics will be better thanks to them.”
What is the Concrete Park Earth Tour, and why begin in Belize of all places? The Concrete Park Earth Tour is a journey of exploration designed to spread the fun and challenge of comic book storytelling to communities around the globe where comics have not reached. This may entail traveling to and teaching in poor communities in mega-cities like Rio De Janeiro or Mumbai, it may also mean teaching drawing and storytelling skills to girls and young women in places where that has not been traditional practice.
Belize was first on our agenda simply because there was a need (arts education is slim to non-existent) and we were invited. In many ways it was a good place to learn as we went. Unique among the region’s countries, Belize’s heritage is British-colonial and its primary language is English, which made our first efforts to present our clinic easy. Belize is justly proud of its multi-ethnic stew of a populace, with its Kriols, its Garifuna peoples, its Maya, Mestizos, Indians and Chinese. Everywhere we went, we saw faces that made us stop and say “He looks like Concrete Park, or she looks like Concrete Park.”
The population in Belize is the youngest and fastest-growing in Central America. The kids we met, at the high school and at the college level, seemed genuinely curious and engaged, and we had a series of great dialogues with them after the main portion of the clinics ended.
Thanks: The Belize Diaspora Network (BDN) in the person of Bruce Henry, a Belizean living in the US, started the ball rolling for this trip, and we thank him. Laura Frampton, Alyssa Carnegie and Andrea Polanco at the Belize Tourism Board gave key support, and Suzette Zayden of NICH, the National Institute of Culture and History also paved the way for our trip. We thank them as well. We also wish to thank The Radisson Fort George Hotel in Belize City, Robert’s Grove Beach Resort in Placencia and The San Ignacio Hotel for their hospitality and their kind support.