Minnesota Original


The Okee Dokee Brothers and B-Boy J-Sun

GRAMMY Award-winning children's band The Okee Dokee Brothers writes bluegrass and folk songs for the whole family to enjoy. Muralist and mosaic artist Greta McLain uses her public artwork to bring communities together. B-Boy J-Sun is committed to teaching younger generations both the cultural history of, and the techniques behind, hip hop dancing.

AIRED: February 16, 2014 | 0:26:46

(woman) "Minnesota Original" is made possible by

The State Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund,

and the citizens of Minnesota.

[drums, bass, & guitar play rock]

[music only; no vocals]

[banjo & guitar play in bright rhythm]

♪ ♪

I'm Joe Mailander.

And I'm Justin Lansing

and we're the Okee Dokee Brothers.

(Justin) But you know, we're not really brothers.

We just grew up together.

We play bluegrass and folk music for families.

Yup, dah... sorry.

I don't know.

Okay, yeah, I think he said that.

What was I gonna say then?

(woman) I think we're good. [laughs]

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

Our childhood had a lot of outdoor adventure,

exploring nature and animals and all these different things,

so that's where actually we draw a lot of our inspiration from,

was our shared childhood.

Joe and I came up with this idea

to do adventure albums, and that means going out

and actually taking a real live adventure.

And while we're out there, writing songs.

So the first trip we took was a canoe trip

down the Mississippi River, and we went from Minneapolis

down to St. Louis, Missouri on canoes; it took us a month.

[boat horn blasts] Yeah!

We were out there just camping and canoeing and writing songs.

I think the river is amazingly inspiring.

When we saw it from its very beginnings in Itasca

and it's this little tiny river, a creek almost, you know,

where we can stand in it, and now it's something

that we can barely fathom.

It's made these mountains and valleys.

(Joe) The trip did inspire whole songs on its own.

You know, we had some ideas before the trip,

but while we were on the river, we came up with,

you know, brand-new concepts.

There was no way we could have written those

if we were just sitting

in the basement of a house, thinking about good ideas.

Alright, so we got the thousand- star hotel. Are you filming?

Golden leaves... ♪ Golden leaves ♪


♪ Golden leaves fallin' on my head, feel like a... ♪

That's pretty good, I like that. Yeah golden, definitely golden

So golden leaves overhead

or, or, or under, under.

Okay ready? Here it is.

♪ I'm a'sleepin' in a thousand-star hotel ♪

♪ ♪

♪ I'm sleepin in a thousand-star hotel ♪

♪ Gold leaf pillow for my head ♪

♪ Feel like a king on a king-size river bed ♪

♪ I'm sleepin' in a thousand-star hotel ♪

♪ ♪

(Justin) In December of 2012, we were nominated for "Can You Canoe?"

for best children's album for the Grammys.

We went out to LA and got all dressed up in our bow ties,

and we brought it home.

It's a big deal because we were on the national stage,

but it was very strange for us.

It wasn't exactly how we're used to living.

(Joe) We were still filling the CD orders ourselves,

and we still are, [laughs]

with the envelopes in our basements

and going to the post office every day,

and that's the way we've kept it since then.

We're managed by ourselves,

and we make the creative decisions

as well as the business decisions.

You know, things definitely have changed a bit,

but I think the music is still focused

where it always has been,

which is getting families outdoors

and inspiring them through the music.

♪ I'm sleepin' in a thousand-star hotel ♪

[banjo plays; finger-picking]

♪ ♪

(Justin) I like it. (Joe) Just wrote a song.

We don't have kids of our own,

so we are writing from a perspective

of maybe an older brother that's teaching these kids

or showing our audience about cool things in nature

that they might not know about, or maybe some funny jokes

or some adventuresome spirit

that might inspire them to have fun

and get outdoors with their families.

(Justin) We are trying to make music for the whole family,

but it is directed at kids, you know.

These are songs for kids,

because kids need their own songs,

and they need their own bands,

you know, and they get to own this.

♪ We don't need a motor ♪

♪ We don't need a sail ♪

♪ And we don't need no fins or gills ♪

♪ We don't need a tail ♪

♪ Let's just keep it simple ♪

♪ We'll each get an oar ♪

♪ Paddle out to no man's lake ♪

♪ And float till we can't no more ♪

♪ Can you canoe on a little boat built for two? ♪

♪ Can you canoe? I'll be your captain and your crew ♪

♪ Can you canoe if there's nothing better to do? ♪

♪ I wanna float down a river with you ♪

♪ ♪

♪ We don't need no outlets ♪

♪ We don't need no wires ♪

♪ Prime time entertainment ♪

♪ Will be lightnin' bugs and fires ♪

♪ Let's just keep it simple ♪

♪ Unplugged and outside ♪

♪ Sound waves on the water ♪

♪ Don't need to be amplified ♪

♪ Can you canoe on a little boat built for two? ♪

♪ Can you canoe? I'll be your captain and your crew ♪

♪ Can you canoe if there's nothing better to do? ♪

♪ I wanna float down a river with you ♪

♪ ♪

♪ I'll take the bow brother ♪

♪ You can take the stern ♪

♪ I'll move us forward ♪

♪ And you choose when to turn ♪

♪ Let's just keep it simple ♪

♪ We all need a friend ♪

♪ In this current moment ♪

♪ Instead of lookin' around the bend ♪

♪ Can you canoe on a little boat built for two? ♪

♪ Can you canoe? I'll be your captain and your crew ♪

♪ Can you canoe if there's nothing better to do? ♪

♪ I wanna float down a river with you ♪

♪ I wanna float down a river with you ♪

♪ I wanna float down a river ♪

♪ With you ♪

[synthesizer plays softly]

♪ ♪

(Greta McLain) I'm really excited about bringing people to the wall

that don't traditionally get to have their work

out in the world and celebrated.

And then not only putting them up in a little way,

but putting them up really big.

There needs to be some kind of balance or counter

to how little representation so many of us have gotten

in the art world and in the art scene historically,

and how do we counter that? Well, let's start big.

It's not going to counter history, but it is

going to start saying, now these are the voices

that we need heard, especially in this place.

So those are the voices I want to celebrate

and give them room to say what they need to say.

Here's what you're doin'.

So wherever you see one of these

is where we're gonna paint, okay?

We're doing this project

in the cafeteria of Green Central School

in South Minneapolis in Central neighborhood,

collaborating with a north side artist, Jeremiah Bey,

and we've been working with a group of middle-school students

to look at the history of the neighborhood

and the history of the school and how it has looked,

like what the demographic, what the face of Green School

has looked like historically, and what it looks like today.

Who goes to Green Central today, and how can we celebrate them

and their culture and their, you know, identity.

This is our sketch that we've been working on.

You can see it's much loved; it has paint all over it

because it's our one copy.

We put it together in Photoshop of all of these photos

that the students here took of Green Central students.

And the butterflies kinda came in because they give it all

movement and flow, and they also represent transformation,

and they connect us in Minnesota to Mexico.

The yellow goes here.

These are actually Aztec patterns in the background,

and these patterns are from the Ojibwe People here in Minnesota.

So there's this connection because we have

a huge Mexican population, Latino population,

at this school, between here and Mexico.

We gridded it off in 5-by-5-foot sections and projected it up,

and the kids traced up the projections,

then we started painting it in.

So right now I'm working with students,

and a lot of them have this idea that they can't paint,

or that they start painting, and they don't want to fail.

Use this right here-- take a brush, and put it right in this bucket.

So a lot of my job is to kind of chalk out areas

and say here's your color-- paint.

Should I outline it?

(Greta) Or how can you make that same shape over here now?

So starting kinda scaffold almost instruction

of just warming people up to their capabilities.

If they have the confidence, they can push past

the filling-in-the-blanks kind of painting.

I'm really interested in, when you walk into a space,

what the space tells you

about how you are supposed to be there.

I'm really excited about going into places

that maybe are more rigid in how they greet you

and checking in and seeing, is this actually the behavior

that this space is trying to nurture

or supposed to be nurturing?

So working a lot in schools, it's amazing to be like,

how do you want the students to feel when they walk in,

and what could the space be telling students

about the behavior that's expected of them,

and also the potential that they are being prepared for

when they walk in this building?

So already we see kids like, they walk into the cafeteria

where we're doing this project around the mural,

and they're like, this is a different zone.

Like, here, this is our space; this is my place to the point

that they let me paint the walls, and they let me decide

what's on the walls because this is my space, and it's for me

and it's suggesting what kind of learning

or what kind of activity should happen in this space.

Most of my projects start with kind of 3 main questions.

So for example, if it's like,

just like your community murals, that's just about

bringing together community or a neighborhood.

You might ask, what is community?

What is it that makes this neighborhood this neighborhood?

These all start with conversations with these groups of people.

You're gonna see that even within such a simple question,

everybody gets to voice their perspective.

And in, within that conversation

people are hearing the differences,

the different perspectives and starting to see differently

and opening up what their neighborhood looks like

and what community might be for everybody.

So the second question would be the problem--

what are problems in your community?

What are the things that aren't working, what are the disconnects?

Then at the end it would be,

what can you personally do to make positive change?

What can we do as a group to make change?

What is an action we can take?

And this mural is not making the change.

The mural is not making the change; the mural is

making the connections and the relationships

and standing as a suggestion of where this neighborhood

or where this community is going.

We are at Park Avenue Methodist Church,

and we're gonna be here painting a section of the big mural

that we're installing this fall at Green Central School.

So now we're taking what we did in the cafeteria

and we're translating it into a bigger mural.

This mural is all painted on strips of polytab that will then

be adhered to the wall like permanent wallpaper.

[Greta speaks Spanish]

I'm a South Minneapolis girl born and raised,

kind of Powderhorn neighborhood area.

Oh, these colors look so good!

I came up in an amazing kind of golden era

in the public school system.

I went to Ramsey International Fine Arts School.

Let me show you what to paint, come on.

What is your name? Carlos.

Carlos, how old are you? Six

We were, you know, speaking Spanish in the classroom

and taking violin lessons and painting

and painting on the walls

and doing all these like papier maché projects, and that was

really a natural part of kind of what my education

had always, is like a-- there's always a component of art.

Do you love painting or do you kinda hate painting?

I love it. Ooh, awesome!

And because I'm from Powderhorn neighborhood,

I was around the Heart of the Beast

and always participated in the MayDay parades.

So from really young, I saw art as something

that offered a career for adults.

I was surrounded by adults

that were working as professional artists,

and most of that art they were making was with other people--

so bringing in all these different hands;

working with kids; working with families;

working with, you know, neighborhoods.

So that was just like a huge connection for me

of this is, this is the way that you build the community!

This is the way you meet people, and this is something

I'm really good at and excited about!

Like this is what makes me excited.

I think it goes like this, right here there's some.

I'll mark it for ya.

When I make something,

and it turns out different or better than I thought,

or I do something that I didn't think I could do,

like yesterday I drove the biggest truck I've ever driven,

and I did it, and I was successful,

and I was just like jittery excited

about my life after I did that.

And that sense of discovery and doing something

that you didn't think you were able to do, my work,

when I bring people into projects, allows for them

to also experience that feeling of discovery of--

I'm able to do something.

Like maybe, you know, I didn't know I could paint,

and now I can paint, or maybe I didn't know

I could meet my neighbors, and now I know them,

and it feels different, and I am just jazzed like crazy about

sharing that excitement and that enthusiasm for learning

and continued learning and making together.

That, I mean, it's like a drug for me!

I get so excited-- let's make something!

So, yeah, and it's really that sense of discovery,

and I can do it. I didn't know I could.

[electric guitar plays]

♪ ♪

[electric guitar drums play in syncopated rhythm]

♪ ♪

(Jason Noer) Hip hop is onstage a lot,

but it's only looked at as a spectacle.

We're trying to bring consciousness,

but also agency to our audience.

My name is Jason Noer,

B-Boy j-sun.

I'm a traditional hip hop dancer

here in the Twin Cities

and I practice a discipline

known as breaking or break dancing.

[synthesizer plays a slow, rhythmic dance beat]

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

[tempo increases; a reggae rhythm]

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

A B-Boy, the B stands for break,

and that's originally what all the dancers danced to,

which is just a short piece of music,

so the dance used to be really short, and it's been

lengthened just like the break has been lengthened, and that's

what gives us our first hip hop music, is these beats.

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

My training comes from Orange Coast College,

and I took every form of dance that I could get into--

Indian, West African, tap,

modern, ballet, salsa, merengue,

waltz, fox-trot, tango, like learning all those dances,

as well as practicing with my peers.

I think it's important to acknowledge that each form,

when you talk about foundation, it's not just technique.

♪ ♪

B-Boy encompasses many different elements.

It's history, not just of the New York history,

but also knowing our local history, it's knowledge,

it's technique, of course, it's battling and never giving up.

It's this pride, this discipline,

and also an openness to teach others.

♪ ♪

We're in the 4th decade of hip hop art forms,

it's easy to talk about the DJ,

and it's easy to talk about the rapper,

and it's easy to talk about the dancer,

and the dancer is the breaker.

These are 3 of the 4 elements of hip hop.

The 4th element is graffiti art, or what we call writing.

A lot of people say there's a 5th element,

and the 5th element is the knowledge

and the knowledge is really knowing the history

of all of those forms and where they come from.

Today's discussion is about the B-Boys/ego.

We'll talk about some of the things

about how you define it basically.

I teach at Zenon, and I also teach at the Cowles Center

and I also teach in the community.

And that's sort of my place in the community.

What I have been singled out as is

like the teacher that teaches foundation;

if you want to learn foundation, you learn from me.

The '60s, the mid '60s, there was a dance form

that was being developed called rocking.

And rocking was done to soul music, James Brown,

a lot of music that we dance to now.

Dancers do a form called rocking,

which is a full contact form

and it became more of a social dance.

And from that social dance, we get breaking

because the DJ noticed how everybody would start to dance

in a certain part of the song, and so what the DJ did is,

he wanted to extend the exciting part, which was the break.

And that's what the first rappers rhymed over, but really,

hip hop music and what we know today as hip hop music

comes from a synergy between the dancers and the DJ

playing off each other.

[electronic music plays a hip hop beat]

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

The group that I dance with,

that I perform with at the Cowles Center,

we're just known as hip hop, they're just my cast,

there is not an official name; we are all separate entities,

but we come together under the banner of hip hop.

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

The work that we usually do together,

you don't want to have people in lockstep

for it's not that kind of dance.

It's more of an individually based form,

each style of hip hop because hip hop is based

on carving out an individual niche for yourself.

But we use small, basic movements that we all share

and try to highlight the connections.

But we're all still on beat, so the beat is one

of the unifying connections between us all

that helps us stay together.

[bass, drums, & guitar play rock]

Today I'm working with Cooper and Avery,

two young B-Boys that just got done battling

in the 5th-annual Ground Breaker Battle.

Battling is a competition between dancers.

It's kind of like, it's our right of passage.

It's battling many times and losing many times,

but going home and trying again and practicing and coming back

and it instills this discipline and also this idea that

you're never supposed to give up and that you keep trying.

That again is another earmark of being a B-Boy or B-Girl,

is that they have like this indomitable will to never quit.

Zulu spins are like one of the first spins that there was,

so you go down like this, and all you do is stick one leg out,

then you're gonna try to turn over and keep your leg there.

So like you just turn over, like that,

and then you keep doing it.

Minnesota is really special because we've nurtured

so many generations that we now have

hundreds of kids that are serious dancers.

It's really something that helps Minnesota stand out

because we have the largest- growing youth population,

as well as signature styles.

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

It's exciting to be in hip hop dance at this moment,

to be a breaker, 'cause all our pioneers are still alive

and that's not true for any other form.

We are only in our 4th decade for hip hop dance,

and so that's pretty young, and you know,

relatively we have some growing up to do,

but there is a worldwide community concerned

about how we're doing this and how to do it

in a way that keeps it as true to its origins as possible.


[drums play; whistle blows]


CC--Armour Captioning & TPT

(woman) "Minnesota Original" is made possible by

The State Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund,

and the citizens of Minnesota.

[orchestral fanfare]


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