one would expect from a Kibbutz resident, Ophir Kutiel (a.k.a. Kutiman) definitely
considers music a collective endeavor. He is not such a believer in rights and
clearances, but since he is sampling little-seen, self-posted youtube videos,
most of the samplees are delighted to have the exposure and track-back links.
Such was certainly the case for Samantha Montgomery (a.k.a. Princess Shaw) when
Kutiman’s mashed together accompaniment for her a Capella song went viral.
Former San Francisco Film Society Artist-in-Residence Ido Haar was there to
document her sudden internet fame and her subsequent trip to Israel in Presenting Princess Shaw (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
started as a project on nearly anonymous artists using youtube as a public
workshop and confessional, but Princess Shaw (her preferred professional
billing) quickly took over. She has an earthy voice, but her idiosyncratic
style is hard to package in a neatly defined soul or R&B boxes. Evidently,
NBC’s The Voice didn’t get it,
because they gave her the unceremonious brush-off (quick, name a previous
winner without checking google). Shaw was scuffling harder than the average
jazz trombonist when Haar started documenting her life. She was not making ends
meet as an elder care nurse, but she kept plugging away at open mic nights to
empty rooms. Unbeknownst to her (but as Haar very well knew), Kutiman was
crafting his newest assemblage featuring Shaw as his diva.
Kutiman drops it online, Shaw becomes an internet sensation. Unlike his other
mash-ups, such as the infectious “Mother of All Funk Chords,” Kutiman composed
music to best showcase her emotional delivery and revealing lyrics. The tone is
not so different from late Billie Holiday, yet we can still hear Kutiel’s
Israeli and Mediterranean influences. Soon, Shaw is traveling to Israel to
properly record with Kutiman and his ensemble, even though her car is still up
on blocks, thanks to the punks who stole her tires.
Presenting is a film McLuhan
scholars and Warhol devotees will have a field day with, but it will outlive
such in-the-now analysis because of the resonance of Shaw’s life experiences. A
survivor of abuse, the nature of which is clearly implied but never explicitly
detailed, Shaw tenaciously, almost quixotically pursues her dreams, despite her
is also aesthetically pleasing to see the ease with which the scruffy Israeli
hipsters and the resilient New Orleanian mix. You have to smile when one of Kutiman’s
sidemen ducks out for a beer run as soon as she arrives at their Tel Aviv
studio. Yes, it is nice to know musicians are the same around the world. In
fact, an unlikely but significant personal friendship and professional
relationship blossoms between Shaw the diva and Kutiman the mad genius at the
course, this story is still developing. Shaw has not “made it” yet, but since
Kutiman is producing her debut album, possible questions of exploitation really
do not apply here. Shaw’s appearances on behalf of the film should confirm as
much and why wouldn’t she want Presenting
high on the public radar? Haar displays great sensitivity, even when
chronicling her lowest ebbs, emphasizing her generosity of spirit during the
lows and the highs. Recommended for fans of soul and experimental electronica, Presenting Princess Shaw opens this
Friday (5/27) in New York, at the IFC Center.
Labels: Documentary, Ido Haar, Kutiman, Princess Shaw