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Ryan Lattanzio
WATCH: Alekesam Author:   ·  September 6th, 2012

As part of our ongoing coverage of the Hollyshorts Film Festival, we attended the screening of Alekesam and followed him to a live-performance at Sonos Studios.

Alekesam is the musical moniker of Sal Masekela, the famed ESPN commentator-turned-singer/songwriter. The film, and to an extent Sal’s music, tells the the story of how he bristled against the legacy of his father (South African jazz giant Hugh Masekela), and how he eventually found his own musical voice.

The documentary, which debuted in New York at the Tribeca Film Festival this past April, had it’s West Coast premiere at Hollyshorts. Director Jason Bergh describes the film as a “beautiful, perfectly timed accident.” What began as a promo reel for Sal’s new album, The Sound of Alekesam (available for free on the band’s Facebook page), grew into a larger bio-doc spanning the life of Sal Masekela, Bergh’s friend, from the fraught relationship he had with his father – who was exiled from South Africa in the wake of apartheid – to the California countercultural roots that have shaped his current identity as Alekesam.

The short film, in some ways, seems a confessional for Sal. In this new chapter of his life as a musician on his own-some (Sal has previously worked as a producer) he’s ready to open up. He talks candidly about living in the shadow of his father, a former drug addict, and the difficulties Sal faced as a burgeoning black athlete.

Dianna Agron's You Me & Charlie - WATCH: Alekesam

Sal arrived at Sonos that night with short hair, without his characteristic dreads, as if to announce this next phase in his life as Alekesam. The intimate space at Sonos allowed for an up-close-and-personal performance, also aided by the attendance of many of Sal’s close friends and family members. Sal performed most of the songs off The Sound of Alekesam, including album-closer “Black Cowboy,” where he announces he’s a “black cowboy riding a dolphin.” Such a weird lyric is typical of Sal, who consistently finds new ways to express himself musically and otherwise (otherwise being everything the man has ever done, which is virtually everything).

Dianna Agron's You Me & Charlie - WATCH: Alekesam
Dianna Agron's You Me & Charlie - WATCH: Alekesam


About The Author

Ryan, a recent graduate of UC Berkeley and LA transplant, is a film critic of four years. He has written for San Francisco Chronicle and Indiewire, among other publications. In May, he attended the Cannes Film Festival, as a jury member and journalist, where he was tapped on the shoulder by Bill Murray. Ryan has written many things that nobody has read or cared about. Purveyor of all skills useless and unmarketable, he loves depravity and debauchery of all kinds.

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