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Meet Raja Weise, Creator of Spotidol

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Picture a vain king who wants a statue of himself, and he demands that it be created by the greatest sculptor in the land. How does he find the sculptor with the greatest skill? Maybe he’d hire a sculpting professor, who wrote the book on sculpting. Maybe he’d hire the most famous sculptor, who has the most fans.

Raja Weise thinks that the king, if he were wise, would hire neither of those sculptors, because the professor spends most of his time writing books, and the popular sculptor spends his time marketing himself. The king should hold a competition, Weise says, and hire the person who has developed the greatest skill by spending most of their time on their craft.

That’s why Weise created Spotidol, a digital competition platform, where you can “be the top anything of anything.”

Spotidol is the first app Weise has developed, and it launched in February 2019. With Spotidol, users can create or enter competitions. Some of them are just-for-fun, low-stakes contests that are free to enter, and winners get some recognition and bragging rights. Others offer cash prizes, and charge a small entry fee.

Weise, 25, is from south Florida. He moved to Oakland in 2017, where he found himself between two seemingly embattled worlds—the tech field and the creative field. Weise originally studied music composition and physics at the University of Florida School of Music, where he created everything from classical to reggae to electronic music. He still makes music in his free time (of which he has very little).

Raja Weise

While taking a semester off, Weise found himself thinking of ‘the king and the sculptor’ scenario. He wanted to create something not so much for the king as for the sculptor—to find a way for skilled creators to make their skill known without taking time away from their craft.

He went back to school for business and economics, and that’s when he had the idea to create Spotidol. His mother is a software developer, and had taught him basic programming when he was a small child, so he started developing a website competition platform. Suddenly, he was spending all of his time programming.

When he first moved to Oakland two years ago, he tried to secure a place to live at a Bay Area commune. Members of the commune had to be unanimous when accepting a new tenant, and Weise was turned away. They said it was because he was in tech.

It wasn’t until that moment that Weise realized he was in two worlds that, in Oakland, are often at odds. Tech is often seen as a villain for long-time Oaklanders, because the wealthy silicon valley spillovers have displaced their neighbors, family members, or themselves from places they used to be able to afford.

Weise doesn’t work for a tech company. He is up all night and day creating, tweaking, learning, perfecting—his lifestyle right now is more that of a starving artist than a wealthy techie.

And Weise says that the tech aspect of what he is doing is a tool. It’s a way to make it easier for creators to jump the hurdles of monetization, purpose and curation. The way he sees it, creators get blocked from creating when they need to make money, when they don’t have a purpose to create, and when their work is not being distributed to the people who would appreciate it.

And its uses are proving to be plentiful.

Recently, Berkeley Unified School District used Spotidol to facilitate their oratorical competition. The audience of the live event used Spotidol to vote for their favorite performance, and judges scored the performances. 

On Sunday, Oakhella will use Spotidol to host a style competition, where people at the Oakhella festival can submit photos of their outfits, users can vote, and the winner gets $150. Other open competitions include the free-to-enter ‘Photo of the Week’ competition, and the $2 entry fee ‘Best Travel Story’ competition.

And coming soon, the Oakland Post will host competitions to spotlight local businesses and artists. If you want to vote in or enter these competitions, download the free Spotidol app, or make a free account on the website at spotidol.com. 

Enter your visual artwork in our ‘Artist of the Week’ competition. Winners will be featured in the Oakland Post! Submitting is easy! Click here to learn how.

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Arts and Culture

Buddy Bolden: The Forgotten Father of Jazz

It is suggested that Bolden was a byproduct of his time and circumstances. He was an improviser; there was no trace of written music left. He performed at the beginning of the age of recorded music and silent film, so there are no known video or audio traces of him. So far, only one photograph of him has been discovered.

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Buddy Bolden holding his coronet is standing to the left of the upright bass player. Wikipedia photo.

Charles “Buddy” Bolden (1867–1831) is one of the central figures in New Orleans music, yet his place in the history of jazz remains tenuous. His name may mean nothing to a casual jazz listener but his legacy, a collage of truth, whispers and some rumors, lives on.

Much of what is known of Bolden comes from oral accounts passed down decades after his death. Records about his life remain scarce. It was often said that he cut hair at a barber shop in New Orleans; jumped from a hot air balloon over Lincoln Park and played his coronet on the way down; moonlighted as the editor of a scandal sheet called The Cricket.

What music scholars do know is that Bolden grew up in the New Orleans’ neighborhood now known as Central City. It’s likely that there, from childhood, he was constantly exposed to brass bands parading through the streets. He probably attended Fisk School and may have even graduated. During this time Bolden began studying the coronet.
Bolden would later become a working musician known for his loud sound and improvisational skills. He played in parades, at picnics, parks and union halls, and was a favorite at the honky-tonks. Yet this talented pioneering jazz musician had schizophrenia.

He was unable to properly read music and had impaired motor function. He only improvised on his coronet, playing the ragtime music popular from the 1890s to the 1920s. It never mattered because people loved him.

Bolden was arrested for the first time in 1906. According to newspaper reports, Bolden, in a fit of psychosis, was convinced he was being drugged or poisoned. He attacked his caregiver, who was either his mother or his mother-in-law. “He was booked on a charge of being insane, and alcohol abuse was cited as the reason for his insanity.”

How long Bolden was jailed is unknown. His life, however, would deteriorate after the incident. He became erratic and unreliable; he eventually quit playing his coronet. His final public performance was during a parade on Labor Day 1906. He dropped out of the festivities before the finish.

Two more arrests were made the following year. After the third (March 13, 1907), Bolden was committed to the State Insane Asylum in Jackson, La. It was there that he would spend the rest of his life.

By the time New Orleans music was dubbed jazz (1918) Bolden had been in the mental asylum for more than a decade. He was a distant memory.

It is suggested that Bolden was a byproduct of his time and circumstances. He was an improviser; there was no trace of written music left. He performed at the beginning of the age of recorded music and silent film, so there are no known video or audio traces of him. So far, only one photograph of him has been discovered.

Bolden died in obscurity. He was buried in Holt Cemetery in New Orleans, but the location is unknown.

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Art

City Selects Ayodele Nzinga as Inaugural Poet Laureate

As poet laureate, Nzinga will make an inaugural address, partner with the city’s youth poet laureate Myra Estrada on a reading series, deliver four readings in Oakland, and write a poem that commemorates the city.

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Oakland first poet laureate Ayodele Nzinga, author of “SorrowLand Oracle” and “The Horse Eaters,” in an undated photo. (Photo courtesy City of Oakland).

Poet, playwright, and community activist Ayodele Nzinga was selected as Oakland’s inaugural poet laureate, city officials announced on June 11.

Nzinga is the founding producer and director of the West Oakland theater company Lower Bottom Playaz, established in 1999. She’s also the founding director of Black Arts Movement Business District Community Development Corporation, which produces BAMBDFEST, an international arts and cultural festival celebrating the arts in the Black community.

“Her decades-long commitment to Oakland’s art scene will feed the richness of her storytelling as she nurtures creativity in others,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said in a statement.

Nzinga is the author of at least two books of poetry: “SorrowLand Oracle,” a collection of spells, incantations, prayers, and “The Horse Eaters,” which is described as an origin tale, a reclamation of memory and a movement toward wholeness in thought.

Nzinga said she is “overjoyed” with her selection as Oakland’s first poet laureate.

“I look forward to representing ‘The Town’ and the honor of bringing poetry to the people!” she said in a statement.

As poet laureate, Nzinga will make an inaugural address, partner with the city’s youth poet laureate Myra Estrada on a reading series, deliver four readings in Oakland, and write a poem that commemorates the city.

“Whether in the visual performing arts, music or literature, the talents of the Town’s artists are world-renowned and deserve recognition and financial support,” J. K. Fowler, cultural affairs commissioner and chair of the poet laureate selection team, said in a statement.

City officials closed nominations on May 19 for Oakland’s inaugural poet laureate and five members of the city’s literary community selected Nzinga from other nominees based on five criteria.

That included their poetic work, and among other things, their understanding of civic stories around belonging, culture, and equity.

Nzinga will serve a two-year term until May 2023. Her selection comes with a $5,000 honorarium.

The date for the inaugural address by Nzinga has not been set.

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Arts and Culture

Juneteenth Jubilee

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