They call It jazz

alice-3

They call it jazz but this music is much bigger and broader than any definitions.

Miles Davis called it Social Music, Nicholas Payton calls it BAM (black american music) but the closest description has to be Wayne Shorter’s “I Dare You” music.

Call It what we may, this phenomenon known as jazz is fun, intricate, witty and full of whimsical freedom and wisdom; It is music at its most sincere, although often highly enigmatic.

As Amiri Baraka poetically stated “jazz listen to it at your own risk”.

It can literally either heal your soul or blow your freakin’ mind .

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=RJbGQ2wWSR8&sns=fb

 

Advertisements

poetic reflection: thaka

IMG-20170508-WA0036ngiyabuvuma ubuthakathaka bami

Kanti futhi nobubi bami ngibubonile

Ngibuthaka ngimubi ngijalo nje

Angiyigqizi qakala inkulumo yabangibandlululayo

ngiyishaya indiva imicibilisho yabangizondayo

eminye sengenze ngayo imbuthuma yomlilo esithangamini lapho sesiyoxoxa khona sidingide umsuka nesisombululo sengxabano yethu …

The Freedom Trap

Is music the ultimate expression of human freedom? Having written so much about the music called jazz and the socio-political nuances it often carries, I do feel like I may be laboring the point just a bit, but each time I look through my old notes, I keep finding half-finished essays and quotations connected to this phenomenon.  The aim is to elaborate on the various ways in which Black peoples invention is misappropriated to their detriment, but I am also investigating how music and other art-forms are the spaces where possibilities for deeper intercultural communication can be articulated and convergence of humanity can be established. It is not an easy road towards harmony. But as we have heard and witnessed, music is a great equalizer, or is it really? Because what does it really mean to be equal, and when can the Black peoples of the world get their dues? As a cultural currency music is unmistakably translucent, anyone who has a heart can captivate us with song and even their understanding earned through learning or experience. Anyone who has a heart can feel and express it, so how come the racial stereotypes and abuse of power still persist?

A case in point is a quote attributed to Greg Thomas, dated February 6, 2012.

“Jazz, an art form given birth in the United States by descendants of the formerly enslaved has a complicated relationship with race. Although race as a popular idea has no basis in biology, many people mentally adhere to the idea of diving groups of people based on ‘race’ as opposed to understanding how groups of people evolve or regress, via culture, so very real social dynamics and results exist based on the belief in race. A key purpose of this column is to explore culture vs race as it manifests in the discourse of Jazz, historically and presently. “ – Find this and other articles on this subject here:

https://www.allaboutjazz.com/bam-or-jazz-part-two-by-greg-thomas.php

Another great and more detailed article is this one by Stanley Crouch, a veritable writer, jazz activist and critic.

https://www.vqronline.org/essay/stanley-crouch-our-black-american-mencken

I have chosen to highlight these two articles according to their merit and scope but I also deliberately chose two writers from the two ethnic backgrounds in question. The white man’s and the black man’s perspective gives a balanced understanding of what is at stake. Perhaps jazz like many forms of art born in the pervasive climate of racialized capitalism is as Bud Powell put it ‘A Dance Of The Infidels’ and we cannot remove it from its milieu, maybe then the best that one can do is enjoy it without visceral interrogation. But then the music itself kind of forces one to delve deeper than the sound. The creative impulse, themes and motivations of the musical creators compel us to Listen deeper, beyond basic enjoyment.

Elsewhere, writing about himself, Crouch states: ” He came into politics slowly, through art, as a child, he had posters of Dizzy Gillespie hanging everywhere, formed a jazz club in high-school and was an actor and director with the Watts Repertory Theater, in the wake of the Watts riots of 1965, he was caught up in the black nationalist movement, but he became a traitor to it later because he was bored with the militant strategies. The movement, he wrote, “helped send not only black America but his nation itslelf into an intellectual tailspin on the subjects of race, of culture, of heritage, where there was not outright foolishness, there was a mongering of the maudin and a base opportunism.” –

The above is taken from some of his essays in his first book, ‘Notes of a Hanging Judge“, (Oxford University Press, 1990), originally published in the Village Voice that same year.

So when will music and arts escape from the racial traps that have been constructed by capitalism and opportunism?

 

 

 

There is something so alive about the dead

In the infamous Ancient ciKemetic/Egyptian Book of the Dead, which should be known as the Pert em rhu or Coming Forth by Day or the Book of Awakening there are various chapters written as rituals for the living and the dead. The ancient Egyptian traditions are very similar to what is still practiced by AmaZulu and many other Bantu peoples.

Let us begin by quoting from one titled The Chapter of Making A Man To Return To Look Upon His House on Earth, where it states: “The Osiris Ani saith : – I am the Lion-god who cometh forth with long strides.I have shot arrows, and I have wounded my prey. I am the eye of Horus, I traverse the Eye of Horus in this season. I have arrived at the domains.Grant that the Osiris Ani may come in peace.I have advanced and behold, I have not been found light in weight, and the Balance is emptied of my case.

This book also called the Papyrus of Ani is a great example of how ancient Afrikans viewed and in some instances still view Death. From the modern Zulu to the Oromo in Ethiopia to West and Central Afrika the passage from the living to the dead is seen as just one among many stages of the Spirits existence. Of course Afrikans are not the only ones who held this view, but it appears that many of the peoples of the world have developed an entirely negative attitude towards death and even life after retiring from the physical body.

By mentioning this I also imply that there are various manifestations to the notion of the body. The question is, how and why do embodied spirits attain a Spiritual life and how and when do ethereal bodies attain physical being?

Our ancestors seem to have devoted themselves to elaborate rituals and cults dedicated to just these questions.  Similar to Abantu, the Egyptians also believed that ancestors had an interest and an abiding life among the stars and they either rested, worked or returned from there periodically. Note:

The Neteru who are in the sky are brought to you, the neteru who are on the earth assemble for you, they place their hands under you, they make a ladder for you that you may ascend on it into the sky, the doors of the sky are thrown open to you, the doors of the starry firmament are thrown open for you.

As the dead were identified with the Neter Ausar/Osiris, the Neter was also linked to the constellation of Orion, this linked the dead to the sky ‘gods’ in a perpetual cycle of coming and going from death to life and the eternal circle goes on. The fact that the name AmaZulu means the the people of the Heavens is not coincidental, to the Zulu the ancestors assume the status of gods or divine beings, it is to them we pray and it is through them that we ascend or even descend to the Creative Source of all life. The accepted norm is that no one approaches the Divine Source of life directly, it is through the ‘dead’ who are alive in the Heavens and in the Netherworld that we can reach the divine realms.

In many Afrikan cultures the very young as well as the very old are revered as potentially divine, its not rare to here a Zulu man refer to his youngest son as Mkhulu (Great One or elder) and to his daughter as Gogo (Grandmother or Khokho which means Ancestor). These are small signs that depict how perpetual the cycle of life is, we should call it the cycle of becoming.

TBC

God Did This To You …

The creativity and pathology of the human mind are, after all, two sides of the same medal coined in the evolutionary mint …something has gone wrong …man is predisposed towards self-destruction. The search for the causes of that deficiency starts with the Book of Genesis and has continued ever since.” – Arthur Koestler, The Ghost In the Machine, 1976

There is Life and there is Death. There are those among us who have sworn allegiance to either one or the other. There are also the in-between folk, those who are merely slaves to the rhythm or the circumstances of their environment and socialization. There are spreaders of good news and there are also merchants of disorder and fear. Some do both without realizing the contradictions in their double messaging. Conspiracy theorists in my view, represent the latter.

Many are keen to expose the ‘secrets’ that have been deliberately hidden by various interests, while others earnestly seek the truth, but then there are those who are gullible enough to swallow everything that they are given without proper analysis. There are extremes to everything, and in the age of information technology, it is of utmost importance to triple check ones facts before taking anything as it is given. Race is one of the theories that has long been debunked as having no scientific foundation, it has been found that we all emanate from the same Ancestors. Yet due to socio-economic systems and traditions and log held prejudices, race and ethnicity remain the most divisive and polarizing issue in the 21st century. Even though W.E.B. Du Bois wrote more than a hundred years ago that the problem of the 20th century will be the problem of the ‘colour-line’. Today, many debates from business, commerce to religion and even technological progress find a way to digress into racial territory somehow, mainly because much of the inequality still prevailing in the world is based on racism.  Race is a conspiracy theory, one that is thousands of years  old, but has been perfected or perverted in the past three or four centuries. Nevertheless, I am compelled to ask, is the Homo Sapien/Human Race the only race or sentient in the universe?

I am not a fan of conspiracy theories, so I have stayed away from most conversations regarding secret societies as well as speculative theories about extra-terrestrial life. However I have done my reading and I have been intrigued by the subject of Sumerian and Ancient ciKemetic/Egyptian history, especially the creation stories found in these interesting cultures as well as what they teach us about our propensity to Create and to destroy. While I have studied ancient Afrikan history as a Pan Afrikanist, I have primarily concentrated on connections with inner Afrika and its Diaspora but have not thoroughly explored the connections with the Mediterranean and Mesopotamian history, aside from Israel/Palestine. The purpose of life is to Know Oneself, the purpose of the Soul and the possibilities of the mind and body as well as to Love and nurture Nature and others. At least this is my purpose. All my learning is channeled towards this goal.

Accepted knowledge is not always wisdom, many things considered true yesterday have been revealed as false or simply debunked as either fables or myths. Some are even considered delusions. But as I have written elsewhere, myths and legends are also useful to know and even to create during the evolution of the story of our existence as humans or whatever we are in the universe. But what is the danger of taking ourselves too seriously and what are the dangers of not taking ourselves and our potential or capabilities seriously?

It has been written that mankind or humanity is inherently flawed. Religions use terms such as the Fall ( referring to the ejection of Adam and Eve from the Edenic garden), the Death of Instinct and the fault in our stars to terms such as ‘Sinful Nature’ or “Born of sin” as espoused by the Christians who offer a Messiah as the solution towards salvation. Basically, all religions have their messiah’s and even Science has its great inventors, discoverers and pioneers. Much of what we learn we eventually unlearn in later times, there is a succession of clarifications and exposure to more knowledge as we advance towards an improbable future. Life is both bitter and sweet and everything else in between, it is the contradictions and unanswered questions that often give us the best taste of who and what we are and what we are becoming.

We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” E.M. Forester

“If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? – Not much.” – Jim Rohn

After studying and reading a whole lot of books and videos, lectures and listening to audio as well as peoples theories of creation and the purpose of humanity on Earth, I have come to several conclusions which I shall expand on later. Here are just Four:

  • There is No One God but Many Gods/Divine Beings
  • Creation Is Perpetual and So is Entropy
  • Music and The Language of Sound, Rhythm and Vibration are the Most Profound ‘Inventions”
  • Living and Dying Are Choices We Make Prior to Entering the Body as Well as During Our Incarnation

Even though the title of this essay says ‘God Did This To You …”, I have concluded that not only is there no single entity which is the Creative Force or God of all of this, there are multiple Origins, yet they work in both harmony as well as contestant. This is not to say that there is no design, it simply means the designers are multifarious as well as coordinated from various elemental processes.

But allow me to go back to Koestler’s statement about the search for the cause beginning with Genesis. Of course I refute that notion because it is subjective and only deals with one perspective of the numerous creation stories and how as different peoples we interpret the existence of evil and good. As there are many gods/Gods, there are many forefathers or progenitors of the Human race. But staying with the usual Biblical story, lets hear what Graham Hitchcock has written concerning the genesis of the earth and the place of humanity in it. In Chapter 21, titled A Computer for Calculating the End of the World, he quotes, the Hebrew bible as well as the Mayan Popol Vuh, to compare them and elucidates further on the similarities as well as the geographical, anthropological, mathematical intricacies of ancient calendar making. Here is the famous passage from the Book of Genesis:

The Lord God said, ‘Behold, the man has become as one of us, to know good and evil. Now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat and live forever, [Let Us] send him forth from the Garden of Eden.”

The Mayan’s attributed their wisdom and origins to the First Men, God-like beings of Quetzalcoatl, also known as Mahucutah (The Distinguished Name); Mayan Popol Vuh states: ” these forefathers were endowed with intelligence, they saw and instantly they could see far; they succeeded in seeing; they succeeded in knowing all that there is in the world. The things hidden in the distance they saw without first having to move…Great was their wisdom; their sight reached to the forests, the rocks, the lakes, the seas, the mountains, and the valleys. In truth they were admirable men …They were able to know all, and they examined the four corners, the four points of the arch of the sky, and the round face of the earth.”

Hancock states that the achievements of these First Men angered some of the gods/Gods who stated that “It is not well that our creatures should know all …must they become equals to ourselves, their Makers, who can see far, who know all and see all? Must they also be gods?”

Many ancient traditions speak of God, gods, deities, Neteru and demi-gods. They speak of various forms and levels of worship, but what connects all these religions is either adherence to particular orthodoxies and even slavish devotion to the Names of their particular deities. There is power in the Name of YAH, or Yehoshua etc the Judeo-Christian ones say, and there is no salvation outside the chanting of the name of Lord  KRSHA, the Vedic school of Krishna Consciousness teaches, even among the Yoruba and the Santeria adherents there Orisha are conjured and they are invoked through their Names and through rhythmic music. Well I say that everything that has a name can be claimed and can be tamed. Humanity may have been created as slaves and flawed in many ways but both our resilience as well as our imaginations and audacity to seek to KNOW MORE and KNOW BETTER as well as our often Unpredictable behavior  are elements that endow us with the ability to reach further than our Creators have planned for us. We must not be arrogant though, our ancestors have also revealed to us that we are far more than Flesh and Blood and that we are capable of ascending to heights they too have not been to. As low, depraved and pathetic as we can sink, similarly we can become far more than even we can imagine, it is more than just an intellectual or scientific existence, our Spirit as well as our DNA is equipped to allow us to keep reaching further and further into the past so as to be able of reaching as far into the future and into space as possible.

Liberating voices from our past

One of the most influential books in my intellectual and activist life has been W.E.B. Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk: Essays and Sketches, published in 1903. This book not only opened my eyes wider to the challenge of racial justice but also endowed me with the tools I needed in order to discern between race hustlers and authentic justice activists. Du Bois is among the most revered founding fathers of Pan Afrikanism. He was there at the beginning structures of the men and women who organised themselves not only for diaspora emancipation projects, but worked tirelessly for the liberation of Afrika’s various countries, and his last days were spend in Ghana wherein he lies buried. Like many Pan Afrikanists of his day, and even many of us today, he was mostly concerned with the building of properly equipped and ideologically sound institutions for the development of Black people. I hereby would like to quote him where he wrote about the establishment of Afrikan American colleges.

The function of the Negro college, then, is clear. it must maintain the standards of popular education, it must seek the social regeneration of the Negro, and it must help in the solution of problems of race contact and co-operation. And finally, beyond all this, it must develop men. Above our modern socialism, and out of the worship of the mass, must persist and evolve that higher individualism which the centers of culture protect; there must come a loftier respect for the sovereign human soul that seeks to know itself and the world about it, that seeks a freedom for expansion and self development; that will love and hate and labor in its own way; untrammeled alike by old and new. 

Herein the longing of black men must have respect: the rich and bitter depth of their experience, the unknown treasures of their inner life, the strange rendings of nature they have seen, may give the world new points of view and make their loving, living and doing precious to all human hearts.” – page 73 ( The Souls of Black Folk )

When I read such words, written so long ago by men who strove for real justice and whose primary focus was on freeing their own kind yet whose scope was truly about freeing the whole human race, I shudder in shame. Somehow with all our technology and knowing, we have not really achieved the great feats that these men and women fought and worked so hard for. Yes of course there are many shining examples of Black excellence, there are now many schools and institutions that do great work in our communities globally, but the missing link is still unity of purpose. Many are either divided by religious dogma while others have perished through the corrosive egotistical character of their founders or inheritors. All in all, we are moving forward, but rather slowly or too gradually. This is why it appears as if the posturing and shock tactics of radical Black political activists are our main hope. Groups such as the Economic Freedom Fighter, the Black First Land First movement and others appear as the clearest choices for people who have long given up putting their hopes in standard political processes. But herein lies the difference between the likes of Marcus Garvey, Du Bois and other Pan Afrikan leaders of the past, while they were engaged in political processes, they were also engaged in community uplift projects that were entrepreneurial in nature, but above all that, they were also educators and institution builders, the foundations of which are strong because even after a century we still look to them for guidance.

Up for air, Down for the money

chorus: deep into the core

we keep digging for more

so what, if we’ve died

a million times

at least we tried

 

someone deep in our tangled past decided

that wealth was stronger than death

the lie was repeated enough times

we now take it as indisputable fact

so true is our belief in the gold, silver and paper trail

we have trained our young to hold on to the dragons tail

or take the bull by the horns

ignoring the man with the crown of thorns

 

today there is hardly anything which is not up for sale

mothers sell their daughters and honor won’t prevail

presidents sell countries while peddling morality tales

miners have been slaughtered but leaders still come up for air

imibhalo yezinyanga

ngalamazwi uzobusa

ngalemisho uyobusiswa

shono phela mlobi wezimfihlo

kwashona bani wavusa wena

nethestamente elisha sha?

gazi leminikelo mithi yemi-

hla ngeminhla, zintelezi nemi-

hlambezo

mikhuleko nenhlambuluko

migidi namahubo

migcabo nemishanguzo

mihla  namalanga

mibhalo yezinyanga

empeleni kawusiyo Mbongi

bheka zandile nezinyosi zitinyela kwasani

noNgangezwe ukwesobukhosi

zifakazile nezanusi

thina balobi singofakazi bokuhle nokubi

izehlo ngezehlo, izinsizi namabika, iminjunju nemikhosi

lobani ke, nizishaya izihlakaniphi

amaqiniso ebe efihlwe emqubeni

emqulwini nokuqoshwe emigedeni

thorny love

i’ve attempted to write love poems

wading through the weeded pathways of my mind

to pick the finest blossoms

but my beloved only felt

the thorns in my roses

i dared to say that beauty

was in the green leaf

and pointed to the petals frailty

i said i loved the mud more than the flowing stream

the waning moon and the dancing shadows at noon

they are love poems tainted with lust, spirit and mirth

too far from the stars and too much like common earth

yet somehow i can still be devoted to what they say about love

the common kind

 

 

Love Poem in Earnest

may i love you like the bee

exploits the flower?

if i love you like a maestro

loses his mind to a melody

will you compose me

tuning and turning my passion to a symphony

and the din in my heart to an orchestra?

what if i love you like a revolutionary

loves the land

how much of my slogans and uncomfortable truths

will you tolerate

if my love were a religion

would you be a praise-worthy worshipper

as devoted to my shrine as i am to your temple

will you mythologize my contradictions

harmonize my half-truths and subdue my blatant lies?

let my love be your oxygen when you breathe i enter

and when you leave i return to dust.

Wild Beauty

Sky Reads

Another book I would recommend to read is called Wild Beauty: New and Selected Poems by Ntozake Shange.  She compiled a collection of poems that were new and poems from previous works.  The most unique about this poem was that it was written in English and Spanish.  The moment you start reading the first poem in Spanish, the English version is on the next page.  Definite read.

nscoverrobleliveoak

View original post