“The result is quality in every note …” – MF DOOM skit
“he warped time and space to deliver a message to eternity.” – Early Samuel R. Delaney
Delaney won the Nebula prize his science fiction novella Babel 17 in 1966, and won the Nebula and the Hugo Award for his 1968 novella titled, Time Considered as a Helix of Semi Precious Stones, and his monumental novel Nova was one of the best SF novels of the sixties.He was described by critic Algis Budrys as ‘the best science fiction writer in the world’, all this for a writer who happened to be Black, or Afrikan American, writing in a genre that was not yet considered the forte of Black people, whether writers or readers.But we have always told fantastical stories and some have written them too, but how many of us read them? Perhaps it was the titles of science fiction novels that tickled my poetic fancy, as I have always been into more political reading, but then again, there are vast landscapes and expansively intricate sub-political plots in many science fiction novels. I still look forward to finding Delaney’s short-story titled,”We, in Some Strange Power’s Employ, Move on a Rigorous Line,”
Good Music possesses a similar power to great fiction, fictions that alter reality, inspiring us to achieve hitherto unimagined feats.
One of my favourite artists today is, Janelle Monae’, she is into Science Fiction, it is evident in the design and cinematography of her videos, but more apparent in her debut album The ArchAndroid, as well her latest visionary offering Dirty Computer. Monae’ is among those creators that others call Afro-Futurists. It is a term that some embrace and some refuse to be subsumed under,just as the likes of Ben Okri and Amos Toutoula and Octavia E. Butler refused to be labeled as Magic Realists, or Fantasy writers. Although the latter is better known as a pioneering Science Fiction writer, she too is much more than any label. It is my wish that one day soon, such creators become more popular and read widely especially among Black communities, their stories could be the missing connection that we need to not only make sense of the dread conditions of Black existence, but they also offer impressive ideas and solutions towards what we can become if we were free to self-determine.
One day soon, I shall write about what I think about the potential impact of Black writers on society, if only reading was as popular in Southern Africa as it is in other parts of the world. There are just so many ifs and buts.Like, if only more young Black folks would listen to jazz, alternative electronic music as well as more Afrikan traditional sounds.There are so many writers, but who reads? SO many visual artists, but who is viewing and purchasing their work, so many producers of great art, inventions and progressive ideas, but so many impediments, mostly due to the sheer amount of historically based social ignorance.
Sometimes I write a few short stories which can be slotted into the genre called Science Fiction or Fantasy. I have not published any of these except for submitting some to some competitions where I have made the top 5 or top 3 of the selections, nevertheless, I can state unequivocally that I am a lazy writer. I should be writing everyday or at least producing a single short-story a week, considering the amount of ideas that flow through my head on a daily basis, even my dreams are the stuff of sheer mad-genius. Even though I am interested in writing fiction, I am more passionate about sociological writing, if I had the vocabulary I would write more about music. There is no excuse these days for not having a vocabulary or at least some knowledge about any subject – I mean, we have the internet. There is very little that cannot be known, at least at the novice level, as long as you have wifi or data.
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:
Another great and more detailed article is this one by Stanley Crouch, a veritable writer, jazz activist and critic.
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?
I have been listening to a lot of mainstream music lately. It has been a deliberate effort to re-open my otherwise discerning and discriminating ears to the sounds of whats ‘popping’. Needless to say, I am still very underwhelmed with what passes as Pop music and Pop Culture in general. But this does not mean that I am a hater or some navel gazer or an ostrich with his head buried underground. Part of my nascent return to mainstream/commercial sounds may have something to do with what we call in Zulu ‘Ukubamba i-age’, roughly translated as ‘Holding Back The Years’ or a subconscious compulsion to stay and feel younger than I am.
Despite what has been trending throughout SA and the Durban Gqom scene etc, I have really rekindled my love for Hip Hop again. These are interesting times for Black cultures in general, but quite nuanced for musical expressions. After having my heart, mind and soul wrapped in jazz, Reggae, old school soul and rare grooves, I am glad that I remembered that music is really for public consumption as well as being a private pleasure. This reminded me of the Notorious B.I.G. lines; “A foolish pleasure/ whatever, I had to find the buried treasure/ some pounds I had to measure/ however, living better now/Gucci sweater now …”
In my opinion Hip Hop can do various things, but if it does not touch my head and heart, I might as well not be listening. There is a lot of ego-tripping and a lot of fake stuff going on too with industry created gimmicks out there, yet there are also people who ride whatever wave happens to be trending – snapping and trapping, but if the skills are lacking, you can miss me.
One of the albums that has recently piqued my interest of late, is Jay-Z’s 4:44. This is an album that in my opinion towers way above most of the contemporaries in scope and depth of emotion and sheer delivery. Hov got skills. I have not really listened to Jay-Z seriously since his second of third albums. His message of whatever he was pushing got lost to me, for years I just couldn’t relate to the materialism and egocentricity, some of my peers called it confidence. For me it all became too loud, too bling and too much like Black people trying to be white or promoting an unsustainable lifestyle. But then I had to relax and realize that its all a Game.
Shawn Carter aka Jigga aka Jay-Hova’s thirteenth album is a master piece conceptually, lyrically as well sonic-ally, the brother got Game. Released on the 30th of June 2017, it took the world my storm and was accompanied by a video for the track,The OJ Story that sent many tongues wagging, an animated blackface narrative that made for a socio-political conversation piece. while it also reveals some of the most intimate aspects of his very public life it is done with a true artists calculated honesty and vulnerability as well as a wicked sense of humor. I must say, it is a pleasure bumping songs like Marcy Me, 4:44 and Legacy knowing that many of the young folks listening to the music cannot fully grasp the depth of the lyrics, simply because they have nit lived enough. Hip Hop retains its youthful swagger and the vigor of being a multi-million dollar business, yet it is in the moments of private or even communal comprehension where the music is truly felt.
Most people would say that Black Thought, Kendrick Lamar, Lupe Fiasco are among the top lyricists doing it today, and they may be relatively right, but Mr Carter’s opus-concerto is a cut above the average, it is also a lesson in business acumen in addition to being verbally sharp-witted. Last week in some nice Zimbabwean spot called Wyrd, I found myself in conversation with some 20 somethings who really love Hip Hop, and one of them was dropping jewel after jewel from Jay-Z’s older raps, and we agreed that none of these cats such as Drake or anyone really can touch Hov. Yes its grown folks music, but so fresh that its timeless.
My favorite MC’s Top 10 still remain
- De La Soul
- Andre 3000
- Mos Def
- Lauryn Hill
- Black Thought
- Supah Mpondo
- Roots Manuvah
- Lupe Fiasco
After all is said and done, I am still about that wordplay. How you say and what you say.
I must state clearly that I have never entertained nor tolerated any discussions regarding the so called Illuminati, the secret societies that are said to run the world. I am neither a believer in Satan nor the Gods of the Jews and Christians. To me, these are all distractions that keep humanity in perpetual mental and emotional chains. That said, I am neither an atheist nor an anarchist or any of the labels and isms that are out there that people believe in. What I can admit to be guilty of is adhering to the Rastafari way of being. This too I regularly question and I am neither a fundamentalist nor a believer in the so called Black supremacy aspect of the Rastafari tradition. I love Rasta for different reasons and most of them have nothing to do with the Ethiopian Orthodoxy of it all. You will have to get to know me a little more intimately to overstand what I mean.
The reason I mention the Illuminati and the inter-relatedness of Abrahamic religious dogma in this story is because, after watching a few You Tube videos where Ab Soul, Jay Electronica and Kendrick Lamar speaks, I find myself questioning the intelligence as well as the foundations of the knowledge systems or the structural straight jackets that these Afrikan Amerikkkan brothers are in.
After all this time, after so much knowledge of alternative or global knowledge systems have been made available, on the internet as well as through various academic platforms, how can seemingly intelligent and clearly talented people still be stuck in the manufactured or whiteness constructed dualism of religion?
Among the plethora of religious propaganda that Kendrick Lamar spews in his other wise brilliantly executed album DAMN, is this curious line “I’m not even Black no more, I’m an Israelite.”
I guess this means he has joined the Afrocentric Biblical sect called the African Hebrew Israelite’s. While I understand and respect my sisters and brothers who are drawn into such archaic religious formations, the question I often ask is why did they not simply join a church? They, just like many Rastafarians who claim to have liberated themselves from the mental slavery of the Abrahamic mythology, and Christian monopolization of the Nature and the ‘Word’ of ‘God’, all seem to view the world through a very limited and limiting prism. The limitations and contradictions of these Biblical fundamentalists have many repercussions. Most of the claims from the prophecies to the miracles as well as much of the historicity of the texts and personalities can barely withstand scientific scrutiny. Everything from the stories of Adam and Eve, Jonah and the great fish, Noah’s Ark to the existence of personalities such as David, Moses, Jacob, Melchizedek and even Jesus are founded on very fickle historical evidence. Now I appreciate the wondrous power of myth and ancient stories and how belief in such stories and their sacredness has permeated the whole planet, but I also have seen the devastating damage they have visited on the world, human relations as well as humanity’s relationship with the cosmos.
In an essay titled The Faith of our Forefathers, I write about how freedom fighters from Nat Turner, Marcus Garvey to the early South African, ‘exempted’ African leaders found succor, comfort and courage in the Bible and the Quran. I also offer that their, and our own heavy reliance on these religious also limits our capacity to change, innovate and find truly African centered solutions to the problems that we face as a ‘Race’.
There are many contradictions and there are many levels or perspectives with which we can face this matter of ‘foreign religions’, or even the foreignness of religion to we as Abantu. Being in Africa, we have a greater advantage and a greater responsibility to emancipate our selves from mental and spiritual servitude. Our mixing and matching of foreign religions with our indigenous knowledge does not benefit our communities, but only the hierarchical and paternalistic families and societies that control the purses. Listening to the brother Kendrick Lamar and the even more deluded Jay Electronica reminded me of what my brother Madoda Mditshwa always said. We must restore inkolo YeMveli ( We Must Restore Our Ancestors Ways of Knowing and Being.) We have a chance to do it as Afrikans/Abantu, but it mat be too late for our sisters and brothers who dwell in the belly of the beast. Unless they are willing to make a Radical transformation and seek the Afrika that is authentic and unmoved by the trappings of the West.
A New Afrika may yet be created, perhaps with a new name and a new way of Being free, devoid of the exploitation of religion, market economy and blinding illumination.
Knowledge production in Afrika is second-nature. We make stories, images and music as if by default, or is it all by design? Within the Afrocentric school of thought there are as many artists, orators and researchers as there are scientists, designers as there are technocrats. The celebrated writer Chimamanda Ngozi-Adichie is absolutely correct when she says that we should into the danger of ‘the single story’, you know -? Those stereotypes and generalizations that enforce narrow perceptions of the world we all co-exist in. Similarly, there is a misleading narrative that has been set, where Africa/Afrika is cast as simply a Cultural, Traditional and somewhat backward space of underdevelopment. Yet there have been scientific, and leading edge ideas developed by Afrikans for many centuries, it is simply the fact that many minds are yet to be decolonized that allows for the stereotypes to become self-fulfilling.
Rediscovering the works of the Cameroonian musical Griot, Manu Digango reminded me of this fact. His work, his sounds and design ethic reminded me that we are not a static people. Manu Dibango reminded me that we are as dynamic individually as we are multifaceted communally. There are Afrikan people all over the globe making remarkable contributions in every conceivable field of endeavor, from engineering, astrophysics, to arts and other sections of knowledge production. the world may still be biased towards white skins, and Ethnocentrism may still be far from over, but each project that shifts the mind towards progressive thought is a step in a positive direction.
This is part of what I wish to communicate to the world through various projects, ranging from workshops, installations and contributing to facilitating a new Afrikological curriculum in all Afrikan learning spaces. Towards this end, I am currenlt studying Communication Science at the University of South Africa, and in one of the subjects ( Projects and Programmes As Instruments for Development), I found this :
“Each project is a social experiment, generating important new knowledge about what works and what does not in a specified cultural context. Assessment is, therefore, a crucial part of project development. ( Nolan 2000:200)”
I highlight this quote because, for the longest time I was frustrated by mostly United States and United Kingdom awards ceremonies that seemed to not recognize Black peoples contributions in any given field; but then again, when there are Black run awards ceremonies they also seemed to follow the template or formats of the Eurocentric ones. It became simply a matter of white supremacy re-asserting and perpetuating itself. Again we return to Music and its power. We shall extend this essay further and discuss how the same amount of creativity has been exerted by Black people or people of Afrikan descent in various fields.
For now, please enjoy Mr Soul Makosa’s tunes:
Buzzing with the adrenaline inducing sounds of Jungle inna mi newly dread-less hed …
I remain in awe of Music, its healing and revealing powers …
feeling great and newly liberated but still feeling rather weird … the music helps …heals visible and invisible wounds …and as Marley sang “When it hits u feel no pain …”
Its a Jungle in here and its a Jungle out there …
No its not drum and bass, its Jungle, a ruff and dexterous mixture of Reggae, R’n B throwbacks, EDM, Dance-Hall and Pure Energy …great vibes to drive to at night. Anyone hearing what I listen to would think I am truly mad, how can one listen to Terrence Blanchard’s Flow during the day and DJ Hype’s – Jungle Warfare – Droll de Bass at night … same day …transitions from organic to electronic soundscapes …and remain sane?
I have just returned home from a Listening session …
Just read an article on Felix Laband ….in this nice Counter-Culturish journal/magazine, I think its called The Lake*, reminds me of one of my fave Odd Future …songs “Meet Me At The Lake …”
Anyway, I was introduced to Felix Laband’s eclectic electronic vibes by an odd friend called XJ aka Jobe aka many aka’s … Hey I did not know that Laband was from PMB, always thought his progressive otherworldly and often dark sounds had some kinda Jozi, Cape Town thing about them …and I have been to some gigs where he was playing in Cape Town …he is kinda legendary …Anyways …this is not really about him …but the article exposed as lot of basic truisms about the NIGHT Life. Mine is almost over with due to fact that I am married with Triplets …what with curfews and what not …but we are at peace …
When I got home, I wanted to simply write about the listening experience organised by Russel Hlongwane, one of Durban’s best curators, organizers, musical, artistic, lifestyle things coordinator extraordinaire …
This Couch Session, although there was no couch … featuring dude from Switzerland was advertised thusly : “Zurich based producer and beatmaker, Melodiesinfonie, is doing his South African tour, part of which includes a BeatLab at the Fak’Ugesi Digital Festival currently happening in Jhb. Melodiesinfonie will spend four days in Durban where he is hosting a workshop in Groutville, gig at the Winston Pub and a couch session/ meet ‘n greet at Khaya Records.
The discussion will circle around Melodiesinfonie method, his influence and production style and the experience of being a hip hop/ jazz – soul – electronica musician in Switzerland. He will also share his reflections of participating at the Beat Lab. He is also looking to meet and engage with the local community of musicians, producers, DeeJays and consumers. He would also present a brief set or maybe play around with his gadgets, who knows. We will also have our friends from Weheartbeat which is an integrated multi-media beat platform consisting of a concept record store, live events, workshops, listening sessions, monthly podcast releases, webisode features, music compilations, clothing and exhibitions.”
It was a joyful experience. I drove home characteristically early. But I was glad I got to play my childhood faves Donna Summer*, and Michael Franks on the vinyl player …
But when I drove home I put on my brother Khaya’s Junglist tunes, Heavy Bass, Hardcore Reggae, Electronic, Drum and Bass and positive messages … Hopefully one day I shall write a little more about the Jungle Sound, about Dub and about Reggae and about Why such a Beautiful Coastal City such as Durban still does not have a Jungle/Reggae/Dub scene that is lucrative enough for Artists to make a living …
But then again, much of the Sounds that are discerning and require true Artistry ever get the mass appeal …many Artists from around the world can testify …Its cold out there outside the Pop World …
But as the Junglist said in the mix: “Only the fittest of the fittest shall survive …kill all the fuckery out there”
The only good system is a Sound system.
After viewing Sphephelo Mnguni’s exhibition for the first time, I wanted to remark that his work, although probing into uncomfortable racial and gendered narratives, appears to NOT BE ANGRY. Yes, there is a lot of red and a lot of aspects that provoke one to reflect with concern over the un-transformed state of our Urban settings, but the Artist appears to have measured his message quite evenly, making his testimony in what seems to be a more reflective/ mirroring and objective way. Speaking during the launch of the exhibition, Mnguni mentioned that though he has a story to tell, he is eager to emphasize that his is “Not the only story.” He urged us all to find in his work, a way to tell our own stories and face our own fears and prejudices. To question the spaces we exist in and often take for-granted as merely given. It is possible that I may be misreading his messages but as a person who also grew up in the Township before moving to the Suburbs, I saw so much of myself in this depictions of taxis moving along the ‘white area” along the walls, the White routes in and out of the Ghetto. It is a story of Separate Development and deliberate race based underdevelopment, it is also a story of violence against the black body and as Mnguni also mentioned, the “Shameful violence against the Black woman.” The image of the primus stove, conjured up images of nights in the Township of KwaMashu where my Grandmothers would vigorously pump this hazardous ‘poor peoples stove’ in order to cook for us and keep us warm. But let me begin this way.
It was a serendipitous to walk into TheOtherRoom, an arts, books and music space situated next to Khaya Records at the corner of Lilian Ngoyi and Florida Road in Durban’s Morningside suburb. Being one of Durban’s burgeoning vinyl record companies which is just one area where history is brought alive so vividly by the kind of music that issues from within these walls. This particular afternoon was even more special as I walked into the space while a song called Ma-Afrika by Sister Cool was blasting from the record player. Sister Cool happens to be a Afro-Pop group which released this record through Cool Spot Productions way back in 1989. Before I proceeded towards my mission of viewing Sphephelo Mnguni’s installation titled Compositionz* in the OtherRoom and displayed all over the passage walls, i read these interesting words on the back of the Sister Cool album sleeve: “Afrika, Everything About You Appeals To All Nations.”
Entering The OtherRoom I sat down on a stack of magazine cuttings, to view a film titled Ubuqhophololo/Staircase, Created and Directed by Sphephelo Mnguni. I was not too surprised to hear the distinctive guitar refrain aka Madala-Line of KZN legend Madala Kunene forming the first part of the film. The all too familiar Township scene that is shown against this musical background is both disturbing and intriguing in its ordinariness. Mnguni’s rendering of black and white light, space and the textures of the shacks is a cinematographic masterstroke. After we see a Black boy running through the precarious pathways in the shack-lands carrying a 2 liter Coca Cola bottle half-filled with a clear liquid which we later discover to be paraffin, the scene shifts to a depiction of an older Black youth going to fetch water from the communal tap. While everything around him is rendered in Black and White, the 10 liter containers he uses exude a golden glow. Once he returns into his one room shack he proceeds to have a bath, but while he is doing so, the screen is halved so that we also see a white woman in an advert for Palmolive soap, which appears to be a skin-lightening ingredient. The youth is applying soap and water on his face while the white lady also wipes her own face with this Palmolive, the image immediately reminds me of Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin-White Masks*. Mnguni’s work as evidenced by many juxtapositions and scenes in this short-film and shot-through the whole gallery space presents us with the unmistakable nuances of the Black Consciousness tradition. So the Fanonian imagery is obviously not a mistake. Infact, although the young Mnguni does not come across as a deliberately political or ideologically motivated Artist, it is clear from viewing his work that there is no fence sitting here and that everything is political whether we want it that way or not.
I am not sure which aspect of this expansive and thought-provoking work to begin with as all of it is composed in such a way that one can see the politically fraught transitions from Township to the Suburb that part of this work explicitly focuses on. I am also careful not to give away to much information, as it is best to view the work for oneself. I will revisit this work and write a little more and perhaps add some images.
Leaving the gallery, these are the rough notes I jotted on my journal:
Draft Review: “Compositions, Collages, Co-existence, Confluence, Conditioning, Art as a conduit…
All these terms and more, come together in Mnguni’s installation work, visual arts, music and a psychological exploration of what it means to commute daily from a place of blackness to a place of whiteness while knowing that you are part of the majority population – yet the way the city is planned still makes you feel like The Other, the alien in your own native land. The work somehow reflects the character, personality and current conditions of the artist himself. Whether his work may be categorized as social-commentary, protest-art is speculative and would probably only box the Artist into some concept coined by both liberal and conservative viewers from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.
What strikes me about this massive and expansive work is how it is devoid of any condemnation, bitterness or confusion. It is as the title suggests, Composed. It is the Artists work acting as a mirror to a society that is still grappling with the legacies of colonialism, apartheid and a convoluted nationalism. Mnguni’s voice reminds me of how Hip Hop mentions everything that is happening around us yet does not claim to hold solutions or any antidotes. The writing is literally on the wall. Sphephelo Mnguni is really a promising and intelligently articulate young Artist to watch closely. His sense of compassion and revolutionary consciousness is original, distinct and quite refreshing to see.” –
The Exhibition, titled Compositionz is up for the whole Heritage Month of September. Check it out and lets tell our own stories.
Menzi Maseko (c)
What is time, beyond the Defined
beyond the measurements and instruments …In what dimension is time / a fundamental and realistic feature? —factor in anything, any material and condition and experience
Does it all manifest in time
or is taking place in a
Circle or cyclic stages of a wheel revolving in time, on time, in between and out of time?
In my head I am hearing Abbey Lincoln singing –
With Bhekumuzi Mseleku accompanying her –
“Through the years
Of love and music …”
Also on my mind at the very same time
is Abdullah Ibrahim
Brother With Perfect Timing also known as
Bra Timing From Mopholong
many other thoughts, spaces and traces of perpetuated memory
all co-existing in what I call my mind right now
breathing sounds and heaving scrolls
-The pulsing life-forces of the 4 Living Beings around me right now
my Beloved, my three sons
all harmonizing with the joy of living – sleeping only to be awakened by a benevolent Sun
Its furious mercy could unmake us all but providence gives us space
gives us distance
gives us time
And of course there are many other living entities around us
they are not bound by the dictatorship of time
beings beyond the 5 nodes
there are others beyond the realms of extra-sensory perception
when we are inclined we can picture them
scripture them like Samuel R. Delaney
feature creature them like Nnedi Okorafor’s tales of inner spaces
Time is Relative to each experience
before Einsteins theory
or any scientists hypothesis
there is a beating of a drum / a clock
that does not measure or define time – the clock as neither arms nor digits
it is in and around the essential timelessness
a Black Existential void where we are seen in Light of our own being
Beyond this death of a lifetime
in due time
the title of a song by Outkast featuring Cee-Lo Green
Echoes of Sojourner Truth, Bhambada and Harriet Tubman echoed by the Dungeon Family
We are Gods Body of Work Reflecting our Godhood through sound
Everybody gets the Blues! This is what I thought this morning, while driving to BK bookbinders to print yet another batch of my book Rock ‘n Rule – I was listening to one of my many mix-tapes ( I never can decide what to listen to so I decided to put it all into either mix-tapes /Compact Discs or in a USB ).
Between the Hip Hop, Reggae-Dub, Jazz, Afro-Fusion and Rhythm&Blues,one can never be done with these labels, these boxes; there came along songs by such artists as Msaki and The Golden Circle and the indomitable and deeply engaging voice of Lhasa de Sela; The Mexican-Canadian artist was introduced to me by a very intelligent and eclectic Romanian ex-girlfriend a couple of years ago. I am yet to thank her for this and many other indelible gifts she may not be aware that she bestowed upon me. Only the music lives to tell the soundtrack of the journey.
Now, I am working on a film project about the Life and Dreams of an intriguing friend of mine and I am actively listening for Soundtracks or Cinematic music to fit with the spirit and images of this quasi-magical project. Hearing Lhasa’s song My Name, this morning got me so very inspired, I almost did not reach my initial destination. All I wanted to do was park by the roadside and somehow register this light-bulb moment, perhaps match the song with some of the images and texts that we have already put together.
Lhasa sings with such melancholic surrender and the musicians accompanying her carry her lovelorn tales with dexterous precision. The music is at once very modern or electronic based, yet remains decidedly grounded in the minimalist genius of the individual players.
Such is the power of music. We have even considered making the film project a sort of tapestry of sounds, scenes that a woven together in such a way that they form a coherently multi-storied collage. But let me not give away too much. I am now listening to Blue Note recording artist Lionel Loueke’s Heritage project, a swooning and magnificent project, co-produced by pianist/keyboardist Robert Glasper. Yet again, my ‘scatter-brained’ Self discovered Loueke’s Karibu album, another ‘gift’ from a friend who called Osmosis Liza, who is actually involved in the film project.
By sheer coincidence, (If we can call these strings of serendipitous incidents coincidences), Karibu contains a version of Naima, the John Coltrane song I recently told the lady who is the main subject of the project that I wanted to include in the Soundtrack. This is the difficulty with labeling music. This version of Loueke’s version of Naima is so string laden, electric and expansive, it is only the clarinetist and bassist who make it vaguely recognizable, yet somehow this now seems to be the perfect fit for this Afrocentric tale that we are trying to tell.
Here are the Lyrics to the Lhasa song that captured my imagination; I so hope that one can obtain the Rights to use it once the whole film is ready for Production etc:
Lhasa de Sela – My name (The Living Road 2003)
“Why don’t you ask me How long I’ve been waiting / Set down on the road With the gunshots exploding / I’m waiting for you In the gloom and the blazing / I’m waiting for you I sing like a slave / I know I should know better / I’ve learned all my lessons / Right down to the letter / And still I go on like this Year after year / Waiting for miracles And shaking with fear /
Why don’t you answer /Why don’t you come save me / Show me how to use All these things that you gave me / Turn me inside out So my bones can save me / Turn me inside out You’ve come this close/ You can come even closer / The gunshots get louder / And the world spins faster /And things just get further And further apart / The head from the hands And the hands from the heart /
One thing that’s true Is the way that I love him / The earth down below And the sky up above him / And still I go on like this Day after day Still I go on like this / Now I’ve said this I already feel stronger / I can’t keep waiting for you Any longer / I need you now not someday When I’m ready /Come down on the road Come down on the road
My name, my name Nothing is, nothing is the same / And I won’t go back the way I came My name, my name Nothing is the same “
The sadness and the sheer Blues of these lyrics and the way the late Canadian-Mexican singer carries it just grabs at the heartstrings and will not let go until the last phrase.