“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.
shono phela mlobi wezimfihlo
kwashona bani wavusa wena
nethestamente elisha sha?
gazi leminikelo mithi yemi-
hla ngeminhla, zintelezi nemi-
empeleni kawusiyo Mbongi
bheka zandile nezinyosi zitinyela kwasani
thina balobi singofakazi bokuhle nokubi
izehlo ngezehlo, izinsizi namabika, iminjunju nemikhosi
lobani ke, nizishaya izihlakaniphi
amaqiniso ebe efihlwe emqubeni
emqulwini nokuqoshwe emigedeni
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
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.
The ZIMBABWE Connection: Our Stories Our Future
29 January 2018
Firstly I would like to begin with a brief history of Charles Mungoshi, and then I will proceed with other authors who have made a mark in the minds of readers. This project is intended to connect the SADC region through story-telling, reading, promotion of literature and literacy in one of the most resource rich regions in the world. The resources are both human and material/mineral as well as environmental. This idea popped into my mind as I was doing research on Dambudzo Marechera, and this led to my reading up on some of his contemporaries. The work of Memory Chirere has been invaluable in this pursuit. The other ambition is the completion of my own book of essays, poems and stories which I call The House of Plenty.
The vision I have is not only to appreciate and promote the work of the Afrikan writers, but to also find other avenues wherein their personal and imaginative stories can come to life and perhaps help with the program of regional integration or the socioeconomic and cultural intercourse of Afrikan peoples, beginning with the SADC region, in particular South Africa, Zimbabwe and Swaziland. Let me start by offering a brief biography of one of the truly stellar writers, a Zimbabwean living legend, Charles Mungoshi. I am lifting this from Memory Chirere’s website.
Who is Charles Mungoshi?
“Born to a rural farming community in Chivhu on 2 December 1947, Mungoshi has very humble origins and has remained down to earth despite his international stature. Until the time he fell ill recently, he had travelled across Zimbabwe, mentoring young and new writers, sometimes for no fee. Records at the Budding Writers Association of Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe Women Writers association can bear testimony. He has mentored or directly influenced younger writers, among them Ignatius Mabasa, Ruzvidzo Mupfudza, Albert Nyathi, Joice Mutiti, Lawrence Hoba, Chiedza Musengezi, Thabisani Ndlovu, myself and others. His style of writing has become a brand. In honor of his amazing ambidexterity and depth, the University of Zimbabwe – conferred an honorary doctorate degree (Doctor of Letters-DLitt) on him on Friday 14 November 2003.
The essence of Mungoshi literature is about grappling with the issues of home, identity and belonging in the changing times. He is constantly asking key questions: Do we truly belong to this land? Is it possible to belong here and elsewhere? What must we change and what exactly must continue and why? Is there any space for the individual in our quest for collective glory? Are we right? Are we wrong? In this quest Mungoshi pens “The Accident” a short story from Coming of the Dry Season which seems to question and challenge the stance of a people living under minority rules – the book lands him in trouble and is banned in Rhodesia only to re-appear later and has been studied in schools ever since. Mungoshi’s writings have also tended to evoke that strong sense of Zimbabweaness.”
+By Memory Chirere, Harare
In my essays and poems, I would like to explore what it really feels, looks and sounds like to be be Zimabwean. The first frontier is to learn the languages, beginning with Shona then Ndebele and the other Shona dialects. I have already bought the books but we all know the best way to learn a language is to immerse oneself into the culture, to be among and speak to the people as regularly as possible. The key is to listen to the Zimbabweaness. This will require me to slightly suspend other judgements because to be Afrikan also means to exist as a neo-colonial subject of empire.
In this quest to gain understanding of the people I am living among, I shall strive to look at phenomena through the eyes of Artists, Creators as well as ordinary people. But I will also don the spectacles of diplomats, religious and other public personalities such as the overtly optimistic and motivational radio DJ’s.
SUNDAY, JULY 23, 2017
Memory Chirere reading (from Tudikidiki) to a writing workshop audience on top of Chisiya Hill, Zvishavane 2016, October.
The Eloquence of Dancing Bottoms Where Everything Crawls Back to Art:
Prefatory Notes on LIVE LIKE AN ARTIST
By Robert Muponde, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.
It is a life spent on carefully quarrying the soil and stones of experience for that blinding yet familiar insight (if you imagine the striking ordinariness of lightning and the terrifying deadliness of its familiarity).
David Sunny Mungoshi’s critical voice significantly shaped the republic of letters in Zimbabwe. At some point in his career, he presented his critical persona in the legendary garb of one Chigango Musandireve; a witty, robust and acerbic critic. The barbed but playfully scorching witticisms have now been recalled into service once again, but presented as a bouquet of poems that traces the broad and complex expanse of an artist’s imagination and life.
Sunny and dark, jovial and wistful, cantankerous and conciliatory, bombastic and sober; these poems are stories of a life lived fully in its contradictory, diverse and beautiful paradoxes. The yearning and despair, the nostalgia and scepticism, the harking on the past and the love of the present and the timeless; all are emotions and attitudes which are adeptly quilted in the very texture and intentions of the poems. The sense of urgency and quest for significant meaning is tempered with the cautionary tales about the new buccaneers in our midst, who seize the day (as everyone should) but blow up the ozone layer and leave us with bridges ambitiously laid over dead river beds.
The nostalgia for a golden past, whether personal or communal (the shared glory of a simplified and unified universe), is laced with a sense of urgent time (to rethink and reorient) and slippages of time (when poorly handled and misconstrued).
Nostalgia does not preclude pain and loss, disappointment and betrayal, and the “cold unfriendly days of your childhood”. It is viewed as the quest to travel light in a meaningful past and present. I am tempted to provide commentary on all the poems, but am mindful of the fact that I insisted on writing only one page, or a few paragraphs perhaps. It is not possible to capture the entirety of the experiences presented in this book, but a few examples might do.
Living as an artist, as someone not driven by profit but prophecy, not by revenue but revelation; the whole persona of the artist is imbued with an aura of creation, of origins, the coming-from-nothing (not in the sense of the much-touted rags-to-riches stories). The art does not easily sell because it is priceless, like life itself.
The quest for freedom (free-spiritedness) and happiness in “the riches of poverty”, whose cypher is the vagabond who has nothing to guard, is equally as intense as the expression of poetry embodied in “eloquent bottoms dancing/To a choreography that shakes the world”. With this primed contrast and juxtaposition, David Mungoshi jolts us into an awareness of different levels of aesthetic intellection, combinations and rhythms.
The voice is that of a versatile raconteur who has jostled with and surfed the cycles and turmoil of time; a key witness in how time ravages, repairs and recycles; and is himself both oppressed and quickened by the imminence of mortality, obsolescence and dereliction if, as in “A Poem About Time Going By”, he does not seize the moment and inspire significance in his own life and experiences. Living like an artist requires time itself to be experienced in multifarious ways. In this collection, time is experienced chiefly as a fad and a good, a heart-breaking occurrence that can start all over again, an insistent and repetitive memory; and a crutch, “time –insulating your sensibilities against memories”. The voice constantly reminds us that even for the poet, memories are “Our choicest pickings from best-forgotten episodes”.
His poetry, better appreciated as story, tends towards the expression of the delights of telling a story and the artifice of inhabiting one. When David Mungoshi throws around words like beau and belle, she-devil and Lolita, he is very much aware of the indelible footprints of cultures other than our own that have directed his reading and narrative pleasures. He is asking the reader to go with him to the ends of the world he has travelled imaginatively but with a sure and kind hand guiding him/her. What could have come across as an egregious exhibition of erudition in the poetry of other writers (such as Dambudzo Marechera) is experienced as a mellow and humane worldliness in which knowledge of other cultures is not only a good (pun intended) but a valuable accessory.
The story of time and cultures shapes the poetic expression; it is mythopoeic as in “The Legend of Sekwa the Lass” who was “too well-endowed for her own good”; prophetic and playful; caustic and cautionary; wise and jocose; serious and sentimental. Sometimes the pleasure of telling a succinct story invested with the power of an image is what is behind the imagination of pieces such as “The Green Door”. At other times it is the image, or a series of images that slip into the place of a poem and evoke powerful glimpses of epochs, mores, character and the configuration and uses of social mobility (see “The Twelve Bar Blues Story” and “Stories from My Picture Album”). Then, you have occasions when the poet wants to pontificate on human conduct and deficits such as in “Bang! Bang! Bang!” (where a woman experiences sex as a shotgun). The call to a moral compass is shrill.
I should say, in spite of the accessibility, educated jokes and puns; Live Like An Artist has its own fair share of shortcomings. Some of the poetic images in, say “Treat Me Like I Really Am Something” and “Peasant Woman’s Beauty”, are well-intended stereotypes that err on the side of caricature. Delectable belles, she-devils, lasses, studs and beaus, are meant to widen the archive and wordplay, but end up being mere idiosyncrasy on the part of the poet. However, the frame of reference is indeed wide (beyond these clichés) and adroitly incorporates musical genres, canonical literary texts, and fashion.
The poems are themselves a mixture of the purely narrative and the consciously poetic in terms of rhyme and line construction. The affectations of style and language are “all just for fun and effect”, I agree, and allude to the beautiful paradox that is central to the life of one who lives life like an artist where everything crawls back to art and, like eloquent dancing bottoms, raises chuckles and questions.”
About The Author:
Memory Chirere is a Zimbabwean writer. He enjoys reading and writing short stories and some of his are published in Nomore Plastic Balls (1999), A Roof to Repair (2000), Writing Still (2003) and Creatures Graet and Small(2005). He has published short story books; Somewhere in This Country (2006), Tudikidiki (2007)and Toriro and His Goats (2010).Together with Maurice Vambe, he compiled and edited (so far the only full volume critical text on Mungoshi called): Charles Mungoshi: A Critical Reader (2006) His new book is a 2014 collection of poems entitled: Bhuku Risina Basa Nekuti Rakanyorwa Masikati. He is with the University of Zimbabwe (in Harare) where he lectures in literature. Email: email@example.com
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.
Green Ankh Works in Collaboration with Mercurial Films and CineCulture is delivering an in-depth Master Class on Esoteric Africa, Afrikology, Afro-Futurism and the History and Future of Black Science Fiction …
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.
It has been a long time since I have witnessed a contemporary dance piece that moved me so much. Just a few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to witness the collective multi-disciplinary installation of the Iqhiya Artists, a collective of women who met as students in Cape Town and subsequently formed a movement of themselves for various noble purposes. Although I did not spend a lot of time at the KZNSA viewing their installations, I really was captivated by some of the work they displayed and how they articulated themselves both individually and as a collective. Their work had an implicit and also explicit feminist tone. When they showed one of their films at Ikomkhulu Art Gallery, run by Amasosha Arts Movement, it generated a very healthy debate around questions of women’s invisibility both socially and as artists. A robust debate was had surrounding matters of patriarchal dominance of every conceivable social space and how women were challenging that and taking charge of their own narratives – moving away from the predominant colonial and male gazes and conditioning.
Tonight at the KZNSA Gallery I and I witnessed two elaborate and well executed dance movements. Part of the Jomba festivals, programs called Jomba! @ The KZNSA Gallery presents; Jomba!’s KZN ON THE EDGE…
The first piece, called “Otherwise” a sort of freestyle and interactive experience where almost all the members of the audience were included in the piece. . . It actually began with some of the dancers writhing and contorting on the floor of the courtyard while some were seated among the audience. There was a lot of running to and fro, and despite the few clear communicative and Unitarian pieces of choreography, the work was rather long and had me lost after a while. But this does not take away from the dancers erudite and dedicated moves, whose language clearly depicted the struggles of an otherwise co-existential humanity.
What moved I and I mostly was the second piece, called ISIFUNGO. An English translation would be, The Oath or The Vow. Choreographed by celebrated dance educator and choreographer, Sifiso Khumalo from the well heeled FLATFOOT DANCE COMPANY, featuring a fluid team of Durban’s “young veterans” of contemporary dance; Gcina Shange, Zinhle Nzama, Njabulo Zungu, Jabu Sphika, Kirsty Ndawa and Thobile Maphanga. This was a truly remarkable work, as intense as it was gentle and nuanced with the themes of an Urban-Afrikan wedding, the inner turmoils of the bride and the groom as well as the family and community. The live musical accompaniment by Mdu and Siya was very evocative, I could not help but move…
This sight responsive work was so engaging visually and the choreography was so intense and evocative, it made me look into the oaths I have made myself and the circumstances and consequences thereof.