Puppets On A Strange God’s String

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.

http://greenankhworks.blogspot.co.za/

 

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Ancient Future Sounds

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:

Phinda Ufak’ugesi: For The Love of the Electronic Sound

Couch Session

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.

 

 

Inspired By The Living Road

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.

Art is Life

Life thrives in the light of being. Life can also thrive in the dark. Like life, art must be felt, in all that words multitudes of meanings. To hear a Bob Marley song, such as Get Up, Stand Up or Redemption Songs, or to view Gerald Sekoto’s paintings and to watch and experience Musa Hlatshwayo’s expertly articulated choreography, the sounds, the colours, the textures, the sweat of the moving bodies … It is sometimes not enough to feel these things with the senses. There is a feeling for the beyond.

But this is how I first wrote these words:

Art thrives in communities

Through industry

Through civilization –

Without community there is no Art

Without community there is no Indutsry

Although Art is created by the daring deed, the industriousness of the Artist

The Artist is often diminished without the audience, the people, the ears, eyes and even the superfluously nonchalant light of recognition –

While Art need not be appreciated or recognized by the masses for its validation

It requires no validation or confirmation at all, as much as it thrives in the open

as well as in the mysterious shrouds of anonymity. Art does not merely imitate life. Art is Life itself.

If you have not heard grown women and men howling and moaning during a Bokani Dyer, Nduduzo Makhathini or Madala Kunene performance or getting Spirited away through a Bheki Khoza or Tlale Makhene composition, perhaps you have been present at a Abdullah Ibrahim solo piano listening session …Perhaps you have not been present while Sibongile Khumalo sings Mountain Shade, or her renditions of the Princess Magogo songss. . .

But have you heard Dee Dee Bridgewater’s Love & Peace album where she sings Lonely Woman or The Tokyo Blues?

And then there are visual Artists in the city of Durban, people such as Mthobisi Maphumulo, Nhlanhla Chonco and the consummate portrait master Philani Luthuli. Luthuli’s latest work on Jazz legends from Bheki Mseleku to Miles Davis is a work a breath short of a true resurrection of these masters…

There is Poetry in the city called Durban, and the word is lived and loved. There are as many platforms for the delivery and appreciation of the Written and the Spoken Word that one would be forgiven in thinking that the walls are sustained by verbs and nouns, punchlines, admonitions and technicolor-ed metaphors and even proverbs. Our poets are as much  soulful singers as they are ministers of a myriad of Gospels. There are private hell’s as much as there are real and imagined heavens. All you have to do is visit the Nowadays Poets at the BAT Centre since the year 2000. Listen to Word Long Ingo aka Ingonyama, listen well to Nkosinathi Ntuli or to the sonorous voices of the Sisters and the youth who pour their hearts onto pages ….

 

what music is and is not

Background: What differentiates the music of Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill ’em All Gang, Danny Brown, The Brother Moves On, Jedi Mind Tricks, Babes Wodumo, Lira, Nduduzo Makhathini, Black Coffee, Poor Righteous Teachers, Beyonce or Bokani Dyer ? Besides the varying levels of musicality, attention to detail or lack thereof and the labels that are often imposed on the artists, is there such thing as an Equal Music? In other words, if there is such thing as superior and inferior types of music, what does this mean regarding the progression or regression of our societies? Does music have any real impact on the Souls of people and state of the communities we reside in?

There is this thing called jazz. Some see it as the most austere and serious type of art, while some do not pay much attention to it. Others have called it the only real Art-form that the United States of America has ever produced. But there are so much political and sociological undertones and overtones related to its use and abuse by all and sundry.

Today, I drove through town listening to everything from A Brother Moves On to Mike Del Ferro. It is all just music. Its all just a matter of choice and our choices have exponentially increased since the age of the internet. While I still occasionally buy music at the few stores that are still miraculously standing, and from its producers, I get most of my music through electronic exchanges with friends and through downloading and online stores. In other words we share. But how much good quality music is being shared in the broader community and does this effect the behavior or the quality of our society?

Here is what I have recently shared on my Facebook timeline:

At first I was not too sure whether I should write this as a blog post in one of the sites I use, either AmaReflections or on this Green Ankh Works one I frequently post on, to little fanfare.
So I went onto the Blog and after re-reading this half-poetic, half essay, totally serious rant by the ingenious artist Nicholas Payton, it was decided that this is the platform …to put all these thoughts into perspective.
Here is the scenario.
I am listening to Carlo Mombelli‘s Stories album, with songs featuring Mbuso Khoza, among others. Its a brilliant album with many moods, textures and of course multi-storied. Earlier today after listening to Mike Del Ferro’s recordings with Khoza on vocals, I walked into the BAT Centre‘s library to meet an acquaintance, only to gush out at Xolisa Roro Gqoli-Dlamini about the beauty of the music I heard. I was particulary moved by a song called Umlolozelo, which is actually a heart-wrenching rendition of a traditional Zulu “nursery rhyme”, or lullaby…the lyrics are rather bleak and sinister for a children’s song, but as we know, there is always a deeper meaning and a lesson behind all these so called children’s stories.

“Thula mntwana / uMama akekho, uyothez’ izinduku / Azongishaya ngazo / Ethi ngidle amasi / Kant’ adliwe yinja / inja kaGogo emabalabala …”
We shall write some other time about how the immaculately talented Khoza recreates this song into a prayer to the Great Mother, to the Great Spirit, to heal the land that us rife with Child and Women abuse. He even mentions his daughter and calls her the most beautiful girl in the world, and also mentions Allende, the little girl who was raped mutilated a couple of years ago in this beleaguered country.

For now, I wanted to write about this phenomenon called JAZZ. What it is and what it is NOT. If indeed there is anything which it is not. Like the music called Hip Hop and even Afro-Soul and Neo-Soul, these labels hide beneath them far greater resources, greater knowledge systems and expressions than the names can ever depict.
How doe we label the Spirit, the Force, the Impact of Music?
But this is not even about Labelling, I am concerned about WHAT music really represents in our societies.
I often think of the varieties of so called jazz, the styles and forms it takes are as multifarious as the people who play it, the ones who use it and the ones who appreciate it for a multitude of reasons.

 

Heavens So Far Yet So Near

https://wordpress.com/stats/day/amareflections.wordpress.com

In this article I briefly discuss the pros and cons of Afrikan peoples embrace and assimilation into the religion and cultural artifacts and practices of ancient Israel.

I am fully aware that there are many Black people who since the late 50’s began calling themselves African Hebrew Israelites and of the existence of the Lemba of Southern Africa and the Beta Israel, the so called Falasha of Ethiopia. I will later expand on what I think of these peoples and their practice, but this particular article deals with the music of AmaZioni, the Ngoni/Nguni peoples of Southern Africa who are proto-Christians yet retain much of the trances and customary practices of their respective indigenous cultures. Their god is Jehova, and their Messiah is called Jesus the Christ, but much of what they do bears little resemblance to the Judaic conception of God.

It is a continuation from a conversation begun on Facebook by Ndosi Ka Magaye.