I know that the title reads Alice Coltrane and Joe Henderson, much respect to these greats, but the start of this particular goosebump inducing song is the bassist Charlie Haden and of course the narrator etc, Kenneth Nash.
“Love and Light Interested me so
That I dared to knock at the door of the cosmos” – SUN RA Arkestra
There is music and there are artists that dare to throw caution to the wind, yet like a masterly boomerang wielder, ensure that whatever they throw windward returns exactly where they are. These artists are neither interested in trends, fashions, nor commercial interests, what they create is monumental beyond monuments, it is significant beyond their particular genre and draws humanity and the universe closer to the heart and to the meanings of Life. Sun Ra and Lupe Fiasco are just two of the ones we would like to shine a light on for now.
Of course there are many such phenoms, we can count at least 12 from the top of the head, but this is not a list of luminaries, it is about the serendipitous connections that visionary creators seem to have. In some cases there is a conscious effort to emulate each other but in some instances, it is just dividual morphism or happy coincidence and consequence.
Let us begin with a spontaneous poem I wrote while deeply engrossed in the music of the Hip Hop artist Lupe Fiasco and then we shall take a look at how both Fiasco and Ra come together in the cosmic balance of all things Black genius.
“The Buddha is sage, impepho yabaNgoni
The sage Buddha devours everything
Walking barefoot emisebeni
Yamalanga onke …
Bearing the terrible Black beauty of Kali
Black and Blue with the temperament of Krishna
Peaceable as Ausar the foremost of the West
The greensome 12 digital Lord is a maiden voyager
Lonely as a cloud of unknowing
Now contemplative under trees
Now a dervishly whirling wind under the sea
The Buddha is a sage
The Buddha is a black sage
Whose appetite is beyond eclectic
Grips nothing too firmly
And so it all, it all falls down
Mindless while mindful
Horsepower with no harness
No pressure, nor stress
No desire, no aversion
All risk so no risk
No test, nor failure …” – Menzi Maseko
Wikipedia has a serviceable description of who Sun Ra was if one is seeking a basic overview, but what we aim to illustrate here is how this artist has influenced generations of innovators far beyond his milieu, that is if anything was truly beyond the man from Saturn.
Here is an overview:
“Sun Ra (born Herman Poole Blount, legal name Le Sony’r Ra; May 22, 1914 – May 30, 1993) was an American jazz composer, bandleader, piano and synthesizer player, and poet known for his experimental music, “cosmic” philosophy, prolific output, and theatrical performances. For much of his career, Ra led “The Arkestra”, an ensemble with an ever-changing name and flexible line-up.
Born and raised in Alabama, Blount became involved in the Chicago jazz scene during the late 1940s. He soon abandoned his birth name, taking the name Le Sony’r Ra, shortened to Sun Ra (after Ra, the Egyptian God of the Sun). He developed a complex persona and an idiosyncratic, myth-based credo that would make him a pioneer of Afrofuturism. He claimed to be an alien from Saturn on a mission to preach peace, and throughout his life he publicly denied ties to his prior identity.
His widely eclectic and avant-garde music echoed the entire history of jazz, from ragtime and early New Orleans hot jazz, to swing music, bebop, free jazz and fusion. His compositions ranged from keyboard solos to works for big bands of over 30 musicians, along with electronic excursions, songs, chants, percussion pieces, and anthems. From the mid-1950s until his death, Ra led the musical collective The Arkestra (which featured artists such as Marshall Allen, John Gilmore and June Tyson throughout its various iterations). Its performances often included dancers and musicians dressed in elaborate, futuristic costumes inspired by ancient Egyptian attire and the Space Age. (Following Ra’s illness-forced retirement in 1992, the band remained active as The Sun Ra Arkestra, and, as of 2018, continues performing under the leadership of veteran Ra sideman Marshall Allen.)
Though his mainstream success was limited, Sun Ra was a prolific recording artist and frequent live performer, and remained both influential and controversial throughout his life for his music and persona. He is now widely considered an innovator; among his distinctions are his pioneering work in free improvisation and modal jazz and his early use of electronic keyboards and synthesizers. Over the course of his career, he recorded dozens of singles and over one hundred full-length albums, comprising well over 1000 songs, making him one of the most prolific recording artists of the 20th century.”
Enter the prolific super MC/Rapper/Composer, Lupe Fiasco.
It would require a few more pages to describe the proficiency and scope of the prodigy called Lupe Fiasco, suffice to say that not since De La Soul or Digable Planets and Shabbaz Palaces, has there been a Rapper possessing such a heightened sense of cosmic balance. His music is simply larger than his genre, his lyrics are unparalleled and with the advent of his latest album Drogas Wave, he has simply gone beyond the level of musical world building and created an epic of gargantuan proportions. Drogas Light and Drogas Wave are an Afrocentric Science Fiction odyssey unheard of, except maybe since Deltron 3030 or Del The Funky Homosapien and Dan The Automators collaboration …( more on that later).
Here is a review ( I shall add mines in another post):
Lyric by Kurt Elling incorporating “Winter Stars” by Sara Teasdale (Flame and Shadow, 1920)
Afloat and all at sea / the stars align in threes
They’re so fine and free / in blue and in green
Like leaves on endless trees
Come climb the sky with me /
come hear and come to see Melody
in perfect symmetry
/ in love / in light / in key
I went out at night alone;
The young blood flowing beyond the sea Seemed
to have drenched my spirit’s wings— I bore my sorrow heavily.
But when I lifted up my head From shadows shaken on the snow,
I saw Orion in the east Burn steadily as long ago.
From windows in my father’s house,
Dreaming my dreams on winter nights,
I watched Orion as a boy Above another city’s lights.
Years [a]go, dreams [a]go, and youth goes too,
The world’s heart breaks beneath its wars,
All things are changed, save in the east
The faithful beauty of the stars.
I just love the first song that they have chosen to begin with during the break of this Conversation, its title, “One Day Suffer Go Finish‘, says it all.
Part of Discussion: ‘The distance between how things are and how things should be in Zimbabwe” – ( Man from Chitungwiza)
Having followed the Chimurenga and Chimurenga Chronic publication/movement, for as long as it has existed, part of my ambition as a writer has been to publish some stories or even essays and poems in this auspicious black radical publication. I was also glad when the Pan African Space Station was launched. It basically fused the literature and live Chimurenga music sessions to the whole revolutionary concepts. I could say more, but I am always keenly aware of the data-struggle among my people, not all of we have WiFi and affordable data. So it would be best to listen to this. I must add though, that since coming to live in Zimbabwe recently with my family, the urge to do work in and around Harare is huge. Part of it has to do with the realization of what Chimurenga entails, in its various aspects, but it is also about the texture of the land and the struggles and lives of the people of both Zimbabwe and South Africa. There is lots happening in terms of Art, Violence and Revolutionary possibilities in both these countries, in fact my upcoming book, The House of Plenty is an attempt at making sense of how beauty, strength, wealth and hope and suffering can coexist. We shall also investigate what really keeps Afrikan countries, particularly in the SADC region from developing at apace.
Sounding The Ancient Future Thoughts
“Delmark Records – DS-413 (US, 1968)
A1. Levels And Degrees Of Light 10:35 A2. My Thoughts Are My Future – Now And Forever 20:17 B1. The Bird Song Side A: Recorded at Sound Studio. Side B: Recorded at Ter-Mar. Personnel: Muhal Richard Abrams: piano, clarinet Anthony Braxton: alto saxophone Maurice McIntyre: tenor saxophone Leroy Jenkins: violin Gordon Emmanuel: vibraphone Charles Clark: bass Leonard Jones: bass Thurman Barker: drums Penelope Taylor: vocals David Moore: poet (track 2) Levels and Degrees of Light was the first recording under Muhal Richard Abrams’ name and was a landmark album that launched the first in a long line of beautiful, musical salvos from the AACM toward the mainstream jazz world. The title track finds Abrams broadly tracing out some of the territory he would continue to explore in succeeding decades, an ethereal, mystic quality (evinced by Penelope Taylor’s otherworldly vocalizing and Gordon Emmanuel’s shimmering vibes) balanced by a harsh and earthy bluesiness set forth by the leader’s piercing clarinet. “The Bird Song” begins with a fine, dark poetry recitation by David Moore (oh! for the days when one didn’t approach a poem on a jazz album with great trepidation) before evanescing into a whirlwind of percussion, bird whistles, and violin (the latter by Leroy Jenkins in one of his first recorded appearances). When the band enters at full strength with Anthony Braxton (in his first recording session), the effect is explosive and liberating, as though Abrams’ band had stood on the shoulders of Coltrane, Coleman, and Taylor and taken a massive, daring leap into the future. It’s a historic performance. The final track offers several unaccompanied solo opportunities, spotlighting Abrams’ sumptuous piano and the under-recognized bass abilities of Charles Clark. This is a milestone recording and belongs in the collection of any modern jazz fan.” ( This is directly lifted from You Tube channel where this music is found).
“The result is quality in every note …” – MF DOOM skit