I recently wrote an almost 5000 word short-story for some lucrative competition. Nervous as I was when I sent it, flaws and all, I was a little proud of it. I had meant to suffuse the whole tale with lots of music, lots of carefully placed images or symbols of Southern Afrikan, Nile Valley symbolism and Time Travel in its plot. If I had access to 300 more words, I could have made it better, but 5000 words is a lot – so no excuses, a short-story should do everything in the first 500 words anyway.
I posted this ‘jazzy’ album because I love the players, it is not related to my story in any way aside from the fact that I love its title. Yesterday I agonised all day about whether I had chosen the right title for the story. Then again, I think whether I win or not, I am going to develop this story into something brilliant.
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
“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.
chorus: deep into the core
we keep digging for more
so what, if we’ve died
a million times
at least we tried
someone deep in our tangled past decided
that wealth was stronger than death
the lie was repeated enough times
we now take it as indisputable fact
so true is our belief in the gold, silver and paper trail
we have trained our young to hold on to the dragons tail
or take the bull by the horns
ignoring the man with the crown of thorns
today there is hardly anything which is not up for sale
mothers sell their daughters and honor won’t prevail
presidents sell countries while peddling morality tales
miners have been slaughtered but leaders still come up for air