An appreciation: Ever-since I was introduced to the ‘jazz’ artists called Kurt Elling, I have become irreversibly hooked. A perfect stranger called Lesego had given us a ride home one evening after the Poetry Africa festival’s final concert. We were all still buzzing from a great performance by Hip Hop Pantsula and some herbs were being passed around in a spirit of One Love. All of a sudden I heard a familiar tune while we were in the car cruising along Durban’s North Beach area. “The Creator Has A Master Plan,Peace and Happiness for Everyman …”, and I knew that melody from the original Pharaoh Sanders and other subsequent versions…the most famous being one done by Leon Thomas.
We had been discussing the future of Black Consciousness and the concept of Righteousness consciousness and whether music has any real impact on the Hearts and Minds of people. We were a beautiful pan-Afrikan group consisting of a guy from Lesotho, whom I now call the Maestro, a thespian/poetess from Cameroon and two South Afrikans. I was just so excited and later begged the Maestro to repeat the song, but he was like ‘you haven’t heard anything yet …just listen I will mesmerize you…’ –
I complied, with all my senses wide opened,as he played tune after tune from a vocalist whom I thought I ‘d recognized but clearly had never listened to. Needless to say that my new friend never did tell me who the other singers of the songs he had played were. It turned out that the version of the Creator Has A Masterplan was a live version by Dwight Trible.
He then told me that the singer who did a song called Higher Vibe, Concord, and a rendition of John Coltrane’s Resolution was actually a white guy named Kurt Elling. I had not heard of him at all and felt embarrassed, because I had been going on and on about Dwight Trible.
I initially I refused to believe that the singer who did such as perfect rendition of Coltrane was a white-man. But such is the joy of jazz, the universality of music. I may have held strong views that certain feeling in music can only be invoked by Black people, whether they be vocalists, saxophonists or any instrument really. But when you listen with your heart wide opened, music will surprise you, and no music has more mysteries, surprizes, mathematical ingenuity and inventiveness than what they call ‘jazz’. That was then, but this is now. I am still essentially Afrocentric and Black Conscious but much less self-conscious and insular.
I have since become one of the greatest fans of Kurt Elling, I started with the album called Man In The Sky and my partner later gifted me with Passion World. I have only just discovered how extensive and exciting this man’s discography is. I am also anticipating to get the new album called Upward Spiral, with Branford Marselles.
Today while I was driving with my brother Khaya Maseko, listening to a song from Passion World, called Bonita Cuba, I suddenly had the notion that there is an uninterrupted somewhat Cosmic Connection inherent in certain types of Jazz. But more specifically, my mind made a connection between the concept of the Heart in Ancient Egyptian/Kemetic spirituality and the particular lyric in Kurt Ellings’s Bonita Cuba.
When he sings: ” If I could I’d build a boat out of my heart/ and sail on home to Bonita Cuba in the dark …“and for some reason the concept of the Celestial Boat that carries the heart of the deceased to the ‘Abode of the Blessed’ occurred to me.There is so much more in story within that song that can be interrelated to the Soul’s longing for home and Mr Elling knows just how to carry ‘Longing’ with every vocal expression.
In the Papyrus of Ani, or the Book of Coming Forth … famously known as The Book Of The Dead, there are chapters named The Weighing of The Heart, which describe how the Heart of the deceased is weighed in the balance of the Goddess Ma’at ( the epitome of order, truth and justice etc). One of the passages, titled The Speech of Thoth/Tehuti/Djehuti or Hermes Trismegistus, we read:
“Thoth, the judge of right and truth of the Great Company of the Gods who are in the presence of Osiris, saith: Hear ye this judgement. The heart of Osiris hath in very truth been weighed, and his Heart-soul hath borne testimony on his behalf; his heart hath been found right by the trial in the Great Balance.” ( Texts Relating To The Weighing Of The Heart Of Ani )
There are thousands of references in the ancient texts, referring to the Neteru/ntrw/Gods sailing between the heavens and Earth on celestial boats. The Ancient Afrikans/Kemetens being masterful craftsmen and mindful of the power of symbolism, would fashion real life boats and images pertaining to their stories, mythology and Spiritual sciences. Some of these boats are still extant:
“May he string his words into song. May be roll through the heavens like music. And for as long as the sun is singing, may the strings of my soul hum like a lyre.” ( exerpts from the Egyptian Book of the Dead: http://www.jbeilharz.de/ellis/egypt.html )
To be continued …