“Although the beginnings of civilization of each country vary in time, the fundamental factors which gave impetus to each country to awaken and embark on the road to progress to reach their present level of development, are those qualities which are enshrined in the nature of man, namely desire and fortitude.
The partner who places his own short-range ambitions ahead of the long-range interests of the partnership has embarked on a course which will ultimately result in the dissolution of the partnership itself.” – Qadamawe Haile Selassie
A Blues Portrait
Growing up in the township of Kwa-Mashu it was inevitable that I would be surrounded by the sounds of a certain kind of music. Indeed there are many types of genres of music that come through the various radio stations but, one can hear Maskanda, African Jazz, Local flavors of Afro-Pop and the so called bubble-gum sounds that was popularized by artists who would loom larger than life one year and then forgotten by next year.
But my experience has shown me that aside from Gospel music in all its forms, there has been just one kind of music that has endured through out my conscious life and that is the sound they call R&B or Rhythm and Blues. To me the sound of R&B contains elements of all the above mentioned genres and it has the ability to transcend the clearly demarcated demographics. These days I have noticed that what was simply called R&B during my younger days is now either termed Adult Contemporary Music or even Smooth Jazz.
Yet there is a certain type of Rhythm and Blues which appears to outclass the rest of the popular music just through its sheer quality. Most African American names such as Teddy Pendegrass, The O’Jays, The Manhattans (both the local and the overseas old school balladeers), Curtis Mayfield and many others appear to be immortal due to a certain quality in their sound. Despite the passage of time and the come-uppance of many recording sensations that even break world sales records; there is something which now appears missing even in the R&B styles. Perhaps it is what the rapper Common Sense mentioned in one of his songs from the album Like Water For Chocolate, I quote “my last album u felt it because of the texture…”
Indeed it is that emotional texture in the music that gives you that feeling that is so hard to explain in plain words, it is a feeling that you cannot get from listening to Jazz, Classical music or even various types of Traditional songs.
While this essay is beginning to sound like a paean to the lost flavors and sounds of one kind of music, in fact this is not about music at all, I am simply using music as a metaphor for something more tangible, it is just that music has played such a pivotal role in the social and personal development and mobility of We as a people.
One particular song that always comes to mind each time I consider how Africa’s state of wellbeing or lack thereof is one by the Isley-Brothers, it is called The Caravan Of Love, one of the lines goes “The place where mankind was born is now neglected and torn apart…so everybody take a stand, join the caravan of love…”
This anthem from the late 80’s has remained with me and carried me over many troubled waters, acting as a comforting antidote and also a call for a real solution to Africa’s seemingly insurmountable problems.
I am not naively assuming that the wellbeing of an entire continent and its people depends on a few melodious lines from a song, I am simply saying that this fabled, troubled and infinitely wealthy place has produced many sons and daughters who continue to sustain the economies of the world through their talents in the arts, physical, chemical and spiritual sciences and knowledge systems can recover from its seemingly deathly state. It can begin now through the Words, Sounds and Powers inherent in our Rhythmic hobbies and occupations.
Yes, we may not all agree to be Muslims, Christians, Animists or any of the worlds great religions, but what we have and had for many years before can be had again if only we could See Ourselves for who we truly are.
Who, What and Why Are We?
“The fallacy of the biological race concept must be incorporated into our collective thinking on an everyday basis. For example, dictionaries and encyclopedias need to be revised to include comprehensible and correct definitions of ‘race’ and explanations of human genetic diversity. We also must begin to talk about our own identities outside of the racial paradigm. We must build a new common language that accurately describes individuals within our populations. We must abandon the practice of describing ourselves as ‘black’, ‘brown’, ‘red’, ‘white’, or ‘yellow’.” – Joseph L. Graves Jr (The Emperors New Clothes: Biological Theories of Race at The Millennium
“People seem not to see that their opinion of the world is also a confession of their character.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
“All is thought and thought is all. Nothing happens in the physical world which has not been preceded by a thought. If thought is imbalanced and destructive, so will be the physical world. If thought is balanced, loving and constructive, that is the society that will emerge. We create our reality and that is why vision is so important.”
– David Icke in The Robots Rebellion (Chapter 15: The Economics of Enough).
“There is a need for us to know the truth/There’s a reason why the trees bear their fruit, how much do we care about ourselves, the children and their future…” – Sizzla Kalonji from the title of his collaborative album Liberate Yourself
I have chosen to quote from no less than four sources in order to allow the reader to see for themselves why the issues I am raising are meaningful to all of us irrespective of skin pigmentation or nationality.
A lot of intelligent and well meaning men and women have spent a lot of time grappling with issues of national identity, personal identity and even the ethical matters that come with investigations of private or even ancient storybook identities. Recently I have been reading a book called The Tut-Ankh-Amen Conspiracy, which among other vital topics, also deals with the national and racial identity of Moses/Moshe of Old Testament fame.
The fact is that we have spent many years believing blindly without seeking out the truth. Ignorance and blind emotion are the beginning of all conflicts.
While there may be some substance in living a life of religious faithful and there are a lot of people who are content with not knowing the historical details of what they believe in, they simply rely on the supposed faithfulness of their predecessor’s interpretation of all those events that construct their faith, be they mythological or factual. I am not one of those blind believers although I do have my own convictions that I cannot prove. I am among those few who would rather live and believe the truth instead of the lie, the reality instead of the romanticized mythology.
But then again, much of what we presume to be reality is based on myth. The music we consume is largely based on make believe and the substantiation of things we hope for. This is where the words of the Emperor come ring true. Life is really about the sustainability or the utility of relationships. There has to be some trust ….