Saturday, April 20, 2013


Reggae is part of universal human history


Jamaica is a mythic place in this world and probably in a few others too. I came across it a long, very long time ago when I was involved in the Harlem Renaissance movement and of course in the wider approach that was mine of the Black movement in the USA, after Africa mind you, I learned the Soucous and the Bouchez before I knew what the calypso and what’s more the Ska was or were. I must admit I had even twisted before and I was fully in what Leopold Senghor called “Les Arts Nègres”. I came back from Africa loaded with Rochereau and Docteur Nico and so many others.

After Africa I went to the USA and on the homecoming night of my high school in North Carolina, what was not my surprise when I found myself dancing alone to the music of the black band over there on the stage and all around me there was a ring of students, teachers, black and white interlaced to my pleasure and taste and they were all admiring my dancing not on the simple superficial rhythm that generally serves as the tempo to the singing, but to the deeper trance rhythm that was three or four time faster and if my arms were mostly following the slow rhythm my feet and the rest of my body was following, galloping along with the faster rhythm. When I finally realized what was happening, because I was in a total blizzard of blindness at this moment, I just did not understand at the time what was the problem, especially for the Black students around me. That’s how I had learned to dance to the various rhythms of African music, and especially to the rhythm that goes deep into your mind while the heart more or less follows the slower pace. At least for a while. When the heart gets up to the faster rhythm, then you see stars, you see the sky, you see God and his angels and you start believing that beyond that dull surface of everyday humdrum and monotonous life there is a world of beauty and light and happiness and love and love and love again and that love has no longer anything to do with sex because you are entirely in your spiritual and supernatural  mind and you have left your hormones far behind or below.

Then you know that there are no races in the human species, just one species and some various nuances, shades, hues that are in fact the beauty of the whole species, to be multifarious like an apple tree in spring when it blooms. It is all in pink and yet there are not two blooms that are exactly the same shade of pink.

Since then a lot of rum has flowed under and flown over the bridge of many noses and the world has changed. It was the time when decolonization was only granting independence to all the peoples who were not free. It was not an easy process and it took many leaders who were assassinated like flies, Lumumba, Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and thousands of others, to move our species up to some kind of understanding that our Black brothers are not apes and that their white brothers are not necessarily the monsters some were, have been and still are. There will always be a Willie Lynch in all generations, even if the most recent couple in that line is two brothers from Chechnya, naturalized in the USA and turning back and biting the hand that had picked them from the mud of their ditch in the Caucasus and they just blew up a couple of bombs among peaceful people for no reasonable reason at all. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders have their reasons that reason does not understand.

It takes time for the Whites of this world to understand that all the shades of darkness and color are as beautiful as the rainbow after rain and for all the non-Whites of this earth to understand that they have to share their old traumas with those of the Whites and build another world. And yet it is coming and this collection of music is one of the most important testimonies of that period from 1950 to 1962 when it all tilted up and then down again after turning around and it was then ready to start moving forward again in some more realistic way than before, and with everyone trying to pull in the same direction. It would be though a folly to believe that at any time in history everyone can really be pulling in one single direction.

These twelve years in Jamaica corresponded to the twelve years during which all the colonized Blacks in Africa and all the segregated and discriminated Blacks in the USA and some other countries started to “decolonialize” their minds and to recapture their spirituality and their vision of the future of the human species as a vast field of understanding, exchanges and love, love, love, beyond hormonal pangs and yet without negating these hormones, the hormones becoming an option for those who felt them, an accepted option for all and by all (the government of the hormones by the hormones and for the hormones as it is said of the people somewhere else) and we are still far from the goal when we see how so many still believe that love has to be kept within some particular hormonal pulses, impulses and drives. For them, for those, same has to be the rule for these hormones if we are dealing with color and different has to be the rule if we are dealing with sexes and genders. Understand if you can? I can’t admit that contradiction as being human. It is purely ideological and it has little to do with religion, mind you, but a lot more with the old, very old, drive of Homo Sapiens towards conquering the immensity of the unknown and dangerous world around them. They had to multiply the legs, the arms, the chests, the breasts, the mouths and all that goes along with these elements, thoughts, languages, migrations, activities and so on to an end that is always as evasive, though not inoffensive, as the wind on a stormy day.

But we can only hear what is being born in this period from ska to calypso, from boogie to doo wop and so many other styles emerging from  the manure and compost of history.

It is so easy to reduce all that to some class or race or sex discourse in spite of the fact that it is the power of the deepest and most enduring anthropological force in the human species that is at work here. The road is going to be long and the Messianic destination is not yet reached. If you try to feel that music in that direction you will understand that you can be in love with Miss Jamaica and yet never rape her or be raped by her because it is love we are talking of and that Miss Jamaica is your mental doppelganger and life will decide what and who that Miss Jamaica will be. If she is a musician she might be our muse. If she is a thinker she might be our guru or our messiah. But she has no reason to be of any sex, any gender, any color. She has to be of the sex, gender and color you want her to be for your pleasure and your future.

If you can go deep down into your darkest layers of the foundations of your soul, you might come to realize that there are many rhythms in your body and that happiness is the coordination of them all in order to produce a controlled and regulated movement that we call life or dance. Then music is the language of the human soul and it is a purely human invention, universal in all its dimensions, even if the polyrhythmic power of modern music found its sources in the percussions of the African continent and survived all the lynching frenzy and brain washing hysteria our human hierarchical mind has imposed and still imposes and will probably always impose to some it considers as subhuman, non-human or just inferior, the human mind of those who are sitting on top of the wall. But they just forget, those higher up potentates, that Humpty Dumpty sooner or later has a great fall.

And it is going to hurt if you haven’t prepared your bones for the fall. Get into that music and grow some wings for the future. And remember even if someone is a bore and tries to dominate you, you can always be resilient and resist and follow the example of carpenters in France who sang all together in a workshop when the foreman was being a dictatorial dummy a song that gores back to the Middle Ages:

« Elle a cassé sa jambe
« Sa jambe en palissandre
« C’est en montant
« Sur les ch’vaux d’ bois
« Qu’elle a cassé
« Sa jambe en bois. »

(She broke her leg, her leg in rosewood. It’s when she climbed on the wooden horses on the merry-go-round that she broke her wooden leg.)

And then you just start all over again, and if you can sing, you can whistle, and if you cant whistle you can hum, even if it is out of tune, provided it follows the proper tempo, and it can last two hours, as long as necessary to kick the foreman out of the workshop. When I see the way the Blacks have resisted to the worst ever holocaust in human history, I really believe they were all carpenters and they all knew how to sing the worst devils into a deadlock. They had dreadlocks in their minds and they could hold on these to survive one more day and one more night to transmit one more recollection, one more heritage to those who will survive them and who will then one day turn these recollections and that heritage into the all absorbing spiritual tool that will become the soul of the whole humanity. Welcome to the antechamber of one of the universal souls, Reggae.


Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?