Sounds of a quiet night. A rich voice, facing life’s tests, calling on grandpa and grandma for strength.
she channels the earth
her skin petrified wood
born into a marbled texture of sound and dust
her hair the parched twine of a tumbleweed
spread across the floor, picked up and reassembled
like a wispy broom lying in front of a clay Berber house
and as her song comes forth she channels the spirits of old desert women
teeth clenched against the bitter residue of a headscarf
taut against a wide solid head
her back twisted, aching
spinal vertebrae atrophying
in a sudden sclerosis of history
the nameless women who have walked the streets of
Tamerza, Tozeur, Medenine
dipped in music, encased in light
and placed on an airy mantle in Carthage
I want to slowly drift into a Bossa Nova wonderland
Suspended by soft whispy clouds and propped up by the playful tune of fingers hitting black and white piano keys
A soothing male voice sings, exuding the energetic warmth of a grocer drifting into his seat
Thinking about the day with caipirinha in hand, occupying the space between work and the comfort of home
The smell of pastries and a light meal streaming steadily into my room
Surrounded by ivory-colored soft leather couches and the cool mist of a late spring evening floating onto my skin
– Listening to Vinicius’ Carta Ao Tom 74
On Tuesday I had an inspirational call with Derrick Ashong (aka DNA), a West-African born musician, social entrepreneur, and host of The Derrick Ashong Experience on Oprah Radio.
Derrick inspires me for two reasons: First: he has guts. With the prospect of a lucrative career on Wall Street, Derrick (at the time a senior at Harvard) had the courage to strike a risky path for himself and co-founded Soulfège, a West African band with beats as catchy as their message is positive. Second: he pays the rent. Through speeches, performances, consulting gigs, and his radio show, he has designed a career that enables him to express himself artistically yet also supports him financially.
Derrick had the following words of wisdom regarding my storytelling project:
– On growing my network: It’s not about who you know, it’s about who knows what you know. Tell people what I’m working on.
– On finding a mentor: A mentor will want to work with me because they care about me deeply, or they respect my work. The most efficient way for me to find a mentor is to go out to venues and perform (a.k.a Just Do It).
– On the art scene in LA: Some of the most talented folks in LA’s art scene are artists who most people have never heard of. Seek them out.
– On where to perform: Start with Zanzibar in Santa Monica.
I’m excited to track Derrick’s pragmatic approach to building a career of self-expression, and I hope that I can channel his courage and discipline as I build my own.
Just spent the better part of a weekend laying down some beats and vocals on my shining star: a James Brown inspired parody of news coverage of the US healthcare debate. (yes, it’s meant to be funny). Made entirely in Garageband on my Mac. Turn your speakers up!
Everything is already recycled. Creation is a restatement. A fresh arrangement of old matter. Matter so old its years are counted in light.
The cycle of life as it pertains to the physical is something I managed to grasp early on. Take some vegetation, compost it, water it, and out it springs into new life. It’s an easy process to understand, partly because it gives itself away. Smell anything in the lifecycle of, say, a log, and it’s easy to trace it to its other forms. It’s the mossy freshness. The earthy funk.
What has been less clear to me is how the intangible is recycled. What is the process of recycling the human spirit? Where is the soul’s funk? For me that one’s a bit harder to sniff out, but every once in a while its essence bubbles to the surface. For me it’s hard to watch this video and not see a constant resonance across everyone captured in its lens. In the street performers I see the energy of a musician, as timeless, tattered, and true as the instruments they’ve worn down with their bodies. Young and old, black, brown, red, and white, they are the fresh arrangement of old matter. Their energy is the funk.
Judge for yourself: