ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
I will never erase my internal recording of Hughs eyes as he said what it felt like to be in exile in New
York City and one day run across a man in Central Park, a black man who turned out to be South
African and the overwhelming joy Hugh felt as he and that brother-stranger talked in their mother tongue
Books by Kalamu ya Salaam
My Story My Song (CD)
* * * * *
Hugh Masekela: Out of the Hell That Was Apartheid
I think that any artist that comes from an oppressed community and doesnt sing or talk about it needs his head examined. Now, I wasnt making music because of oppression; I was making music because I loved it and its all Ive ever done. The fact that I came from a country with oppressed people was just a coincidence. Had I been a garbage man, I would have been just as militant.Hugh Masekela
In the sixties and early seventies Hugh Masekela was a long way from home. Black Power Los Angeles was nothing like Apartheid Johannesburgor was it? One struggle different fronts and, of course, the different fronts had different conditions, nevertheless, the centrality of black people struggling to create a new identity, struggling to challenge and change status quo social conditions, all of this was very much like home to the young African man in exile.
Here was a man who learned to play trumpet on a trumpet given to his school by Louis Armstrong.
Music was his ticket to ride. Straight up on out of the hell that was apartheid.
And to marry Mariam Makeba, one of the sweets singers to ever ululate Xhosa.
There my man was in the midst of cultural revolution, American style and in the midst of protest, riots and rebellions. Was Watts really far away from Soweto, was Harlem that distant from Sophiatown?
Listen to Hughs early music and you will hear something, something startling, something familiar, something surprising, something enjoyable. You will hear African-American music echoed in a South African sound. You will hear the old world origins of new world innovations. From the funk of The Boys Doin It to the hard bop of Blues for Huey; from the gospel of Hush (Somebodys Calling My Name) and the balladry of Mamani to the protest of Coincidence and the samba of Felicidade; from the party hilarity of Grazing In The Grass (which was a mega 1968 hit) and the ironic sarcasm of A Song For Brazil to the introspective beauty of Where Are You Going? and the spiritual sublimity of Minawa, all of this fabulous music is music recorded in exile, music made years before a return home. And please check out the fabulous Letta Mbulu, multi-tracking her voice on the appropriately titled Melodi (Sounds of Home), consistently hitting high notes a piccolo is afraid of. Imagine the guts and the imagination it took to produce these songs. In one sense it is unbelievableis it not a wonder how we can hold our sanity within the sanctuary of our woolly heads amid trials, tumult and indefinite alienation from all that we hold dear? I remember bra Hugh laughing about those years. We were in Martinique (or it might have been Guadeloupe or even St. Lucia), attending a jazz festival and I hung out with him for an evening. You should have seen him talk about how physically fit they were while living in Los Angeles. Hugh said that one of the recording executives even commented on it. Then Hugh laughed his hearty South African chortle: they didnt know we were so poor we couldnt afford any transport. We rode our bicycles everywherethats why we were in such good shape. You can not fully understand the joke if youve never been to Los Angeles where everything is so spread out, you need to drive a car to get to the corner store! But hasnt humor always been one of the secret (or really not-so-secret) ingredients in our survival kit? Hughs music has that deep humor in spades, running in parallel to the even deeper seriousness: the freedom ideals, the struggle encouragement, the, shall we say, mad and maddening coincidences of life.
I will never erase my internal recording of Hughs eyes as he said what it felt like to be in exile in New York City and one day run across a man in Central Park, a black man who turned out to be South African and the overwhelming joy Hugh felt as he and that brother-stranger talked in their mother tongue; how important it was to speak those birth syllables after so long being tongue tied by alien English.
I have always loved the way Hugh sings. Full out, bellowing, shouting, cussing, laughing, 100% invested in the sounds his voice makes regardless of whether it is pretty or in tune in a western sense.
I have always believed that black music was and remains the African-American mother tongue. Music is our address, where we live, how to reach us, especially in a strange and alienating land. But music was also our firmament, our line of defense and, in sometimes subtle, sometimes strange ways, also our weapon and escape vehicle. Every step of the way, Hugh was challenging the system. Musicthe force of his personality personified in song and flugelhorn, confronting stereotypes. No jungle bunny, he challenged what they saw when they looked at him, what they heard when they listened to him. All of his music had a deepness that was captivating.
Credit must be given to Hughs expertise as a jazz musician. But then again equal credit must be given to Hughs fearless deployment of his African roots.
When Hugh did The Boys Doin It album it was a pan-African effort that employed Ghanaian musicians while most of his other recordings had been with fellow exiles and American musicians. This was early, early examples of what we have come to call world music. And beyond recording, he started a record label, Chisa; worked out a distribution deal with Motown, attempting to seize the means of production. Too many of us are unaware of all that we have been. We think fighting to get ahead, to own and to control is something new, something recently thought of. Not so. Much of this music is available to us today because Hugh owns rightsgive thanks. On the artistic scale, the pinnacle of all of Hughs early catalogue is his jazz album Home Is Where The Music Is. The title alone is a philosophical statement of the highest order, a statement intuitively, if not consciously, embraced by African-American culture. The band is composed of three South Africans (Hugh Masekela trumpet; Dudu Pukwana alto; Makhaya Ntshoko) and two Americans (Eddie Gomez bass and Larry Willis piano). This 1972 recording is an accurate reflection of the time period and one of the best jazz albums from that era. Although it is not well known, when people do hear it, invariably, they are knocked out by the exhilarating excellence of the music. The repertoire moves from moments of soft shinning subtlety to all out, surging, no holds barred passionate playing. At the end of the drum solo on Blues for Huey, you can hear one of the band members shout out: call an ambulance!
This mixtape is a homage to the early years of a musical hero. There is more to comeHugh is still making beautiful music. And we will get to all of that in due time but for now let us pause and reflect. Let us journey back in time. Here are some artifacts from those long gone years. These are not mere curios to be gawked at momentarily and then forgotten. This is a sinew holding together our souls. These sounds are moments you may not remember but once you hear them, whether now for the first time or for the first time in a long time, these sounds are songs that should reside forever in the home of your heart.
1. The Boys Doin It
2. Melodi (Sounds of Home)
3. Bajabula Bonke (The Healing Song)
4. Grazing In The Grass
6. Where Are You Going?
7. Hush (Somebodys Calling My Name)
10. A Song For Brazil”
12. Blues For Huey
14. Ingoo Pow-Pow (Childrens Song)
* * * * *
Get Your Maskela On
The Boys Doin It The Boys Doin It A Song For BrazilHugh Masekela Presents the CHISA Years: 1965-1975 (Rare & Unreleased) Melodi (Sounds of Home)The Promise Of A Future Bajabula Bonke (The Healing Song)Stimela Grazing In The Grass Coincidence FelicidadeLasting Impression Of Ooga Booga Where Are You Going?GRRR Ntjilo-NtjiloHugh Masekela & Union Of South Africa Hush (Somebodys Calling My Name) MamaniHome Is Where The Music Is Blues For Huey Unhome Ingoo Pow-Pow (Childrens Song) Minawa
* * * * *
* * * * *
* * * * *
For July 1st through August 31st 2011
#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane
#10 – Covenant: A Thriller by Brandon Massey
#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva by Ashley and JaQuavis
#12 – Don’t Ever Tell by Brandon Massey
#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide by Ntozake Shange
#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree
#15 – Homemade Loves by J. California Cooper
#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper
#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber
#18 – Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare
#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King
#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey
#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe
#22 Thug Matrimony by Wahida Clark
#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark
#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber
#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter
#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson
#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History by Ahati N. N. Toure
#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley
#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell
#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore
#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit by RM Johnson
#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins
#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell
#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle
#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard
#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris
#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice
#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields
#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class by Lisa B. Thompson
* * * * *
By Charles C. Mann
Im a big fan of Charles Manns previous book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, in which he provides a sweeping and provocative examination of North and South America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. Its exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that its anything but exhausting to read. With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of The Columbian Exchange and, Im proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer), Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, globalized entity.
Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple. We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato, tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue to do so until we are finally living on one integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth. Whether or not the human instigators of all this remarkable change will survive the process they helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and revelatory book, an open question.
* * * * *
By Pauline Maier
A notable historian of the early republic, Maier devoted a decade to studying the immense documentation of the ratification of the Constitution. Scholars might approach her books footnotes first, but history fans who delve into her narrative will meet delegates to the state conventions whom most history books, absorbed with the Founders, have relegated to obscurity. Yet, prominent in their local counties and towns, they influenced a conventions decision to accept or reject the Constitution. Their biographies and democratic credentials emerge in Maiers accounts of their elections to a convention, the political attitudes they carried to the conclave, and their declamations from the floor. The latter expressed opponents objections to provisions of the Constitution, some of which seem anachronistic (election regulation raised hackles) and some of which are thoroughly contemporary (the power to tax individuals directly). Ripostes from proponents, the Federalists, animate the great detail Maier provides, as does her recounting how one state conventions verdict affected anothers. Displaying the grudging grassroots blessing the Constitution originally received, Maier eruditely yet accessibly revives a neglected but critical passage in American history.Booklist
* * * * *
From The World and Africa, 1965
* * * * *
* * * * *
If you like this page consider making a donation
online through PayPal
* * * * *
Browse all issues
* * * * *
* * * * *
* * * * *
* * * * *
posted 8 December 2008