Girth of heart, the might of his pluck and slide. David is Goliath with a copper axe. Tenderly. Soft kill and no reprieve, he will find that note. The invisible is ironic, if you stay low down, you orbit the Okumu gravity. Felt it too. Knee deep. Twisted. Heads up. Watch out. The hope is thick in the mix, running with the Mice of mankind, who own acres of imagination, fumbling the dream. Play on the side.
Signs as I crossed my heart. Eyes have held up the world. A dereliction of duty. They should have been watching you. As I do. Only seeing. Always open to seeing you. Through. Getting out of the way of the lens. Losing only the focus just a moment before the flash catches hold of you. And why do you look at me instead of the lens that designs an impression of something you might not yet be? Or do you see me as the lens that is too close to know your secrets, but too far to not be curious about who you might be?
A hanging leaf puts its heart on the line to be noticed.
We’ve only made eye contact.
Soon to touch.
I wouldn’t dare to try and save a hanging leaf.
Soon to fall….
Please don’t watch.
Inside. You are an outsider and the room knows it. You do not belong to them. The walls stiffen in defence of the inflammed human heart that is present. You will never be of them. The wall knows this fate you bet your fears on. Too swell. Tooth picked. You tilt your hat before they turn you down. You haven’t asked anything of them. Yet. The floor sucks on the sole of your swift footed analysis. Daring you to overthink the feeling that is stirred up in the forest of invention. An idea. What is an idea? Just like us. And nothing alike.
Wet of eyes, the paint sounds the welcome. They despise her too. And her ghosts. Colours come for real. Want all the sparks. All the action that imagination can fire up. They want you to want them too. And you know how they like it. The thickness. The trust in the thrust. The oh so bitter sweetness of us at our worst best. You would buy them if you didn’t already own their desire to have you or the image they paint of you in reflection. And what are you?
Outside. You are an insider with no throne room for Benin’s bronzed hypocrisy, but space for double bedded love making with case sensitive words for a thousand books and one. You make the way, they see through you, what they think you are and never were. Rust of Scarlet, blood conscious to a fault, who would have doubted the waters that ushered you into this world? If you were I and I knew how to speak, I would not paint you into the absence of mind that silence suggests. You haved loved loudly in your time, and the ground will not forget, even if you are never spoken of. All love is memorial but all is not lost. Except to time, when bound to art and held captive by the memories of those we have longed for. And have hungered to know intimately, the internal walls of our lover’s throbbing heart without the shades on.
Breaking through to be inside of you and all you aspire to breathe out into damnation when you dreamed us into the merciless canvas of mortal life and the infinite glory of Agape. How cruel, the truth convicts the dead as though they were sentenced to life in unfinished paragraphs. We have only fallen in love with ideas and risen in the acceptance of our fallacies. The multiverse. The continents. The ocean of oceans that we are. It carries all the Hell and Heaven that resides in us. With us. For we are hung up in the awakening terror of love’s gallery for the broken and torn apart.
While I was tinkering and thinking about whether a Blues guitar solo should share amicable space with an alto saxophone on a number, I was captured by this captivating photograph of Tsehai Essiebea Farrell which led me on a great train of thought for the lyrics to come. Ethiopia had been on my mind recently because of a conversation I had with a great Ethiopian Artist about an awakening he had. A revelation about his place in the world, his vocation, and the micro of the worlds within his wider perception. So much of the telling if not the toiling of life, both in our written past and living present, has much to do with our vantage point and the dubious nature of our muscle memory where matters of the tender heart are concerned. Uncomfortably numb but our eyes never tire of seeing and being seen. Or do they? Do they know? Do they look in on us and play our hand against better judgement? Our windows remain the seducer and the seduced, for perpetuity. It can seem that way. And what is seen is unseen. What is known is a mystery as I am to you. Always the stranger from eye to eye. Yet familiar in some kind of way. Never fully known.
I could have been anywhere but of course it would be Shoreditch. If anywhere epitomises the chase for the taste and the life that the city might afford those who would conquer it, the place would be here. I had a recent conversation about it, and we didn’t even have to break it down. If you know, you must have feasted your eyes on the wanton displays of the artful and ambitious in hopes of ‘making it’ with or without the rain that is sure to fall on the hopeless. Every shore that safe guards the dreams of the eternally green hearted and young, knows the way to the ditch. Not bitter. Possibly high. Yet still determined as all Alexanders are fated to be in the lies of greatness.
Only one hand works but two is company. To feel the resistance of a hand that does not obey the head. To reconcile. I wore a cast for years. I drained the fluid. It returned within minutes. It refuses to be compliant. It hurts me all the time. Since I was 8. But it has taught me a lot. It defies me. And I defy it. That is our harmony.
“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”
– Bob Marley
I was not meditating but there are times when I tap into a peace that bounces back up in the abstract of sounds and colours. In this captured moment I put on my Sci-Fi music and reached for my guitar just to see what might happen. Sometimes I like to work out ideas on just one or two strings. Not chords. Single notes. Purples and reds at the bottom of the neck. One note can be everything. It can tell the whole story if placed and timed right. Not to say that it necessarily comes down to the semantics of right and wrong in the creative playground of imagination. It is as much a percussion instrument as anything that hands and feet can hit. The lower E string is home. It gave me my first guitar child, Love Never Fails, but I don’t always arrive at something of permanence. I had an old tape of home made jungle music that I dabbled in for a little while, trying to learn some modern production techniques in 1999 when I got my first computer. I was just throwing ideas out into the ether to see what might happen at a particular bpm. I had also read Octavia E Butler’s Mind Of Mind in my local library within that period or maybe a bit earlier and the images and ideas I got from the Afro-Futurist world of her novel aligned with the sounds and colours I didn’t know I was searching for. Fast forward to a few years ago, and I was now hearing something else in that old jungle music. I started to employ techniques pioneered by the late great Lee Scratch Perry, to strip down and make new out of the old. Just to see what might happen. I dared myself.
Jungle is a true school London sound which had faded out of counter-cultural relevance before the turn of the century but still held up low end sonic value owing much to Black America as most popular music does, and the polyrhythmic continent that we associate with the groove of life. In an ideal world of parity and fairness, The Amen break should have provided financial compensation for drummer, Gregory Coleman, and his bandmates in The Winstons for they and their heirs lifetime. Not to trivialise, but it is no less than the Henrietta Lacks of music samples, perhaps only matched in equivalent significance by Clyde Stubblefield’s Funky Drummer break. A similarly glorious and tragic story. I say this respectfully and without exaggeration. It is a cornerstone of recorded music over the last 30 years. Though Jungle music never truly crossed over, it had its moment in the zeitgeist. And its cult heroes. Goldie whose album, Timeless, marked its emergence from the underground into the homes of taste makers and gatekeepers of perceived cool in the era of Brit-Pop, has been a part of the institution of British music for many years. A purist? I couldn’t say. Whatever that means and for whatever that’s worth. What I do know is that the power of Jungle is visceral and almost indescribable.
I remember going to a Jungle music basement party in Camden with my friend, Beru Tessema (just for the record, this is not a false memory), long after its heyday. The hardcore massive as we would say, were out and they were mostly youngsters. Kids in late adolescence. They didn’t live those years of its come up and scene. Not that I did either. They would likely have been in their primary school years during its peak in the mid nineties and some in infancy. It found them or vice versa before the playlist era. There were mantra like moments when the DJ would mix out the drums and turn up the wobbling, squelching, soul curling bass. Alien textures that was felt. Colours of mystical sounds wildly spraying over everyone like lighter fluid in a sprinkler. Then the drums would come back in and planets in orbit collided or so it seemed. In that heaving space packed with substance fueled low gravity bodies, the intensity was overwhelming. Sweat dripping and filthy. The bass was that dirty and heavy all night. Sexual pummelling of the sensory. All the air was sucked out dry. Flesh watered by sound, and wet as the greatest sex ever consummated in a standing position. Possibly. Perspiration photographs life and holds mysteries by the hand too.
In my time, I painted pictures. Were the colours
bright enough to hold the gaze of your first
In our time, I told stories. Did the plot
stray from the sincere path? And substitute undefined character flaws for a happy ending?
Life is in the blood, and the cup runs over. Love covers a multitude, and the pen still wonders.
Blood is only as thick as the cake mix added and stirred with it. You can put blood in the spotlight but it won’t dance on command. The blood howls. Its lashes out. It bites. Its unruly. The splatter is our history. Maybe blood will not reconcile with blood. Maybe they will find sacred ground and tread lightly around the pain. At a distance they might greet cordially and in their small talk they might reveal things they will not explicitly say about how they feel. That cake mix is not going to hold together the fragility and mistrust. Time won’t cast lots and aspersions to see who surrenders a position of advantage on a Chess board. But a thousand words in a photograph knows all too well that it won’t matter in the end. Who was right? Who was wrong? Did she hold you firm? Did she kiss your cheek? Did she brush your hair as your helpless torso rested on her lap? Did she watch you crawl to her when she returned from work to a cold appartment shared with hangers on? An abode of drifters taking refuge with a half wanted child and a mother who stayed the course, when the river pulled at her hem. Mothers and daughters and the waters between them….
Painting by Piyali Muni