On Jacob Collier’s Moon River

Thank God for music and messengers of good will. Its in the light of melody that I often retreat when confronted by the indifferent and desensitised world of polar extremes. Like many, I discovered Jacob when he first started posting videos on youtube. How time has flown. He is now rightly acclaimed for his limitless musicality. I knew from the jump that he was a different level of musical possibilites than I had encountered in this young century. Its not like there hasn’t been virtuosos on the scene, but I don’t know if there are many or any with the depth and breadth of Jacob’s savant like gift. And where harmony is concerned, his innate ability is uniquely bewildering.

Today was a heavy one for a myriad of reasons. The load management of pain that is expressed in the phyche of the community can be overwhelming. I was giving moments of thoughtful reflection on lives lost and the present suffering. I was remembering dear Zainab and little Jeremiah. And I tried to stretch my mind and heart to things that I lack in understanding. All of life is seemingly politicised within constructs that are layered. Peeling the skin to get at the wounds within, it takes more than the bridge of well meaning words. Perhaps making sense of some things is beyond the relm of reason and so I find in music a gifting of discernment and sage wisdom in melodies. One such melody is Henri Mancini’s Moon River. The words and music of this composition are very special to me. The chords are so in tune with my heart. I remember how Audrey Hepburn’s plaintive rendition blanketed my heart when I watched Breakfast At Tiffanys for the first time. Its still a favourite. Then I experienced Terence Trent D’Arby’s spellbinding a capella rendition at a gig about 17 or 18 years ago. That was unforgettable. From time to time I go on YouTube and watch the late crooner, Andy Williams, wrap his velvet tone around the lyrics. And then we come to Jacob’s arrangement which I have listened to today. In his own way he has reached into his heart to pour out the wisdom and medicine of Mancini’s humanitarian aid to the broken hearted of the world. Its a blessing. A small mercy for the walking wounding, stunted and immobile.

Film Score

I wrote a film score last year that I put away. One of several things I wrote in a prolific writing and recording period. Its just what I do in between my real life which is spiritually, physically, mentally and emotionally labour intensive. But I digress. I didn’t have a title for it till today. Often the music will take the lead in the naming ceremony. After listening for a concentrated period, it began to suggest its ideal and ideas. Sonically its as harsh and as blunt as its subject matter till it opens up with a bit of colour after four minutes. And as I started to think about the contrast of sharp and pounding intensity of monolithic rhythm like a plantation field that shadows the soul, the humming dabs of colour stained the picture like droplets of sweet water on the tongue. And like a drop of blood mixed with sweat, landing without a parachute on the soil of that tethered soul. On one level its about the slavery that masters the body, which is mastered by desire or beauty or something else. Everything is a slave to something. Everything is mastered by something. So Its called ‘The Slave Who Masters The Mistress’. The recording has not yet been mixed and mastered.

Baldwin

Today is a wedding ceremony. A marriage of possibilities. My cousin has exchanged vows and time will study and tell what it has seen, heard and known under God. Black life like black bodies have long been a surrealistic feast for the voyeuristic eyes of fetishists and fantasists. Joseph Conrad could not open his eyes even behind the safety of his pen, to straddle his imaginative reconstructions of the monolithic burden bearers in the heart of darkness situated in the continent of his mind’s perception.

Baldwin generously invested the deformed and fragmented faces of exotica with the unusual idea that they were worthy of being depicted as fully human, even in a foreign land. The continent is not a country. And a country in this context is not a geographical destination. The poetry of Baldwin is not merely the words sentenced to a page but rather the lives affirmed by his words dancing to the tune past the margins of hate and redeemed by love. In his writings love is the great pacifier even when it sets fire to our expectations and challenges our notions of who is worthy of grace, and the horrors that transgress the invisible inhabitants who are generational custodians of a manifested multifaceted curse with wings.

Barry Jenkins painted the poetry of James Baldwin beautifully in ‘If Beale Street Cold Talk’. Next week lovers around the world will serenade each other with cards, gifts and kisses flavoured with wine and chocolates. Babies will be conceived. Lies will be ever more creative. Truths with be earnest and unsparing. Death will still be in business. Card or no card. Life will go on. Love in its bittersweetness covers the multitude and will endure the fall out. A torn page is the pity that a chapter can afford to lose.

“Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. I use the word “love” here not merely in the personal sense but as a state of being, or a state of grace – not in the infantile American sense of being made happy but in the tough and universal sense of quest and daring and growth.”

– James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

Wettest Eye

Wettest eye watering skinned brother on the inside, arachnid crawling out, side eyed, hunger bites the heart of fear, and the killer, mother knows best, knows not the fright that drives him to stomp small creatures and their secrets, like vaporous confessions that rise up with death.

Smoke city. A body burns, like nations, like bodies burning nations. Iraq hid in flames of refutation.

Web swinger, entrapped in the ganda, hung to dry on the rope that pulled him up to the measure of Spider men, climbed into company love of misery and a tail wagged for the milk of magnesia and human kindness, as mythical as the love that murders with good intentions to broadcast.

Charity. Just spare me the charity of words like the vain in life who speak of the ignoble dead, fishing in blood rivers. Dead as purpose of Pompey. Restless in peace.

Patriots

Patriots are foreigners too. Like poets. Dead ones seem to outlive the living. Their words are the ideas that dreamers cling on to for a fictive future.

The living are dreamers at dawn. Walking on corn toes. Curved. Running the zig zag. They are pragmatic with crayons. And they laugh loud and unclear like the noise they speak.

Home is where the heart is heavy. If you cut through the chatter and chit it’s all bullsweat. Now if you knew where to bury the living, I’d hand you a shovel. No words. No songs. No honour to purchase.

They’ve got that one day exclusive on offer. Get your love at half the pain. All foreign currencies accepted. Faces are guilty but eyes are blameless.

Not Yet

Black bodies. Gold plated hope behind second skin. Black holes for weeping bullets, scream behind screens, unheard trauma scares dreams into a silence so loud that it hurts to hear. No fears to trace, to find the trail of tears that triggers the trigger of cowards and all that we choose not to see. All the cows we milk as they moo. Not yet found like Mother’s love. Away from home. Cold meat on a warm climate. Touch it. Pull. Tear it apart. A human lives behind it. Gold for skin, not cuddled, so dark as to be unseen. So much of night lives in you. Lights up your days. A paradox of mourning. You have known all your life how bright invisibility is. So shiny you didn’t need virtue to polish the skin that hides your identity. When is a human a being? In the womb of contemplation is a seed travelling the possibilities of being alive in a world not yet born.

 

The Want (Dabbler’s Hand) – A Short Film by Napoleon Dozier

In July 2003 I composed and recorded a piece of music called ‘Dabbler’s Hand’. An amalgamation of Piano and Synths descending violently on top of each other in confined space, struggling together on a bass line holding the pocket, with percussive late night intensity, in their attempt to exist and be heard. The music was the manifestation of my hypersensitivity and Synaesthesia (coloured hearing). During that period of time between my early teenage years and mid 20’s, I seemed to feel everything deeply. I wanted to absorb everything emotionally, to feel what was felt by others. Not so much the pain, but all the yearning, longing and desire of youth and maturity.
Some years later I added the music to footage I recorded of the high streets of Central London, from the vantage point of the top deck of a bus. I kept the camera rooted in one spot like a picture frame with masses of faceless people moving in and out of it. The footage is hazy. Every face being passed by the camera symbolises past, present, future, loves lost, forgotten, remembered, drifting in and out of your life or your memory. Those faceless masses also symbolise Time and the idea that we are constantly in motion. Time doesn’t stand still. Infact, Time is one of the two central characters in the film.
As the film nears its end the music stops. Eventually an ‘old’ man comes into the frame of view, with the focus on him. He is not faceless like the moving masses who represent ‘Time’. He walks forwards slowly, as people breeze by him. Then he stops and pauses for a lingering, metaphorical moment. The ‘old’ man is a representation of all our humanity because he has been young and is now advanced in age (Youth and Maturity), knowing all that comes with both distinctions. In that brief moment with Time (the helter skelter faceless masses) passing him by, he represents all the yearning of young and old, the desire to exist, to have our face remembered. He is the embodiment of our desire to withstand the test of Time, and our attempt to transcend it, as we cannot halt its forceful hands. In that moment he reminds us to pause and consider our lives and loved ones, and even strangers that pass us by. As insignificant as we may seem, we matter. People matter. Every life matters. In that brief moment of stillness, he cuts through the drift of Time. And then he walks out of the frame of the camera. That’s where my camera battery (and the film) ended, as if composed and directed with foresight. I called this film, ‘The Want (Dabbler’s Hand)’. In some ways we are all dabblers. Amateurs in the game of life, taking a chance at something or someone, and hoping that we’ll survive the roller coaster adventure and find some resolution if we should fall. Again and again.
The Want (Dabbler's Hand)