An Igbo couple in Lagos, 1955, reads the caption. I still find myself in contemplation of the fact that once upon a time most lives lived were untold or rather undocumented. And it didn’t matter. Your world was a village. A town. Maybe the expanse of a city. And that’s all the world that might have known of you. The people you encountered. Perhaps they wouldn’t have a picture of you, so you would have only existed in the memories of people till they unremembered you. Cause you still existed in the memory. At least in real time, when you encountered and were accounted. So what can one do with images without a context? Maybe this is one of the chief reasons why fiction as a literary form is enduring and vital. These people caught in the lens of their lifetime could be any number of possibilities of character and story that is invented. It is probable, though I can’t prove it, that every human scenario has already been lived before so that even projections into vacant images to invent narratives are old tales retold in new clothes.
This Roman city has been my stomping ground for all my life, and like a woman, it remains a mystery to me. A beautiful and sometimes infuriating mystery. And with all its challenges and failings, it has a beating heart that dares you to embrace it. Its old architecture and industry built from the profits of the slave trade, colonialism and the far reaches of the British Empire are part of London’s legacy. As a post colonial descendant, I am able to harness the history of London as both a symbol and witness of the city’s possibilities. The immigrant blood that upholds the NHS and that has permeated its way into the life and culture of Londoners is only one of many ways in which the history contends with the present. I try to see the beauty, resilience and hope that escapes into the polluted London air. I see the London of the Arts. I think of the fact that London can claim Mozart, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley and Marvin Gaye as former residents. Its been the city of visionaries like William Blake. It gave the world the genius pathos of Charlie Chaplin. Its the city of Shakespeare and boasts the world’s greatest theatre scene and tradition. Charles Dickens did not hide the ugliness and brutality of London. Neither did Dizzee Rascal. As reflected in the Grime and Drill music, London has a screw face too. Knives and young lives have not been kind to eachother. But I’ll always be grateful to London because its where I found the great love of my life. She knows who she is. I hope that we will enjoy this city together again someday. A man can dream. I love London.
Was it fundamental to die before we ever got to learn about who we were? Our second birth gave us skin. We await our humanity on the third go round. The unreturned, who never knew sleep didn’t discern the need to play on the hallow ground or ween on the blood of sacrifice.
Basil chases the child who runs into walls. Transparent heart is planted in a climate of hate. Lucent as the dark covering, lashes closed the eyes they never used. See through your sounds, the blind mouth utters crimes of thought, a berry too sweet to swallow all at once.
Drown deep slowly. You are continents of water. Drown long and timeless. You are bodies of murder. Drown soft, you are but a baby in all your lifetimes spent searching for your soul.
80s was Mr T and Murdoch, Wimpy for the toys that went with the grub, scuffling at the laundrette, Cheetara, He-Man and She-Ra, Ghostbusters and Thriller, Christopher Reeves was Superman, comics were Marvel, Peter Parker made sense to this kid back then, had a Mary Jane of my own wired imagination that bought me a Batman action figure in 89, best friends were Irish, Egyptian, and Indian, literature was Roald Dahl and Hardy Boys, arcades were where we hung out, if I wasn’t at the library (Damilola Taylor and I would have been buddies if our years crossed paths), Street Fighter, Pizza Tropicana was the spot where Minesh and his brother got shook, gangs snatched watches and pocket money, I got lucky one time, more than once, BMX bikes were the wheels of dreams, indoors we drove Scalextric cars, soundtrack was pop, trust was Prince, Vicki Vale was the Kim that rocked our world, View to a kill, old Roger was my Bond, caught the whiff of adventure and grabbed the hat I wear in the present, Indiana Jones, red was my colour, had to be a Jedi thing, Murphy was Robocop and Eddie, the golden child, the leader of a primary school country dance, class of 89, Mary Anne, French as my name, teacher was Polish, she remembered me too, spitting image, Nintendo, a falling wall, kinda spooky channel 4 girl at the end of transmission, never thought much about the doll…..
I see with foresight the burning, naked and aged skin that sheds its fears to reveal a doubt which weighs heavily on the water that contains the boat of promises, still wet and unclean as misguided infancy and the harbour that yields to the shame.
A codependency of misfortune. A child raises its parent, addicted on the imposter serum mislabled as power. Every miscellaneous shell of a citizen has walked the plank. The inquisition has been and gone, and the version of future that is being foretold has cast its judgement on history.
We are the here and now and the dead and gone. Both tied to past denial and the second coming of delusions. What is a country, if its offspring can claim to not recognise its swollen face, with eyes leaning over the balcony to survey the dead of hope, whose bones protest while the dogs strip off the flesh of indignation, clean of evidence. And what of mothers who sought out land within that hostile terrain to make an idea out of dispossession, four walls of tender to tame the patriach’s emasculated by conquest and subjugation? A father’s name carries only the tide and its tongues, of tribulation and tribe but to which child does a country belongs to?
A body of water and blood where we drown our morning sorrows, again. And threaten to sleep with our decaying spouse hung by the terror that was born in us.
Clementine kisses you on the nose. Rose button drowned in your eyes. I drank your milk of kindness through my lies. Red wine and coke, you must play through the madness. Best thing you ever heard in your blindness. Muted tongue on pause bites the lip that feeds you. I remember what mama told me. And I remember you. Oh so tall in stature till they bent you over the bullsweat. They have teeth to match your fangs. And tongues of fire to heat up your secular soul. It burns just as hot on the outside of the inn. Keep it. She’s a keeper said nobody but your gentrifried mind. The flame dies but twice. Let it burn like the bushes of vanity, skin deep and heart swept feet off the ground, you put the foot in the mouth but forgot to bite down on it. Deep dead on it. Liver for the thrill. Killer of sheep you ran through the mill on a goose chase for the ages. Bronzed behaviour patterns after laughter and the clock is tocking.
Some say Blondes have the most fun. Rage is the orphaned child belonging to all and none. Like all theatre there is drama and comedy. On stage there is pomp and circumstance. Scripted and improvised. We live in the deceptive age of personality and individualism. But the bubble wrapped world of politricks and ticks is not conducive for the soul’s freedom of speech in bodily form. Demostatic like the air. Hair is the common denominator. It grows up. It gets cut down. Chemically relaxed and straightened to death or it hangs loose and long. Curly by nature and nurtured by pharmacy. This is the world. An extinction level game.
These streets seemingly paved with gold know the poverty of spirit of so many victims of choice who walk upon the burdened concrete reality. Not galant in stride. Not jovial in the hop to side step a strangerly neighbour. Yet to meet with fate or her match unmade in Hell. Better the Devil you don’t know at the end of the road you never crossed. Mercy’s mistress wets the night with pitiful tears and a Crocodile drys its eyes.
It dawned on me this week that its been 20 years since I’ve been writing songs. Over that time I’d like to think that I’ve learnt a few things about music composition and myself. I’ve always loved creating and over the years I’ve enjoyed painting, sculpture, and various genres of writing, but nothing has been as rewarding as seeing the germ of an idea travel through the universe of my heart, mind and soul into a song. It is a thing of wonder. At one point in time I was meticulous in keeping records of my work. Dates and places. Not so meticulous about equipment. I’ve worked with a variety of keyboards on the low bracket and three guitars. I’ve worked closely with one songwriting partner for a period but mostly alone. The gift and the curse is that an idea can take over your life. You persue it, in or out of pocket, whether its affordable to dream it into reality or not. You dream about what a song can be when given its wings. I’ve studied the work of many songwriters, famous and obscure, but when I create, its from the blood of my soul. This year I had the pleasure to complete the recording of a song that meant a lot to me at this stage in my life. I had to wait almost two years to get the artist I wanted to breathe more beauty into what was already the apple of my eye. I still can’t say I’m done with it but the journey is its own reward. I feel fortunate to have written it and the hundreds of others. I am also grateful for the people who have helped me in collaboration. Musicians and engineers. Friends and hired hands. The inspiration has come from every conceivable thought, memory, feeling,…all corners of the human experience. I thank God for my inner ears and the organs that work together with the spirit in me. Curtis Mayfield is one of my many teachers, and I know I wouldn’t have become the songwriter I am without the lessons I learnt from the craftsmanship of masters like him.
July juxtapositions strangers and life is an exercise for eyes that lament the unanswerable. Streams of thought drown out the intrinsic fear to ask of who they are and what they know. I often wonder about what they have seen when they gaze at the wind or the silence that screams their middle names out of view.
A man wrestling is a man whistling.
Do you always see ghosts and tell of their whereabouts? Hiding places are the low tide. I never question the voices unheard in the storm of ones incoherence. Or the certainty of the unbelievers in the masquerade. What burden of proof will you wear today? And how will you dress down your despair? Welcome is a mask without a face to invent. I wear every doubt you’ve ever had about me with pride. Shameless like you wouldn’t believe. But then again, most of us were reborn naked. Some of us will die that way