Africa In the House

South African House Music is groovy like house music is meant to be, and, bonus, it’s African. This adds lots of spice and great singing to the mix. Hear for yourself.

Even more ingratiating and upbeat is this long medley of African gospel music videos. These strike me as wonderfully optimistic in the age of Trump, and a growing dark movement of ignorance in the USA.

Herbie Tsoaeli, In the Spirit of Johnny Dyani

herbi-tsoaeli


with Zim “Zimology” Ngqawana

There is a web site called Africanjazz. I had never visited it because I didn’t know it was ‘out there.’ But, as often happens when I am in my emusic account and dealing with the chaotic sprawl of its offerings looking to bring some new music into my world, I leaned into Google, and, discovered a page of brand new recommendations at AfricanJazz about jazz from South Africa.

There I discovered bassist Herbie Tsoaeli‘s new recording African Time Quartet in Concert (Live.) Went back to emusic and downloaded it. It is a strong statement of the people’s music, as Abdullah Ibrahim would call it.

iTunes link

I had seen Tsoaeli’s name on recordings by SA greats Zim Ngqawana and Winston Mankunku Ngozi, but I had not noted a year ago that his debut recording African Time had been named the South African Jazz Record of the Year for 2013.

https://soundcloud.com/city-press/herbie-tsoaeli-quartet

Herbie Tsoaeli Facebook

Nduduzo Makhathini‘s new, superb recording of solo piano is titled Mother Tongue.

South African Jazz on the web;
music.org.za
jazzE Magazine

Legendary bassist Johnny Dyani, who notably played with The Blue Notes and Abdullah Ibrahim, was, stature-wise, his continent’s Charles Mingus. This post remembers with fondness the flame of Dyani fervor that inflected my musical friends during the Vermont years. You know who you are.

Hoon’s Tune & Muso Faves of Faves – 2014

Over the past week I’ve unveiled some of the music that brought me satisfaction and, often, extraordinary moments of sonic alignment–which is how great music strikes me, and, has struck me for forty-five years.

Nowadays it is clear that musical culture in the USA revolves around everybody being their own mix master. Almost all the music mentioned in the previous week’s post can be sampled via Spotify or Pandora. It can be purchased at iTunes or Amazon or GooglePlay, yet the best place to purchase it, is at the artist’s web site–where such an opportunity exists.

The following is my ordering of my very favorite releases from last year. This evaluation isn’t intended to parse artistic merit. It just serves my desire to name Wussy the album of the year, and to put their superb Attica in the company of other peerless examples of vital musical artistry.

12 ESSENTIAL RECORDINGS – 2014
1. Wussy – Attica |buy direct| ***record of the year*** 
2. The Swans – To Be Kind |buy direct|
3. Sam Newsome – The Straight Horn of Africa A Path to Liberation (Art of the Soprano, V2) |buy Amazon|
4. Noura Mint Seymali (Mauritania) – Tzenni |buy direct|
5. D’Angelo & The Vanguard – Black Messiah |buy Amazon|
6. Hassan Hakmoun (Morocco) – Unity |buy Amazon|
7. Tisziji Munoz – Taking You Out There! Live |buy direct|
8. Irma Thomas – Full Time Woman (The Lost Cotillion Album)
|buy Lousiana Music Factory|
9. Aya Nishina – Flora [from 2013] |buy|
10.The War On Drugs – Lost In The Dream |buy direct|
11.Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds In Country Music |buy direct|
12.FKA Twigs – LP1 |buy Amazon|

Special Mention – Archival Discovery of the Year


John Coltrane – Offering – Live at Temple University |buy Resonance Records|

Hoon’s Tunes and Muso Favorites 2014 – Africa

NOURAMINTSEYMALI

AFRICA
Noura Mint Seymali – Tzenni

Produced and recorded across an appropriately dizzying array of locations and social contexts (New York City, Dakar, Nouakchott) the album Tzenni is a contemporary articulation of Moorish griot music from Mauritania—an artform that has been evolving and gaining momentum for centuries—as voiced by Noura Mint Seymali, an artist profoundly steeped in its history and rigorously devoted to its global resonance.

Noura Mint Seymali comes from a long line of visionary musicians. Seymali Ould Ahmed Vall, her father, was a scholar-artist instrumental in opening Mauritanian music to the world; devising the first system for Moorish melodic notation, adapting music for the national anthem, and composing works popularized by his wife (Noura’s step-mother), the great Dimi Mint Abba. From her precocious beginnings as a teenaged backing vocalist with Dimi Mint Abba, Noura Mint Seymali now drives the legacy forward, re-calibrating Moorish music for our contemporary moment. Her band’s arrangements, rigor, and experimental spirit may be understood as a continuation of the tradition of Seymali, Dimi, her grandmother Mounina, and countless others.

Together with her husband, heroic guitarist Jeiche Ould Chighaly, who brings the force of yet another powerful branch of Moorish musical lineage, the band on this recording was conceived as a distillation of essential elements, the “azawan” and the backbeat. The ardine & tidinit (or guitar) together are the “azawan,” the leading ensemble of Moorish traditional music, while bass & drums, played here by Ousmane Touré and Matthew Tinari, fortify it with genre transcendent funk and a basic pop urgency. Tzenni re-visits several classics of the Moorish repertoire, but does so within a novel formation, conversant in the pop idiom, and with Noura Mint Seymali’s personal history interwoven throughout. The practice of aligning music to a given socio-historical and personal moment is an essential charge of the iggawen, or griot, and, we believe, of artists everywhere.

As we seek to convey another turn in the Mauritanian musical dialectic, Tzenni is ultimately an album about shape shifting, faith, and stability found through instability. It’s about taking the positive with the negative in a world that can only ever keep turning at break neck speed. We invite you to spin with us, to dance with us, through the music on this rec

Noura Mint Seymali is one of Mauritania’s young celebrities, a griot from a celebrated musical family, who started out as a backing vocalist for her celebrated stepmother, Dimi Mint Abba, and has now developed an exuberant, full-tilt style of her own. She accompanies herself on the ardine, the nine-stringed harp traditionally played only by women, but the songs are dominated by the furious, stuttering electric guitar work of her husband Jeiche Ould Chighaly, who is also an exponent of the traditional, guitar-like tidinet. This is an album of gutsy, declamatory playing and singing, from the slow and then exuberant traditional love song El Barm to the powerful, chanting Tikifite, a Dimi Mint Abba favourite. (The Guardian)

OTHER GEMS
Kasai Allstars – Beware the Fetish
Tinariwen – Emmaar
Aby Ngana Diop – Liital
Tony Allen – Film of Life
Zongo Junction – No Discount
Anansy Cisse – Mali Overdrive
Lala Njava – Malagasy Blues Song
Chiwoniso – Rebel Woman
Mammane Sanni Abdoulaye – Taaritt
Sinkane – Mean Love
Young Fathers – Dead
Seun Kuti + Egypt 80 – A Long Way to the Beginning

REISSUE
Verckys et l´Orchestre Ve?ve? – Congolese Funk, Afrobeat & Psychedelic Rumba 1969?-?1978

OTHER REISSUED GEMS
William Onyeabor – Boxset 1&2
Francis Bebey – Psychedelic Sanza 1982-1984
Kassa Tessema – Ethiopiques 29 Mastawesha
Les Ambassadeurs du Motel de Bamako – Les Ambassadeurs du Motel de Bamako

Analog Africa is Essential

Verckys et l´Orchestre Vévé: Congolese Funk, Afrobeat & Psychedelic Rumba 1969-1978
release date: December 2

Analog Africa puts out deluxe sets of curated African and other diasporatical music in old fashioned packages and as lossless downloads on Bandcamp.

Tony Allen On the Road, Drumming

tony-allen1


new track

The future? Well, as long as I’m around I’m going to keep doing what I do. I’ll be playing music until my last breath.

http://youtu.be/3h50yScAoqk
full album; “field recordings”

Tony_Allen_-_Film_Of_Lifec1
African rhythmic mastery evokes best world music recording of 2014.

*Red Bull Music Academy – Interview transcript – essential if you’re into the beat

Tony Allen on Twitter

Abdullah Ibrahim Gems on Youtube

Ekaya 2014
Abdullah Ibrahim & Ekaya (2014)

Here’s a selection of some of the best Abdullah Ibrahim youtube videos. If you’re reading this, I hope you take 60 minutes of your valuable time to give a listen to the artistry of Dr. Ibrahim. For people who happen to be especially sensitive to, and receptive of, the sound the human spirit makes when it is channeling extrapolations of the eternal mysterious formulas, remember the insight of Inayat Khan,

There is nothing in this world which does not speak. Every thing and every being is continually calling out its nature, its character, its secret; the more the inner sense is open, the more capable it becomes of hearing the voice of all things. What we call music in our everyday language is only a miniature, which our intelligence has grasped from that music or harmony of the whole universe which is working behind everything, and which is the source and origin of nature. It is because of this that the wise of all ages have considered music to be a sacred art. For in music the seer can see the picture of the whole universe; and the wise can interpret the secret and the nature of the working of the whole universe in the realm of music. (Inayat Khan)


Torino Jazz Festival 2013
28 April 2013

Jazz Piano Festival, Kalisz, Poland
December 9, 1984

Abdullah Ibrahim (piano)
Carlos Ward (alto sax, flute)


Full concert set featuring Ekaya, from 2011
*horrifying ad to skip over at beginning*

1968 NDR-Hamburg (G), Abdullah Ibrahim (p) John Tchicai, Gato Barbieri (reeds) Barre Phillips (b) Makaya Ntshoko (d): Jabolani (= “Joy”) (poster) I guess there is no other known earlier TV-clip from Abdullah Ibrahim than this 1968 clip and wonder why it isn´t already uploaded. Same to be said about the following clips of general interest from Michael Naura´s German Jazz-TV series in the early 1980s.

Wow!

bonus: half of African Piano, Sackville

Circling the Mountain

Mountain-1
(1999) Biography I am a mountain. You call, I echo.
(“Mountain” is both source and metaphor for the sacred message given to people from the heights of cosmic creativity.)

Perhaps the most gifted African musician working within the fused ancestral streams of African+American music, Abdullah Ibrahim, formerly known as Dollar Brand, is a pianist, composer, arranger, band leader and teacher. He is among the preeminent proponents of music as a healing and transformative tool. He has brought to bear upon his music influences from the artistic royalty of American Jazz and African musics. The thrust of his gifts is an expression of this lineage. His creative intention has been secured through his deep Faith. Abdullah Ibrahim’s understanding of the far-reaching roots of the healing traditions of both music and people’s art is comprehensive.

Many who have encountered Abdullah Ibrahim would also call him a teacher…including many of those who make up his worldwide audience. There is no escaping the transformative power of his music should one approach it with receptivity. In this respect he is both teacher and student, standing as exemplar within the chain of transmission which posits that every person is being inexorably drawn home and is capable of both openness and activation, of being taught and teaching, of following the path and leading others along it.

Born in 1934 and raised in Cape Town, the young Adolphes Johannos Brand was fortunate: his family owned a piano, and, his mother led the choir while his grandmother was the pianist for the local A.M.E. Church. Very early on her hymns and spirituals made an impression on the young Brand, who began learning piano at the age of seven. At some point he was exposed to Meade Lux Lewis and Fats Waller. Later in the forties he first heard the jumping Jazz of Erskine Hawkins, Tiny Bradshaw, Louis Jordan and other American musicians whose 78rpm discs were available for mere ‘dollars’ from the sailors and seamen put in at the great international port.

“We played a lot of boogie woogie back then. It had structure very similar to our native songs. We never regarded the music as foreign; it was just the music of our brothers and sisters in another part of the world. And in our corner there were great piano players: they didn’t play Jazz however; they played tradition…pure African Tradition.”

His musical awareness became enriched by the musical melting pot of the seaport. In Cape Town traditional African tribal musics, Cape Malay songs, hymns, carnival and street music, British low-popular, music of the local communities of Chinese, Indian, and Muslims, ‘Shabeen’ (speak easy,) dance music (called marabi and kwela,) American pop, rhythm and blues, and Jazz were integral to the local musical culture.

While in high school he gained professional experience as the leader of various dance combos. Afterword ‘Dollar’ Brand knocked about the Cape Town music scene and continued to soak up influences. He began his local career as a vocalist with the Streamline Brothers, then as a pianist first with the Tuxedo Slickers, next with Willie Max.

In 1959 he joined forces with the legendary alto saxophonist Kippie Moketsi, and along with trumpeter Hugh Masekela, formed The Jazz Epistles, melding dance music with Jazz. This radical fusion of swinging Jazz and ‘Shabeen’ dance music took Cape Town by storm. More importantly, Brand fell under the defining influence of the worldly Moketsi who filled his ears with the sounds of more Jazz royalty: Parker, Gillespie, and Monk. Kippie Moketsi’s insistence on the dignity of the music and music-making fathered Dollar Brand’s reapplication to the music, a seriousness of purpose which sustains his music to this day.

Commenting after Moketsi passed away in 1983, “Kippie’s life was not wasted! How could it be when it was Kippie who gave us everything we know? We have just built on from what he has taught us.”

Life for professional musicians was not made easy by apartheid. Because music performances required the separate groups to congregate with only their own ‘category’ and because any race mixing was illegal, the authorities made it difficult to produce even small size public concerts. The barriers erected by the ‘state’ to prevent the local musicians from building an audience were severe and effective. The only avenues for establishing a career were to play the ‘white’ nightclubs and be confronted with the full force of the cultural and social scandal or play under the sponsorship of the gangster bosses who kept the illegal nightlife going in the townships.

Expressions of serious artistic intent were especially frowned upon unless the artistry could be co-opted as exotica for the high brow audience. Such was the case with the musical “King Kong” in 1961. Although it showcased township music and attracted the country’s top musicians, it was soon highjacked by the government for public relations purposes. Dollar Brand’s refusal to tour abroad with the cast shifted his identification beyond being merely one of his country’s most popular musicians. Clearly the state’s policies and his artistry and its imperatives were on a collision course by that time.

“While they went overseas I locked myself away, sticking to our musical agenda, doing what Charlie Parker called ‘wood-shedding’…I just played and played, sometimes I’d work twenty hours a day. When I came out I could play.”

In early 1962, Abdullah Ibrahim and his wife-to-be, vocalist Sathima Bea Benjamin, left South Africa where the always horrific political situation was deteriorating into its darkest era. (His departure set him upon an odyssey that would not allow him to return to Cape Town permanently until 1992.) Over the next three years Abdullah Ibrahim and Sathima lived for short periods at various spots in Europe, but initially they settled down and shared a gig at a coffee house in Zurich.

During this period, about a year into their stay in Switzerland, Sathima ‘hipped’ the touring Duke Ellington to come check out her boyfriend’s performance at a local club. It was more than fortuitous…the Duke was, in Abdullah’s estimation, a King. This moment would complete the first circle of Abdullah’s career, cycling from the homeland and its kingships to the King of American Jazz, who’s person and music was already singularly central to Abdullah’s own music. Four days later the pianist and the Duke were in the Barclay Studios in Paris at which he recorded one record for Reprise, Ellington’s label of the time. He and his trio appeared at the Antibbes Jazz Festival in 1964.

Also during 1964 Ibrahim began to work on compositions for larger ensemble, several of which were played by the Danish Radio Big Band.While in Copenhagen. He recorded for Alan Bates and Black Lion Records a series of trio records with fellow ex-patriots Johnny Gertze and Makaya Ntshoko. It is also worth noting that in the cauldron of changes going on in the Jazz world at the time, his own music was advancing as well. The Black Lion dates are notable for their lyricism influenced by Ellington, their alchemy inspired by Thelonious Monk and intensity stoked by John Coltrane and the saxophonist’s convictions. Long form compositions, such as the epic “Anatomy of a South African Village,” a five part suite originally written for large ensemble, were startling developments coming as they did on the cusp of a remarkable period in music history about to be overwhelmed by the ‘British’ rock and roll invasion.

Yet, his progress during 1965 also was darkened by new laws in South Africa banning all race mixing. It was now impossible for Brand to present his music in his homeland performed by a big band of South African musicians. After three years of preparation, with a portfolio filled with epic scores, the ‘African Tradition’ big band project was dashed against the rocks of apartheid.

Urged to come to the United States by Ellington, Ibrahim in 1965 played a notable solo concert at Carnegie Hall, and later that year received the highest tribute, being invited to fill the piano chair of the Duke Ellington Orchestra for five dates during its east coast tour. While in New York, he had several encounters with Thelonious Monk which made a lasting impression. Once again a direct line is drawn between ancestral kingship and a musical King.

For the next five years Abdullah and Sathima literally bounced around between Europe and the United States. During 1966 he recorded with the group of Elvin Jones and made an important duo record with Gato Barbieri.

He converted to Islam in 1968, receiving the honored name, Abdullah Ibrahim. His discipline turned naturally toward inward and in support of a renewed spiritual commitment and discipline, deepening the iteration of his music; quickening it, as he himself was quickened.

“Many times I would hear a sound and suddenly it would dawn on me that this was the same pattern being used in a different culture. At a very early age Allah blessed me to recognize the universality of music.”

During this period the pianist recorded prolifically in Europe and Canada, etching gripping extended piano essays for Japo, ECM, Enja and Sackville. These recordings brought him great recognition: they were monumental in their extension of the free-spirited wave of late 60?s creative music while at the same time they were anchored, as a mountain is to the landscape, to both the Jazz and African creative continuum. Ibrahim’s early 70?s burst of music broke over the music world like an irrepressible wave, reconciling for many listeners the free form and the ancestral. With this surge of recording activity he began to impress his distinctive musical gifts on a worldwide audience, staking his early international reputation as an infectious and intense solo pianist. Not surprisingly, his appealing expression of simple, timeless ‘Africanized’ melodies preceded and anticipated the success of Keith Jarrett’s solo work, and a few years later, the insipid, platinum-selling musings of George Winston.

Abdullah and Sathima settled in Swaziland in 1971, yet Ibrahim was often on the road touring and recording. In 1973 he recorded his epic big band date “African Space Program” for Enja in New York City. Sonny Fortune, Carlos Ward, Cecil McBee, John Stubblefield and Roy Brooks would come out of that band to form the nucleas of various small groups that toured steadily in the early seventies and were the first incarnation of the -Ekaya- concept.

The Ibrahim family returned to Cape Town in 1973. Between 1974 and 1976 he made his last recordings with South African musicians (until 1992). The fruits of those sessions would include a stirring vamp, “Mannenberg”, (also titled on the original issue “It’s Where’s It’s Happening” [note 1] and reissued in the United States under the title “Capetown Fringe,”) that became the anthem of the post-Soweto uprising (1976) era with its uncompromising evocation of the peoples’ life and hope amongst the death and despair of the government’s brutal and appalling backlash. Then, in 1976, Abdullah Ibrahim made the irrevocable decision to exile himself and his family as a protest against the government’s brutal repression and the horrible conditions in South Africa. Upon his return to the United States, he decided to become among the most prominent artists-in-exile from South Africa, its dictatorship, and the political and social enslavement of apartheid. He refused to return until South Africa held democratic elections.

This image that looks like me was painted by the Friend.
You think I’m speaking these words?
When a key turns in a lock, the lock makes a little opening sound.
(Rumi, r.a., translation Coleman Barks)

Late in 1976, Abdullah Ibrahim and his family moved to New York where he would establish a production company, Ekapa/RPM, and a stable homebase for the first time since the fateful trip to Switzerland in 1963. Adding to what has become one of the most vital bodies of recorded work in creative music during the late 70?s and early 80?s, he moved on to reward listeners with a brilliant series of duet recordings with Archie Shepp, Max Roach, and, most crucially, with the South African multi-instrumentalist, Johnny Dyani. The Panamanian saxophonist and flautist Carlos Ward joined with the pianist to record the brilliant “Zimbabwe” (on Enja) to begin another key musical relationship. The groundwork for the septet Ekaya was being laid in New York and on the road as Abdullah Ibrahim led quartet and quintet sized groups on frequent tours, bringing the ‘Ekapa’ sound to Europe, Japan, and (back to) America. Ibrahim, between the end of 1973 and 1983, etched over two dozen records, including thirteen for Enja and his last records made in South Africa with Kippie Moketsi. It is as shocking and beautiful an outburst of artistry as is to be found anywhere in creative music!

note 1: Principally Lars Rasmussen, authorized discographer for Abdullah Ibrahim, and others, have clarified the point that the composition “Mannenberg” was retitled as “Cape Town Fringe” (once issued in the USA on a Chiaroscuro LP of the same name,) and “Mannenberg Revisited”, and is not to be confused with the different composition “Soweto Is Where It’s At”. My thanks to all who have provided me with correct information.

note 2 (2014): Sathima Bea Benjamin passed away April 2013.

note 3 (2014): the author Stephen Calhoun was associated with Satima Bea Benjamin and Abdullah Ibrahim’s Ekapa/RPM (NYC) 1987-1990; he maintained several iterations of the fan site, Abdullah Ibrahim Mantra Modes 1996-2011; and remains an advocate for the growth of freedom, peace and the loving family of mankind–conceptions advantaged by the soundtrack exemplified by the artistry of Dr. Ibrahim.

Two Views

aiatp

The music of Abdullah Ibrahim has many similarities to that of his early mentor and constant inspiration, Duke Ellington. His playing is characterized by that strong hand and decisive touch, stark chords and cavernous voicings; there is plentiful structural use of trills, arpeggios, and vistas of space; there are insistent stride lefts, resonant pedal tones, bold and rugged landscapes of unforgettable, unimaginable lands, especially evident in solo performance. In a broader sense, there is the prolific pen, the indelible live impressions, the massive integrity.

…As Abdullah Ibrahim has said: “I am not a musician. I am being played.” That’s a little like Duke, in a wry self-interview, asking himself, “Besides God what sustains you?” and answering, “Not besides. How does one manage without God?”

Fred Bouchard; excerpted from the liner notes to Africa: Tears and Laughter

aimmlogo

None the less the black man’s African music inevitably suffered, in his white world, a sea-change more radical than this: for it came into contact, and then conflict, with the musical manifestations of the New World, particularly as exemplified in the white hymn and march. The hymn offered a substratum of western tonic, dominant and subdominant harmony; the march provided also the four square beat of military discipline: and these elements became, in musical terms, literally a prison against which black modal melody and polymetric rhythm beat -violently, yet not in vain, for from tension is generated ebullience. Combat may lead to liberation; pain may heal.

The story inherent in his music is indeed the story of Africa. The Township phase is childhood and adolescence, and escape into euphoria; the American phase grows up to confront tension and anguish, personal, social, religious and political; while the African phase is reaffirmation, both because it musically reintegrates the seemingly contradictory aspects of his experience, and also because it is a direct imaginative statement of Moslem belief.

Starting from barrelhouse blues, enriched by Ellington’s symphonic sonorities, and tautened by Monk’s brittle pianism, he honky tonks the barrelhouse train into jungle or desert, handing the music back to his ancestors. The sharper the juxtaposition of opposites the more positive is the effect: snatches of African tribal ditties and communally pounding drums meld with British missionary hymns and sanctimonious-sounding European chord sequences to generate not only corporeal virility, but also spiritual ecstasis. Black ostinati interact with white evangelical harmony and flower, through the catalyst of American jazz, into a regenerative experience that overrides time and place. The most African movements prove, pointedly, to be also the most universal.

Within the ragbag of races and conventions that make a global village, the disparities of straight line and circle, reconciled, forge new life in an act of praise…balanced on a razor-edge between hazard and hope.

©Wilfred Mellars, excerpted from the notes to Autobiography (Plainesphere)

Magical Eighty

Abdullah Ibrahim & me, 1987
Abdullah Ibrahim & me, 1987
Today, on my friend Abdullah Ibrahim’s 80th birthday, I commence bringing to this blog archival posts and essays from the Abdullah Ibrahim’s Mantra Modes blog (1999-2014.) That blog will be shut down and its contents will be integrated here under its own category.

A PERSONAL APPRECIATION (2003; updated 2014)

I came to Abdullah Ibrahim’s music out of a giant love and regard for the music and artistic kingship of Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, and, especially, Thelonious Monk. Although I was quite certain about the pantheon those geniuses inhabited, and the meaningfulness of the gifts my long, abiding , engagement with their music had brought to me, instantly, in the aftermath of hearing Abdullah Ibrahim for the first time around 1976, he became my personal favorite musician.

Much later I would strike up an association with A.I. and his family that proved more than meaningful…it proved to be a fortuitous, life changing experience. We eventually would even develop a loose professional association, sharing ideas about the business implications of what he termed peoples’ music. I was grateful to spend many moments with Abdullah and his wife Sathima. The memories abound!

Still, there was a time when it didn’t make much sense to me. Without a doubt, I took our relationship for granted. (How many persons are so fortunate to even meet their favorite musicians?) Despite the accrued hours of listening accumulated over more than twenty-five years and my exposure to tens of musics and hundreds of musical artists, it wasn’t until 1988, while I sat with Abdullah Ibrahim at a table in the student center at Middlebury College in Vermont, amidst the bustle of both lunchtime and my own ignorance, that I would be given the opportunity to comprehend just how it was a particular musical arrow made its way into a particular heart, my heart.

Abdullah took out a felt tip pen and, after unfolding a paper napkin, proceeded to draw profiles of the earth’s continents in a rough projected map. Then he began to quickly note the similarities in harmony, instruments, and approach of a wide variety of folkloric musics until he had identified multiple “centers of musical science,” (as he put it,) at which point he began to tell me of the migrations of various peoples, their musical knowledge, and other kinds of knowledge, over vast ocean and land distances. These routes he called “paths of transmission”. He explained to me how this led to both a cross-pollination of musical science at the same time such transmissions guaranteed the “sound basis” for each tradition remained rooted in the sublime simplicity of “the original musical science”. He added, “This history is not commonly known! Very soon the napkin was a tangle of centers and routes. It looked like some sort of plant self-organizing along seemingly random tendrils to birth additional offshoots.

Abdullah didn’t upset this metaphor when I brought it up, he only realigned my consideration to encompass the web so drawn within the image of a “vast system of rivers” along which the “verbal and nutritional and sound and color and healing and herbal and movement sciences” travelled over eons. I became struck with a startling comprehension of how the river system provided necessary nourishment and harmonization which served to vitalize the propagation of the human spirit. We sat in silence, no further speaking was necessary, nor did it ensue.

Later, I came to understand something about my sensitivity to sound.

Abdullah recounts his first meeting with Thelonious Monk in the early 60’s, a meeting at which, after Abdullah’s introducing himself to his forbearer, he was thunderstruck by Monk’s “being one of God’s ancient scientists, an ‘African King'”

Never will I forget walking out of a movie theatre in Montpelier, Vermont, on a brisk July night in 1988 having just viewed the movie Straight, No Chaser with Abdullah and our friend Deborah. As we hit the sidewalk Abdullah did a Monk-like dance down the street. As we stopped at the corner, he was reminded of the difficult construction and harmony of “Brilliant Corners”. Right then and there he sang it to us. He sang more ‘proper’ melodies of certain Monk songs by way of explaining how often musicians ‘unable to really deal with Monk’s music,’ would simplify Monk’s compositions. Silence: Abdullah seemed to get very somber.

It’s a lifetime’s work to deal with Monk.

Just as suddenly Abdullah brightened and turning to Deborah, also a pianist, he told her,

To play Monk you must dance!

Abdullah once told me there were three levels of his music: (one) “there is the ensemble music…very powerful and being expressed for the peoples of the world;” (two) “there is solo piano…which demands much more attention and won’t provide its rewards for everybody;” (three) “finally, there is our singing ‘unit’ which is by invitation only, may be perilous for the unprepared, and, is the connection!”

I asked him if he got nervous before performances.

“Afraid? Always. I never know what message I will be asked to deliver.”

The Ancestral Relation
May such inspiration impact the reconciliation and healing of
South Africa, Africa and, the COSMIC AFRICA (source of ‘all’)
that has at its center the Original Mountain out of which flows the One Creative River that formulates a Spiral
and describes the Timeless Circular Ocean
out of which the Human Spirit is able to sip and taste
Nobility, Majesty, Truth and Beauty.

Mantra Modes Blog Coming Home

The original Mantra Modes blog, dedicated to the music and artistry of Dr. Abdullah Ibrahim, the greatest and most profound jazz musician the continent of Africa has produced over the past 40,000 or so years, was created in 1999 and attached to my original apk.net web site.

It’s third incarnation began in 2008. However, I have not been able to give it the care that its mission deserves. As a result, I am going to move, piece-by-piece, its content back into the structure of its second incarnation, here on the home blog of all my musical interests. Most of the pieces will be re-highlighted as blog posts.

I’ll keep the Mantra Modes blog up until the move is completed sometime in the next few months.

The South African Dr. Ibrahim’s own, very fine web site, is in its second incarnation. He turns eighty on October 9th. I am honored to highlight his artistry in any manner–after all he is both my favorite musician, and the instigator of some significant moments of rewarding personal learning during our rewarding intense encounter and association long ago (and sometimes seeming like yesterday too!)

Youssoupha Sidibe

Some kora music for today. Youssoupha Sidibe’s youtube channel is chock full of his sweet sounding mastery.

His web site is deep too.

The music of Yous­soupha Sidibe is deeply infused with a long­ing for the full real­iza­tion of divine love in this world. Youssoupha’s musi­cal career began over twenty years ago in his home of Sene­gal, West Africa, where he was trained as a Kora player at the National Music Con­ser­va­tory of Sene­gal. His music fuses tra­di­tional West African sounds on the Kora, with the Sufi devo­tional chant­ing of the Sene­galese Baay Faal com­mu­nity. The angelic sounds of the Kora, an indige­nous harp, soul­fully carry Youssoupha’s devo­tional lyrics sung in Wolof, Ara­bic, French and Eng­lish.

Nuru Kane – Exile

Nuru Kane, Senegal, soulman

NuruKane-Exile superb!

Nuru Kane, a Senegalese singer and guitarist, calls his band and musical style ‘Baye Fall Gnawa,’ or simply ‘BFG,’ referencing in one breath the religious group to which he belongs (a sub-group of the Islamic Sufi Mouride brotherhood) and a style of traditional trance music from Morocco. “Why is a Senegalese musician playing Moroccan music in France?” you might ask. via Afropop