Dancing is Freedom

For the late-night dancers in ‘Lunched Out Lizards’ & ‘Molly’s Bar’, WOMAD UK, July 2017.

I have always loved music
and
when I was younger
I loved it so much I wanted
To possess it
Drink it in
Own it and know it was mine.

I’d always ask
‘What’s that tune?’
‘Who is it by?’
And rush out and purchase it.
Owned
Or so I thought.

I’d watch the boys and girls
Who could effortlessly create
Music
With something like
An envious rage

I would try to emulate or replicate
Musicians, singers, DJs
But my efforts would be a pale fail

Hell.

I’m older now
And have learned
That possession was a false path
My role was never to own
Or to create music

I love it just as much as I did then
But I now know that my role is
To let it wash over me
To caress me with its beauty and power
Until I reach a point where it
Releases my singular purpose.
My talent.
My destiny.

I dance.
I shimmer. I reflect in movement
What music says in sound
I open my love organ
And breathe in music
Then breathe out motion sheathed
In blissful affection for the world
And all alive in it

Touch me while I move
And I will show you
The kaleidescopic possibilities of love

And joy

So no.
Me, you –
We’re not creators, curators
Beatmerchants or such.

But we dance

And dancing is freedom –
Dancing is love.

Love. Supremely.

Hey kids.

I’m writing this in Brighton station. I’m making the long journey back north after a very inspiring time at the Love Supreme Festival.

Initially, I was wary. It was my first time at this particular festival and I didn’t know what to expect. The demographic was different to WOMAD or How The Light Gets In (my usual festi hangouts). I was struck by the number of aging soul boys and girls – no longer fleet of foot, and now wide of girth – until I realised that I was amongst that number. I also felt a distinct London/southern air to the proceedings. On one occasion, I even heard a teenager comment to his friend, matter of fact like, that his parents had chosen an excellent weekend to go sailing. Sailing! You don’t hear that kind of talk in the mean streets of Sheffield, S.Y.

So let’s get to the performances, for it was they which melted my soul. Mr Gregory Porter. Take a bow. He was deep like his voice. The air seemed to shimmer in the space between his notes and his humanity. He sang to a beautiful Sussex sunset, all orange skies and seagulls soaring on the thermals. I can safely say that I’d not been touched in this way by a live musical performance.

Ever.

Kamasi Washington. Heir apparent to Coltrane and Pharaoh Saunders. It was utterly wonderful to watch musicians at the very top of their game. In decades to come folk will surely discuss performances such as this one in the similar tones to the twentieth century outings of Bird, Diz and Miles. I noted the particular intensity in the eyes of Kamasi when he was playing. Something was burning bright; soul, life force, cosmic wisdom? At times you have to breathe inwards and acknowledge that black folks run very, very deep.

I was also taken by Kamasi’s astral maiden-cum-singer (Patrice Quinn). She was quite something to behold, and functioned as spiritual conductor for the band. That is, her purpose was to draw down all manner of wonder and love onto the stage for the purpose of enchanting us all. There was a point during improvising where the sound went awry. An electrical buzzing noise burst through the PA. Patrice simply lifted her arms skyward, performed some kind of Egypto-nubian-vedic realignment of her neck and face, and embraced the chaos. She channelled the electrical fault into the improviation! My mind was blown.

The Nightmares on Wax DJ set. Now I thought this was going to be a bit passé. I mean, I’m a fan. I own his Carboot Soul and Passion albums, but I’ve been grooving on his output since the late 1990s. I was thinking is he going to say anything new to me?

Well he did. In spades. However today, I’m finding it very difficult to put into words exactly what he did. I am reminded of the phenomena of dream forgetting. While grooving on Friday night, I could speak the language. I resonated deeply with the meaning of the message. He was stretching time with beats. A weird quantum elongation. His artistic messages extended across tens of minutes. Let me rephrase – you know when speaking to a friend, you might say “it’s a beautiful day today”? Well the messages in that performance, for instance “life is epic”, seemed to resonate for ages – an extended, beat-driven meditation on a simple idea. I of course was dancefloor shaman – shaking those bones for all who were able to hear. Magical.

Other honourable mentions go to Blue Lab Beats. I only heard the last two tracks of their set, but I was mightily impressed. Luckily, both they and I will be at WOMAD in a few weeks so I’ll give them a full listen then. Cameron James – pianist for Max Mosely who also guested on one of the Kamasi Washington numbers. If Nightmares on Wax stretched time, Cameron compressed it. In a single short musical phrase I heard Coltrane, springtime, train tracks; beautiful things. Cosmic things. He’s another artist I look forward to exploring.

Well, now the return to work and things mundane stretch out before me, and will dissipate the wealth of soulful spirituality that the festival has inspired. Redemption comes again in the shape of WOMAD at the end of the month. And, more than likely Love Supreme again next year.

Peace, love and music everyone!

 

What Life’s About

When I was young
I watched adults cavorting,
Drinking, laughing, dancing.

And I thought ‘So. That’s what life is all about’

Now I am middle aged
I have seen old people suffering.
Illness, unhappiness and strife.

And I thought ‘Oh. That’s what life is all about’

I suspect that when I too am
Old, infirm and lonely, I will
Perhaps look beyond my immediate circumstances,
And see something bright and eternal shining through the gloom

And I’ll think ‘Ah. That’s what life is all about’

Waiting For The Fall

Waiting.
The tick
And the tock.

Pretending.
Going on
With the everyday.
Nothing’s changed.
Still the same.

Knowing.
The lies we tell
Ourselves.
Dissonance.
Dangerous.

Falling.
Feels like
Free-falling
Hurtling towards
Some new tomorrow.

Pondering.
The future shape
That the impact crater will make
And
How much
Will it hurt

Dinner-On-Wye

I was sat beside Robert
Roland. He was stripping away
The layers of convention and
Getting to the heart of
His belief in the soul.

He drank champagne
And spoke like it too.

I tripped over the
Extended leg of Lev
He made a joke about
Particles and interference
I made an uncharacteristically
Witty and urbane
Response. He rewarded
Me with conversations
About worlds.

I talked poetry, language
And Africa with Janne,
And God with Peter Atkins

Mary Midgley was there too
And I had to keep them
Apart. She winked at me and
Bared her right bicep.

“I’ve a wicked left hook”
She twinkled mischeviously.

Then Steve burst into the room
Verbally jousting with Tankus
And the Henge. The Correspondents
Appeared and Justin rose from
His dining position and
Manned the decks.

Bruce leapt onto
The table and kicked
The crockery on the floor.

A plate struck Hilary on
The temple and I
Thought he was going to cry,
But with a surprisingly
Deft manoeuvre he jumped
Onto the table top and showed
Mr Bruce how to soca-rumba.

By now Roland was flirting with
Janne and Paul was showing
His muscles to Susan.

David Nutt was rolling spliffs for
Everyone in the kitchen
While Steve Fuller attempted to
Deconstruct the goings on.

The psychologists danced with
Each other and tuneless
Physicists sang.

I ordered another bottle of Perrier
Jouet and took one of David’s joints.

It was going to be a wonderful night.

We Give

We give
Merrily
Happily
Carelessly.
We give like the rose
Gives scent
And the tree gives shade
Freely
Unconsciously
Generously.

You take.
Take and regurgitate.
Take and claim
As your own.
Profit and analyse
Reduction
And materialise
And say it was yours
All along.

You create
Too.
But you also hoarde
Create barriers of exclusivity.
Accents, breeding, wealth.
Social structures and
Byzantine cultural norms
To prevent
The appropriation on which
You otherwise thrive.

You burn with rage
When you see us playing with
That which has fallen from your bough.

We gave: jazz, blues, soul, reggae, bossa nova, mambo
You created: opera, ballet, classical

Twitter-You-Bore-Me

Just like the internet
In general
Social media fails to fulfil
Its original promise

When we first leapt
Naively onto this bandwagon –
Eyes wide shut to the
Dystopian possibilities –
We found
Love, friendship
Laughs, self-expression.
We found humanity
Evolved.

And we loved it.

Now that potential
Lies wasted on the floor
Ink-stained silk.
We can hardly remember
The joy which brought
Us here in the first place

It’s become a platform as a platform
A springboard for marketers
Politicos, journos
Nomarks and shysters

Yes there are good people too
But their voices are being
Sumberged under tides of
Incessant noise

It’s noise that I don’t need
A two-point-four kilohertz whine
That hurts my head

So that’s it. I’m switching off
Running away
Looking for more organic
And soulful places in which
To play