Monday, November 29, 2010

Missing Time

The first time it happened, I was in S.4. It was the beginning of the school term and my friends and I had gone to engage in the opening term ritual.

On the first day of the school term, it was a custom for the more daring students to catch the next taxi back to Kampala after being deposited by their unsuspecting parents at the school. The point of this was to, well, boys will always be boys, so we would go and explore the city and have fun because, hell, there was nothing better to do at school. So, after saying bye to mommy and daddy and promising to do very well in class this term, and a suitable timeframe to give the parents a head start, I jumped on a taxi and headed back to Kla, thrilled at breaking the rules.

Lots of alcohol, pool games, meanderings and whatnot, I found myself in a bar near the old taxi park. It was much like any bar near the park, tall wooden stools, plastic chairs, pool table in the centre of the room, watched from above by a television that seemed to pick up a very clear STV signal.

"That TV is very clear" I remarked after losing a game of pool and it's the last thing I remember from that night. I hazily remember too, scurrying under the barbwire fence back into school but it might have been a dream. I woke the next day and on attempting to open my eyes found that I had zero vision in my right eye. I raised my hand and gently felt the contours of my face, the topology was changed, a few bumps here and there obscured all vision from the eye. I tried to recall the events of the previous night and drew a blank after the remark about the TV. I was still drunk and knew it would take at least a few days before I was right again. I tried to piece the missing hours and gave up after a tale of dogs and mad men in Nakivubo was relayed by my companions. It was the first time I had a blackout, it would not be the last.

Alcohol is nice, period, but like all things, if taken to the extremes, then disaster most likely follows. I believe that all human beings use something; you know, to dull the pain of reality, remove the inhibitions, that little voice that keeps saying you'll regret this in the morning. Some use people, substances, activities, and the list goes on and on. Alcohol is the only substance I have so far come across that gives me 'missing time'. Every time it happens, I wonder what the hell I do and say bse I can't remember anything. I allegedly once proposed to a girl.

As much as I want to escape the madness in my head, I don't like the idea that I be running around without any mental checks. I mean, it might spell disaster for the planet. I figured out early on what my threshold was and how many beers it would take to get me there. I also discovered that after the first few good pints, it becomes a job, sipping shit because you want to stay in that ka heightened state but knowing that you've probably just sped past that point when you're actually having a blast and the next stop is shitface town. So drinking became an art, figuring out how to prolong the euphoria and what to do when you've bypassed it by 10pm on a Friday night.

 I used to have a simple rule about alcohol. No drinking was to be done if I was sad. I've broken this rule a million times in the past 18 months with devastating results. The last time I had a severe case of missing time was the Idd before last, I cozied up to a bottle of 'Absolut Death' and true to form I died. I woke up in the Bubbles' loo and I couldn't remember entering the place. I walked out, grabbed a baji home and swore off the sauce until further notice. I have since broken that rule twice more. Next year, I will not touch a drop, I think.

That being said. This christmas will see me do a couple of beers, for old time's sake.

Hey Baby

I’ll be gone a while away from you and I hope you overstand,
that I’ve got to do what I must do to be a better man.
Coz if I was just to act a fool, do nothing with myself,
then all my blessings would be cursed, my world would crumble in.
It’s a joy when I sit down and think, of the good times that we have,
and what we do to make it through, when the good turns to the bad.
Well I hope you’ll find it in your heart and know these words are true,
and please don’t fuss because I must go do what I must do.

Hey baby don’t you worry, even though the road is rocky, I’ll be coming home to you again.
Coz if you thought that I was lost, I had to bear my cross, now I’m free from all these chains.

Well a time, a space, a different place, how perfect we might be
Coz I would be the wind that blows, you’d be that willow tree
And I could never bear the thought of you not by my side
So I would be the warmth of day you’d be the cool of night
And every day I pray to Jah that one day you will see
And overstand the fact I must fulfil my destiny
And I hope you find it in your heart and know my words are true
And please don’t cry you know that I must do what I must do

Hey baby don’t you worry, even though the road is rocky, I’ll be coming home to you again.
Coz if you thought that I was lost, I had to bear my cross, now I’m free from all these chains.

Well and it’s not easy
Jah knows how I try, I try
So don’t you get weary
Jah knows how I try, I try

Life is one big road
With lots of signs and turns and twists and curves
Even though the road is rocky,
My main thing’s to rock and keep it rockin’
From city to city, backyard to yard
And we be seeing the sights
Standing under the lights
and the spot is hot, it’s cold and lonely at night
And I’m ‘feenin’ and I’m dreaming and I’m holding you tight
But hold on, every single road I roll on
Comes to an end and I’m back home again
So baby please don’t cry
There’s no valley low, and there’s no mountain high
And our love don’t die with the passage of time
It just grows more and just keep strong
And even though I’m gone, I am never too far
You’re the light through the dark shining right through my heart
So my journey must start

Hey baby don’t you worry, even though the road is rocky, I’ll be coming home to you again.
Coz if you thought that I was lost, I had to bear my cross, now I’m free from all these chains.

............................................................................................................  Stephen Marley

Friday, November 26, 2010

Call of the Rastafari

Mommy! mommy! mommy! I want to be a rastafari when I grow up!

I have a friend who keeps a blog subtitled "On the Road to Zion" which I hadn't visited in a while until a few minutes ago. She finally made her move into the style and fashion world, way to go Xiona, I'm rooting for you all the way.

I've been listening to Damian Marley these past few months and I can't believe I had never explored his music. First off, I'm a reggae fan, its always been uplifting music for me, I mean, who doesn't listen to Bob Marley's Three Little Birds and feel, you know irie?

Isaac, my philosopher and rastafari friend, had mentioned that most people have never explored the Marley kids' music and that he thought they were that much better than daddy, so I made a mental note to explore. I came across the Bruno Mars song with Damian Marley and the intro was enough to make me want to hear more and also finally try to learn this patois stuff.

Patois, according to Wikipedia, is any language that is considered nonstandard, although the term is not formally defined in linguistics, which is basically saying "it's some shit we don't quite understand". It sounds funky though, I mean, have you heard a guy speaking this stuff? It has a harmony to it that makes you want to sway, raise your hands to the sky and say hell yeah!

Anyway, I went and got Damien's albums by way of bittorrent, sorry Damian, and proceeded to sample dem tracks.

Damian 'Jr Gong' Marley was born July 21 1978. He was two years old when his father Bob Marley died and he is the only child born to Marley and Cindy Breakspeare, Miss World 1976. Damian's nickname Junior Gong is derived from his father's nickname of Tuff Gong. Marley has been performing since the age of 13. He shares, along with most of his family, a full-time career in music.

His first album was 'Mr Marley' which is rightly titled as it features many tracks from his dad's recordings and was released in 1996. I was then religiously losing mi religion. It leans more towards the traditional reggae style his father and others after popularised and was not a critical or commercial success. I particularly like 'Kingston 12', 'Me Name Jr Gong' and 'One cup of coffee' which has the following lines

'I brought the money like your lawyer said to do
Ain't nothing funny, babe I am still in love with you
Said I am leaving you tomorrow
I'll cause you no more sorrow
One cup of coffee then I'll go

Lord I say Susie Susie Susie mind you loose mi
Know mi love you bad yet you want to abuse mi
Try to treat you right but this affair confuse mi
Girl don't complain cause a you come fi choose mi
Mi sey Susie do, mind you loose mi
Though me love you bad and you want to abuse mi
Try treat you right but this a pure confuse mi
Gal no complain cause a you come fi loose mi

Damian's next album was Halfway Tree which combines dancehall and hiphop styles to produce an amazing modern sound. The production (not that I know much about such stuff), done by his bro Stephen Marley,  is amazing. The drums and hooks on this thing are off the shizzy, seriously! but the oustanding aspect is the lyrics and Damian's delivery. Its like listening to a prophet in biblical times.

'Di youths dem saying justice ah weh dem really need overall
Di way dem deal wid mankind.... All mi gyal start ball
Justice ah weh di youths dem need overall
Di way dem deal wid mankind

She nah go cry fi no guy inna nah 3 piece suit
Nor no pretty bwoy inna nuh crisp Nike boot
She nuh ball fi nah dapper
She nuh cry fi nah doop
She shed those lonely tears
For di little ghetto youths weh balling

Stary stary X-News and Gleaner
Foot might be dirty but his heart is much cleaner
And those politicians fightin down sensimillia
Get up every day dem want fi run this arena

Extra, extra.... read all about it
Ghetto youths in need and there is no doubt about it
If baby want feed and can't do without it
Big 45 goin to scout it

My best song on this album is 'Catch a Fire'. It's got an amazing array of drums, vocals are superb and the lyrics, wooo hooo! Its an angry oppressed youth anthem, albeit with some misplaced ideas but breathtaking nonetheless. It makes me jump up and shout and shout and shout!

'We nuh want no Babylon government
Weh ah burn down ganja man tent
And den ah come wid dem one bag ah tax argument
When we can't pay light bill and rent
Mi sight dem ah lead ghetto youths
Every which part dem went
And ah pure wrong corner dem bent
So next time, dem pass thru you and your crew
Don't give dem no encouragement

Now, there's this song titled 'Give Dem Some Way' that has the longest nonstop spit and fire verse of lyrics I've ever heard. Its downright genius! Its damn amazing, long and delivered in one burst of rhyme and flow that makes you wonder how good the guy's lungs are! It's got a ballistic beat and a nice flute to spice up the melody, you just have to sample it to know what I'm talking  about. Here's the bit that kills me, after spitting all those words of revolution and power to the people, he goes "...Weh nuh rise till the revolution unfold" He he he..bide your time niggas, bide your time.

'You say that you love me, oh what happened to the love?' goes the hook up with Eve. Eve is the shit, the real deal when it comes to the female rap genre and I'm a lifelong fan. Except for catch a fire, this is the best collabo on the album. It brings out the blend of hip hop and dancehall in a most engaging manner.I mean, you feel powerless but to answer the girl's question and tell her, 'what happened to the love'. But wait, here's a sampling of Damian's lyrics

'What about di youths dem
Weh love fi breed off the girls
And still nah care for da youth dem
Wahapn to the boots dem
And hear wah mek go worse
Nuff a dem did have and nah use dem
Fire fi di bait who love using the girls
So friend can congratulate dem
Rasta nah rate dem
When dem abusing di girls
Gun shot for bwoy weh ah rape dem

The album is overall a portrait of Damian's different worlds, his mother's more affluent uptown world and his father's roots in the ghettos of Kingston. Damian like all the Marley kids grew up as much in Rita Marley's household as in his mothers, infact Rita's household is considered the family HQ for all the Marleys. Bob had 8 kids outside his marriage to Rita (stray stray guy).

Welcome to Jamrock is Damian's most popular and successful album to date. Again, co-produced with his brother Stephen, it is his true coming of age as a musician. The combination of dancehall and hip hop started on Halfway Tree, like a good wine,  truly matures to produce such gems as 'Beautiful' ft Bobby Brown.

 This album is a masterpiece! Period. Hands down, pack your bags and go home.

'Cause them lost inna darkness beyond
And none shall escape except the ones, who
Exodus with no question,
Better put on your khaki uniform
If you-a' driver, leave unnu engine on
If you-a' rider jump pon a unicorn
Lace your shoes if you a pedestrian
Run for the border like a Mexican
Underarm smell green like a Leprechaun
Survival of Jah people

'For the babies' is a song about, well, babies. Born and unborn. I have a personal experience with abortion and I have to say this song makes me feel very guilty.

'And always do your very best to keep a promise to your babies
And if you can't be good, at least be honest to your babies

 When I started taking the herb a couple of years ago, we called it 'going to Zion'. See, Zion is the last place where all of humanity's children will gather to celebrate life, like Tank says in the Matrix, 'If this war ended tomorrow, Zion is where the party would be.' Again, according to Wikipedia (thank you Jimmy Wales!),

'In the Rastafari movement, "Zion" stands for a Utopian place of unity, peace and freedom, as opposed to "Babylon", the oppressing and exploiting system of the western world and a place of evil.'

Personally, Zion is akin to Valhalla, the corner office, that place that people refer to when they say we've made IT, the forests of my homeland, etc. So, you can imagine my joy at finding this song (On the road to Zion) and finally, partly, understanding why Xiona's blog is subtitled thus. It has been my anthem for a while, hopefully Xiona doesn't mind me borrowing it, and it showcases  the best of two worlds in Damian and Nas. It is probably the collabo that set the stage for this year's amazing, fantastic, beautiful, breathtaking, "Distant Relatives", Damian's work with the legendary Nas. I must confess that I had never really listened to Nas but after sampling this album. I have to bow down and chant RESPECT!

Sometimes you can lose sight of the things that matter in your world, lose focus and wander around aimless, sad, salty and bitter. This song has been a siren of hope, a call to which I was irresistbly drawn until I saw the light and heard the man say, 'We sparkin' the ions, marching to Zion / You know how Nas be NYC state of mind I'm in.' But again, listen to Damian go on this run

'In this world of calamity
Dirty looks and grudges and jealousy
And police weh abuse dem authority
Media clowns weh nuh know 'bout variety

The youngest veteran a go murder dem slow
Ragga muffin sent to call me from the bush bungalow
Unnu watch mek I clear out my voice now Figaro!
Emerge from the darkness with mi big blunt a glow
Mi hammer dem a slam and spectator get low
Some bwoy coulda big like Bam Bam Biggalow
Bust of trigger finger, trigger hand and trigger toe
A two gun mi have mi bust dem inna stereo

I got to keep on walking on the road to Zion, man
We gots to keeps it burning on the road to Zion, man

So, I'll see you in Zion and then I'll tell you about Distant Relatives.

Oh, and the best song on this album is 'We're gonna make it'.

"Yeah! Yes mi lion!
Always look on the brighter side of life, you know
Nuh must!

Don't you ever give up
Don't you ever give in
Don't you ever give up
Don't you ever give in
Don't you ever give up
Don't you ever give in
We will have our way some day
Don't you ever 'dutty'
Cause a better you clean
Hail up King Selassie plus
Omega the queen
Don't you ever give up
Don't you ever give in
Cause I...

I know we're gonna make it
It's not too late, No!
We're gonna make it
Yes I know
We're gonna make it
It's not too late
We're gonna make it,Yeah

Monday, November 22, 2010

Below the line: Of the things you would know and measure

Most things you think you know are imaginary, and sometimes friends can be too, like when you’re young and there’s a 60ft alien robot by your side and together, you kick ass.

We are taken with the measurement of things, as a species, without a counting and weighing, we would be adrift and dysfunctional in the world of man.

What does a number mean to you?

One. There is me, I am here.

Two. It takes this much to make the first, most journeys are coloured thus.

Three. The Trinity; there is no spoon, nothing and no one but you.

Four. A full quota for each window in Johari’s house and if a glass be your measure then a full cup of life unto you.

There are many ways to measure and count the things that matter in our lives today. Man, in his incomprehensible urge to weigh his world has coined a magnitude of terms for data that you can pore through to your heart’s content. Today, all it would take to get you the price of a Yak on the Tibetan plateau is a six letter word, Google. Wherever there is a need in nature or human life, there will arise someone or thing to fill it, if the price is right. Google however, cannot tell you the measure of life on the plains, to know this you must journey to the land where the Yak is king, where the air is thin, dry and cold but the grass grows still, where with axe and hammer, we raise our dead to the skies and when the earth moves, we move with the wind and water to heal, the heart of life that yet beats within.

I have been, for one part, trained and educated an economist. One of the pitfalls of this is that one is bound to take a ruler to the world and measure; to what intents and purposes, asks the farmer, why weigh my animals, crops and fields and tell me I needs must more yield? Is this not enough for your soul and spirit? Would you have me build the granaries of the world in my backyard, to feed your fancy whenever it takes you?

Aye, I say, for I too, are in want of a soothing balm, a tonic from the madness of the world, whence I can sit apart and attempt to balance the scales, and seek a measure of equality.

The economist says that you are poor; she would have you be more in the material and that it seems the years will pass you by and you will not be when there is need of you. Why will you not listen, why will you not work, why not till the land and bring forth nature’s gifts that you so richly deserve? In the stead of wealth, you chase after big deals and fleeting dreams and consumed by the need and want that cannot be satisfied, you would rend all in your path.

I, you say, seek to give that which cannot be measured and to take that which is freely given by the earth. The fig feeds millions in the forest, each taking turn when the time is right, but you will reserve your charity for those you deem to deserve, yet the fig takes its due too, blessing or curse.

Here is the line, if you are below, then your life is worth less than enough, says the economist. You are in need of ambition my brother; don’t stop reaching for a higher branch.

The economist in me knows where the line is, and despite being taught to avoid it with the fear of the reaper, I have wandered perilously close these many months past. See, the reaper is my friend, she was with me at the beginning of this tale and I will see her again, when it is wound up. You have nothing to fear, son of man, even if you should wander across many a line, forget not that the world is yours and you are king, and accord the farmer his due and he will let you drink of the life giving streams that run through his fields, says the reaper.

There is no fear in me, I cross the line of my own volition and tell myself that I am changed forever, I will not return I say, not the me that was. The me that would have waited for you, by the well, is gone. I have a pot of water and it must go back to the mother, for she would make life with it. I will look for you, on my next turn and throw of the die; I would have you in my picture, below or above the line.

Everything has a price. No; you will never truly understand this until you learn the wisdom of it in your own time. See, there are things human beings believe are beyond measure, like the love of God. The preacher by the wayside screams with fervent gestures, praying for your soul, certain of its damnation he has taken the mill upon his neck, he will save you, he says, so he screams and shouts at all that you do and yet he is only sound and fury to you, paying the price of an old tale whose light and love would ask that you burn out your heart. I stepped across the line and found many a prophet on the other side. If you would seek to be set up as judge, you must risk the hangman’s noose and be judged first and to be thus, is to open the door of your temple to the world, unafraid of its foundations. It is not an easy price to pay, some do it for money, some for love and others claim there is no measure of man for the things they do, but you are man, only man can measure and judge you.

What does it mean to be poor? I have often thought that it is to lack the will to build a life as you would wish it to be but there are measurements that most people hold as a standard; a roof over your head, food to eat, and a passion to while away the years but most important of all, people to share and love. Every human life should be dignified and respected and where does it start but in your own solitary husk and shell? When you live below the line, you fight for an identity that does not burn like paper; it is a struggle with inner demons that is only necessary for a lack and want of knowledge. You would seek to define yourself by the rolling hills and trees of the lands you come from; you say that to ask you to descend from the trees and share with the world your wit and intellect and view of the universe is to lay a heavy burden upon you, so you would do with speaking fees. Perhaps, the name of father and mother can be worn with pride or you will build from the ground and rise higher than yonder tower in Babel, whatever your concourse, you must find unity in your body, soul and spirit. The longer you wander the paths, the wilder your spirit grows, and you should be wary of it overcoming the soul and body.

I have always looked at the 'gentleman' on the street and known that but for a fortunate turn of events, there is me. Poverty is borne of fear, it is the desperation that tomorrow, there will not be enough, so you would gather all of yourself but never have enough for a day.

So, I shall look upon you on the street without pity or fear, for I am you too, I can be you if life should seek it of me again, but if I should have the power, I will rise and hope that one day, you will rise too and walk back to your home.