Afribeat – The Attack of Beauty
There was this ancient fellow wearing slightly faded yet dashing robes and giant sunglasses. He was playing the harp like instrument of the ancient tradition of the griot, the kora, simultaneously explaining in an operatic voice that the hole in the instrument was designed specifically for the placement of dollar notes. The receptionists, the barman, Douglas and the ladies were his only audience in the foyeur of the magnificent Senegalese hotel, the Lagon 11 when the phone rang. Ah, ‘ tu te bang,’ this bristling Portuguese voice came over the raucus sounds of a Brazilian streat carnival and the beaps of an internatinal call box. There was the sound of trumpets and girls screaming and then more Portuguese speaking. ‘Dancino com Adiaspora’ were the only words decipharable before the phone lines failed.
It was certainly an important message from Harris. A taxi arrived with a jolly feather in pointed shoes driving and raced me to the old baobab bar above the majestic square de independace of Dakar. There was a Cuban band playing with a bald fellow on the violin and a couple of tanies dancing. I don’t know how they recognised me but they were suprised, and sat me next to the old bird man with his yellow hair and hen picked teeth and a cage of hundreds and hundreds of sparrows. Douglas placed a clean 100000CFA on the table, freed a bird and bought his wisdom. katman nagadef fouley lekker nidagada lutman, he muttered in a soft voice.
… roughly translated as follows: “You cannot sit on someone else’s ‘under’ (an urn shaped for burning herbs and incense) because you will find it is already taken. You must sit on your own ‘under’.”
The words were as illuminating as the musical Hair.
‘African music is not so much an art and aesthetic as it is the essence and beauty of life – dancing with sound, subtlety and fury, striding rhythmically through the ceremonial spirits of the African people, across the disparate landscapes and fragmented history – from birth, initiation and marriage, to death.’.
Back at the seaside Hotel a telex awaited…
‘let us venture into the hinterland. let us take the path less travelled at least by naff whitey liberal left wing pacifist paff south africans, and head off to peru, to other parts of south america, take in the world of the aztecs and their contemporaties, and be blown away by cultures long gone who were far more advanced than our pitifull excuse for one. let us go to brazil and live the good life with fine looking ladies. let’s peruse eastern europe, the mystique of turkey, greece and even onto furhter eastern bound places such as the phillipines, thailand, china, japan, wherever. world domination pinkie, world domination, let’s be bohemian. let fine collaboration come out of fine collaborative experience. waddya say fred? good indeed splendid times being had.
consultant to the deities….’
It was Harris in a good mood and the ball was rolling…Douglas replied by letter and here we capture pieces of what we believe initially to have be a thesis on culture and industry, society and sustainability. He had enitled it ‘in pursuit of beauty.’ when your good you good replied sylvester with a tone of disconcilliance bringing a smile to his arrogant jestors tea-tree.
‘2.) As the canterloop pops, yes jack travel boy travel. where, when, what and how, the east? the west? wherever is the least and the best, the most yeast and the least zest. out of the west and awaken the beast, lest it test the treats. here we have the two most important tenants of what I regard as the future, and indeed I would like you to consider my master plan and see what we can do with regards such gratification.
make money, get involved with art, and live the high life in the house of opulence and extravagance. remember a market in turmoil is the most exciting market there is. and a beautiful country in turmoil. yes. we can make a change with our no-nonsense guide to the universal loving manner of hugging and kissing your neighbour even if it is a ridiculously supple sting ray. here end the summer.’
Douglas was in a good mood too and Dancing with the diaspora was the new move, it was no longer a glamorous romance of meaningless pursuit, it had become an attack. By reailsing this need to free the compositions from Africa and gather the musical giants, ‘dancing with the diaspora,’ became subversive, immoderate, beautiful and transcendent.
Back in Cape Town city at the palace, and afribeat.com had to be registered under a debacle involving Roberta Flack and Frank Zappa. Corporate spy Mbiko, uncovered this mystery and allowed these men to take the name under the production disguise of harris & douglas, and they were back in business for the first time since their famous jazz professor impressions at the robus kitch ‘n sync epilogues out at the piano lounge on loop street.
Back then it was the manifesto of groove. Eat, dance, laugh and make love. And the music was great. “Less is more, more or less,” demanded the compical compadre Shaun Phillips at one of these now legendary sessions. It was the slow and gainful change manifesto and the first sign for the vision that began to unroll on that particular April fools day of 2000.
The internet proved an expansive medium for world domination, “because the entire world has gone online,” said the generous Professor Milton who had decided to sell his saling boat in the Carribeans to finance his visit to the launch. And then the North Sea moved into the city for a giant jazz festival in Cape Town’s Good Hope centre. That day Harris, Douglas and Milton steared afribeat.com live to a beying worldwide audience and a Pan African cyber publication as a front and robust army in it’s wings had formed.
That night at the tiny toe of Africa, it appeared as a vast continent and passion was a dangerous thing. And the adventure was entrenched. Pounding speed, quaintly dishevelled, bent Stetson, bloody coup. All across the African Diaspora, the vision of the people, the streets, the diversity and abundance. The soft trombones over the floating bolero melodies fuelled the red star, the impulsive, intoxicating vibrance, the desire for equality. Music is the context. The pumpkin, the cacophony, the intensity and belief.
Douglas certainly couldn’t have realised how tight money was on that day, yet this struggle seemed merely a pre-meditation for the first class flight to Abidjan he was issued. Harris was awaiting on the runway with some officious ladies, the dancing girls and a tight schedule of festivaliering and shopping on the riviera.
To smile is to have style, the continent was united. What was all this coup de fuss? Taking a leap of faith on that point, society can be seen as a purposed by-product of the music. Music dictates society. And that’s the story of the African Diaspora – it’s about the racing expressive, the melting of diversity, the music from slavery, that torn history that moved so many people, moved so many music styles and created others. A story about expression, pride and hope. A story about learning, understanding and forever a story that battles to balance its integrity and pride above the pain, the suffering, the soul destroying patronisation.
afribeat with respect…
These stories are stories that can be read in the bath and finsihed before your toes grow cold. These are stories that can be researched for a lifetime, documented, dissected, consulted and argued. These are the stories of individuals within communities and commuinties within indivulges. Stories of great victories that build hope. Dancing with the diaspora could not be a dance of self indulgence or a voyeuritsic pursuit. It was grand and it was beautiful. Time passed, the north sea jazz festival walked by and even the palace cupboards grew barren. To be grand is to have an opinion and nothing would indicate the future. High fashion grew tough and style was political. It was merely cultural, but it fealt like some kind of war going on.
In fact it fealt like Paris drinking bordeaux that night on the great Congo River, only the fashion was a whole lot tighter and the evening a little sweatier. The president danced that night and all the ladies giggled. It was in the Congo that afribeat took on it’s colours – red, green, black and yellow. And it was in Cape Town that we started exercising these in blues and purple.
It’s a formula for success and the next stop is Maputo…
Africa Beats is brought to you each month courtesy of the Afri-Beat Web Site.
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