Monday, November 17, 2008

had a busy weekend; played twice with the band, first time with february sky, a pair of chicago musicians whom I really liked but unfortunately was unable to say goodbye to. they carry with them a number of originals, and old scottish songs, and are proudly folk, in spite of the fact that so many of their friends just went "rock" and made the bigger money. we played a couple of songs together, including city of new orleans which i had an unusual interpretation of, but they had to just live with that like one would live with somebody having trouble jumping off and on a moving boxcar. then we played at the wsiu studios the following day, and i have to say, a camera is not as generous as a live audience, but live and learn, i'm sure that's what the young folks there were thinking as they tried to film us.

but, for over ten days i've been mulling over the death, and life as reported by the guardian, of miriam makeba, well-known african singer and one of my favorite all-time musicians. she made a tape back in her early days, welele, one of my favorite all-time, which i can play half a dozen times every time i get it out; "i grew up on this cd," my son was heard to say this week. i drove around c'dale listening to it, half a dozen more times; but, what doesn't really settle is the tragedy of her life as told by the story. her music was always so uplifting, and pure, that it seems like politics and political tragedy just swooped down on her and ruined her...separated her from her family, her country, her people, and instead gave her political alliances, and political trouble, and grief when she made a cultural exchange with paul simon, without which i may never have heard south african music. in other words, i'm in favor of cultural exchange; it's given me a world of riches. i still consider her one of the best musicians i've ever heard, able to bring an uplifting spirit through a language i'd never heard.

good folk is like that; you don't have to be of the culture it's sung in to feel its power. she maintained all along that she sang what was in her heart; she didn't intend to be political or represent a movement or, as it turned out, have her life rent asunder by political firestorm caused essentially by the apartheid regime dominating her lifetime. all that political stuff, it turned out, was bigger than just her and her music and her family could beat. her family said that she often said she would play music until she died, and she did- they were shouting for an encore, in southern italy, when she collapsed. so much of her life happened before i was even around; it explains why i heard of her so rarely, felt even like i was the only one who'd heard her around here. didn't even know how political her name sounded to people; to me, it was just musical, as i hadn't even imagined the rest of it. i've heard of hugh masakela, and stokely carmichael, of course, didn't know she was connected to them in any way. maybe you'll hear more of her music, not that she's died.


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