Category Archives: music

MY RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE


A Franciscan Friar, Rembrandt, 17th century oi...

A Franciscan friar, Rembrandt

As a child I went to religious schools.  Schools named after Saints such as Saint Francois Xavier and Saint Sulpice in Paris.  

Some of my courses were taught by friars, the one wearing brown robe and sandals in all seasons or seen on the labels of box of camembert or bottle of fine liquors.

I remember one friar, who taught religion, because he always rubbed the palm of his hand on the corner of his desk, the palm of the hand with a missing finger. He had a goatee and permanent red cheeks.

His class was not easy for me, being the only Black kid in the class; I always thought that looking at me reminded him of his purpose to join a religious order. Maybe, I was his version of the savage whose soul had to be saved.

I kept away from him after one of his kind slapped me in church for talking to my school mate.

I never said that France is color blind, especially in the late fifties when seeing a Black person walking down the streets was considered exotic or an oddity to the mass.

Actually, almost all my teachers had a round at slapping my blackness and I never retaliated. During exam times I had at least one to two slapping bout a week.

I knew I was different but I was reminded of my blackness around 10 years of age when a class mate called me nigger (nègre in French) during recreation.
I cried and told the director and his reaction was to go away laughing.

Two teachers never slapped me.  I remember the name of only one, Monsieur Piat, and the other was a physical education teacher. Their specialty was psychological torture with a racial tone.

These were fine Catholic schools with a crucified Jesus as main decoration in all classes. I hated school.

We were, class by class, obligated to go to church, the confessional and swallow the ostie on a weekly basis.

We all were good certified Catholics and could prove it with a baptismal certificate and confirmation and first communion pictures.

During the holidays we were given cards to be signed and date stamped by the priest wherever we attended mass.

Once the indoctrination process completed I felt liberated and never went back to church.

Then with ages, I thought that I was wrong and that I should know the meaning of life and have an adventure like Siddhartha, Narcissus and Goldmund, Santiago in the Alchemist, and the Little Prince.

Believers told me they felt illuminated, uplifted and full of hope after a church service and I wanted to have such experience.

So, again, but free willing I went back to church and felt absolutely nothing.  I changed faith, thinking that my soul was trapped in the wrong religion and again felt nothing.

I went back to Catholicism, the Christian religion which spent years brainwashing me by telling me that we are God’s children.

I, again, did all the rituals by standing up, sitting down and bruising my knees on the pews and listening to sermons about allegoric and unseen forces affecting my tangible and imperfect world.

Again, I felt nothing and the sermons interfered with my human logic, unsettled my intellect and raged me with its bias.

At no time did I see the path leading to the nirvana state that others experienced.

I do not know if religion is a good panacea.  Africa is among one of the most religious continents of the universe but then it is also the one with the most wars and conflicts.

Africans are spiritual and yet they make potions from albino’s body parts or kill twins which are a sign of bad omen and have large praying rally for the people coming back from The Hague after being heard for crime which they may have committed against humanity.

I gave up on the idea of being religious and spiritual and to date I have never experienced any Holy Ghost type of activity in my soul.

I seriously tried but there is nothing within me, not even a tinge or a twitch, announcing a trance, shaking me or making me speak in tongue like the one I see on TV.

I am not an atheist; it takes too much strength to prove that something supreme does not exist so I straddle in the agnostic world.

That’s easy for me; I respect what other people think as long as they don’t take me for crazy or an idiot because I do not share their ideas of the beyond.

It does not mean that religion is bad.  I think some religious buildings are great work of architectural arts. Religion provides a CV for prisoners requesting parole. The church bells are good to adjust time. Commercial religion has worldwide tax-free benefit. Religion is an alibi for corrupt African big men.

But then, my paradox is that I like religious music.  I like gospels, I like Black American gospels with a lone singer stomping, moving, and jumping in front of a large choir and the haunting Gregorian chants.

Gospel music is beautiful.  I don’t agree with the meaning of most songs but I rely on the expression of the singers. I like their happiness, joyful exuberances and energy.  I like the way they improvise.

It does not mean that I make it a purpose to listen to it but when it comes to my ears, I pause and take time to enjoy. I can enjoy for hours.

Gregorian chants are solemn, mysterious and sublime to listen. The voices make me close my eyes while listening. Gregorian chants offer a pure calming, transcending and soul enhancing bliss.

Warning: To listen in small doses. Gregorian chant may be hazardous to your health. When feeling low it can drive you to abysmal depression leading to dementia. In the event it occur switch to Gospel music.

That’s my true Black experience shaped by Christianity.

Patrick-Bernard

IMAGINE


In front of the Veteran Administration Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, I see a white van unloading a man in a wheelchair.

He has two helpers, a nurse and a man carrying an oxygen tank.  The front of his wheelchair is full of electronic gadgets and sensors. The back, between the wheels, has a monitor with tubes neatly tied to one side. His wheelchair is his portable mean to live on the go. 

He is a young, good-looking, clean-cut Black man in his late twenties or early thirties and his skinny frail body does not show muscle mass under his clothes.

He does not wear shoes, why should he?

He is a quadriplegic moving his wheelchair with the help of a joystick under his chin. He has a tracheotomy tube, for him to breathe, cut in the center of his neck.

He smiles at his helpers but he does not utter a word.

The only noticeable working part of his body is his face. A face hung on a head with a bobbing weak neck holding a strong chin steering the wheelchair. His lips stretch a large glowing smile for being outside.

His face and his brain are the only things giving him an existence. Maybe he was smiling with his thoughts, memories of before and now.

Everyone, I mean everyone who goes to the VA was at one time fit and healthy. They got disabled for a flag, a territory, political ideas, and lots of because.

His lips were smiling and I am glad he never saw me looking at him. If our eyes had met,   I am sure I would have smiled back but I would fear for him to construe my smile as a sign of anything to ruin his day. His being shatters  me and makes me insecure.

He does not need my thoughts, his are bigger than mine. I feel but he senses feelings and I cannot allow him to make mistakes.

I cannot comprehend people liking songs for which they never take time to listen and understand the words.  They are pseudo intellectual tourists thinking that seeing the Tour Eiffel or the Empire State Building is to know France or the USA. Sheeps liking because others like.

After, the man disappeared in the entrance of the hospital a song came to mind. Imagine by John Lennon. The lyrics are a statement to our human kind. We listen to the song but have lost the know how to materialize what we should and can imagine.

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for…

Patrick-Bernard

PRINCE – WELCOME 2 AMERICA CONCERT


Prince playing at Coachella 2008.

PRINCE

I am back in the US and my mother invited me to see Prince, Welcome 2 America concert, at the RBC Center in Durham, North Carolina.
My mother is 80 years old and we both like Prince. She invited me together with her husband.
I always lived an oddball life so I am back at it again, this time to see Prince with my octogenarian fan base.

It’s not an intimate tête-à-tête with an artist but a concert in an arena holding almost 20,000 people and it was full.

A line of massive speakers, strobe lights, and four giant screens dangled from the ceiling above the stage designed in the form of his logo. His logo from the days he decided to forgo a name to something visual with no known pronunciation in any recognized language.

Chaka Khan, the opening artist, wore a black and gold sequins top and knee-high boots to match. She was coiffed with thick shoulder length auburn hair.

Her band was a drummer, lead guitar, bass guitar, keyboard and 3 back up singers all dressed in black. The woman can sing, she has a breaking-champagne-glass voice.

She rocked the audience with a medley of her songs, my favorite was “Tell me something good”, and finished half an hour later with “I’m Every Women”.  All the women in the audience stood, even my mother who clapped in tune and hummed the words with a French accent. 

After a 5 minutes intermission the audience cheered to ear piecing decibel and Prince, Prince the star, rose from a platform to the stage with a red loose-fitting blouse, black flair pants, high heels red shoes, ears studded with a row of diamond glitters, and an oversized ethnic necklace.

Prince is breakable thin with a charismatic and seductive androgynous look. He is energetic, pauses with mannerism and his voice renders notes higher than a rainbow.

His band is a three back up female singers in their forties and early fifties. That’s my guess and I apologize if they are not in this age group.

The rests are 3 keyboards, a drummer and a bass guitar. His group has more women than men. It is amazing how a small band can envelope with such good quality sound a large arena.

His concert lasted almost two hours with only a break for a change to a white outfit and matching high heels.  Also, he performed an encore, after his show, dressed in black with shiny silver flat rubber sole shoes. I think that I should feel special to have seen Prince in flat shoes.

Prince cannot be defined in one musical genre.  It is a mixture of Rock heavily dependant on R&B or vice versa and his guitar playing his divine.

The closing song was “Purple Rain”. This song is over 25 years old and the lyrics are obscure unless you have seen the movie. The song is a link among a story. Yes, Prince made a movie called Purple Rain based on his life.

“Purple Rain” is an ageless hair rising and emotional undefined appealing tune which acquire another dimension when Prince sings it. Prince is a musical genius.

The wet road on the way home looked purple. My ears were still muffled by the concert noise and loud music.  Nice concert, really, really nice.

Patrick-Bernard

ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE


I have looked at Rolling Stone magazine greatest artists list.  I do not believe that it is correct since some of great artists on the music scene are not shown.  Of course, noblesse oblige, I probably would have been satisfied if they had listed only what I like. Unfortunately, it would have been a headache for the magazine since I am too eclectic in musical taste.

A nice foot note is that Rolling Stone Magazine’s name comes from a 1950 song “Rollin’ Stone” from Chicago blues master Muddy Waters. It is a version of a song originally written by Robert Petway and called “Catfish blues”.

But what is rock music?
Wikipedia wrote it best: “its immediate origins lay in a mixing together of various Black musical genres of the time, including rhythm and blues and gospel music with country and western.”
Notice that I put a capital B on Black because Black people from my Diaspora, slavery, are capital to me.

So all Black people out there do not be mistaken, White folks listen and dance to the foundation of Black roots.
I am not so sure that White people can dance but at least they try their very best to jump up and down when the ceiling is very high.  Also, White artists have recorded, again riding with Black roots, some of the most exquisite music on this planet.  Somebody had to show the way. Slap me! I am kissing my hand but a spade is a spade.

Rolling Stone is a rock magazine probably more interested in rock or genre of music influencing rock. Beside music, it is avant-garde and they have great articles on politic, culture and whatever they want to dab on.

I sound like an advertising campaign.  Well, I don’t make money out of my blog, I just write on things that I like and I like Rolling Stone Magazine.  I hesitate to say that I love it since I don’t know if they would love me back.

So, before I forget, I have looked at three things: the top 100 greatest guitarists, the 100 greatest singers, the 500 greatest albums, and the 100 greatest artists of all times.

I was unable to check the complete list, I live in an anorexic internet country where I can play three games of spider solitaire until my internet comes up, but I can tell you that for each artist the write-up is a nice read.

According to Rolling Stones magazine the Black guitarists among the 10 best guitarists of all times are: 
Jimmy Hendrix (1), BB King (3), Robert Johnson (5), and Chuck Berry (6). 
I do have a problem since I believe that Carlos Santana should have been among the 10 best guitarits.
Yuk! You can’t be always lucky.

The Black artists among the 10 best singers of all times are: 
Aretha Franklin (1), Ray Charles (2), Sam Cooke (4), Marvin Gaye (6), Otis Redding (8), Stevie Wonder (9),and James Brown (10).
Yep, Strange but James Brown made the list.  He had a song called “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World”.  The title is chauvinist but listen to it when he says that “But it wouldn’t be nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl”. This simple phrase makes me “Black and proud”.

The Black albums among the 20 best albums of all times are:  
Marvin Gaye (6) – What’s going on,  Miles Davis (12) – Kind of Blues, The Jimmie Hendrix Experience (15) and Michael Jackson(20) Thriller.
I like Jazz which is one of my three favorite musical genres, and Miles Davis in his album “Kind of Blues” has one of my favorite piece “So what”.

The Black artists among the 10 best artists of all times are: 
Chuck Berry (5), Jimmy Hendrix (6), James Brown (7), Little Richard (8), Aretha Franklin (9), and Ray Charles (10).
I like all the other one but Jimmy Hendrix, for me, was the epitome of what people can do when they unify passion. With his guitar he pioneered hard rock and that was his passion.

Patrick-Bernard

BLACK AMERICANS’ INFLUENCE IN FRANCE


REMEMBER: FEBRUARY IS BLACK HISTORY MONTH

Chloë Mortaud’s mother is a Black American from Mississippi.  She is born in France and has dual citizenship (France/USA).  Of course, men will notice her beauty but an interesting fact is that she won Miss France in 2009.

I love Jazz and the first concert I ever saw, in France, as a teenager was the Jazz organist Jimmy Smith.  The place was packed wall to wall.  The audience gave him a standing ovation. I loved it because the man on the stage was black; black like me.

I don’t know the theory of attraction of Black American artists for France.  Some spent a lengthy part of their career and other remained as permanent fixture. They definitely influenced the French art scene.

I am sure that more will go to France but here are a few who proudly signed “Made in Black America” over the years.

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Patrick-Bernard

STRANGE FRUIT


Southern trees bear a strange fruit” that’s how starts the song written by a Jewish man called Abel Meeropol.

The real story starts on 7 August 1930, when three black men; Thomas Shipp, Abram Smith and James Cameron are waiting in the police jail in Marion, Indiana, accused of a white man’s murder and the rape of his white girl friend.

The three are taken out of the cell by a mob. James Cameron escapes, but the two others are beaten up and lynched high up a tree.  No need to ask the colour of the mob but rumor is that the KKK was lurking around.

We are now in 1939, at the Café Society in Greenwich Village.  The featured artist is Billie Holiday and she has left the stage.  Applauses are still echoing the club but she will not come back for a curtain call.

Her last song was “Strange Fruit”, the newest title of her repertoire.  A haunting slow song which she sung with eyes half closed.

Billie Holiday raged and pain to the words of the song. The pores of the black men sitting at the tables goose bump, they push away the whisky glass with the tip of their fingers and let down the smile from the melody of the previous love song. Their thoughts feel the bark of the tree where the strange fruit hangs.  They look down and see blood on the root and leaves on the ground. They look up, legs are dangling and they angst to the bulging eyes of the strange fruit.

Many southern trees have bloomed strange fruits but when the wind blows the poplar trees sing.

Southern trees bear a strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black body swinging in the Southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees

Pastoral scene of the gallant South,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh!

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.

Strange fruit” is the story of the last recorded lynching in the USA. Well, that’s what they say.

James Cameron, the only survivor, before his death in 2006 founded three chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the America’s Black Holocaust Museum in Milwaukee.

Patrick-Bernard

MUSIC FROM AFRICA – 50 YEARS AND GOING STRONGER


I want to be the second one, in tune with the prime Minister of Bhutan, to add happiness on the United Nations Millennium Development Goal.
Music makes me happy and since Africa is my topic, Voila!   

    

 Nice things are going on the African music scene. The first one, noblesse oblige, is ” Africa: 50 Years of Music: 50 Years of Independence“. It is the biggest collection of African music presented in an 18 CDs set with 183 artists.  Three CD each per geographical zone of the best artists which pioneered the African music of West, Central and East Africa, Portuguese Africa, the Indian Ocean and the Maghreb.  
I truly believe that African music has fared a lot better in 50 years of independence than their governments.  Music is the true ambassador of independence and happiness.     

Maurice Kirya

 As usual French are pro-active when it comes to culture. So, out of 500 entries from Africa, the Indian Ocean and the West Indies, Ugandan musician Maurice Kirya won the 2010 RFI Discoveries Music Award. 
His prize consist of 18,000 Euros to develop his career, a year tour in Africa and a live performance in Paris. He is not new on the musical scene and he realeased his first album ” Misubbaawa” in 2009 .  Please, listen to that song. Believe me, this talented musician deserves the award.      

Danyel Waro / ravine 38

 Danyel Waro from the Reunion, don’t forget this small island behind Madagascar, will be soon awarded the Womex Award 2010 in Copenhagen.  The Womex award honors world musical excellence with social importance. I have put a direct link to one of his live performance. Oh! I forgot! Don’t use his colour as a criteria. He is a proud African.

 For people thinking that African music is only about beating drums then think again because you are wrong!    

l’Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste

Check out, l’Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste conducted by maestro Armand Diangienda Wabasolele from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It is the only Classical Orchestra in Sub-Sahara.    Click on the name of the maestro for a tease. Listen, it is outrageously fantastic!

 Have a nice “any style you want” music day full of happiness.    

Patrick-Bernard