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Friday, July 8, 2011


by morris graves

Friends visiting form Atlanta a few days puts me on schedule timing, something I tend to avoid. I've learned why it is I pay so much more attention to the clock than I need to or want to. I used to live in that world of schedules. It was home for nearly all my life. Like today I am going to the show at the Front Porch at 7, they probably are not. If they decide to go, they want to go to Lowes in Galax and Galax Walmart. I need to get gas. I'm going to suggest we allow an hour for Lowes and Walmart. There are places to eat all over Galax. Gas in Galax has been 20c to 30c less than gas in Sparta. When it's just a few cents difference, I buy gas in Sparta. At the moment it is a big difference between the two, so I buy gas in Galax when I pass through Galax going to Woodlawn.

Last night we watched a Zhang Yimou film, Riding Alone For Thousands of Miles. The title is the name of a traditional Chinese opera. Beautiful film, like everything by Zhang Yimou, one of the more interesting directors in the world. Lars vonTrier of Denmark is another, though his films are entirely different for Zhang Yimou's that are colorful, have powerful emotion, every scene a beauty to behold.
The beauty in this one was the landscape and the feeling. Lars vonTrier is stark as stark gets. His vision of the Greek play MEDEA gave little to no reference to the story. It was mostly looking over barren landscape. His film ANTICHRIST. This one makes no reference to Biblical antichrist, but vonTrier takes us to where the antichrist comes from, within. It's ugly and unforgettable.. The emotional power in his films is intense. Like in Medea, little in it to refer to the play, but the feeling in it is the feeling in the original Medea. Perhaps I link these two directors together as they both take us to places within that make us feel. Zhang Yimou wants us swept away by the beauty of his film. VonTrier wants to make us face matters that disturb us, forcing us to think about something we tend not to think about because we prefer not to.

As I write I'm grooving within to the music of Thomas Mapfumo of Zimbabwe. His band has flowing, complex rhythms. Smooth rhythms of urban dance club music. It's music that can be danced fast or slow to, according to how you feel the rhythms. He is called the Lion of Zimbabwe. Originally, he was a rebel singing in Rhodesia, allied with the black opposition. Freedom, all the rebellion cliches. Then they get their freedom and it's under the boot of Robert Mugabe who took all resources for himself, leaving the people of the country to wither and turn into a criminal society to survive. He did in Rhodesia what the republicans want in USA---run out all races but white, put all the resources in the hands of the rich, let the peasants get by as they can. His attitude from first day to last: fuckem. He took land and resources from white farmers, the ones that gave labor to a major portion of black population. White farmers run out of the country leaves the black people without work, without income.

So Mapfumo's side won. Hooray. The people are as much worse off as Zimbabwe than they were as Rhodesia, like the people in Iraq were much better off under Sadaam Hussein's boot than the boot of American military's indifference, which at least equals Hussein's. Liberation day, American bombs fell from the sky by surprise on Baghdad at night. Killed and maimed a lot of people. So what. We liberated them about like Robert Mugabe liberated the black folks of Rhodesia. Shoot them and liberate them from their bodies. Funny how factory-made bombs from the sky are ok and desireable, yet home-made bombs on the ground are "terrorist," requiring punishment like Nazis did in WW2: You kill one of ours, we kill ten of yours. The Reagan-Bush-Cheney-Rummy Junta has taught me what I needed to know about how the German people gave themselves thoughtlessly over to Fascism in the Nazi time. I saw the American people all around me do the same thing. Now I see Thomas Mapfumo having to swallow his allegiance. It turns out black Africans are more racist than white Americans.

Hearing Mapfumo post-Mugabe I wonder how difficult it is for him as a racist wanting to run the white people out of Africa, to find his support went to an internal force far more sinister than the racism of the white's in Rhodesia. My feeling is that Mapfumo went apolitical. I get the feeling from song titles he's advising the black people to put out Mugabe. It's not going to happen. When it was Rhodesia and he was singing self-righteous dogma calling for overthrow of the white government, I thought him on the right track--hooray for Thomas Mapfumo wanting black rule in an African nation. When his side won, I felt like it was a big day for Mapfumo as he and his band supported the rebellion with rebel music. Now his side is a worse purveyor of universal pain than the white's of Rhodesia. Nothing for them to do but leave the country, go live in Zimbabwean communities in Washington DC, New York, London slums. I've often wondered over the years how Mapfumo feels when he sees the demise of his country in the hands of the rebels he was a musical cheerleader for. My guess is it's a heavy burden for him. But that's a projection of how I think I would feel. We are in very different worlds, so different I can't imagine anything of how he would think or feel but by the song titles translated to English.

This is one of my favorite aspects of African music. I can't understand the lyrics. The singer's voice is another instrument like a horn, guitar or drum, meaning I can hear the music without it pulling at my left brain with lyrics. I can write to you listening to instrumental music, but not vocal. When I don't understand the language, the voice is part of the music. I can use the part of the brain that focuses on language without distraction by language. I may do that more and more, play African music while writing you. This one still took me over. I could write about nothing else while it was playing. I love Mapfumo's lilting rhythms, a flow like water in a stream. I believe I even like his later music better than the rebel music. It has a softer tone that flows, to my ear, better with his music.


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