Diasporic Music for April 2014

 
Remembering Amiri Baraka
 
I once told Amiri Baraka, “If we ever fall out, just shoot me. Don’t write anything”. I was dead serious. I said that to Baraka after I heard him say that “a Spike Lee Joint is a negro reefer”. That was part of his criticism of Lee’s film, “Malcolm X.”
 
I united with Baraka and Elombe Brath and the Patrice Lu­mumba Coalition on this matter. I just didn’t want a statement like that about me hanging over my head.
 
Baraka had a profound influ­ence and impact on me. I have followed him from 1963 when he published his book, “Blues People (Negro Music in White America).” His last work that I know about was his 2007 work, “Tales of the Out & the Gone.”
 
The last time I saw him was when Itah Sadu and Miguel San Vincente, of A Different Booklist bookstore, invited him to speak at the Trane Studio in Toronto. He was there promoting “Tales of the Out & the Gone.” I introduced him to an appreciative audience.
 
I actually saw his play, “the Dutchman,” before fleeing the United States in 1967 because I refused to fight against the Viet­namese people. “No Vietnamese ever called me a nigger” was my generation’s cry in response to the Vietnam war.
 
I met Baraka at his Spirit House in New Ark, New Jersey, in 1967 or ‘68. I was “slippin’ into darkness” (I was underground).
 
That was the very first time I saw one of my mentors, Archie Shepp, who was hanging out in Baraka’s office. Baraka was hold­ing court and the conversation was quite spicy, politically and otherwise.
 
In 1983, I saw Baraka and Jayne Cortez in Buffalo, New York’s Tralfamadore Cafe. Af­ter the show, I saw Baraka talk­ing to his wife Amina Baraka on a phone. Baraka came off the phone and announced, “What­ever you may think about Michael Jackson, Amina says he stole the show tonight.” He was talking about Jackson’s performance at Motown’s 25th Anniversary.
 
Shortly after that, one of the organizations that I belonged to— the Biko-Rodney-Malcolm Coali­tion (BRMC)—brought Baraka to Toronto to discuss the Cultural Boycott of South Africa.
 
I was blessed to have seen Baraka with the William Parker Ensemble when they were pay­ing tribute to Curtis Mayfield at the Guelph Jazz Festival on Sep­tember 7, 2007. The tribute was called “the Inside Stories of Curtis Mayfield,” and it was outstanding.
 
In 1990, he blew the roof off the event “Malcolm X: Radical Tradition and Legacy of Struggle,” held at the Borough of Manhat­tan Community College. Baraka joined the ancestors on January 9, 2014.
 

 
Celebrating two giants of black music
 
Two giants of black music, Ornette Coleman and Lloyd Price celebrated birthdays on March 9. The Fort Worth, Texas-born Cole­man turned 84 and the Kenner, Louisiana-born and New Orleans-reared Price is 81.
 
An African born in America, Coleman is one of the major inno­vators of the free jazz movement of the 1960s. He calls his music harmolodics.
 
He is a saxophonist, violin­ist, trumpeter and composer, and his album “Sound Grammar,” re­ceived the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for music.
 
He came to Los Angeles in the 1950s and hooked up with trumpeter Don Cherry, starting a longtime collaboration.
 
Coleman married poet Jayne Cortez in 1954. The couple di­vorced in 1964. They had one son, Denardo, born in 1956.
 
Every time Coleman plays in Toronto, Denardo provides me with tickets. I’ve been blessed to have seen Coleman in concert in Toronto.
 
Specialty Records was a la­bel based in Los Angeles. Sam Cooke (with the Soul Stirrers), Little Richard, John Lee Hooker, Percy Mayfield and Larry Williams were also on the same label.
 
Price was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998. The Rock & Roll Hall of Famer lived in Nigeria for 10 years.
 

Enjoying Diasporic Music
 
I have been enjoying doing Diasporic Music on Uhuru Ra­dio. Singer-songwriter Mayembe’ Malayika, based in Germany with Congolese roots, granted me a great interview.
 
Ditto for El Jones, professor and spoken word activist from Halifax, Nova Scotia, who dis­cussed International Women’s History Month and what took place in Halifax during African Lib­eration Month.
 
Our musical tribute to Jamai­ca-born William “Bunny Rugs” Clarke, who recently joined the ancestors, was an honor to do. Clarke was lead singer of reggae band Third World, whose most popular recording was the 1978 hit “Now That We’ve Found Love,” written by Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff.
 
We got help from an inter­view that Rugs granted New York Broadcaster, Francine Chin. Rugs transitioned on Feb. 2, 2014.
 

Check out Habib Koite’s Soo
 
Mali’s Habib Koite, a guitar­ist/singer/songwriter, is known as a modern griot. His new album, “Soo,” is a must have for lovers of African music lovers. He turned out the Mod Club in Toronto.
 

Norman (Otis) Richmond, aka Jalali, was born in Arcadia, Louisi­ana, and grew up in Los Angeles. He left Los Angles after refusing to fight in Vietnam because he felt that, like the Vietnamese, Africans in the United States were colonial subjects. Richmond is currently working as a producer/host of Saturday Morning Live on Radio Regent (radioregent. com.) He can also be heard on Dia­sporic Music on Uhuru Radio (uhuru­radio.com) His column Diasporic Music appears monthly in The Burning Spear news­paper.
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