I then arrived in a very strange place with a strange tribe; men blew powder out off their flutes and people died, I ask an elderly man next to me how the people had discovered such a practice. He told me that the same flute could heal too. Although this wasn’t a satisfactory answer to me as I was witnessing such for the first time, nonetheless I continued to listen. He then said, each man’s resurrection relied on his wish upon his death. He continued to say that after being ‘shot’ (by the flute) the ancestors gave each person a grace period on which to utter his wish before he dies. It is in this wish that purpose is derived for ones after/next life.
In the dream I spent a couple of years with this tribe observing and learning about their often ‘supernatural’ powers. On a glorious day arrived a man whom I were told was a virtuoso in playing all different types of flutes. According to the elders this man had lived and traveled around the continent for thousands of years. His duty was to raise the dead. Everyone respected this man, including animals too. When we followed the man I also recall how all kinds of trees and plants would bend to give way when he approached.
Soon we arrived at the kings palace where he began the ritual, playing at graves of the king’s wives during which three rose from their death.
I hope that this man visits again one of these days.
Like putting a child to sleep, improvisation is our bridge to the other side. Like a child flies without wings deep in a dream, I hope your souls are elevated during an improvisation. But my biggest dream is for you to never come back when a song stops, like a child never stops flying in her dreams long after the mother stops singing, song carries her over into the mystical worlds. May the notes I play stay with you as you live your life.
An African outlook to religion is so communal such that from inception it didn’t have a ‘founder’ but over time was constructed by communities as a way of seeking meanings and purpose to existence. This is also true with our music and art, the aesthetic is composed and further evolves through collective contributions by artists of different times and periods. Our general goal is seeking meanings to the lives we live in relation to all existence.
A response to questions about what constitutes my sound and my views on ‘modernity’ (from a post some weeks ago):
Do birds get tired of singing the same song? Do they even know that they are singing or it’s just their way of breathing life to the universe?
I believe that the universe speaks or communicates in a very specific frequency/frequencies… I think our early ancestors understood this better than anybody, singing rain songs and songs for various initiation, rituals and ceremonies – these songs spoke the language of the universe and thus were important tools for co-creation. That’s my view on composition…
Sonic citations just as in citations (izibongo, izithakazelo) in our ritual practices are significant in ensuring the continued afterlife of an ancestor. But they also act as ‘codes’ in unlocking access to other realms of consciousness. This is very evident in eastern religions through ‘ragas’ for instance.
As for me personally, I don’t see myself as a ‘composer’ I’m simply dealing with concoctions (ikhambi) of universal vibrations to channel a healing energy (perhaps metaphysics could be the closest description). The music I deal with is given (or channeled) to me thus not concerned much with man’s ideologies of ‘modernity’ and what that should sound like. So I don’t make an effort to sound a certain way but rather respond to what comes out naturally.
With that said, I also do not have a problem with people that attempt to answer questions of ‘modernity’ through their sounds, I feel it has a lot to do with our individual takes on the concept of time and space.
Saw Ngqawana, he was leaning against some old table where the sound system was playing. He faced the opposite direction to me and Ayanda. We were all listening intensely to the Zimology Quartet Live at The Birds Eye record, and to his solo on my arrangement of Afro Blue in particular.
Towards the end of the song, I went to hug him and he turned around. Then there was a newspaper on the floor that he showed to us and it had a quote by him speaking at the ‘Bassline’, the quote spoke about a communal goal and outlook that Zimology Institute carried. After we all read, he then added ‘… I did it for everyone’.
In that same scene Tsoaeli walks in and they started chatting to Ngqawana, and soon walked out again and then soon brought some bank notes to Ngqawana. After that came a different scene; Ngqawana was playing with my kids asking them to spell out different personnel’s on McCoy Tyner’s albums.
Soon here disappeared (Dream, 04 May 2018)
I’m greatly fascinated by the ways in which sagacity becomes embedded in our indigenous languages, that perhaps gets lost if we don’t speak them or think within them. For instance in isiZulu (my mother tongue) it is common that if someone offers you food, a gift or shares some wisdom with you – beyond simply saying ‘thank you’ we also further utter these words: ‘makwande lapho uthathe khona’. This saying is both a form of acknowledgement that there is a greater source to all things and a meditation for a continuous circulation of love, gifts, blessings and knowledge…
Another word for rhythm is flow, it is a space where meanings are produced. The very flow that is evident during a piece of improvisation can be witnessed in homogeneous ways during the throwing of the bones (ukwebhula). Perhaps one could argue that flow/rhythm is a process whereby more than one realms are aligned, a state of synchronicity between our world and the underworlds.
A fellow seeker then asked me: ‘But then how do we know that a particular music is spiritual?’ As you can imagine, I didn’t have an answer to his questions. The closest I could think of was; the ways in which certain musics make me feel, or at least my unique responses to it. I also thought, a musical moment can be experienced and interpreted in various idiosyncrasies by individuals, so then my answer was still fairly relative.
Suddenly, in a quiet voice my guide asked me another question: ‘How do we know if it’s raining?’ I paused for a minute thinking that, I would have expected some clarity on the question raised by the seeker as opposed to another from my guide.
After a while I then thought, could there be any connections between these two questions? I also thought could my guide’s question be an answer in itself.
As I wondered in my travels back home I started thinking: ‘The only time music can be spiritual, is when it connects with the cosmic harmonies of the universe. And it is the totality of a musical experience that gets in tune with the music of the spheres.’
Iphupho (13 June 2018)