Tag Archives: South Africa

Legacy Art Works #7 – Table Mountain 1&2

Table Mountain 1
(2010) Table Mountain 1

Table Mountain 2
(2010) Table Mountain 2

Table Mountain looks over Cape Town, South Africa. Because of my association with Abdullah Ibrahim it became one of those places that would arise in dreams.

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Nelson Mandela


Blues for a Hip King – Abdullah Ibrahim & Ekaya 1985

Any man that tries to rob me of my dignity will lose.
-Nelson Mandela

Something a martial artist would say. And, so he was, and Mandela was a man with a singular sense of time and an African sense of will.

Nelson Mandela 1918-2013 Sowetan.live.co.za

Mandela was for me, the greatest human of our time.

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Sathima Bea Benjamin 1936-2013, African Songbird

Sathima Bea benjamin

After negotiating a very short hallway, Abdullah Ibrahim and Sathima Bea Benjamin‘s suite at the Chelsea Hotel opened up to a living room with a window, and off to the left a small table mediated the entryway to the small kitchen.

Several times, while waiting for Abdullah Ibrahim to return or (other times)  materialize through a doorway on the other side of the main room, I would take tea with Sathima Bea Benjamin at this table. We chatted. I would attempt to inspire her to go on at length about any subject whatsoever because I loved the sound of her lilting, singer’s voice, I loved the way her eyes would sparkle, and, I loved her light and easy consciousness. In a way, those moments constituted some of the most beautiful experiences of waiting I ever experienced.

Sathima Bea Benjamin passed away over night on Tuesday in Cape Town, South Africa. (Article by Peter Hum, Ottawa Citizen) (Wikipedia)

I have a handful of diamond-like memories (from 1987-1990,) yet the main thing for me was how deeply magnanimous and optimistic was Sathima. (She once said, after I was recounted some jejune story about crappy characters in the music business, “Remember, they’re God’s Children too.”) She was very warm and welcoming and possessed an unforgettable vibe. Thank you Sathima for those precious moments hanging out.

Another memory etched in my mind is of Sathima and Tsidi, her daughter–today, the gifted storyteller and rapper Jean Grae–getting ready to go shopping. I remember Sathima spelling out the parameters and plan. I also remember everybody getting dressed up and then, with Sathima and her sister in the crowd, everybody going out ‘after hours, African style’ in NYC. Either the drummer Brian Abrahams or family friend Camara told me that evening, ‘Everybody loves Sathima.’

I saw her perform once, at Town Hall in NYC in, I believe, 1989. Town Hall was not an intimate enough space, although the concert was fine. Sathima, no doubt the finest jazz-flavored singer Africa has produced so far, struck me as being very close in vibration to Abby Lincoln, whom I would call her American counterpart. Their outstanding, shared qualities were the tremendous vulnerability and intimacy and unalloyed ‘heartfeltedness’ they achieved in opening up their humanity, and setting in their distinctive ways utterly direct communiques upon honest wings of song.

Sathima’s artistry was completely grounded in Africa at the same time she inhabited the American songbook. Again, She was in complete sympathy with the profound conjunction of words with music. When Sathima sang a standard she transformed it into universal spiritual soul music. Her own music crystalized this integration.

Over at the noguts noglory, I have set down some fantastic resources to help people dip into the deep well of Sathima Bea Benjamin’s music. Fifty years have passed since she made the Paris session with Duke Ellington. The most startling situation was that Sathima was celebrated in Cape Town in a series of performances in mid-July. As Matsuli Matthew Temple writes, this turned out to be her swan song.

Sathima, Peace Be With You (resources and music at noguts noglory blog)

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(ARK) Table Mountain

Table Mountain

Table Mountain (S.Calhoun 2010)

‘Appropriated Random Kitsch’ or ARK. Theme is the one place in the entire universe I’d like to visit the most.

(chosen, appropriated frames: using Dreamlines; hat tip to programmer Leonardo Solaas)

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Siren Song

There’s something comforting about leaving the TV on and tuned to the World Cup and hearing the vuvuzela peek through the sonic ambience of the house. When I first heard the singular drone, I commented, “I like that, it sounds like a whale song.” As it is with anything capable of plying a drone, I want one.

In the middle of June I posted a wide-ranging mix of South African music on the nogutsnoglory studios blog. Git it.

South Africa is large in my musical cosmos. It’s probably where music, in effect, started many tens of thousands of years ago.

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