Saturday 30 April 2016

Prince (1958 - 2016)

On notice
Prince Rogers Nelson who died on the 21st of April 2016 belongs in the catalogue of contemporary musicians I have always admired for musicality and ability; it is a shame I never got to see him live before.
The first I heard of Prince was when a classmate sang at any opportunity in boarding school, the words of I wanna by your lover, in fact, he screeched, “I ain't got no money”, played an air guitar and attempted a beatbox of the instrumentation.
An uncle returning from the UK updated our electronics with a stereo system, a turntable, a colour television and scores of hit records from the late 1970s to the early 1980s, amongst which was Prince’s album and a better idea of what my classmate was trying to mimic.
Then, Prince was naughty, but Rick James, Millie Jackson and Betty Wright were dirtier, and this was before “Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics” became a sticker on albums and CDs, all because of his Darling Nikki that got Tipper Gore to found The Parents Music Resource Center.
I digressed, Prince made music for adults as well as touching on many social and political issues, I remember the Ebony magazine juxtaposing him with André Cymone, much history and commentary.
Becoming a fan
However, many albums later, I got the Emancipation album with 3 CDs as a birthday/Christmas present in December 1996, since I am one of the lucky ones who has a birthday just a few days before Christmas. That was when I realised how prolific Prince was in producing not just hits, but amazing music.
Purple Rain, Little Red Corvette, When Doves Cry, Sign O’ the Times, Get Off, 1999, Cream, Diamonds and Pearls, Kiss had all caught my attention in the midst of other interests that now included a better appreciation of classical music too. Yes, visit Prince Vault to get an idea of all that he did.
There is much to write about the lines in the many songs he wrote and performed singularly playing all the instruments and only needing accompaniment at live performances and concerts, the covers he performed too got a unique sound from his rendition.
Words and swords
Some of the moving lyrics I could just listen to and reflect:
Oh yeah
In France a skinny man
Died of a big disease with a little name
By chance his girlfriend came across a needle
And soon she did the same
At home there are seventeen-year-old boys
And their idea of fun
Is being in a gang called The Disciples
High on crack, totin' a machine gun.
Lyrics from Sign O’ the Times
I guess because of the way I literally wore the play of my Emancipation CDs on my multi-changer CD-playing stereo, it became from use, my best Prince album, which does not take away from other wonderful albums and singles from Prince’s repertoire of talent, genius and mastery.
Let's go down 2 the holy river
If we drown then we'll be delivered.

If U ask God 2 love U longer
Every breath U take will make U stronger
Keepin' U happy (happy) and proud 2 call His name
(Go'n and say it)

Lyrics from The Holy River
Quite typical to think you’ll come to no harm or some redemption if you jumped into a holy river. I remember being served ‘holy’ water by my mother, it had been prayed over by some prophet and stored that it stunk and it sickened me, but she never thought the water having been prayed over could become harmful. This should be played at a proposal and at wedding receptions.
Then Prince covered Joan Osborne’s One Of Us, and whilst, I had heard it before, it was imprinted by Prince’s performance. He replaced slob with slave in his rendition.
What if God was one of us
Just a slob (slave) like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make his way home
Just trying to make his way home
Back up to heaven all alone
Nobody calling on the phone,
'Cept for the Pope, maybe, in Rome
Lyrics from One of Us.
The Holy River
For all his eccentricities and there were many, he was a performer and an entertainer a class apart, employing talent regardless of gender, pushing boundaries, and I think much will be written of this music revolutionary in years and decades to come. It is rumoured he left a vault of unpublished material and much as it would be interesting to listen to some of that, it is unlikely that they’ll have the kind of quality Prince would have liked to bring to their release.
It is difficult to write a fitting tribute to Prince as a fan of his music apart from constantly playing back his music and reviewing the commentary that comes with every single published work whilst he was alive as documented by sites like Prince Vault. I did not feel this way about Luther Vandross, Michael Jackson or Whitney Houston.
Without a doubt, each and every one of his songs had depth in the lyrics or the performance, the music world knows for sure that this man was a great loss. For me, saddened as I am, whatever ailed him in life, may his soul rest in peace.
He is now in the holy river, delivered from all the worries, sorrow and grief. Being a religious man, he probably made sure of this.
That's when u find out that u're better off
Makin' sure your soul's alright
Lyrics from Money Don’t Matter 2 Night.
Mostly, he was capable of great emotional expression and I will remember him for the many excerpts that mean a lot from his music.
Friend, lover, sister, mother/wife
Air, food, water, love of my life.
Lyrics from Friend, Lover, Sister, Mother/Wife

Lemme show you baby, I'm a talented boy
Lyrics from Get Off
Nobody can dispute this fact. Requiescat in pace, Prince Rogers Nelson.

Thought Picnic: No Fairy Tales

The things we can’t escape
One morning on my taxi cab ride to work, I reflected on a sad reality that has been a constant refrain in my own narrative. The fact that amongst my closest relationships, I have not found examples of matrimonial bliss to encourage me to embark on or wish for one.
Much as I have for myself found companionship at certain times quite rewarding and cherished memories of those now passed, there never seemed to be a fairy tale element to any of those liaisons. Rather, they were fraught with the inadequacies, failings, troubles, compromises, adjustments, tolerances and more.
Suffice it to say that none were of the prospect of marriage vows but for the moment, the time, the season, the embrace. This became so evident when just for the brief time of company, just the embrace, feel and feeling was enough. I've become one with a low bar of expectations.
A scion of rift
The non-divorce of my parents has had a most damaging effect on my enduring capacity, though I have fought not to be a non-distinguishable product of their détente and animus, the pictures from when I had any perception of what was going on have become indelibly etched into the landscape of the mind, they are a prism to a bad focus on engagement, quite unhealthy and sad.
It is for this reason too that I rarely wade into the feathers of playfulness or muck of disagreeableness whipped up by concord or conflict between partners, it is usually more complicated than what appears on the surface. The investment when it goes bad is a sum much less than the parts that went into it. No actions in word or in deed can ever fully express when relationships break up, none.

No fairy tales in real life
This is before we consider the pressures that come in, in terms of roles and expectations of the partners, the emotional losses, the mental anguish and even elements of mental illness that presents in anger, in bitterness, in rancour, in desperation, in vengeance and sometimes, self-harm.
No marriage is made in heaven; we all have to work at it on earth. It is harder work that any could have imagined on the day of the nuptials. Yet, I rejoice with those who are happy and commiserate with those who are sad, I offer an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on.
I would never know what you’re going through, but I will understand that you’re going through a lot, hoping that there is some future ahead that will allow you live a fulfilled life regardless of how things about that relationship turns out.
In the words of Anita Baker, there is no fairy tale in relationships, the reality is so stark that this is what we are left with;
You never came to save me, you let me stand alone
Out in the wilderness, alone in the cold
I found no magic potion, no horse with wings to fly
I found the poison apple, my destiny to die
No royal kiss could save me, no magic spell to spin
My fantasy is over, my life must now begin.
Fairy Tales (Lyrics),
sung by Anita Baker,
written by Anita Baker, Michael J. Powell & Vernon Fails

Thought Picnic: These things

These silly things
In my little way, there are things that intrigue and amuse me that to others might seem silly and that is fine with me.
Single and unattached, the tendency to a hermit’s existence is readily available and in that, times of introspection and thought with the occasional lapse into unhealthy mental assays that do nothing for confidence or esteem.
Yet, one must as needs allow travel these lonely courses in search of new light and insight, upon which one might happen on interesting self-discovery or heightened realisation.
These serious things
Nowhere has this been revealing as the wonder of medicine in my lifetime and that fact that for every advance in medicine that I have had the opportunity to avail myself of, I have been blessed to benefit greatly without the encumbrance of archaic beliefs, strange customs or weird interpretations preventing me.
Born some ten weeks before I was due, medicine gave me an incubator where in many other places without knowledge or resource I might have expired into a memory of loss like my half-brother Iriri some 40 or so years later.
These useful things
I marvel at how at one time, threats loom by the tales in my blood and after taking a prescription, some with unbelievable side-effects, new tales are told, with the threat literally snuffed out or markedly weakened.
Medicine today when viewed through the prism of beliefs established over a millennium ago will look like witchcraft, much as the aircraft we fly in today would to the inventors of man in flight, just over a century ago.
There is a lot in the knowledge pool of humanity to benefit us physically, mentally and possibly spiritually. As a pragmatist, I avail myself of all that keeps me alive, lively, reflective and happy. Let us detach ourselves from the fatalism of fate out of our hands and embrace the joy of living.

Friday 8 April 2016

Thought Picnic: Celebrating freedom without offence

My society
I was walking home last night when in a recess of a building just off the main street I saw two men canoodling in a deep embrace on anticipation of possibly greater pleasure later on.
Whilst it was a somewhat unusual sight because not a few streets away is the gay village where they could have been in a bar or club up to much more than could not be printed here, I was gratified.
Gratified that I live in a civilised society that allows the full expression of self without the fear of sanction or harm. Maybe just half a century ago, this simple act of affection between two consenting adults would have attracted the charges of outraging public decency and gross indecency, we have really moved on.
The offended mind
Now, some people might well be seriously offended by this sight, the problem in my view is theirs rather than of the men. The free world we live in makes allowances for diversity and co-existence in the face of difference and what is out of the ordinary.
It was my guess that the men would go home together to be up to whatever they may wish in bed without harming anyone, society or humanity at large.
It is with that in mind that I tweeted yesterday, “The hallmarks of civilised society: Two men kissing on the street and no fear that anyone will be bloodied by an irate mob.”

Beyond these lands
That tweet was in recognition of another man who happened to express love in a same-sex liaison with another, Akinnifesi Olumide Olubunmi [Graphic Content] who died on the 18th of February from the injuries he sustained from an irate mob in Ondo State, Nigeria. They took the law into their own hands to rid their savage and primitive community of the homosexual and celebrated their conquest on social media.
Akinnifesi Olumide Olubunmi is one of many same-sex attraction people, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, intersexual or gender neutral people who have been set upon by the mob or adherents of bigoted and extremist belief systems, thinking they are cleansing their communities by murder and the blood of other fellow human beings on their heads and their hands.
Sometimes, we fail to appreciate the liberties and freedoms that have come from escaping intolerance, ignorance and bigotry.
In response to my tweet, someone remonstrated and posited a fallacy about whether I would want my son doing that.
My response:

Dishonourable parental conduct
The perceived sense of honour we arrogate to ourselves at the expense of people who in a difficult, diffident and uncompromising world need our support is shocking. We would easily sacrifice our wards to belief systems, to traditions and bizarre customs rather than protect them from harm and stand proudly with them against a hostile world no matter the cost.
Parents disowning their children because the kid is different, others taking their girls to abattoirs of female genital mutilation when there is no medical need for this outrageous practice than to satisfy a primitive custom. Parents believe religious quacks that their children are practitioners of witchcraft and giving up the children to brutalisation and evil wickedness in the name of exorcism rituals. Worse still is the ones who murder their children in what they term honour killing.
There is no honour in murder, to love differently might leave us disappointed, but that is no excuse for murder. How will any honour be restored by shedding the blood of your child to restore your status in your community, such thinking is not only warped, by such actions you cannot be deserving of anything but the toughest sanctions without the option for parole or mitigation.
It is not that the battle for the freedom of expression has been totally won, many battles remain amongst us and beyond us, I celebrate the fact that anyone can choose to love who they want as adults and not fear to express that love openly – that is the hallmark of a civilised society and we must all strive towards that state of living and let live; the amicable coexistence of our human diversity.

Monday 4 April 2016

Thought Picnic: At death do we close the book?

Facebook is a terror, the harbinger of tidings least expected, even of news that shocks and saddens.
Many a time, I have happened upon page and status without the need to dig or explore, for before my eyes is another flicker of light gone, the passing of someone I once knew.
With seeming regularity with premonition of proximity, I count the numbers of some with whom an intimacy was once shared and never will that be shared again, they have gone to the place of reminiscence in the lake of memory where maybe a ripple or a wave brings for thoughts, a smile, a tear or both. We meet only in dreams.
Then you wonder, what is death?
A natural process where an episode has run its course?
Yet for all that ends in death, many are not a natural cause but a sudden and abrupt pulling away of the carpet, disease, illness, murder, suicide, terrorism, courses totally unanticipated in many instances and not softening the effect of the blow.
What is death, you wonder still?
A cessation or a beginning?
A defeat or a victory?
A wall or a portal?
It is difficult to say, for if there were more to the end of life beyond the end of life, where are the souls if those be significant gone, for the total number of humanity from the very beginning of time indeterminate is in the innumerable and unnumbered billions.
Of these billions gone, their stories wherever they have gone, if there be a place, none have returned from that journey with news of exploits.
Going by the measure of earthly time, there is no time for exploits for the many we are told by legend, fame or happenstance have revived from a state of death have only been dead for days, nary a week, never a fortnight, forget a month and a year is quite impossible.
Religion with its many belief systems offers plenty a shoulder to cry on and bosom to weep to soften the shock of death with a hope, an expectation and longing placed in a time and space unreachable without passage.
Some, however, have beguiled and bemused as peeping toms and messengers between us in the living world and those who have left the living world. Are we to believe them?
It there is anything tangible left beyond the works, the legacy, the memories and the bequeaths, it is the solid tombstones and mausoleums, the deep waters, the ice show windows created by those who got lost, the rock faces before a plunge. the kindling for flames or graves, many unmarked for assuredly in death we return to earth from whence we came or completely reduced to ashes.
Whether this is the end or not is the story of man and his encounters with death.