Journalist Selwyn Seyfu Hinds Examines The Mashup, part 2
Another great one passed on last year, though the word resistance was hardly bandied about in his obits. Michael Joseph Jackson was called a lot of things over the course of his career and in the wake of his death. Resistance fighter was not one of them. But as with all things Jackson, the equation is not as clear-cut as it first appears. For many folk, there are two Michael Jacksons—pre-and post-Thriller. And both incarnations fit into our narrative of struggle and success. Pre-Thriller Mike sits in the memory as unabashedly black, he of the full lips and nose, and Motown lineage. And while that Mike certainly wasn’t Marvin Gaye wondering what’s going on, much less lobbing the cries for justice of a Marley or a Kuti, his artistic heights in a society inimical to the very notion of black excellence, and his success in crafting a musical common-denominator in factionalized America can’t be said to have had no place in the struggle. Post-Thriller Mike, he of the thinner features, lighter skin, and tabloid attention, sits more uneasily in the memory. For this Mike, energy for resistance/struggle was often directed in the global/humanist realm, with a particular emphasis on children. He damn near created the mode of concerned international celebrity now exhibited by the Bonos, Jolies, and Madonnas of the world. But Mike certainly had his black-fist-in- the-sky moment, too.
Recall 2002: Jackson banded with Al Sharpton to lobby against exploitative practices of the music industry and the way it impacted black artists. Yes, it may have been personally motivated by his own frustrations with his label Sony. Yes, the cynical would say it was easy for him to rage against the machine then, when he’d stopped selling records and had already been caricatured by the strange behavior and scandal that ruled his later years. But there was something in the face, eyes, and voice of a Mike Jackson, standing outside of Virgin Music, shaking his proverbial and literal fist at the one he’d named tormentor that Fela Kuti would understand. Besides, anyone who helped masterminded “We Are The World,”—that celebrity anthem which raised $63M to combat famine in Africa—has earned the right to petition for a perpetual seat at the table for heroes of the struggle—at least the artistic ones.
Selwyn Seyfu Hinds
Michael Jackson speaks about Africa
EBONY/JET: Do you have any special feeling about this return to the continent of Africa?
JACKSON: For me, its like the "dawn of civilization." Its the first place where society existed. It's seen a lot of love. I guess there's that connection because it is the root of all rhythm. Everything. Its home.
EBONY/JET: You visited Africa in 1974. Can you compare and contrast the two visits?
JACKSON: I'm more aware of things this time: the people and how they live and their government. But for me, I'm more aware of the rhythms and the music and the people. Thats what I'm really noticing more than any thing. The rhythms are incredible. You can tell especially the way the children move. Even the little babies, when they hear the drums, they start to move. The rhythm, the way it affects their soul and they start to move. The same thing that Blacks have in America...
EBONY/JET: How does it feel to be a real king?
JACKSON: I never try to think hard about it because I don't want it to go to my head. But, its a great honor ....
Journalist Selwyn Seyfu Hinds Examines The Mashup, part 1
The entire city of Lagos, Nigeria breathes like one giant organism. Inhale. Frenzied motion does not so much cease as pull back. Like the innumerable vehicular antibodies that speed along Lagos's asphalt arteries, only to slam to unpredictable halts driven by nary a stop sign or traffic light. Exhale. Hucksters of all types—young, old, armless, legless—swarm the stuck vehicles, creating an instant market. Goods are swiftly offered: phone cards, sexual favors, foodstuff. The bargaining comes fast, at least until the city draws its next breath; sucking hucksters away, then propelling vehicles off along its arteries again. Inhale. Exhale. Stop. Go—at hyperventilating pace. Such is the exhausting, inexorable rhythm of this living city. Save, perhaps, for one place in an area called Ikeja. Here, the sun blinks through Lagos’s near-permanent grey sky to gaze upon a sand-colored building with a portentous name—The New Afrika Shrine. It is not the same Shrine made famous by afrobeat king Fela Ransmoe Kuti. That place is long gone, destroyed in 1977 by the soldiers of Fela’s nemesis, the Nigerian government, the longtime target of his musical broadsides against the forces of oppression and structural iniquities. This new Shrine is its spiritual and musical inheritor. Within these walls, one finds respite from the frenzied stop/go pace of the city. On any given night, especially when Fela’s son Femi Kuti is home from tour, the new Shrine comes alive with the sounds of afrobeat, and Lagos's hectic stop/go drowns in a steady pool of rhythm, melody, and spirit. All around the building, images of Great Ones look down with still approval—in stark contrast to the living, dynamic bodies in motion. On one wall sits Fela himself, of course. Nearby one finds MLK, Malcolm X and sundry others. All of them great. All passed on. All champions of resistance. All powerful advocates for the human and political rights of African and African-descended peoples.
The Birth of Afro-beat
I said "you see that my music. I must give it a name-o, a real African name that is catchy. I've been looking for names to give it. And I've been thinking of calling it Afro-beat"
excerpted from "FELA" This Bitch of A Life, The Authorized Biography of Africa's Musical Genius