Archive for December, 2010

“You Could Feel a New Way of Happiness…”

Posted in Uncategorized on December 31, 2010 by Josslyn Luckett

Joyful, Swing-ful, Exuberant, Transformative, Glorious, Delicious New Year to You and Yours!

I’ve been feasting on this Sidney Bechet autobiography, Treat It Gentle, for some time, nibbling at it here and there these past months.  The way Mr. Bechet speaks about music and liberation and memory is breathtaking.  The stories of his grandparents and parents bridge the slavery and emancipation era of New Orleans’ Congo Square…I’ve never read anything like it…here’s just a few tastes: 

Sundays was free for the slaves….  Sometimes, if they dreamed, things would come to them out of Africa…in all that recollecting, somehow there wasn’t any of it that didn’t have part of a music-form in it….  They’d sleep, and it would come to them out of the bottom of that dream.  They’d hear the drums of it, all sizes and all kinds of drums.  They’d hear the chants and the dance calls.  And always they’d hear that voice from the other tribe calling, talking across the air from somewhere else….  And when he got to the South, when he was a slave, just before he was waking, before the sun rode out in the sky, when there was just that morning silence over the fields with maybe a few birds in it–then, at that time, he was back there again, in Africa.  Part of him was always there, standing still with his head turned to hear it, listening to someone from a distance, hearing something that was kind of a promise, even then….  And when he awoke and remembered where he was–that chant, that memory, got mixed up in a kind of melody that had a crying inside itself.  The part of him that was the tribe and the drums–that part moved on and became a spiritual… (7)

(After Emancipation) suddenly there was a different way of singing it.  You could feel a new way of happiness in the lines.  All that waiting, all the time when that song was far-off music, waiting music, suffering music; and all at once it was there, it had arrived.  It was joy music now.  It was Free Day…Emancipation.  And New Orleans just bust wide open….  All those people who had been slaves, they needed the music more than ever now; it was like they were trying to find out in this music what they were supposed to do with this freedom:  playing the music and listening to it–waiting for it to express what they needed to learn…what a man does with his life when it finally is his. (48, 50)

I wish us all a 2011 of deep listening for all we need to learn to realize and richly celebrate our freedom, to dream and drum and dance in recognition of the arrival of our new song of joy.

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