Slide Show - Images (mostly) from The Illustrated History of Painting


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Homesick for Negritude

James Brown - Live at the Apollo 1968

The ever-florid Earth Wind and Fire with genius founder Maurice White in command of vocals and the band.

The immortal Marvin Gaye (in Sly Stone style silver platforms) singing What's Going On - a song that could be heard (when I lived in a decommissioned ghetto firehouse) issuing from a hundred open windows in the high-rise housing projects of East Oakland California.

Here's the very 'fly' 1974 version of the Isley Brothers with Ron Isley valiantly attempting to vocally cut through chaotic Soul Train production values.

I've lived the greatest part of my life unmoored. A hereditary predisposition inherited from an orphaned father and dispossessed mother.

I have no indelible memories of belonging anywhere - anywhere in particular.

Thus my antipodean exile feels like just another irregular patch in a crazy-quilt of peripatetic existence.

Home, if there is one, is in art forms of one type or another - absorption in the accomplished expressions of a particular genre. And rivers.

Home - found initially in compelling fictions provided me in my youth by perceptive and accommodating public librarians. Librarians who were the lingering, sole, and unique proprietors of rural library-branches, set adrift in encroaching suburban seas of sameness.

Home - in Appalachian ballads sung and strummed by my mother,and astringently performed and recorded, by (what seemed to my young eyes spectral) ensembles of working men, in my uncle Pat's home-based recording studio. Songs which entertained enduring notions of mortal precariousness in the midst of left-coast abundance.

Home - in music and visual art of my own making. The studio acting as a sort of neutral space where notions of home (and away) seem quite beside the point.

I do become, and have always been, homesick for select rivers - western streams I've steadily fished over the decades - when I lived in New York and traveled west (for 3/4 months at a go) each summer season, to fish alone in remote drainages from Utah to Idaho. Upon each autumn's return to Gotham I'd imagine and dream away each art season - enduring poignant reveries of certain bends, runs, rocks and fishy features on 'my' home waters.

Last night - while listening to black R&B show-bands and soul music - courtesy of archival YouTube clips - I had a sense of of joy (the sort of aural bliss that brought me to listen to and badly emulate the form) mixed with an unutterable sadness - sadness connected to the geographical and cultural distance New Zealand has from the richness of African American culture.

That culture is, for me, another artful manifestation that has the requisite qualities to provide a home. Jesus I miss it.

I'm posting some here for myself and others.