i have always believed that we africans of the diaspora have way more in common than we would probably dare to imagine. music is just one of the many ties that bind us. when i was in college, i loved juju music because it sounded so much like go-go music. i met a lot of nigerians who agreed with me. i got to see king sunny ade when i was an undergrad in austin texas at the fabled liberty lunch. that was epic. one churning percussive groove after another, with absolutely no end in sight. he literally wore out the audience. and so did the dancers. the only shows that i have ever seen that matched such heavy grooves so relentlessly (and that went on for so many hours, the audience left!) was parliament funkadelic.
when i fancied myself a budding journalist, i interviewed chief twins 77 for the campus' black student newspaper the griot. that was kind of a hoot. he was sitting there like a pasha, resplendent in these beautiful flowing robes and surrounded by musicians and dancers, and there were all these white people flipping out over his artwork, which was substantial. one piece after another drifted past us as we chatted, with gobs of cash money changing hands and a lot of introductions and bowing from the white people and what not. i didn't throw any cash around. nor did i bow. at one point, he said that i was a very pretty african girl. he said it flatly, in this really declarative way. he seemed to be genuinely surprised by this. i have no idea why.
and then there was that time when that percussionist from chief ebenezer obey's juju band blurted out a marriage proposal instead of hello when he was introduced to me. he was beautiful, with a near perfect smile and deep scars layered across both of his cheeks. when i told him i'd seriously consider it if he gave me his talking drum -- an instrument that women are not allowed to play, under any circumstances -- he looked visibly stricken and scoffed loudly in his native language. later after he spent the evening onstage watching me dance, he reconsidered, joining me and my friends to dance with me. eventually he returned to the stage and let me have the drumstick in this grand sweet gesture, declaring to the audience that he was going to take me home to his tribe. everyone clapped and screamed except me.
and no, i'm not a dancer. but when i was in the girl scouts, we had a black troop leader that was all about africa and black power and the soul in everything. i can recall many things we did for the community that involved african dance presentations with live drums and percussion. (one harvest dance in particular comes to mind.) it was a wonderful way to teach us about african culture and, in so doing, relate it to who we are as african-americans. so when i dance, it's either jazz tea social dances from the 20s (boardwalk empire!), the lindy from the 30s or african dance. that's all i got!
needless to say, i forgot that june is black music month. and because of chuck brown's untimely demise, juju and go-go have been on my mind and my stereo. for anyone who paused to wonder why the black side of dc grieved collectively last month when chuck brown -- grammy-award nominated guitarist/performer/legend and godfather of go-go -- passed away, the documentary below should set you straight.
...and this is a short informative documentary about juju music that explains it so succinctly, i wish i could use it to wallpaper my virtual world.