MAURICE WHITE 1941 – 2016: Derf Recklaw pays TRIBUTE to force behind Earth, Wind & Fire

MAURICE WHITE 1941 -2016: Derf Recklaw pays TRIBUTE to the force behind Earth, Wind & Fire

Maurice White - RIP (center)

Maurice White – RIP (center)

After reading Richard Williams’ memories of meeting the recently departed Maurice White on his excellent Blue Moment site I thought I’d give a more permanent home to the homage paid on Facebook by an early collaborator and comrade, California based multi-instrumentalist Derf Recklaw. I discovered this tribute to the man behind the seminal Earth Wind & Fire through the Black Rock Coalition co-founder Greg Tate and it gives a rare personal insight into the musical life of a musician coming into his own among a community of radical, conscious musicians in Chicago, who were aligning themselves to both Africa and the Cosmos. Read on.

“Good morning everyone. Peace, Blessings and Love to All. I haven’t spoken too much about the great Maurice White, who made his transition a couple of days ago. He was part of a spiritual connection that began with a band of musicians from Crane Jr. College on the Westside of Chicago . They were called the Kingsmen. They won the Downbeat festival award in Indiana and after that Maurice and other band members Don Myrick,Charles Handy and Lui Lui Satterfield and later Pete Cosey and Master Henry Gibson became studio musicians at Chess records.

Aside from studio work this band came to be known as Chuck Handy and the Pharaohs. People would see a line of Mercedes-Benz going down the street to their gigs. I remember walking down 43rd street and seeing the Mercedes lined up and hearing the music coming out of venue. After Eldee Young and Red Holt left the Ramsey Lewis trio, Cleveland Eaton and Maurice White were the replacements.

Verdeen & Maurice in Egypt

Verdeen & Maurice in Egypt

Chuck Handy and the Pharaohs joined Kelan Phil Cohran’s Artistic Heritage Ensemble. Brother Phil made African thumb pianos (Lukembi, Sansa, Mbira ). Upon seeing Phil play the thumb piano, Phil amplified the instrument and called it a “Frankiephone”, Maurice took up the instrument. Chuck Handy and the Pharaohs became engrossed with the wisdom and knowledge of Egyptolgy and modal approach to music expression. I joined Kelan Phil Cohran’s Artistic Heritage Ensemble in March of 1968. Brother Phil left the AAFRO-ARTS Theater in September of 1968 and the majority of the band remained to form what was called The Pharaohs. Brother Charles Handy ask me to be a part of the band.


Maurice embraced the Spiritual concepts that we had as a band. He formed a band called the Salty Peppers and I sang on their first record ‘La La time’. Earth (Don Whiteheard) Wind (Wade Flemons) Fire (Maurice White). Also no water in his astrology chart. We always talked when we saw each other. He would always say, “You got a birthday coming.” He remembered my birthday and I his. We were always cool. I knew most of his family. When my band Ship Of The Desert was in the studio recording, his brother Ron, an engineer at P.S.Studios in Chicago, sent some of my songs to Maurice to hear. He told me, “You know I have to keep up with what your doing. You are a whole show by yourself.”

Derf Recklaw

Derf Recklaw

I’m thankful to still be part of that musical connection. There are only a few of that connection still alive. Earth,Wind and Fire became the number one Black band in the world. A band with Dignity and Class. R.I.P.”

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SOUNDS OF HAITI 2016: Lakou Mizik – The Trailer

Lakou Mizik – The Trailer has arrived!

On April 1st 2016, Cumbancha Discovery will release the debut album from Haitian roots-revival band Lakou Mizik. Following their triumphant performance at GlobalFest in NYC the ensemble ignited a wave of interest and a rave review from the New York Times. Lakou Mizik came together after the devastating Haitian earthquakes of 2010 and their members span both generations and genres. They draw on the rhythms of Vodou, embrace rap, incorporate the horns of rara carnival music and underpin their the soaring distinctive harmonies and call and response vocals with exultant dance grooves. To get a deeper insight into the story behind this unique coalition of Haitian singers and players check the lovely video below.

Watch this space for a few more words on the album.

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YEAR OF THE FIRE MONKEY – February 8, 2016

Year of the Fire Monkey—February 8, 2016

monkey king jpg

I have to confess that I’m somewhat addicted to visiting the Plum Publications website – a treasure trove of a martial arts information/resources run by California based teacher and practitioner Ted Mancuso and his partner Debbie Shayne. Their Kaimen blog-page is where you can tune in and read a review and, if you so wish, buy the latest offerings – on film or in book form – from a host of accomplished martial artists around the world. It’s also the focus for discussion and thoughts on various styles and practices. It’s the place where you can find Jack Yan’s excellent translations of Chen Zheng Lei’s writings on Chen taijiquan or Adan Hsu’s in depth DVD series’ on Ba Ji Thunder, The 5 Elements of Xing Yi Quan or the legendary San Cai Sword. The site naturally offers their own Plum Exclusives where Ted commits his own learning and teaching experiences in the arts of Bagua Zhang, 10 Road Tan Tui, Spear, Staff, Shaolin Cane, Qi Gong et al to DVD.

As the Chinese New Year beckons Plum enlisted Narrye Caldwell- a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine, classical feng shui consultant, martial artist, and practitioner of Chinese Pole Star astrologyto give us a fascinating and enlightening lowdown on the year to come.

I’ve re-blogged it below with the hope of spreading the word. So, over to over to Ted Mancuso to make the introduction: “Our resident astrologer, Narrye Caldwell,  makes no predictions for this unpredictable Monkey Year. Remember though, this is Chinese Astrology – a completely different animal, so to speak.”

monkey 1“Back in November several friends told me they were sure they already felt the effects of the coming Monkey year. I insisted that this was impossible, that Chinese astrology doesn’t work that way, it was too soon, and there is no such thing as “creeping Monkey,” or “shades of the Monkey to come.” But the stories of strange and confounding challenges kept coming in—nothing that could be called a crisis, just frustrating annoyances that bordered on the humerous. Things like finding half way through the day that you’re in an important meeting with high level executives at work and you notice you’re wearing one red sock and one green sock. Or you picked up your room mate’s keys on your way out and find yourself scrambling around on your lunch hour trying to rectify the mistake and set things right for your very irritated friend.

So around about December, I revised my position and admitted that this departure from the expected course of things was exactly like Monkey qi. How like the Monkey to sneak into the party incognito, peer into windows, and play some unexpected tricks on the guests just to get things going and create some fun.

Welcome to the Year of the Fire Monkey, which technically begins on February 8, 2016. (The Chinese Lunar New Year always begins on the second new moon after the winter solstice, in case you were wondering why it’s on a different date every year.)

There are two significant energetic shifts that will effect everyone this year. The first is that we’re moving into a Fire year after two Wood years. Wood is growth, enthusiasm, the innocence of youth and the pursuit of a vision. Wood qi is fresh and unformed. It has the drive to break through barriers, but it lacks wisdom and refinement, so can sometimes be unstable and reckless. Fire qi is the full expression of Wood’s vision. Fire brings forth the rose, lays the paint on the canvas, and gives voice to the song that’s been forming in the depths of your heart. Fire is intense, passionate, and calls forth our need to connect with one another. In a Fire year, no longer satisfied with the pursuit of our dreams, we now can bring things into actuality. And as we see things manifest, we want to gather with our tribe, raise a glass and celebrate.

But it’s important to remember that nothing is solid yet and there’s much to be done. In fact, the danger now is getting so excited by the brilliance of the flame you’ve created, that you forget to tend it properly and it quickly burns out for lack of enduring and consistent fuel. Fire is erratic and difficult to control. It can flicker precariously, burst into a dangerous conflagration, or settle into a nice steady hearth fire depending on how it’s managed. So that’s your first task this year—whatever you’ve created during the last two years, treat it now like precious tinder; protect it and blow on it very gently to nudge it into a nice steady flame; feed it with long burning fuel that will last. Don’t throw fast burning paper onto it just for the dazzling but short lived burst of heat and flame. Slow and steady now, will get you a more enduring result.

Now, what about that second energetic shift? Enter the Monkey

The key to grasping the qi we’re all going to be surfing can be found in the Chinese classic novel of the 16th century “Journey to the West.” One of the famous characters in this legendary tale is the Monkey King who demonstrates a combination of pluck, bravery, scandalous irreverence, ingenuity, ruthlessness, and magic to assure his status as one of China’s epic folk heroes. The Monkey King was born from a stone, learns the ways of immortality, commits a series of crimes against the gods, steals the peach of immortality from the Empress’s garden, and catalyzes a terrible war between Heaven and the Monkey Army. In the end, he is sent to accompany a famous monk and his disciples to the western kingdom to fetch back a Buddhist sacred text. All sorts of magical adventures ensue over the course of four volumes.

The point here is this is the qi flavor of the coming year. Key words are: erratic, irrepressible, ingenious, clever, unpredictable, resourceful, adventurous, selfish, magical, quixotic, amoral. In other words, keep your wits about you because anything, absolutely anything, can happen. All manner of apple carts could be turned over in the most surprising ways. This will be a test of your ability to stay calm and unruffled in the face of relentless and unexpected challenges. But remember—on the other side of chaos is magic and transformation. Be brave and keep your sense of humor; never forget that there’s spiritual gold at the end of the tale.

How you handle the coming year is largely a matter of harmonizing your own nature with this Monkey qi. The Monkey King was famous for his secret powers and magical weapons, one of which was a staff that he could shrink to the size of needle and hide in his ear. My advice is to conjure your own secret powers, (yes you each have at least one,) and think of yourself as the hero of your own myth. What part do you play in this year’s adventure? What’s your strategy? How resourceful can you be? Learn to see magic everywhere.


Here are some tips for each of the animals.

Rat: You are in the Monkey’s inner circle, a favorite accomplice who knows how to play the game. Your super power is analysis and planning. The Sheep year was a bit strained because people didn’t appreciate your fine eye for detail and your need to check everything for accuracy. But this year, your careful attention to strategy will be seen as the essential wisdom behind the Monkey’s irrepressible inventiveness. Without you, none of these daring schemes could possibly work. This is your year to be the hero of the story.

Ox: Your super power is endurance. Last year was a trial, one of the few periods in the twelve year cycle that really can get to an Ox. All that team work and the feeling of being managed was truly a test for you. Monkey year qi isn’t really your style; it’s too erratic and irresponsible. But you’ll do fine if you frame the time as preparation for 2017, the Rooster year, when you’ll really be in your element. Then we’ll be talking discipline, achievement, hard work, delayed gratification—all the stuff you love. So for now, stick to your plan, and let the ups and downs of the coming year roll off your very thick skin.

Tiger: OK Tiger, listen up. This is important. Do NOT, under any circumstances, be baited into leaving your cave this year. Yes I know you have to go to work, take care of committments, and you can’t literally retreat into a cave like Milarepa. (Well if you can, then by all means do so.) But you’re going to have to symbolically take yourself out of the game and sit on the bench. Only do what’s absolutely necessary. The problem is the Monkey doesn’t fight fair. And you can’t engage with life in any other way but with complete integrity. The Monkey’s opportunistic tactics will get you every time, and in spite of your prodigious courage and strength, you could die of nervous exhaustion. Oh, I forgot to say that your special power is integrity. So stay true to yourself by taking your own adventure this year but make sure it’s an internal one. Practice martial arts by yourself in a quiet hidden place. Store up your strength; don’t let the Monkey drain your qi. You’re waiting for the Dog year (2018), when you can display your true colors in an unprecedented display of power.

Rabbit: Your super power is sensitivity and your intuition borders on the psychic. In the Sheep year these gifts were appreciated, and you were able to enjoy the companionship of friends who share your elegant taste and peaceful approach to life. However you may have grown tired of hosting the party with Sheep, (it did take a lot of energy,) and perhaps feel ready for some quiet time with the shades drawn. That approach could prove difficult this year. The Monkey craves attention and thrills, and tends towards hyperactivity. It could be difficult to remain aloof in the face of so much chaos. So keep that famous Chinese proverb pinned to your bathroom mirror: “A swift hare has three holes.” In other words, always have several options available for retreat. When one bolt hole is blocked, simply change direction and disappear down door number 2, or 3. In this way, you’ll come out at the end of the year with enough qi to face the very challenging Rooster year in 2017.

Dragon: I know, you’ve been waiting for this, your favorite of all years. Here’s how it works: you, of course, are the leader (and of a very grand sort like a royal emperor,) Rat is the campaign manager, and Monkey is the spin doctor. Have I got that right? You three are going to have the best time this year. Adventures await, complete with magic weapons, demons, heroic deeds, and all the stuff of legends. This is your time. Just remember—Dragons can either be egotistical and over confident, or they can truly be the wise and benificent king. The world needs you to be the latter. Oh yes—you have many super powers but perhaps the most important this year is the power of transformation.

Snake: Monkey and Snake have a long history of entanglement. They share an attraction to intrigue, and can’t resist one another’s charms. However Snake is basically introverted and likes to keep its agenda hidden; Monkey, the classic extrovert, inevitably blows Snake’s cover just for the attention. A falling out always ensues. So, your task this year is to avoid getting too sucked in, even though you see magic in every opportunity. Practice holding back. This is a year to wait for the more reliable energy of the Rooster year, a time when your quiet wisdom can be applied with precision and the expectation of a successful outcome.

Horse: Well, you and Monkey both like to play but your version of play is sports, while the Monkey revels in slight of hand, stage magic, and practical jokes. Things could get confusing. Also, you’re a hard worker when it comes to practical matters; and Monkeys only want to find a way out of doing chores so they can go dream up some new trouble to get into. What starts out looking like fun, could turn into the kind of chaos that can get you hurt. Your super power is your noble heart. When in doubt, take some time to get quiet, return to true self, and allow your heart to lead you. In this way you can avoid the worst of the Monkey’s hyperactivity and rash behavior, and save yourself considerable embarrassment or injury.

Sheep: I imagine you’re pretty tired by now. You’ve had a lot of responsibility this past Wood Sheep year, what with managing everything both at work and at home. You actually don’t like being a leader, at least not a visible one, preferring to work behind the scenes creating a harmonious team in which each person’s strengths are perfectly utilized. Well done. Now go rest. Oh, except it’s impossible to rest in a Monkey year. And it’s so difficult to hand over the reins of your well organized team. The best approach is to allow what you’ve created to have a life of its own now. Just give it a little nudge now and then to keep things moving along if they drift too much. But resist the temptation to micro manage everything. The Monkey will pull the rug out from under you for sure. Your super power? Propriety. (Everyone but you will have to look that up.)

Monkey: Every year I have to caution the people whose year it is, to be careful. When it’s your year it’s like having to sit in the front row in the classroom. You have to be prepared every day—no hiding or playing safe in the back of the room. However, if you’re a Monkey in a Monkey year, none of this applies. In fact the more the merrier. Monkeys love an excess of Monkey energy. Think of yourself scampering through the treetops with a whole gang of Monkey friends, getting into all sorts of lovely trouble and better yet, getting out of it together. Now if you really want to get stuff done, team up with Dragon and Rat. Then instead of just making trouble for everyone else, you can produce the magic elixir of immortality and save the planet. Just think of it. Your super power—oh you have so many wondrous powers—but I have to pick one, so let’s just go with that magic glow in the dark ring you carry in your pocket (or wait, what about the invisibility cape……)

Rooster: You have a fairly neutral relationship with Monkey, mainly because you never lose focus, even in the face of Monkey’s ceaseless manuevering. It’s actually not a bad thing to let yourself get a little swept up in the adventure, even though fun, for its own sake, isn’t really your thing. But your super power is your laser focus and you find the Monkey’s short attention span a ridiculous waste of energy. When you bring the matter up, even in an attempt to be helpful, you’re seen as a critic who’s attempting to undermine everyone’s fun. Don’t worry, you are a master of delayed gratification. Stick to your plan and everyone will admire you for your accomplishments and wish they’d listened to you in the Rooster year.

Dog: Your super power is loyalty. This bone deep aspect of your character drives you to work hard and can even mean you’re on the job 24/7. After all, who else will take care of the family and guard the home if not you? But even the most faithful watch dog deserves some time to play. So consider this Monkey year to be your time to romp on the beach, go to the dog park, and enjoy some well earned time off. Just be aware that the Monkey’s flexible morality and trickster ways may clash with your high ethical standards and honesty; so have all the fun you want, but watch out for anything that may compromise your personal integrity. Remember, the Monkey actually stole the peach of immortality; he didn’t earn it. You basically have two completely different sets of values.

Pig: Last year was the perfect party, with Sheep managing the guest list, Rabbit decorating the table, and you cooking the meal and picking the wine. Now, it’s time for the after dinner party and games. Monkey now arrives with a suitcase full of party gags and magic tricks; a whole evening of fun is in the works. One word of caution: the Pig’s super power is tolerance that comes from a comprehensive view of life. Your generous nature makes it easy for you to include every possible viewpoint and type of behavior. But you can also be gullible. You could easily be targeted this year by tricksters, swindlers, and con artists. Run any interesting new schemes and business ventures by a Sheep friend, who has much better radar for deception than you do.

Narrye Caldwell  is available for astrology consultations at her office in Santa Cruz, Ca., or by Skype or phone. She can be reached through her website at

You can browse the Plum Publications site here:


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AS WE’RE NOW IN 2016 I thought I’d stop prevaricating and just big up a few albums that were bought or sent to me in 2015 and have stayed the course.

K LPI have to say that Kamasi Washington’s ‘The Epic’ still packs the punch it had the first time I heard it. There is definitely something deep going down on the West Coast, a musical undercurrent that demands we listen. Check out Kamasi’s contribution to Kendrick Lamar’s much discussed ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ – musically, there’s some seriously radical stuff going on that LP

Another album that Ninja sent me was the Romare album – a free flowing contemporary offering and a most pleasant surprise.

YouTo coincide with moving his IF Music boutique record emporium from Fitzrovia back to D’arblay Street in Soho the man called Jean Claude has released via BBE a double album of rare jazz cuts – none of which I’d previously owned. Appropriately entitled, ‘You Need This! A Journey into Deep Jazz’ this diverse selection homes in on a set of obscure, but not supa-rare albums from players like John Stubblefield, James Clay, Stanton Davis and Max Roach, whose excellent MBOOM project kicks off this venture. I can’t recall how many times JC has insisted, “You need this!” and for once I’m not going to argue.

Mbongwana Star Pic:

Mbongwana Star

It was nice to spot World Circuit boss Nick Gold in a pic taken in the White House with President Obama and the surviving members of Cuba’s Buena Vista Social Club. Just as I’d thought Nick had packed it all in at World Circuit a CD by Mbongwana Star dropped through my door. Obviously, Nick was much taken by the wayward music on this disc and did us all a favour by putting it out there. Mbongwana Star are five Congolese musicians, two of whom used to be in Staff Benda Bilili, plus Paris based producer Dr. L . Their debut album ‘From Kinshasa’ is a punky mix of spacey electronics, surging rhythms and flashes of Congolese guitar. Unique and other worldly!

Staying with Africa but on a crate digging tip I’m nicely vibed on the ‘Amara Toure’ album compiled by Samy Ben Redjeb for his mighty Analog Africa Label. Like the companion release ‘Senegal 70’ these albums deliver vintage Senegalese music but, for me, it’s the super cool Latin flavas of Amara Toure that wins out!

GL_LOGO-1200px_72dpi1-1024x10242016 will see the Olympics in Brasil and to go with it a guaranteed explosion of music. Over the past year I became an avid listener and staunch fan of Jody Gillett‘s Brasil Music Exchange. Produced by Folded Wing in partnership with Brasil Música e Artes, these shows have been essential listening for anyone interested in sound of modern Brasil. One album that Jody turned me onto is Goma-Laca -‘ Afrobrasiliades’ – an innovative album that homes in on Afro-Brasilian classics from yesteryear and transports them in another millennia. Seek it out: GOMA-LAKA.COM. Check Jody’s shows on Mixcloud ( – The girl digs deep!

One album that gathered a rake of 5 star reviews, which I also gave a deserved props to, was Xáos. Several years in the making the duo of Nick ‘Dubulah’ Page and Jimi Ahetas returned to their Greek roots by employing a host of ancient instruments and musical concepts. Add some futuristic micro-tonal musings and you might just get the picture. Xáos provided a deep and proud soundtrack to a Greek nation battered and bruised in the anti-austerity struggle.I need to hear the full Xáos ensemble live in somewhere like the Union Chapel. It would sound amazing. I can’t understand why a promoter hasn’t jumped at the opportunity.

Dubalah & Ahetas

Xáos: Dubalah & Ahetas

On that UK NU-Jazz… Spiritual Jazz tip… four albums are holding tight…Baritone saxophonist and flautist Tamar Osborn can be seriously proud of the Collocutor album via On The Corner. As can Nick Woodmansey for his ‘The Light Years Of The Darkness'(Brownswood) – a set of colloborations done for the Steve Reid Foundations. The Light Years Of The Darkness’ has an all star cast feat. Tamar, Jessica Lauren, Kieran Hebden, The Pyramids, Finn Peters, Ahmed Abdullah, Kevin G Davy, Val Etienne, Philip Harper, Rob Gallagher, Liz Elensky et al. Seek it out. It was a bit of a shock to see ‘Dem Ones’ featuring drummer Moses Boyd and saxophonistBinker Golding notch up a MOBO! Recorded in Mark Ronson’s studio and then transmitted into the analog/audiophile set up of Gearbox Records next door, it’s been fascinating to hear two graduates of Gary Crosby’s Tomorrow’s Warriors pursuing a route that’s attuned to ‘Free Jazz’ world. Staying faithful to the Spiritual Jazz path is Mancunian trumpeter Matthew Halsall and his Gondwana Orchestra. The reflective compositions on the ‘Into Forever’ album build on the ensemble’s previous endeavour and the 1000+ audience that packed out the Union Chapel were clearly smitten!

Straight outta the UK comes another cutting edge, totally free, session feat. Black Top & saxophonist Evan Parker. Recorded live in The Vortex this is an intensely engaging set of boundary breaking music… it’s out on the Babel label… and I wrote the liner notes (so, it’s gotta be worth checkin’!)

Matana Roberts

Matana Roberts

On the US “jazz” front I have two LPs that are poles apart. For echoes of ‘Crescent’ era Coltrane look no further that Charles Lloyd‘s ‘Wild Man Dance’ (Blue Note) – it’s live album recorded in Poland in 2013. But if you’re a drawn to an alternative journey I’m still wrapping my head around Matana Roberts’ radical ‘Coin Coin River Capter3 River Run Thee’. Can’t believe I missed her playing at Oslo in Hackney!

Finally, though D’Angelo‘s ‘Black Messiah’ was released at the end of 2014 I didn’t invest in the vinyl until 2015 so I’m including it here. The production is killing! May the funk be with you!

PS: I’ve loved watching Dayme Arocena develop since I first saw her sing in St Pancras Church and her ‘Nueva Era’ album on Brownswood points towards great things. I’ve just noticed that globetrotting saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings has a brand new Comet Is Coming 12″ and I’m excited. I’m also eagerly awaiting the arrival of some music via Universal Mind Systems. 2016 is looking good already!

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JANUARY 1st 2016: Heiroglyphic Being & Friends LIVE @ Cafe Oto!

JANUARY 1st 2016: Hieroglyphic Being & Friends LIVE @ Cafe Oto!

Hieroglyphic Being Pic by Celesete Sloman

Hieroglyphic Being Pic by Celesete Sloman

New Years day 2016. Following on his 6 hour New Years eve DJ set at Café Oto Chicago’s Jamal Moss aka Hieroglyphic Being returned to Oto to perform a live, totally free, improvised set with Black Top’s Orphy Robinson and master drummer Mark Sanders. I had toyed with dropping in on the 6 hour session but this meeting of musical minds provided a tantalizing alternative. It was imbued with much promise and had the potential to set the tone for the year to come. I was not to be disappointed.

I first came across Jamal while editing Straight No Chaser. I was a regular online visitor to the Dope Jams site and it was there that I came across the name Hieroglyphic Being. It was a name that had echoes of Ra and the music had therefore to be checked out. Rooted in Chicago’s house scene he is a purveyor of electronic music, a DJ, a post space age explorer with a sound and word vision that corresponds to a digital age which conditions our existence.

Jamal is a big man who gives off air of inner solitude. From beneath his hood tumbles a waist length crown of dreadlocks. He hunches over his mixer as the others ready themselves. His right hand moves in the air and a theremin comes to life. Mark Sanders is a model of versatility and his crisp, fluid attack on the drums has a lightness of touch that allows Orphy Robinson to play with the settings on his xylosynth as he searches for a middle ground between the trap drums and Jamal’s increasingly intense bursts of static noise. As if getting the feel of each other the threesome gather a dexterous and furious momentum only for it to suddenly give way to a fresh undercurrent. Orphy relaxed onto his rumba box as Mark maintained the rhythmic pulse on a small repenique sounding drum while Jamal took flight on the Ewe. The ethereal collided with the cavernous… there were keyboard sounds that were familiar but you just couldn’t lock down.

“This is not my signal…. My transmission… it’s out of my control….” declares Jamal on the mic through stuttering delays before the music settles into compelling, sensitive cosmic groove that which culminates in a cascade of what sounds like chiming bells. Then, out of a haze of static… a fact…a warning?… “Everything…. everything… our lives… our loves… our messages… all stored on an external hard drive…”. End of Set 1!

Set 2 commenced with Jamal asking, “Chakras or I Ching?” The I Ching – a Daoist divination and cosmological text with a history of more than two and a half millennia won out and it appeared that Jamal’s choice of instrument for this piece was an i-phone which was wired into his desk and subject to hand held manipulation.

“Say this! We are the people. Say this …”
“It is worthwhile crossing great rivers….”
“Only cultured people can understand….
‘IMAGE. Assimilation.”
“Sky and Fire.”
“Cultured people avoid trouble by virtue…”
“IMAGE. Imagine.”
“Greatness is balance”

Just a few snatches I managed to scribble on a piece of paper, sentences randomly selected and read from the Book Of Changes as sound and rhythm is woven around them.

From the I Ching they move on to a celebration, an evocation, of computer games from Hatari onwards and then as it was a Friday night Jamal slipped into the session a 4-to-the-floor beat that one posse next to me had clearly been longing for. The constriction of ‘the one’ offered new challenges to both Robinson and Sanders who both worked tirelessly within the groove to offer a myriad of additional polyrhythms and sounds. They were clearly having a good time. I was most surprised to see that despite the beats Cafe Oto was pretty much a head-nod free zone. Weirdly intense.

Mark,  Jamal, Orphy

Mark, Jamal, Orphy

The set drew to a close with Jamal’s finger dancing across his I-Pad to conjure up sounds that came over like cross between kora and steel pan. Mark and Orphy both settled on mallets and got into a hypnotic but constantly shifting Malian style marimba/drum groove plus gongs. It was a mesmerizing climax to a wild, quite exhausting but energizing, journey into rhythm and sound that overall easily spanned two and half hours. It was all about the moment and I have to a give thanks to this supa-dynamic trio for kicking off 2016 in such a challenging and inspirational fashion.

For more from Hieroglyphic Being check:

PS. Along with the lack of head-nodding I also didn’t spot anyone filming on their phone! I liked that!

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As someone who is “under-employed” and pretty much unemployable in the straight world I find myself not alone. Like many of my friends and fellow cultural co-conspirators, who have spent decades self-employed, we find ourselves re-inventing who we are. We shapeshift into different roles and seek that elusive finance in order to pursue the creative path to which we are bonded.

The Battle Bus

The Battle Bus – Impounded by the Nigerian Government

Once such co-conspirator is Paris based Frances Feeny. I know her as Fanny, a Birmingham born misfit who shared her schooldays with renowned textile designer Virginia Hodge and her twin, Ali (Artistic Director of The Quick and The Dead – an international performance ensemble) and documentary film-maker Molly Dineen. A mighty quartet indeed! The teenage Feeny fled the UK and settled in Paris and became the co-owner of Blue Moon records – arguably the city’s premier reggae emporium. For several decades she channeled the spirit of JA to the ragamuffins of the city and the banliues via imports and her own Backchich productions.

Like myself, Frances Feeny found her own runnings drawing to a close. The shop closed, she had to move on. As a single parent and a warrior she did what she had to and got a job. But the creative in her pushed to explore new avenues and that has led her to ‘The Ogoni’ – a story of a people and a land devastated by the petroleum industry.

Back in 1995 I wasn’t fully aware of the struggle of the Ogoni with the Nigerian Government and the oil industry. But during the soundcheck for a MELT 2000 / Busi Mhlongo concert at the Africa Centre we received the news that Ogoni activist and author, Ken Saro Wiwa, along with 8 other activists had been executed by hanging.I was asked to make the announcement to the audience that night but preferred to hand it over to ANC activist and singer, Themba ‘Max’ Mutambo. It was dark news that hit everyone at that session hard but the fire of solidarity and resistance burned bright in the hearts of the South African musicians who performed that night.

Ken Saro Wiwa RIP

Ken Saro Wiwa RIP

Through Straight No Chaser I later got to know Ken Saro Wiwa’s daughter, Zina, who proposed and wrote several pieces in the magazine. That was my last link to the Ogoni people until Frances Feeny arrived in London in 2013 and asked me to help film a “Battle Bus” which had been constructed by her friend and sculptor Sokari Douglas Camp. The Battle Bus was dedicated to the Ogoni activists murdered by the Nigerian Government.

To cut the story short Frances followed the Battle Bus to Nigeria where it was impounded by the Government. That trip took her to the Niger Delta to experience first hand the ecological devastation and the impact it’s had on the families who live there and their story has become her mission to tell.

And so, as we enter 2016, it feels like we like-minded souls need to increasingly join forces and help out whoever is devoting their creative energies to assisting others. You may not have the money to help out (and I don’t) but we all have a web of contacts that span the globe and remain committed to promoting the culture of the African diaspora. And on that note, I ask that you give Frances Feeny some props, spread the word and share her mission to give voice to he Kpekpee family who live in the Niger Delta town of Bodo – a town where illness is rife and the primary social activity for the community is burials. This family’s livelihood and food supply has been poisoned by oil pollution in both the water they drink and air they breath. It’s a human story that needs to be told.

Dada is in her thirties, the mother of seven children, and comes from many generations of fishermen.

Dada is in her thirties, the mother of seven children, and comes from many generations of fishermen.

“With this film we want to paint an immersive and sensory picture of every day life as it is right now.” maintains Frances Feeny.”As an outsider arriving in the Delta last September one immediately sensed the sheer weight of getting through those daily tasks in such a toxic environment. This burden can only be expressed through the voices of the actions of the people who live there. How can you appreciate someone’s difficulties, their exasperation, if you’re unable to identify with them as fellow men and women?”

THERE@S A LONG WAY TO GO… check the funding page here – MUCH MORE INFO:

SNC tribe 14While I’m dedicating a little time to spreading the word on ‘The Ogoni’ and on Carleen Anderson’s amazing Cage Street Memorial project I’m also working on the words for Swifty’s forthcoming book with Gamma Proforma (I should be doing that as I’m writing this!). On top of that I’m trying to lay the mental foundations to get the focus, the vision, to tackle the Straight No Chaser archive. I’m even thinking about doing a couple more issues that bridge the gap between cessation of publication and now! Awoahh!

Thinking, thinking, thinking…. watch out for news on this Straight No Chaser bizniz. Gonna need the Chaser family plus there’s a new generation out there that we need to reach out to, which may not be too difficult as there’s a bunch people out there globally who kept the fire burning by linking the spirit of the past with the Sounds Of Now… you know who you are!

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YES MI SELEKTAH: SOUNDS OF FREEDOM! @ The Vortex …Finally, after ’nuff requests here are are a few tunes that I have had the privilege of playing between the live sets at Freedom! The Art Of Improvisation – the monthly Warrior Int. sessions @ The Vortex.

eddie gale_

FREEDOM! has allowed me to dig deeper into the vinyl and explore albums (and the odd CD) that one would never have expected to be able to play out! But that’s FREEDOM! for you.  Apart from you having to listen to those you might be sharing the stage with, the ground rule at FREEDOM! is there are no rules. The tunes I play between sets are not background music to chat over between one combination leaving the stage and another appearing. It’s about maintaining and testing the vibe, it’s about messin’ with both players and punters. It’s about wikkid music.

As I do get a portion of people going, “WHAT was that?” So, here’s a few tunes that that have graced the turntable.  It’s mostly vinyl but there’s a few CD bit that deserve a shot. On the night, it’s as the spirit takes me and that’s the case below… so, there’s no No.1 to whatever…. just a few memories.

Eddie Gale’s ‘Ghetto Music’ – ‘The Rain’ (Blue Note) I think I blew journo/novelist Jane Cornwell away with this one. Love it when the massed voices come sweeping in!

Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre – ‘Jays’ … this a trio gig from Sam River’s Wildflowers No 1 and it rocks the late great Kalaprusha on tenor, Jumma Santos on drums and Chris White on both electric and acoustic bass. This one builds and had veteran free-drummer Terry Day seeking some enlightenment as who was delivering such an intense left of centre groove. The Unknown Story of Kalaparusha’ was one the first pieces I posted on Ancient To Future… check Danilo’s film.

Joe McFee’s ‘Shakey Jake’ – a 1971 recording I have on a Ubiqity Records comp – remains for me a solid FREEDOM! fave. Joe is a Cafe Oto regular these days so you can still check him out. This cut is one deep fried funk monster with chugging Hammond B3, riffing guitar, tambourine and traps and some heavy horns. Originally released on an LP called ‘Nation Time’.

Joe McPhee circa '71

Joe McPhee circa ’71

Gato Barbieri – ‘El Parana’ from the Flying Dutchman label – Scorcher! The sticker on the LP says £1.40… that’s what it cost me back in ’73. This opening track builds furiously over 9 glorious minutes… Argentinian tenor-man Gato trades licks with guitarist John Abercrombie… Mtume is on congas and Airto on percussion… amazing… STANLEY CLARKE on BASS!.. Lonnie Liston Smith on keys and a masterful Roy Haynes on drums. Nuff said.

Chico Freeman’s ‘Kings Of Mali’ is another masterpiece from the India Navigation label. The killer moment has to be when Cecil McBee’s bass drops in… has to played loud! Chico on tenor and balafon, Jay Hoggard on Vibes, AEOC’s Famoudou Don Moye on drums and percussion. Recorded in 1978. Mind blowing!

Charlie Haden Duets… released on A&M in ’76 I’ve dipped most of the tracks on this LP and had numerous queries about  Keith Jarrett’s ‘Ellen David’ and Alice Coltrane’s ‘For Turiya’ – which is devoted to pure consciousness. . Bassist Charlie Haden is outstanding throughout and it’s a joy to hear him and Ornette together on ‘O.C.’

Codona… Don Cherry, Colin Walcott and Nana Vasconcelos… a magical trio which I once had the pleasure of hearing at the Old Vic … Don was a little late for the gig due the Magic Bus from Amsterdam being delayed. I seem to recall he carried his instruments in a duffle bag. Anyway, the two LPs they recorded for ECM are both masterpieces and have provided some magic moments at FREEDOM!

‘Bush Baby’ by Black Arthur Blythe is one of a selection of early Blythe that has that deep head nod factor… tuba, guitar + Black Arthur= The Phunk. The original trio cut of ‘Bush Baby’ is  deep but below is a next version feat. James Blood Ulmer, Abdul Wadud, Bob Stewart. Bobby Battle and Fred Hopkins… killer band!

Ephat Mujura Ensemble ‘Spirit Of The People’ LP…. I don’t think I’ve progressed beyond playing the opening cuts of ‘Chipembere’ and ‘Marenje’… it was splendid seeing one of the FREEDOM! ensembles suddenly start dancing in unison to the deep “Mbira music of Zimbabwe” while setting up their kit!

Just finished reading Neneh Cherry‘s memories of Ornette Coleman,  who passed earlier this year, and that conjured up memories of a theatre in Victoria where Neneh and crew were dancing wildly in the aisle to his harmolodic onslaught. Good times.   ‘Ornette’ by Bright Moments is a sparse bass driven cut from ‘The Return Of The Lost Tribe’ Cd on Delmark. Straight outta Chicago this wonderful ensemble features Kahil El Zabar, Joseph Jarman, Malachi Favors, Kalaparusha and Adegoke Steve Colson. ‘Kudus’ is another Don Cherry flavoured FREEDOM! fave.

Collocutor – 1st track on this white label of their debut LP from On The Corner records… a supa-dupa & tuff homage to Ethio-jazz-don Mulatu Astatke from baritone saxophonist/flautist Tamar Osbourne and posse. Always sounds great!

Another woman player who often makes the mix is Amina Claudine Myers – former first organist at the Mahalia Jackson Church in Chicago and collaborator of Lester Bowie – It’s gotta be ‘Have Mercy Upon Us / Chant’ from ‘song For Mother E’. Piano or Hammond B3 or voice… take your choice.


Mahmoud Ghenya… sadly, this Moroccan master Master musician passed away earlier this year… I usually play the first or second track on a CD that I got from visual artist & idren, Hassan Hajjaj. Dunno what it’s called ’cause it’s written in Arabic. Basically, it’s a deep Gnawa offering from Essaouira which features some mighty gimbri. Pure spiritual elevation.

Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett/Rebel Arms – Distant Drums (Fams 7″). Easy now…. Reggae in The Vortex… yes, indeed, after all we are in Dalston.  Heavy bass and percussion riddim track/version of a Yabby You/Prophets classic. This tune brought back some youth-man sound system memories for Hackney born & bred Cleveland Watkiss! Who feels it know it!

Aston 'Family Man' Barrett & Bob Marley

Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett & Bob Marley

Freedom JourneyStayin’ on a JA vibe…. FREEDOM! themes in the bag… Legendary vocalist Joe Higgs joins trombonist Karl Masters on ‘Freedom Journey’ (Elevation 7″) + ‘Freedom Dub’ – Burning Spear/Baba Leslie (City Line 7″ – “I’m not convinced Spear is on this record but it’s still tuff) + ‘Free Man Free’ – Mutabaruka/Larry McDonald (‘Drumquestra’ MCPR CD) – Orphy Robinson turned me onto this.

Sadly, I haven’t as yet had the opportunity to rinse out Kamasi Washington‘s ‘The Epic’ at FREEDOM! but I will… ‘Changing Of The Guard’, ‘Re Run Home’ etc. Positive vibes and pure energy equals a future FREEDOM! classic.

Another FREEDOM! classic comes via West Coast label Luv’n’Haight & is by trumpet player Longineu Parson‘s. This double LP features ‘The Gathering’ – a deep, 7 minute percussive composition that also showcases Sam Rivers. ‘The Gathering’ always provides an uplifting and unifying moment in the session.

I could go on… McCoy Tyner’s Milestone releases, John Gilmore playing ‘My Favourite Things’, Leon Thomas with Nucleus, Philip Cohran celebrating Malcolm X,  Joe Bowie with the Human Arts Ensemble, Julius Hemphill (Dogon AD), Art Ensemble Of Chicago, Art Blakey, Dudu Pukwana & Mongezi Feza, Billy Bang, Guelewar Band de Banjul, Glenmore Brown, Lever Brothers Gay Flamingoes & a few Sun Ra cuts amongst many other things.

The next FREEDOM! @ The VORTEX is on the second Monday of January 2016… January 11th 2016… from 8.30pm

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