My book — Dream of the Water Children: Memory and Mourning in the Black Pacific— is slightly delayed and will be released in Spring 2016.
For those anticipating, please forgive the delay. Publishing a book is a very intense task between publishers and authors. There are many facets that, along with everyday life matters, keeps things changing and moving and needing work to make it right.
The book is in the “proof” stage so it is in the final stages.
Be on the look out for announcements and other fun things regarding the release!
Black-Japanese singer Judith Hill has wowed the judges on the US television show: The Voice on her first night. I am not a particular fan of these kinds of shows, but I always appreciate a Blackanese artist of success in the public limelight! She is truly a great singer!
There are many festivals throughout the year, some national, some regional, with most having ties to communal and/or ethnic memory and traditions that have long become non-ethnic and homogenized in Japan’s march toward joining the world community of nations.
Today, many young Japanese are only beginning to learn that Okinawa ‘may have not been’ a version of a Japanese identity, or that the Buraku and the Ainu people exist, or that Zainichi Koreans have had a precarious relationship to the Japanese nation in relation to what the mainstream has been taught.
Like most first-world nations today, National Festivals and associated dances have their origins in communities resisting the onslaught of the nation-builders, dominant clans that would massacre them and keep them controlled. Now they are part of a ‘mosaic’ of ‘traditional Japanese’ dances and festivals, where before, they may have been resisting that ‘Japanese’ identity, which comes from an amalgamation, like other national identities, of particular groups of allied ethnicities and clans.
Many festivals have their origins in religious or post-war and post-battle strategies of appeasement toward certain communities after battle. Other festivals have roots in religious ceremonies in relation to the natural cycles of life or to honor gods and goddesses, while others have links with farmers and fishermen and bounty. Still others are ceremonies of survival and empowerment. In more than a few instances, they are a combination of these named situations, and more.
Many of these meanings have lost their focus in modern Japan. Most of the festivals and dances, of course, have needed to keep up with urbanization and modernization. This also includes Japan’s notion of itself as a homogenized, unified nation of a single people. The ‘other,’ then, are named legally other in laws and are distinctly excluded from nation, through micro-regulations, etc, much like most other nations of our present world.
Consequently, these beautiful dances, are sometimes left to signify and represent ‘artistic beauty’ or exoticism and entertainment, merely a personal ‘fun’, perhaps. Many of these dances have their origins in Okinawa, Kagoshima, and from the Ainu, and/or other areas and communities that were nationalized through colonization in earlier times (and ongoing today as ‘minority’ communities). Many elders and well-thought younger persons, who have significant memory and links to what has been lost and what it has cost to maintain these dances and songs, feel these motions and tones, music and forms in a way much deeper than how most mainstream Japanese today may feel them. Put another way: Japanese may be proud of these festival dances, and may even revere these traditions, but understand them as only a singular “Japanese” tradition from sometime long ago, through homogenized singular national ethnic myths or national versions of wars fought and natural disasters, stripping them of the uniquely diverse and possibly terrifying and most often empowering histories that point to people and communities that are not even recognized or trivialized.
In nations as old as Japan, what pre-figured (existed before) a “Japan,” is inside of these traditions. They are now considered ‘preserved Japanese traditions.’ In this way, it is a way for the people in the present, to feel their continuities and ancient histories, even though they are merely named ‘Japanese’ in the modern era. Thus, a “Japanese-ness” could be crafted by way of naming these festivals and songs and dances, as ‘traditions of nation.’ They are, and they are not. They may also signify resistance to nation, by communities and clans and ethnicities that were eventually assimilated into the Japanese nation. For this reason, it is important that these traditions are preserved and empowered.
This video is of an excellent performance group performing in August of 2012.
This style of dancing is called ‘Awa Odori’ 阿波踊り. The Awa Festival is a 3-day festival celebrated on Shikoku in Japan, in August, as one of the hundreds of events celebrating O-Bon お盆 (National Buddhist Festival honoring the Dead). Awa, is the old term from the middle ages, naming what is today–Tokushima prefecture. This style of dancing is believed to have begun in the late 1500s.
A fairly good overview of the Awa dance and festival is at wikipedia.
Today, most watch the thousands of trained dancers in parades through the streets. Originally, Everyone in the community would dance together. Today, most people feel too embarrassed to dance or say they ‘can’t’ (internalized oppression in the nation-state). People listen to and watch these dancers in parades and in one or more the hundreds of performances on the streets and in entertainment halls. There are, however, many smaller celebrations where some choose to participate themselves, accompanied by the traditional instruments (flute, shamisen, bells, taiko drums).
When history is lost and manipulated by various forces in nation-making, ideas become contested along the lines of haves and have-nots, and what is ‘best for the nation.’ When reading histories of the Awa-Odori, its religious and communal roots and relations to nations are fairly clear, yet bring up many questions and silences.
In any case, this performance of Awa-Odori by this group is wonderful. The clip contains short snippets of a few of the performances, where one can see the beauty of this form of Japanese dance. Each hand gesture, finger movement, leg and foot movement, degree of bending and leaning, signifies something. One can see the elements of nature (mountains, wind, oceans, etc.) in these movements and gestures.
I always remember these dances from childhood and remember them as more than just something ‘pretty.’ There is history in these dances, no matter how urbanized and nationalized and homogenized they are. They retain that spark of beauty, grace, and some of its original forms.
Sezen Aksu (July 13, 1954 -) is the quintessential diva extraordinaire, of Turkish pop. She is the indisputable queen diva of the Turkish pop music scene. ‘Pop’ music, now worldwide, through the effects of American colonization, always mixes with its locales to create interesting hybrid music that also carries certain themes that repeats throughout the world. Songs of falling in love, songs of loving what or who we cannot have, separation and longing, devastation and pride, sorrow and joy. Also, to dance our butts off. Sezen Aksu’s unique, rough voice carries emotions that many in the Mediterranean are attracted to. She has influenced pop music in the mediterranean nations, the Balkans and changed the annual Eurovision Music Context with her protege, Ertab Serener. From the 1970s through today, and continues to break barriers.
She is particularly attractive to me in other ways, making me like her music more. Her life has not been comfortable, although her fame and fortune has helped her. She has married and divorced several times, something Turkish society does not like and in some cultures within the Turkish nation, divorcing is a taboo that the woman pays for the rest of her life (although this is not unique just to Turkish sub-cultures). She has also married an Armenian, works tirelessly and speaks out vigorously for women’s rights and gay rights, and for the rights of the Kurds. She has been allowed to stay out of jail, even though she has sung songs in the ‘illegal’ language of the Kurdish people, Zaza cultures, and Armenian people in Turkey, and has co-sung with some of these groups’ popular singers, raising the eyebrows and bringing much-needed discussions at Turkish dinner tables. She dares the powers that be, to let democracy work, and to love who we love, and for singers and all artists, to express and to live.
I present a nice classical-tinged with a bit of Astor Piazzolla-esque ballad, and a rocking dance song by her. The remixes of her dance music have been done by hundreds of different musicians. The dance song ‘Rakkas’ has become a perennial classic in Turkish pop culture and also internationally it is one of the most ‘mixed’ songs in dance clubs by DJs from Spain, Greece, the UK, India, Germany, Hungary to Japan.
Fantastic group that sings primarily Quebecois traditional music (from Quebec). The songs are researched and apparently ‘true to the original.’ Their music is captivating, precise, envigorating, earthy. Music such as this must be kept alive, remembered, performed.
For a wonderful video of their great hunting song rendition: ‘Yes Very Well,’ and short biography, visit LINK TV:
Sir Ken Robinson, who has recently received the Benjamin Franklin Award, is a renowned thinker of educational reform. He speaks to the Educational systems that have proliferated worldwide, through the nation-state system and global colonial enterprise. This has created increasingly similar educational systems worldwide based on European enlightenment-era thought on a biopolitical education system which rests many of its basic tenets on assumptions, structures, discourses, and patterns of human worldview, an assumption of a ‘human nature,’ and on hierarchical and miltaristic structures that benefit economic systems, not people.
In this video on changing the educational paradigm, he presents many important concepts that we should think about in relation to how we ourselves, have formed our thinking. In creating forms of education that are ‘meaningful,’ where do we construct continuities, priorities, and disjunctures? When we do, who benefits from it and who loses out? How can communties create a structure that is now attempting to accommodate more diverse aspects of information, culture, tradition, hopes, dreams and failulres, into itself? In our efforts to ‘replace’ and ‘re-do’ our systems, what assumptions from our own education do we latch onto our view of a more ‘creative’ educational system that can ‘hold’ our children and the future of our nations and communities?
Aspects of this question are not covered in this video, while others are brilliantly commented on. One person should not have to cover ‘everything,’ in an issue. That is impossible, and unfair. Sir Robinson does not attempt to say that he is covering ‘everything.’ That is up to the rest of us. The issue is domination, oppression, who is allowed and not allowed? Also there is the issue of privilege, entitlement and the kinds of questions we ask in order to decide how to re-structure something like ‘an educational institution’ when local schools are behoven to the most powerful, wealthy, and often most-corrupt and socio-pathic of persons who have constructed and *want to maintain* their wealth and privilege. Many of them will resist to the point of killing and disposing of their created enemies. There is accountability to consider in this picture as well.
I do not mention these things in order to ‘darken’ or to dampen the motivation for change. Why do I mention these things to begin? Because in order to transform education systems, we must acknowledge how our identities and ways we live and think and desire and dislike, are all bound-up with our histories within the global colonization of life. Thus, many of our most cherished thoughts may be continuities that may prevent more creative ways of working with living within the economies that exist, to adjust to changes (or not), and also to prepare to live in a world where the economies are absolutely nothing like what has existed in our lives or imaginations. Then the topic is “who is governing” or “managing” or “controlling” these things? And can every person on the face of this planet expect to get everything they want? Some are willing to concede and negotiate. However, there are a vast number of people who conceive of their lives as an entitlement to get everything they want out of life. This usually means someone else, or another community, will suffer because of it. What must go into a ‘re-education?’ Let us ask ourselves this and begin to build the *capacities* required of what we may desire. Does what we desire exclude?
This may also include ideas of multiculturalism. To me, multiculturalism is a failure. Multiculturalism seeks *inclusion.* Inclusion into a system of exploitation and economies that must exploit and depend on its maintenance through military and economic power, expressed and managed through social institutions and worldviews, does not do away with hierarchy and injustice. In disturbing this, many of us may react by doing opposites, while not questioning how anti-authoritarianism may destroy powers, certain people and structures that may be beneficial. Entitlement and inpatience (getting our own way NOW!!!) kind of thinking is very dangerous, especially when we understand that all of us have internalized as live almost every moment as enlightenment-produced peoples and cultures. Colonized minds tend to think into re-colonizing in different ways, calling it ‘creative.’ In reality, it may be the same things dressed in new clothes. But the good news, I think, is that not every moment of our lives is that internalized colonization. And in other ways, resistance to colonizing is also part of the same dynamic. Resistance and dominance go hand-in-hand. They are related. If we think in different ways, then what will that look like?
Still the other problem is ethics? I know many people who think in creative ways and have great ideas and attempt implementing them. However, I often see some problems with this (not that we can ever get away from problems). Yes, nothing is going to be perfect and total. So that is important to tell ourselves. However, I mention this in a way to point out a form of colonization of the mind that we often do not examine. That is the reality of unethical behaviors passing for good creativity. Ideas of progress, internalized, so that ideas of older persons and the wisdom of older ways or traditions can be relegated to ‘old’ and ‘outdated.’ In other ways, it is racialized or subsumed within hierarchies. So we can say that if a woman thinks it, then it’s not good enough (unless it matches with a few elite men’s ideas), or it’s too black and doesn’t include whites, or it’s too Asian and therefore doesn’t do this or that, or it’s too ‘gay’ or it’s too this or that. We may be creative but in service of a ‘progress’ that demotes sustainable solutions and ideas, traditions and methods that may have already been practiced in traditions that were devasted and killed during the rise of nation-building and industrialization that globalized through colonial expansionist practices worldwide, then maintained by the elites of the world nations. It is not a moral issue. Those of us who have studied the world-system currently in mode, understand that it has been an act of survival to do it, lest our nation or community is starved by the elite, or invaded. To join the global elite game has been largely both an act of wanting to be the boss, as well as an act of survival in the face of more militarily powerful and who have the more resources.
To reform education will return to the same problem. To transform it, to shift it, will take large efforts on our parts, and to truly re-organize how we think about how we work with each other and our planet. What must be laid for the conditions of possibility to give birth to more just, creative, and empowering ways that honor our lives and begin to heal as well as build?
This song was sung by many female artists in Japan, including Matsutoya Yumi and Arai Yumi. This version is sung by the group Sotte Bosse.
やさしさに包まれたなら – IF WRAPPED IN KINDNESS
It is a sweet, innocent song about kindness and becoming an adult, hope.
It is interesting to note that songs like this are not considered appropriate for males to sing. If so, then we all know what names and labels would ensue toward that male singer or singers. It speaks to the heterosexism and sexism of our dreams and hopes, what we think of kindness and where ‘it’ belongs. In other words, kindness and affection and gentleness are feminized. They are feminine traits. In this way, as patriarchy reigns supreme in our divisions of emotions, we become further militarized, hopeless, forever in war/peace dualities. It also speaks to the ‘loss’ of innocence as we begin to live in the world. Our notions of a God change. Violentized, where can we turn? Forgetting. Forgetting. Forgetting. Or perhaps we FORSAKE. We forsake. We refuse. We go along with the notion that dreams die and war is norm. It starts with worldview. It starts with giving up. It can also become disempowering as we want the world to be kind and good and gentle and it never is. So we succumb to depressions.
We must work to change. It cannot happen by wishing and by drive-by kinds of actions and McDonald-ized notions of immediate gratification. In even more complex ways, our wish to make life kind and good and peaceful, we may create further problems because we do not look enough at our racisms, classisms, nationalisms, etc. and how power-relations make our relations fragile. We can, perhaps, turn these lyrics into a form of remembering, then into tough and thoughtful actions that include history. Little by little, I think kindness can enter. In fact, mindful and thoughtful actions are kindnesses in themselves, even though they may sometimes be tough and harsh as actions against the victory of oppressions. Adultism begins the common factor in all of our lives that foment further learning of oppressions. Forgetting our childhoods in many ways is perhaps a blessing. But there are some aspects we should not forget. Boys. Girls. Men. Women. Children. Adults.
I like the innocent sweetness of this song. Remembering, if for a single moment at some point in our lives. Not forsaking. But not being naive.
As in most first world national languages and from their former colonies and others, the French language showcases/expresses some great rap and hip-hop and what may be called ‘black’ urban music. On my blog, I have previously shown some from Japan and Korea and will continue to show my favorites from the world over.
Soprano is one of the best in present-day France. Here is a socially-conscious hip-hop song ‘Hiro’ (hero) which brings in the pride and heartache of black and non-white histories in the world and the wish to have changed history and what creates suffering today. Many of the persons and situations mentioned in this song/video are probably unknown to most Americans but we should know them as Americans. Do our research. There is more to the world than what we see in our small worlds. As such, the song mentions 9/11, Princess Diana, the making of African nations, Gandhi, Mohammed Ali, tragic airplanes that fly despots to their locations, etc. A character from the US television show ‘Heroes’ is a foundational character in the telling of this wish, this story. I love this song. In honor of knowing history and to be in the present to ACT!
Lyrics translated originally by 15 year-old French guy (SchezMusique) from Youtube.
I have modified as best I can. IF ANYONE CAN READ FRENCH and HELP with TRANSLATIONS– I will continue to modify…….
English translation followed by the French lyrics.
If I had had the power of Hiro Nakamura
I would have left reliving the birth of Lenny and Inaya
I would have been in Sanaa
Boycott the takeoff of A310 from Yemenia
I would have been there to see my grandfather one last time
Say to him I’ll take care of his daughter, so don’t worry
I would have left seeing Martin Luther King
After his speech, show him the photo of Barack Obama
I would have been in the temple of Harlem
Push Malcolm from the scene before a bullet reaches him
I would have been in the prison of Mandela
To say to him ‘hold out, your ideas will be of a president of south Africa’
Lover of Lady Diana,
I would have created a gigantic cork under the bridge of the Alma
I would have been in the Bahamas
Not for the holidays but to empty the hold of the plane of Aaliyah
I would have liked travelling through time
I would have liked travelling through time
I would have liked travelling through time
If I had had the power of Hiro Nakamura
I would have been there for the fight from Mohamed Ali to Kinshasa
Then, I would have been there to celebrate the independence of my Comoros
In the arms of my grandfather before his death
Then, a small tour in the Paris-Dakar in full savanna
To boycott Daniel Balavoine’s copter
I like the truths of those who wear a red nose
I would have been there to burst the tires of Coluche’s motorcycle
I would have been there to meet Mahomet in Medina
Then go to see the Red Sea, let myself pass to Moses
I would have been for the birth of the son to Mary
Two hours later, take the walking of the salt with Gandhi
I would have been there to sit down with Rosa Parks
Then to Woodstock to see Jimmy Hendrix live
I would have been at the birthday of Motown
To see Mickael make the moonwalk
I would have been in New York
To activate at 7 am a bomb scare in 2 towers
I would have been in Iraq
Teaching the journalists to shoot better with their shoe
I would have been in Afghanistan
Throw the cameras of the last interview of commander Massoud
I would have been in Angola
To go to tell the team of Adebayor not do the trip
I would have been in Clichy-sous-Bois
Disconnect the transpo of EDF before Zyed and Bouna comes
I would have been at Kunta Kinte or on Gorée
To give them guns before the colonists came
I would have been there to see the African infantrymen
To say to them that we treat their children like nasty immigrants
I would have been in Austria,
I would have done anything so that the parents of Adolf Hitler never met
Even if I had the power of Nakamura
What would I have been able to do for Haiti, the tsunami or Katrina?
What would I have been able to do for Alaska?
Everything that nature gave us
Nature will take back
So these are things which I would have wanted to change or wanted to live
So these are things which I would have wanted to erase or to relive
But are all impossible my friend
Thus I inspire a big breath and I blow on my 30th candle…
I would have liked travelling through time
But we can live only the present
We can live only the present
Samurai Champloo サムライチャンプルー, as posted earlier, is one of my favorite anime of recent times. Mostly this is because of its ground-breaking genre/time-bending mix of samurai historical accuracy and storylines with present-day hip-hop, trip-hop and rap dance and music mixes. It is a fantastic piece of work. Of course, the violent fight scenes and attitudes reflect both the historical realities of warrior-clan and individualistic feudal violence along with the present-day disenfranchisement and attitudes of today’s Japanese youth. Although violence in entertainment is problematic, at the same time the violence reflects reality and is ‘not-new’ and can be placed in contexts of reflection and thought, and perhaps change. The issue is perhaps to bring certain violences into visual/aural realities that are distanced from many mainstream people, although violence is everywhere.
Samurai Champloo is an often pleasant, brutal, aesthetically incredible and inspiring, horrific and amusing piece of modern, ‘new’ anime-making.
The first video is of the character ‘Beatbox’ and presents clips of his presence in the anime.
The second video is of the opening credits. Enjoy for the aesthetics of Japanese/hip-hop/samurai historical cultures.