Tag Archives: Mavis Staples

Sparks will fly #16 #resurrection

Deaths – there have been a few and resurrections seem to take more than three days – the cycle though of dying and rising is universal. Coming to a détente with death has all the agreements of any truce, ceasing of hostilities and the strains in the relationship, to accept the politics on offer and that some tensions can never be eased, just tolerated. But when you find out there is the possibility of coming to an acceptance the inevitability of death, it is a deep reminder that it is life chosen to be lived that can be the best diplomat for accepting all the gifts on offer from a new beginning or for the next resurrection. Dying to ourselves, our ego, burying the past, digging in and holding on – there is plenty to choose from when contemplating what you might lie down and let go of and perhaps too, what will be taken away from you without your consent. This seems to be part of the no-mans land that coexists with détente before any new day dawns.

On this Easter weekend, I am spending some time in the fields of Tyagarah Ti Tree farm where cathedrals are tents worthy of sultans and sultanas arriving with their caravans of musical equipment. Many of the high priests and priestesses ask us to make a vow for more humanity, kindness and to recognise in this place we are all one family, and it is only outside that the whole world is going crazy. There is something about live music and music festivals in particular that enable community to form on not much more than ‘three chords and the truth’. The sensory experience finds its way to cells throughout the body and deeply ingrained in the mind too, new pathways for new sounds and old ones refreshed and rewarded by memory. Familiar riffs and bass lines woven around lyrics are delivered via a set of lungs bellowed through speakers who have travelled further than anyone on the stage. My ears just one of the thousands of sets willing in receipt of the gift of this music. Whether it be the moaning of the elder activist, Mavis Staples, a witness to Martin Luther King, Rob Hirst’s t-shirt with a pertinent and relevant message in this election season, the energy from Steven Van Zandt and his Disciples of Soul belting out Sun City – I know for me music is always at the heart of my spiritual expression of justice through death and resurrection.

Music is so central to what it means to be heard, to be seen and to instruct what action you might take – whether it be a simple chant in a march or a complex set of harmonies and big band sound forecasting how the new world will come – it is always music that delivers for me. The music can come in the form of rain on a tin roof or raging waves as well, and the syncopation in nature with the blend of birdsong and breeze is always found where I live. The dying and rising of sound is constant, especially the falling into silence as sound fades away.

There is no détente with music and maybe this is a clue to what dying and resurrection is all about, allowing the sounds to come and go, prescribed and improvised. With the fingers moving at speed on stringed and keyed instruments on every stage. When everything is so tightly scripted there is no room for joy and surprises it shows – I think this is what détente looks like – a musician just tolerating and enduring, rather than playing with what has shown up. Iggy Pop screamed at a sound engineer to get the mix right and the expletives may have humiliated the guy working the booth, but somehow it was raising the stakes about what it means to rise, and not die, for Iggy. I like the direct and unforgiving way Iggy chooses life over death – there is no Good Friday for him – Easter Sunday everyday – grabbing life by the throat and throttling every ounce he can out of the day he has been given and taking it to the people from whatever stage he is on.

Waiting in the tomb for a day or so is perhaps the practice (music practice for some), the chance to get ready to come out fighting for life, renewed, recast and resurrected. In the original Good Friday narrative, first there is the rock and then there is the roll. And when that combination arrives together, death ends up backstage, and it is inevitable, sparks will fly.

littlesteven

Little Steven – Bluesfest’s 30th Birthday – 2019

Dancing with Speeches #46 March on Washington

In late August 1963, Martin Luther King led the march on Washington for jobs and freedom and delivered his famous “I have a dream” speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial. His words rang in the ears of a generation: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!”  This is a dream that is yet to be fulfilled and now we find ourselves on the brink of another march bringing another generation to a nation’s capital.  Here is a speech that might be heard in January 2017 to introduce a very special contributor.

Thank you for coming today to Washington.  We are living the dream – the dream of Martin Luther King; the dream of women and men, boys and girls throughout history who have stood together shoulder to shoulder, the dream of Maya Angelou to rise up, the dream of women like Geraldine Ferraro and Hillary Clinton to lead our nation, the dreams of all the little girls who have been hugged by their grandmothers and told they can do anything.  These are our dreams and we will not let them go  away for anyone and we will keep working on making them come true.

Thank you to the wonderful Indigo Girls for leading us in song – what a great choice – This Land is Your Land.  Yes it is this is our land and there is no more turning back.  Thank you Mavis Staples for rousing us with We shall overcome and to the amazing southern belles – Beyonce, Dixie Chicks and Dolly Parton – for singing Higher and Higher – because you know how it is …. when they go low … we go high.  There is no movement without music and it is a joy to see so many young musicians and singers taking up the mantle and leading the way for their sisters and brothers.

What are your dreams? I am dreaming for justice, for freedom, for emancipation from fear. I am dreaming for equity.  There is nothing else we can dream for – without equity there is no growth in our economy, no social stability and at worst no hope. We are trading in hope and we are in credit!  We are trading in justice and we are in credit!  We are trading in courage and we are in credit!

We are bound together.  We prosper together.  We grow together – and we liberate each other.  We turn to each other in our moments of grief, in our moments of disappointment and we turn to each other in our moments of success – and success we will have – we will overcome and that day is coming, not just some day, but today and tomorrow and the next day.

With grace, grit and gratitude we will rise.

With courage and humility and tenacity we will rise.

And now join with me to welcome our next next speaker – Michelle Obama.

This Land Is Your Land
Words and Music by Woody Guthrie

This land is your land This land is my land
From California to the New York island;
From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and Me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway:
I saw below me that golden valley:
This land was made for you and me.

I’ve roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;
And all around me a voice was sounding:
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting:
This land was made for you and me.

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.

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