Archive for May, 2013

This Memorial Day weekend, I took some time off to enjoy the San Diego Jazz Festival. These are my contemplations… I am from San Diego, although I have lived in Los Angeles for nearly thirty years. Thus, I was pleasantly surprised to see the crowd jam-packed on the driving range of the famous La Costa Resort. You see, San Diego is a tough town to host a music event of this type… But nonetheless, the folks came out and the festival was well attended throughout its duration… The festival lineup was pretty good… Charlie Wilson, Kem, LedisI, Will Downing, Brian McKnight, Jonathan Butler, and more…Spread over two and a half days, the listeners had a great deal of awesome music to choose from. The ambience was nice and the mild weather provided a great backdrop for a relaxing holiday weekend.JazzWSax

Yet the sound left much to be desired. My seats weren’t that great but be that as it may, the sound guy did not compensate his mix for us in the cheap seats. For some reason, his line issues were tremendously pronounced for those of us in the back. For instance, during BWB’ s set, the kick drum mic and the bass took over the entire production overpowering all the intricate instrumentalizations . It was very distracting. The promoters need to improve the sound.

The lineup was pretty good with well known smooth jazz and R&b artists from start to finish.On Sunday afternoon, the fans were completely caught up in the atmosphere of the festival. Full of wine and food, the people were ready to party… And so as the next to the last act took the stage, we were treated to the serenades of Brian McKnight. Now Brian has a body of work no doubt- a litany of hits for sure, but he is known for the slow jams… We needed to shake our rump to the funk!,,

All in all, this was a nice festival that has hopes for continued success in future years. They need to work on the lineup and placement of artists. That said I give the San Diego Jazz Festival a B-

I recently returned from a trip to South Africa. It was an incredible experience.  No.  It was more than that.  I don’t really have a single word in my vocabulary to describe the experience. The concept of global travel is exciting enough but this trip left me in a special state. The essence of South Africa touched my consciousness to it’s very core.

From the start I immersed myself into the culture of this beautiful country. I was eager to learn the folkways and mores of the society. I was intensely and keenly tuned into the music of the land. I was sensitive to the powerful euphoria of freedom which had only blanketed this country since 1994…. Yes, it has only been 19 years since the abolishment of apartheid. And the scars on the people and scenery were certainly fresh…..

Our flight to Johannesburg from Los Angeles was certainly long and was a reminder that South Africa is indeed on the other side of the world… We departed LAX at 9:45pm Friday night and did not land in South Africa until around 11am Sunday Morning…. Even as we endured that marathon flight, we did not take time to rest, for Luke, our tour organizer had a full and complete schedule in store for us..

After a nice lunch in Nelson Mandela Square, we boarded our bus and headed to the Apartheid Museum. It was here that I realized that the foundation of the system of Apartheid was rooted in the South African Gold mining boom. I would learn of life under apartheid and I would learn about the legacy of SA’s Freedom Fighters. The visit to the museum was really short as we were on a tight time schedule. However, the Apartheid Museum was a very emotional experience for me and set the tone for what and how I would process the cultural and sociological essence of the country.

And while we visited various parts of Johannesburg, the scars of the precious metal and mineral mines on the land were painfully obvious to me. Not only did the Europeans oppress the people in the name of greed, they oppressed the land in the process.

Our visit to Soweto was indeed eye opening. Soweto is the largest black township in South Africa and is the epicenter of the struggle against the racist system. During the era of Apartheid, the government forced non-blacks out of the cities into townships. In fact, the very name of Soweto is a government designated acronym SOuth WEstern TOwnship.

We entered the gates of Soweto and drove to Freedom Square, where the leaders of the movement crafted the charter which is now the essence of South Africa’s modern constitution. The tour of Soweto left me speechless for most of the day… I detached from my group… There was so much to process, so much to understand… I had to come to terms with walking the streets of Kliptown where there was no running water nor paved streets… I had to manage my emotions stirred by the children who reside in the orphanage known as Soweto Kliptown Youth… I had to deal with the gravity of thought that the people of Soweto were living evidence of the brutality of the Apartheid system. The atmosphere was charged with the essence of the struggle. It was indeed haunting, electric and sobering all at once… However at the epicenter of all of these raw emotions was the sense of hope… Hope in the notion that all cultures and races can live together as one… Yes, the streets of Soweto were bathed in the blood of the lost in the name of Freedom, but they were rinsed clean by the essence of hope…

At the end of the day, we visited the street where Archbishop Desmond Tutu lived.. On that same street stood the home of Nelson Mandela (who I learned was called Madiba by most blacks in South Africa). I had a chance to tour the small residence.. I put my fingers in the bullet holes left by police and hate groups over the years… I walked in the rooms occupied by Nelson, Winnie and the children…. It was indeed surreal…

I must mention that in addition to seeing the homes of these great Nobel Peace Prize winners, we were treated to a luncheon at one of the areas popular restaurants and while we ate, we experienced a private musical showcase by a local band. This was most tasty…

As much as I wanted to celebrate and be happy, I still found myself in a sort of melancholy yet reflective state. I could not help but find all the crap we put each other through as black people in America seems so trivial compared to the streets and recent history of Soweto.. Yes, recent because one has to remember that my people over there have only been free since 1994….

It would be the visit to Hector Pietersen Museum that would push my emotions over the top… The museum stood as testament to the 1976 Soweto Uprising. Here students took to the streets in protest of Apartheid in general but specifically protested against the required learning of the Afrikaans language as part of the curriculum. The students staged a massive walkout and although the action was peaceful, the police shot into the crowd. Hector Pietersen was a fifth grader who was the first to fall. More than 400 children would die on that day and the Museum tells the story. It is fascinating.

As one walks into the museum, they are met with a huge panoramic wall photograph of the students as they marched in the streets. It is a sight to behold. On the left is a garden with hundreds of bricks strewn about. On each brick are the names of the fallen students. It was here that I would lose it… I cried. It was was just too overwhelming to understand that so many children lost their lives in the interest of freedom.

In the end, I have come to identify with the cultural volcano that is Johannesburg. The music, the people, the food, the history all resonated deeply within me…

The trip to South Africa was life changing on a lot of levels… My next few posts will attempt to define the essence of my experience…

Amandla!