These articles were written for publications such as The Gambian Observer www.observer.gm and Waato magazine www.waato.com
Values and Role Models
us consider The Gambia and the current state of cultural values. The argument
for the prosecution is that culture is a holistic thermometer of the health of a
nation. Where do we go from here? Will the nation hold up its hands and
acknowledge the need for a renaissance? The Arts in motion! Did you indeed throw up your hands in horror? Did you
simply yawn through lack of interest and an even more profound lack of
fundamental question is of an existential nature. What is a value scale? Where
did you get yours? Free with phone card tokens? A sultry imitation of last
nights Nollywood soap opera? A download from your internet chat room? Do we
begin to comprehend that time waits for no man? Or woman? And it is most
definitely not gender specific! Evolution has placed us all in the 21st century
frontal lobe development zone! While we struggle to comprehend the culture of
the 20th century that we have grown-up with, we find that the goal
posts have been moved and suddenly there is a whole new game.
is in fact very exciting for cultures that have been under-exposed. Mans
inhumanity to man, ethnic cleansing, colonial double-dealing, corporate
centralisation and the greasy black stuff (oil) have all played their part in
placing greed as the yardstick of achievement. Suddenly the computer age, and
the internet in particular, has produced a level playing field where race and
colour, age and gender, bank account and social background count for very
little. What matters is credibility; the ability to communicate; to deliver
results and to sensitise your business partners and stakeholders !
order to proceed any further, one must at all times be referencing ones
values. Is this necessary? Is it good or bad? What is good? Did your elders in
the village explain that this would be coming down the wire? Were you given an
induction course in how to engender new approaches to traditional values? Where
do you keep your value scale? How did it become so firmly entrenched in your
psyche? What is the correct way to proceed if there is a conflict? How do we
make this critical transition?
you have faith, support from mosque, church, community or tradition, there can
be no finer time than waking to the joyous sounds of progress. Bala Sahos
exceptional account of Serigne Mass Kah and his legacy celebrates this
notion in style. The tradition of this Marabout will survive the 21st
century and beyond, and will be a great role model for future generations! If
however you are from a disadvantaged or dysfunctional background, and there are
no strengths in your history to count on, it is all forward on the roller
coaster and to hell with the consequences. Role models become something of a
burden, rather than an inspiration! So how do we adapt?
years of African history suggests that there is a stability within the village
system that has prevailed. In existential terms, this needs no justification. It
has prevailed because it is a system that can withstand the pressures of change.
It can offer sustenance and nourishment to the people who need it! Above all it
gives the members of the community a set of values that are both realistic and
workable! And there can be no doubting the strength that is gained from
the future is exciting but unpredictable. The quest is to succeed, but also
to maintain a sense of African identity and pride. John Paul Sartre and his
femme fatale Simone de Beauvoir gave Europe, and France in particular, this
conundrum in the 1960s. How do we choose, if not from a pre-ordained set of
values? Where do we get this emotional menu from? Is it parental? Is it
community based? Is it genetic? Will it be good for the community? Will it be
good for me? How do I go about changing my approach if there is a cultural
word again! Culture! Reality! Fashion! Whims! Whats new? Evolution? Happening
now! Interest only! Controversy! Issues! The World today! So....what is
the answer to this conundrum?
then becomes an issue of instinct, which in a round-about way brings us home to
our embrace of the future and our absolution of our past! The primal scream that
makes us dance the night away in Casamance, love it large in Lama Lama, or
simply make beautiful music with those who are close is the drive that has
sustained us for thousands of years.
"why is the wrong question! It exists! It happened! Cogito Ergo Sum!
said Mr Descartes. Understanding our own evolution and the tension of the
eternal argument between father science and mother philosophy is oxygen to the
fire that is life!
the question how can lead to
an enlightening situation!
have felt uncomfortable for 30 years playing great music that has strictly
defined parameters! Who made these rules? Why should I subscribe to a musical
system that has its roots in aristocratic 13th and 14th
century Europe? How can I reach a deeper truth? The Kora pre-dates the Guitar
and Lute by at least 200 years! The
musician, baudelaire or court jester of yester year, who entertained and plucked
at your heart strings, has evolved into a well-trained, scientific practitioner
who can err greatly on the side of technique. How do I reach the passion and the
essence of what music, or any other art form, can contain? Clean,
air-conditioned, well promoted venues can become the poison of mediocrity given
a consensus of meat-eaters or vegetarians, depending on your proclivity. What is
implicit in a performance of an African band such as Jaliba Kuyateh or Tata
Dinding is the raw, driving passion that knows no fake; no
going through the motions; no lets just get it done and take the
money; or any other trickery!
under-exposed culture is a euphemism for new to the world stage, we
have got it all to do, let us play, and
what does being nervous mean? But
what it really does mean is that we have not been corrupted by the greed of the
and The Gambia specifically, is being summoned culturally to the high table of
global art; the supreme council of world creativity; the united nations of
continental rhythm; to establish a truth that can never be undermined or exposed
as fallacy. The roots of all of the music that our brothers and sisters in the
Caribbean and N. America have produced in the last 100 years can be traced
directly to W.Africa. Let me spell this out really clearly so that there can be
no misunderstandings. The great great grandfathers of people living here today,
the blood relations of Serigne Mass Kah, carried with them a genetic coding to
the new world! Their progeny produced the greatest contempory revolution in
creative thinking that the world has experienced. These people were itinerants
one minute and global heroes the next. They played a music that was considered
subversive and yet completely desirable and necessary They turned the standard
idea of european classical harmony on its bottom, picked it up on the other
side, danced with it awhile, and then played it again even harder. And what is
clear is that the technique that they used was somehow carried on the wind
across 3000 miles of ocean, and is still here today in the traditional music of
American administration since the end of the McArthy witch hunts in the 1950s
has paid tribute to the ongoing contribution of African American artists and
musicians. Their playing of world music has been simply immense. Supposing it
could be proven with DNA coding that you were the 27th cousin, once
removed, of Duke Ellington. His classical work Black, Brown and Beautiful
would become a little bit more important than your new car or hairpiece! Of
course, if you are sitting there thinking that you would rather be Bob
Marleys sister, then that is OK! I find
it exhilarating that my watchman in Fajara is the Mandinka double of Miles Davis
as pictured on his album Tutu!; that John Coltrane, who mashed up my head with
A Love Supreme live in Antibes in 1965, could be a Wollof
from Upper River Division. Jahass! Jazz!! How would you like to play
Why on earth would you want to do anything else?
Paul Hill studied Psychology, Philosophy and Linguistics. inc Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Computer Models of Human Behaviour at U.C.N.W. 1981.
Orchestral Composition and Arranging at City College Manchester. 1995.
Teaching Diploma at Access to Music Manchester. 2003.
and has been a practicing Musician for 35 years.