Kalamu ya Salaam
The Magic of JuJu: An Appreciation of the Black Arts
A Revolution of Black Poets
Everywhere Is Someplace Else: A Literary Anthology
From A Bend in the River: 100 New Orleans Poets
Our Music Is No Accident /
What Is Life: Reclaiming the Black Blues Self
My Story My Song (CD)
* * * *
Sun Show Done Up Like The Kitchen Sink
Commentary by Mtume ya Salaam & Kalamu ya
life—namely pre-Katrina—I used to be a disc jockey on
WWOZ, New Orleans’ community radio station. I had a show
called “The Kitchen Sink.” People still ask me about
when I’m going back on the air. I have no immediate
plans to return to radio, partly because my schedule is
too tight, but also because Mtume and I are doing BoL
and we have a worldwide audience.
FYI: We average over 2000 individual visitors a day. The
number one country for visitors from outside the states
is The Netherlands with both Germany and France high in
the mix of other leading countries. I generally don’t
even miss being on the radio except from time to time
when I feel like doing a mix.
I’m kicking off the New Year with a “Sun” show. I
enjoyed putting programs together that drew on a wide
range of musical styles even when there was a theme. I
tried to have one or two selections that I was pretty
sure most of my listeners had not heard before. Plus I
always want to share alternate (and especially live)
versions of well known songs. From blues to gospel,
dance music to free jazz, I’d push it altogether and
people would always be surprised and generally
delighted. Or, at least, that’s the impression they gave
me when they would call in on the phone or stop me on
So without any further ado, here is a “Sun” show done up
like I used to do The Kitchen Sink.
Dee Dee Bridgewater opens with her version of “Love From
The Sun” taken from her out-of-print debut album Afro
Blue. Absolutely gorgeous, as reverent as a prayer.
Indeed, it is a prayer for peace and unity.
The doo-wop a capella ensemble The Persuasions follows
with a more secular but equally brilliant love song
simply called “The Sun.” This is from their album
We Came To Play. Most of the singing groups
today harken back to the Motown era, but there were
numerous eras before and beyond Motown. Classic doo-wop
had it’s hey-day in the fifties and sixties. Formed in
March of 1962, The Persuasions are the stalwarts of old
school, classic doo-wop.
Ray Charles then drops one of his bluesy interpretations
of country music. It’s a rollicking version of former
Louisiana governor Jimmie Davis’ song (Davis “owns” the
copyright but there is some debate as to whether he
actually wrote it), “You Are My Sunshine.”
Then we get a Brazilian take on the popular Bobby Hebb
number, “Sunny.” That’s Eli Goulart & Banda Do Mato
taken from a Brazilian compilation album called .Favela
Chic: Postonove Vol. 3.
Now it’s time for
some remixes. Nina’s Simone’s version of “Here Comes The
Sun” takes the dance floor. That’s followed by the 4Hero
remix of the Nuyorican Soul remake of “I Am The Black
Gold Of The Sun.” And the third remix is 4Hero applying
their magic to Nancy Wilson’s “Sunshine.”
Next is Kirk Franklin sampling Randy Crawford’s “You
Bring The Sun Out.” It’s taken from Franklin’s album
We close with three live cuts by well known artists.
Stevie Wonder is first with a bootleg from a London
concert. This is a twelve-minute version of “You Are The
Sunshine Of My Life.” (My collection of music is deep
and includes a bunch of music not available from regular
retailers. But I believe in sharing, so you get to hear
a lot of stuff you might not otherwise even known about,
not to mention hear.) Stevie starts out quoting a Minnie
Riperton song in tribute to Minnie who did a short stint
as a member of Wonderlove, Stevie’s backup singers.
Roy Ayers at his convivial best. His live shows tend to
be parties of a most wicked order and this ten minute
version of the classic “Everybody Loves The Sunshine” is
no exception. It’s from
Hot, recorded live at Ronnie Scott’s jazz club
and available as an import.
We wrap it up with
Earth, Wind & Fire doing "Sun Goddess" in concert with a
guest appearance from Ramsey Lewis, who had a hit with
the song. Before Maurice White founded EW&F, he was the
drummer for Ramsey Lewis and White also wrote "Sun
Goddess." It’s taken from
That's the Way of the World:Alive in 75.
I had a hard time deciding which track to feature.
Finally I just decided to ask Mtume to make the
selection. I figure he can’t go wrong because it’s all
BTW, is there anyone out there who has already heard all
of these cuts before? Just curious.
—Kalamu ya Salaam
* * * *
Wait a second, Baba. On the Contemporary side you knock
my tracks for being not hot enough, too easy, too
conventional, too pleasant, etc. You talk about sun
tracks as scorchers, hard songs, songs that make you
uncomfortable as they push back your boundaries. But
then here in the Covers section you post your own sun
songs and what do we get? A smooth and easy remix of
Nina Simone. A conventional-sounding Kirk Franklin
record. Roy Ayers, Stevie Wonder and Earth Wind & Fire
all doing playful and pleasant live versions of some of
their own biggest hits.
Now, look. I’m not knocking Kalamu’s selections at all.
It’s actually a great mix of sun songs and looking back
over the list, I didn’t hear a single track I disliked.
In fact, some of them, I really liked. Both 4Hero
remixes are long-time favorites (Nancy Wilson’s
"Sunshine" and Nuyorican Soul’s "Black Gold"). The
Persuasions tune and the Dee Dee Bridgewater are lovely.
I’ve never heard either one although I’m a little
confused about the Dee Dee track. We previously posted a
Norman Connors version of "Love From The Sun" that
features Dee Dee on lead vocals. That was from ‘73. So
did Dee Dee remake the song a year later?
What else did I really like? The Nina Simone, of course.
I like chillout electronica (when it’s done well) and I
love Nina. Put those things together and I’m with it. I
dig the Brazilian take on "Sunny" as well…hell, like I
said, the whole mix was good. I put it on while I went
running today and it carried me along lovely. But was it
boundary-pushing and uncomfortable? I don’t think so.
(And Baba, please don’t read this as a challenge. I’m
pretty sure the vast majority of us can do without the
ear-splitting and skull-piercing sounds of late-period ‘Trane.)
Here’s what y’all have to understand about Kalamu. He’s
a warrior, a freedom fighter, an activist. That’s not
his job or even his calling; it’s just who he is. He
can’t help it and I’m not completely sure he even wants
I’ll let y’all in on a little secret. (Kalamu hinted at
it himself, so I don’t think I’m saying anything he
wouldn’t want me to say. And if I am, you’ll never see
this anyway, because we edit each others stuff before it
goes up.) These days, Kalamu lives a quite comfortable
life. He and his wife, Nia, live in a beautiful home in
a nice suburban neighborhood on the West Bank of New
Orleans. He has all the creature comforts he wants,
although his tastes in material items remains fairly
spartan both in quantity and monetary value. (Except for
his computers; my Baba is one of Apple corporation’s
I’ll tell y’all something else about Kalamu though. Most
every week day of the year, Kalamu leaves his
comfortable house on the Westbank and drives to McMain
and Frederick Douglass high schools to teach writing to
kids who can barely manage to get to school everyday,
let alone learn to write. Kalamu has a collection of
photos of his students on one of his computers. For each
picture, he has a story, each more heart-breaking than
the last. He doesn’t go down there everyday because he
thinks he’s going to nurture new writers. These kids
need a hell of a lot more than Kalamu or even New
Orleans’ entire broken-down school system could possibly
give them. Kalamu goes there everyday because no one
else cares about these kids. In many cases, not even
their parents can or do care. So Kalamu shows up each
day just to show them that someone does care. He
believes they are owed that much just by virtue of their
being human beings. Ultimately, whether or not they
learn to write is irrelevant.
I say all of that to say this: even at 60-plus, Kalamu
is still out there fighting. He won’t stop because he
can’t. It’s who and what he is. His comments about my
comfortable, easy sun songs reflect his core values.
Life, for Kalamu, is struggle. If you’re going to try to
understand him and his choices, his likes and his
dislikes, you have to understand that first.
Me? I look at it like this. Kalamu and all of the good
people of his generation were fighting for a reason.
They were fighting so their children could have a better
life. A lot of problems and inequities still exist, but
in large part, the good guys actually did win. For so
many of us, life actually is better. And dare I say,
even comfortable. Personally, I don’t think that’s so
And besides, looking out of my patio door, I can see
that the sun just came out. I gotta go!!
—Mtume ya Salaam
P.S. I almost forgot - I’m supposed to be picking the
feature track. Let’s see…. While I absolutely love the
Nuyorican Soul, the Dee Dee Bridgewater and the Nancy
Wilson, we’ve done those before (and besides, we’re
featuring the original version of the Nuyorican Soul
track in the Classic section). I’m going to go with "The
Sun" by the Persuasions. I know it’s short, but it’s so
pretty it could make you cry. And I’m out!
* * * *
It Could Make
Mtume and I use a jazz aesthetic in terms of putting
together BoL. We don’t have a bank of write-ups sitting
in some desk drawer or on some hard drive available to
pull out whenever we need one. We don’t plot and plan
weeks in advance. We make it up as we go along.
However, it’s not haphazard in the sense of just
anything goes. And, yes, sometimes we have to work
around each other’s schedules: one or both of us will be
out of town, away from our music collections making it
hard to reference material.
For example, you
can find a lot of stuff online, but sometimes the one
piece of info you need you can’t find online but you
know it’s on the back of the CD or in the liner notes.
Anyway, because we both have a deep love of the music
and humongous music collections, it’s easy to improvise.
It’s easy for one of us to come up with an idea and say”
“what about if we…”
The follow-up is usually one of us agreeing to do one or
two of the categories and the other taking the remaining
category by default. All of which is ok when you have a
writing partner that can handle the pressure, week after
week, after week, after…
We started in June of 2005 and haven’t missed a week.
We’ve put up a lot of music and are always saying to
each other: we’re never going to run out of stuff to do.
Right now, I’m hitting the pause button.
* * * *
The way we write is
to go for it. Go all out. Say whatever you got to say.
Like whatever you like. Dismiss whatever. Etc. Etc. Put
it in context or let it stand alone. There’s no formula.
When it’s our turn to blow, we each say whatever we want
to say. Inevitably, our personal lives are deeply
entwined with what we write on BoL.
A couple of months back, I was lamenting the state of
New Orleans. Mtume asked me, then why do you stay?
Unknowingly, he answered the question with his reply to
my Cover selections. I do it for the young people. I
stay because I couldn’t be me if I left. I stay for
them. I stay for me.
We have a saying in New Orleans: “Born and raised and
hope to die here.”
I want to die in
New Orleans. That’s a life statement, not a death wish.
* * * *
Covers of “Sun”
songs. Sun shining. Warm and bright. Optimism. New life.
Stuff that I like. Okay. I can do that. Or, at least, I
thought I could.
But check out my Contemporary selections: Frank Wright
with Eddie Jefferson, John and Alice Coltrane.
Our struggle may be physical. Our struggle may be
spiritual. Our struggle has strong aspects of both but
regardless of the plane, whether material or
metaphysical, on earth or way out there in the
gone-a-sphere, our life will be a struggle. That’s the
way I see it.
I understand not everyone sees it that way and that most
Americans see (and live) something else. That’s on them.
* * * *
We had a video
shoot this morning. It was I and one of our media crew
(Alexandra Lear is 18 and she is a first year film major
at the University of New Orleans. Alex decided to become
a film major after being in a Students At The Center
class during her senior year in high school.) We did an
exit interview with sister June Wilson who is relocating
New Orleans is hard.
If you’ve been
living in post-Katrina New Orleans for six months or
more, you are suffering one degree or another of
depression. Less than half of the black people who lived
in New Orleans pre-Katrina are living in New Orleans
It’s hard. Very,
* * * *
BTW, Eleanor McMain
Secondary School (where all four of Mtume’s siblings
went to high school; Mtume opted for a different school)
is considered one of the better public high schools.
Douglass is considered one of the absolute worst. I
teach at McMain in the morning and Douglass in the
afternoons. Founded over ten years ago by public school
teacher Jim Randels and two young people, Kenyatta
Johnson and Erica Decuir who were juniors in high school
at the time, Students At The Center is an independent,
in-school writing program. Jim and I are the
co-directors, all the other seven staff members are
former high school SAC students.
Every year we
struggle to raise money to keep our program going. We do
it because we both want to and because we know it is
necessary for us to be independently funded in order to
maintain our program the way we want to structure it,
the way we want to function.
* * * *
Mtume, that Dee Dee
Bridgewater was recorded after the Norman Connors album
on which she sung lead vocals. Her version is slower and
much more quiet. She’s coming from the sun inside us.
The heart sun.
The Persuasions is absolute vocal mastery in the doo-wop
form. Glad you picked it.
* * * *
Yes and no. Put the tracks side by side with the
contemporary stuff you selected. Like I said: it’s
unfair. Unfair to the contemporary.
The major record companies are not releasing much music
that is music where people are offering to share their
lives with us. The intimate parts. The hard to handle,
make you want to cry stuff.
What we are getting is calculated music. Designed music.
Music customized for the marketplace. You hear that
Stevie Wonder? Hear him playing around? Seriously
playing around. That’s a bootleg—Motown ain’t gonna
never put that shit out. Period. And Roy Ayers—that’s on
a little label started by Ronnie Scott of music recorded
live at his club in London.
I’m not going to argue that this is avant-garde or even
hot, hot, hot. But all of this stuff is real. Real music
by people dedicated to expressing themselves through
Plus, they are professionals. Professional in the sense
that they can really do well what they do. They make
music. There is not a slouch in the bunch. They make it
You think it’s easy? Try it!
In fact, you don’t even have to try doing it yourself.
Try finding some current music "covers" with a “sun”
theme that you can lay down next to it and your
selections match up in quality, match up in the warmth
they exude, match up in terms of the heat index. You’ll
quickly find out, there’s not a whole lot out there in
the commercial realm.
The beauty of this music on the one hand. The critical
dearth of “hotness” in current music production on the
From Dee Dee and the Persuasions in deep spiritual mode
to Stevie, Roy and the Elements (EW&F) funking around,
it’s all so sweet. So sweet.
Make you want to cry.
—Kalamu ya Salaam
* * * *
We don’t have to
I’ll agree that best of contemporary black music doesn’t
match up to the best of classic black music. Our current
music certainly doesn’t match the best music of the
Sixties and Seventies. I don’t think many people who
listen to both current and classic music would even
bother arguing that point. I don’t see it as a contest
though. I love the classics and at the same time I like
to hear what young people are doing right now. If I had
to pick between the music of now and the music of then,
I’d definitely pick then. But luckily for me—and all the
rest of us—we don’t have to choose. I hope everyone out
there enjoys the music — both the new stuff and the old.
And may you all have a happy, safe and productive New
—Mtume ya Salaam
* * *
* * * * *
Super Rich: A Guide to Having it All
By Russell Simmons
Russell Simmons knows firsthand that
wealth is rooted in much more than the
market. True wealth has more to do with
what's in your heart than what's in your
wallet. Using this knowledge, Simmons
became one of America's shrewdest
entrepreneurs, achieving a level of
success that most investors only dream
about. No matter how much material gain
he accumulated, he never stopped lending
a hand to those less fortunate. In
Super Rich, Simmons uses his rare
blend of spiritual savvy and
street-smart wisdom to offer a new
definition of wealth-and share timeless
principles for developing an unshakable
sense of self that can weather any
financial storm. As Simmons says, "Happy
can make you money, but money can't make
* * * * *
The New Jim Crow
Mass Incarceration in the Age of
By Michele Alexander
Contrary to the
rosy picture of race embodied in Barack
Obama's political success and Oprah
Winfrey's financial success, legal
scholar Alexander argues vigorously and
persuasively that [w]e have not ended
racial caste in America; we have merely
redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial
segregation has been replaced by mass
incarceration as a system of social
control (More African Americans are
under correctional control today... than
were enslaved in 1850). Alexander
reviews American racial history from the
colonies to the Clinton administration,
delineating its transformation into the
war on drugs. She offers an acute
analysis of the effect of this mass
incarceration upon former inmates who
will be discriminated against, legally,
for the rest of their lives, denied
employment, housing, education, and
public benefits. Most provocatively, she
reveals how both the move toward
colorblindness and affirmative action
may blur our vision of injustice: most
Americans know and don't know the truth
about mass incarceration—but her
carefully researched, deeply engaging,
and thoroughly readable book should
* * * *
Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays
Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a
collection of fourteen essays by scholars and
creative writers from Africa and the Americas.
Called one of two significant critical works on
Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late
1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of
Carter G. Woodson and
Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as
well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations
were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early
essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish
medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an
historical context for understanding 20th-century
creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone
writers, such as Cuban
Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist,
Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the
significance of Negritude in Latin America. This
collaborative text set the tone for later
conferences in which writers and scholars worked
together to promote, disseminate, and critique the
literature of Spanish-speaking people of African
descent. . . .
Cited by a
literary critic in 2004 as "the seminal study in the
field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which
most scholars in the field 'cut their teeth'."
* * * * *
The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
* * *
Ancient African Nations
* * * * *
If you like this page consider making a donation
* * * * *
Negro Digest /
Browse all issues
* * * * *
The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for
George Jackson /
* * *
The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
* * * * *
* * *
(Books, DVDs, Music, and more)
posted 31 January 2007