Monday, 20 May 2019

Genocidist nigerianá, 29 May 1966-20 May 2019: What’s the scoreboard?

(Nigeria state proclivity: genocide)

Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe
NOW THE SHADOWS lengthened. The Europeans had also been busily building up and training strong African armies. Africans trained to hate, kill and conquer Africans. Blood of Africans was to sprinkle and further darken the pages of their history … Indeed, Africa was conquered for the Europeans by the Africans [themselves], and thereafter kept under [conquest] control by African police and African soldiers. Very little European blood was ever spilled. (Chancellor Williams, The Destruction of Black Civilization, 1995: 218)
(Harold Wilson... easily decipherable DNA signature: “[Iwould accept half a million dead Biafrans if that was what it took...” Nigeria to destroy the Igbo resistance to the genocide [1968])
(Adesanya Maja Adekunle... predictably, this on the ground boy boy executioner of the Igbo genocide for his “massa Harold Wilson duly declares: “I want to prevent even one I[g]bo having even one piece to eat ... We shoot at everything that moves in ... I[g]bo territory ... even at things that don’t move” [1968])
THROUGHOUT the stretch of these pulverising 53 years of slaughtering 3.1 million Igbo people (29 May 1966-12 January 1970) and tens of thousands additional Igbo (13 January 1970- present day) in this genocide, this foundational genocide of post-(European)conquest Africa, the only tangible capability that the Fulani islamist/jihadist-led nigerianá murderers which include the league of pan-African constituent nations therein, particularly Yoruba, Edo, Jukun, Hausa, Kanuri, Nupe, Gwari, Urhobo, Tiv, Jarawa and their co-genocidist British state have acquired is one to commit even more murders –  nothing else … definitely, not the more challenging capacity to develop and transform nigerianá human potential and economy and, in turn, attract and merit the accolades and recognition from peers and others elsewhere in the world. Nigeria, indeed, collapsed as a state with few prospects that Sunday, 29 May 1966, when its state officials and academics and students and alimajiri embarked on the Igbo genocide. This status of Nigeria is irredeemable.

ALAS, murders and murdering and murders constitute genocidist nigerianá’s easily decipherable DNA signature as duly ascribed by that Harold Wilson’s 1968 monstrous Igbo death edict. Abhorrent legacy.
 (George Russell Sextet, “Nardis” [personnel: Russell, piano; Don Ellis, trumpet; Dave Baker, trombone; Eric Dolphy, bass clarinet; Steve Swallow, bass; Joe Hunt, drums; recorded: Riverside Records, New York, US, 8 May 1961]) 

 ******Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe is the author of The longest genocide – since 29 May 1966 (2019) and co-author, with Lakeson Okwuonicha, of Why #DonaldTrump is #great for #Africa (2018)
Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe




Friday, 17 May 2019

68th birthday of Emma Okala

(Born 17 May 1951, Onicha, Biafra)
Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe

TOWERING goalkeeper of the majestic and indomitable Enuugwu Rangers International – the football club, based in Enuugwu, Biafra, whose incomparable performances in local, regional and Africa continental football leagues engagements during the 1970s-1980s most symbolise, so dramatically, the dogged and resilient spirit of Igbo people in the aftermath of the cataclysmic Igbo genocide, 29 May 1966-12 January 1970, phases I-III, the foundational genocide of post-(European)conquest Africa when Fulani islamist/jihadist-led Nigeria and the assemblage of pan-African constituent nations therein, especially Yoruba, Edo, Jukun, Hausa, Kanuri, Nupe, Gwari, Urhobo, Tiv, Jarawa and its co-genocidist state Britain, under Prime Minister Harold Wilsonmurder 3.1 million Igbo or one-quarter of this nation’s population
(Tina Brooks Sextet, “Back to the tracks” [personnel: Brooks, tenor saxophone; Blue Mitchell, trumpet; Jackie McLean, alto saxophone; Kenny Drew, piano; Paul Chambers, bass; Art Taylor, drums; recorded: Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, US, 1 September 1960)

******Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe is the author of The longest genocide – since 29 May 1966 (2019) and co-author, with Lakeson Okwuonicha, of Why #DonaldTrump is #great for #Africa (2018) 
Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe



Thursday, 16 May 2019

Reflections on African freedom, recovery, transformation


Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe

Jimmy Spire Ssentongo, ed., Decolonisation Pathways: Postcoloniality, Globalisation, and African Development (Kampala: Centre for African Studies, Uganda Martyrs University Book Series, No. 12, 2018), pp. 322

IT IS always a delight to read a study that emphasises its engagement with the unfettered restoration-of-independence of African peoples. In Decolonisation Pathways, editor Jimmy Spire Ssentongo, along with his other contributors, is adamant about the goal of this project: “to … understand the dynamics behind Africa’s colonial history and postcolonial performances/identities in the wake of globalisation … Africa can move forward on a self-decolonisation path and development” (Jimmy Spire Ssentongo, ed., Decolonisation Pathways, 2018: 14). That evocative insight from South Africa’s Steve Biko, “The most potent weapon in the hand of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed”, posted prominently under the book’s title on the back cover, alerts the reader of how discerning the writers of the text deem the subject of their enterprise.

Despite the certainty of the subject and focus as the title cover demonstrates, most of the contributors are caught up in a level of unclarity, right from the outset of their endeavour, that challenges who, indeed, is the subject of their study. Most fundamentally, the study presented is disquieting in its use of “sub-Sahara Africa”, “sub-Sahara region of Africa”, “sub-Saharan African”, “sub-Saharan Africans”, “sub-Saharan African students”, “sub-Saharan migrations”, “sub-Saharan migrants”,  “sub-Saharan immigrants”, “sub-Saharan countries”, “sub-Saharans”… – definitely not a book on Africa, Africans, African peoples, as the text’s front cover page title projects distinctly.

Epithet of racism

IT cannot be overstated that “sub-Sahara Africa” is gratuitously racist. “Sub-Sahara Africa” defies the science of the fundamentals of geography but prioritises hackneyed, stereotypical, racist labelling. The West’s creators of the “sub-Sahara Africa” epithet have literally deployed an outlandish nomenclatural code to depict an African people’s-led “sovereign” state. This is why, for instance, they never designated South Africa “sub-Sahara Africa” until an African leadership took power there in 1994. These wealth-studded entrepôts of the continent of Africa, namely the African-peoples’-led states that the West and its local allies still control and plunder so ruthlessly, have been boxed with the label “sub-Sahara Africa” on it in contrast to the Arab-led ones (https://re-thinkingafrica.blogspot.com/2016/06/blog-post_25.html).

“Sub-Sahara Africa” creators ensure that the use of their epithet has the effect of a purportedly shrinking African geographical landmass in the popular imagination, particularly within the consciousness of African peoples (cf. Steve Biko’s injunction quoted above), coupled with the continent’s supposedly attendant geostrategic global “irrelevance”. The racism at play in the minds of “sub-Sahara Africa” creators is alarmingly depraved: there are 1 billion Africans who dwell on a continent whose landmass is 30,301,596 sq km which is more than the combined landmasses of Western Europe, the United States, China, India and Argentina that total 29,843,826 sq km. For Decolonisation Pathways, surely, “sub-Sahara Africa” constitutes such a key obstacle that the study must dismantle pointedly, not buy into (!), to guarantee a less stressful passage for its envisaged African peoples’ march to freedom.

IN his chapter contribution on education in contemporary Africa, “Whose education is it? The exclusion of African values from higher education”, Johnnie Muwanga-Zake notes: “[I]n … Africa, education was imported for enhancing political, social and economic independence and development through human and physical structural development” (Ssentongo, ed, 2018: 90). Really? Who “imported” this education? Isn’t this the same EuroConqueror education programme across the continent that exists, introduced and entrenched by the European invasion, strategically, to rationalise its Africa conquest and aftermath which Muwanga-Zake describes as “Eurocentric” (93)? If indeed the reason of this “imported” education is to “enhanc[e]” the expansive goals in Africa that Muwanga-Zake himself maps out, then it is not convincing that the author would in the same breath be advocating some transformative education objective in this same Africa imbued with what he describes as “African values” (92-108). Undoubtedly, these two “streams of consciousness” are intrinsically antithetical.

Work is today’s!

Decolonisation Pathways implicitly acknowledges that the European World “abandoned” a toxic waste in Africa in the aftermath of its devastating conquest and occupation of the continent that goes by the name “state”, the “Berlin-state” in Africa, and Africans, themselves, must get rid of it to survive. It is a dreadful proposition to conceptualise any progress of African peoples in this “state” – the likes of NigeriaNiger, Chad, the SudanGuinea M, Guinea N, Guinea Q … or whatever their ghastly signatures denote. These are contrived contraptions of murder and murdering of African peoples by Africans who lead the “Berlin-states” and the pillaging of critical African resources by the same Africans who lead the “Berlin-states” for transfers to the West and increasingly China.

Every African people, not these notorious leaderships who police the “Berlin-states” on the West’s behalf, is in the position to construct an organic state form that is responsive to their own nation’s worldviews and progress. This is the challenge that Africa faces presently. The quest and its solution are internal – right there in the geography of every constituent African people or nation emplaced in Africa.

AS A RESULT, few researchers elsewhere in the world have the limitless latitude possessed by contemporary African students and scholars to embark on this scholarship of restitution and transformation of a battered history. This enterprise requires scientific rigour and a critical analysis of concepts and ideas.  It also requires focus, tenacity and resilience. This generation of African peoples’ students and scholars cannot afford to pass over the burden of endeavour to their children and children’s children’s generations. This will be unpardonable. The work is today’s. Now’s the time.
(John Coltrane & Don Cherry, “Focus on sanity” [personnel: Coltrane, tenor saxophone; Cherry, pocket trumpet; Percy Heath, bass; Ed Blackwell, drums; recorded: Atlantic Studios, New York, US, 28 June/8 July 1960])

******Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe is the author of The longest genocide – since 29 May 1966 (2019) and co-author, with Lakeson Okwuonicha, of Why #DonaldTrump is #great for #Africa (2018) 
Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe
















Monday, 13 May 2019

108th birthday of Louis Mbanefo

(Born 13 May 1911, Onicha, Biafra)
Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe

Namibia

ERUDITE human rights lawyer and distinguished international jurist at the International Court of Justice, The Hague, Holland, 1962-1966, where he sets up the defining international legal protocols that ensure the 1990 restoration-of-independence for African peoples in Namibia from a century of European World conquest and occupation (Germany, Britain/European conqueror-South Africa regime), entrenched after Germany had carried out the expansive and catastrophic genocides against the Herero, Nama and Derg Damara peoples of the country, 1904-1907, the first stretch of genocides of the 20th century, a decade before the Armenian genocide executed by the Ottoman “empire”/Turkey…

Biafra

CHIEF JUSTICE of BIAFRA and ambassador extraordinary in the resistance Biafra government during the Igbo genocide, the foundational genocide of post-(European)conquest Africa, 29 May 1966-12 January 1970, phases I-III, in which 3.1 million Igbo or one-quarter of Igbo population are murdered by Fulani islamist jihadist-led Nigeria and the league of pan-African constituent nations therein, particularly Yoruba, Hausa, Kanuri, Nupe, Gwari, Jukun, Urhobo, Tiv, Jarawa, Edo and its suzerain state Britain under the premiership of Harold Wilson who chiefly coordinates the genocide from his Londons no. 10 Downing Street offices and residence, 3000 miles away from Biafra...

JUSTICE Mbanefo possesses that distinct scholar’s contemplative persona that has come to define the insistent resilience of the Biafra freedom movement.
(John Coltrane Quintet, “Brasilia” [personnel: Coltrane, tenor saxophone; Eric Dolphy, alto saxophone; McCoy Tyner, piano; Reggie Workman, bass; Elvin Jones, drums; recorded: live, at The Village Vanguard, New York, US, 1 November 1961])

******Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe is the author of The longest genocide – since 29 May 1966 (2019) and co-author, with Lakeson Okwuonicha, of Why #DonaldTrump is #great for #Africa (2018) 
Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Towards 29 May 2019 – reminder of those three engraved words that encapsulate the very unlikely outcome of the Igbo genocide, this most gruesome and devastating slaughtering of a people not seen in Africa since the late 19th century/early 20th century, launched by Britain and its client Fulani-led jihadist islamist Nigeria state on 29 May 1966: Igbo people survived


Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe

Extraordinary!

IT IS INDEED an extraordinary survival story of history that someone that goes by the name Obiageli, Nkechi, Chinyere, Ifeoma, Amaechi, Nwakaego, Ngozi, Chinelo, Ada, Uzo, Chibundu, Nkemdilim, Chukwuka, Okwuonicha, Chikwendu, Ogonna, Nwafo, Ikechukwu, Onwuatuegwu, Chukwuemeka, Onyekachi, Nnadozie, Okonkwo, Chido, Okafo, Chikwendu, Nkeiiru, Ifeyinwa, Nkemakolam, Ikenga, Uchendu, Okennwa, Nwaoyiri, Okonta, Ukpabi, Amaka, Ofokaaja, Nnamdi, Mbazulike, Chukwuma, Kanayo, Ndukaeze, Chidi, Kamene, Nneka, Onyeka, Osita, Kalu, Ifekandu, Obioma, Chioma, Ndubuisi…  actually walks the face of the earth, today, having survived this programmed sentence of death by Anglo-Nigeria genocidists beginning on Sunday 29 May 1966 and through to 12 January 1970 
(phases I-III). 

The genocidists murdered the grisly total of 3.1 million Igbo or one-quarter of this nations population during the period. The genocide still continues today, Sunday 12 May 2019, with the additional murder of tens of thousands of Igbo people since 13 January 1970 (phase-IV), including the 3000 Igbo murdered since November 2015 by fiendish génocidaire Muhammadu Buhari, installed in office as Nigeria’s head of regime in February 2015 by none other than ex-US President Barack Hussein Obama, first African-descent president in 233 years of the founding of the United States republic, and ex-British Prime Minister David Cameron.

OBAMA’s support of the ongoing Igbo genocide is an unconscionable tragedy, the abhorrent legacy of his presidency.
(Barack Hussein Obama... unconscionable tragedy, abhorrent legacy of a presidency)
Wilsonian decree of Igbo mass slaughter

NONE of the lead génocidaires of this genocide – Harold WilsonAdesanya Maja AdekunleOlusegun ObasanjoObafemi AwolowoAllison AyidaIbrahim HarunaTony EnaharoYakubu DanjumaYakubu GowonJeremiah UseniMuhammadu BuhariOluwole Rotimi… reckoned, in their dire prognosis of the outcome of the 44 months of Igbo slaughtering that they directed and executed, that the Igbo stood a chance of surviving. 

Harold Wilson, then British prime minister who chiefly coordinated the genocide from the comfort of his offices and residence at 10 Downing Street, London, 3000 miles away from Biafra, had notoriously set the pace for his fellows on what he saw as the future of the Igbo when he informed Clyde Ferguson, the United States state department special coordinator for relief to Biafra, that he, Harold Wilson, “would accept a half million dead Biafrans if that was what it took” Nigeria to destroy the Igbo resistance to the genocide (Roger MorrisUncertain Greatness: Henry Kissinger and American Foreign Policy, 1977: 122). 
(Harold Wilson: “would accept half a million dead Biafrans if that was what it took...”)
ON the ground genocidist trooper “boy-boy Adesanya Maja Adekunle who was engaged in the slaughter theater in south Biafra in 1968 was so enthralled by his massa Wilsons notorious directive that he publicly reminded the world, in a news conference attended largely by British and other foreign correspondents, of the definitive goal of this genocide: We shoot at everything that moves, and when our forces march into the centre of I[g]bo territory, we shoot at everything, even at things that don’t move” (The Economist, London, 24 August 1968).
(Adekunle: “I want to prevent even one I[g]bo having even one piece to eat ... We shoot at everything that moves in ... I[g]bo territory ... even at things that don’t move”)
Repudiation

BY SURVIVING the genocide, the Igbo have not only dramatically repudiated this vile Wilsonian decree of Igbo mass slaughter and the Adekunleist wretched-soul-of-“boy boy”-executioner, but they are poised today, 53 years later, as the Biafra freedom movement has grown inexorably, to resume the interrupted construction of their beloved state of Biafra – Land of the Rising Sun.
(Cecil Taylor, “Pontos cantados” [personnel: Taylor, piano; recorded: One night with Blue Note – the historic all-star reunion concert, Town Hall, New York, US, 22 February 1985])

******Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe is the author of The longest genocide – since 29 May 1966 (2019) and co-author, with Lakeson Okwuonicha, of Why #DonaldTrump is #great for #Africa (2018) 
Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

Sunday, 5 May 2019

105th birthday of Mbonu Ojike

(Born 5 May 1914, Arundizuogu, Biafra)
Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe

CELEBRATED AFRICAN peoples-centred transformative intellectual, graduate of University of Chicago, arguably the profoundest political economic thinker in the provisional restoration-of-independence government of (British occupied) east region Nigeria, home of the historic Igbo village republican democratic states that had flourished for over a millennium; minister of economic development and planning and architect of the 1947-1966 transformation of this pre-Igbo genocide political economy to Africa’s most dynamic with immense possibilities.

The Ojike Plan had envisaged a 20-year timeframe, beginning in 1954, during which the east region would be transformed into an advanced multifaceted industrial and agricultural economy. Such was the impressive pace of this programme that, by 1964, ten years later, the overall economic performance of the east had not only outstripped the rest of Nigeria but was in fact Africa’s fastest growing economy. The east had the best schools and the first “post-conquest” university system (University of Nsukka) in the country, the best humanpower development in the country across a range of fields including, crucially, engineering, science, medicine, the arts, the middle-range technical cadre, and sports. 

The region also had the most integrated infrastructural development in Nigeria and its manufacturing, distributive and extractive enterprises centred in the Enuugwu-Nkalagu-Emene conurbation to the north, Onicha (commercial capital and home to the future Oshimili stock exchange and index) to the west and Igwe Ocha-Aba-Calabar to the south were clearly the hubs of the making of this African industrial revolution of recent history. 

BUT for the Igbo genocide, launched by Britain, under Harold Wilson’s prime ministership and its Fulani islamist/jihadist north region-led Nigeria client state on 29 May 1966 and continuing as these lines are written, 53 years on, the longest genocide of contemporary history, with the murder of 3.1 million Igbo or 25 per cent of the Igbo population during phases I-III of this crime (29 May 1966-12 January 1970), the east was on course to construct the “Taiwan” or the “China” or the “South Korea” or the “India” in Africa – 20 years before these post 1939-1945 war much-vaunted economic transformational miracles” of the era emerged...

Mbonu Ojike City of Innovation and Enterprise

THE MAIN thrust of this plan is still valid and should be retrieved from the archives, reworked, and adapted by the ongoing Biafra freedom movement to 21st century priorities and the advantage of new technologies. This phase would appropriately be Ojike Plan II and the Mbonu Ojike City of Innovation and Enterprise, built on the morrow of the restoration of Biafra independence, will offer Biafrans with multiform creative interests and goals, especially start-up entrprenuereship, an enabling environment dedicated solely to work through their ideas and transform this great Land of the Rising Sun.
(John Coltrane Sextet, “Out of this world” [personnel: Coltrane, tenor saxophone; Donald Garrett, clarinet, bass; Pharoah Sanders, tenor saxophone; McCoy Tyner, piano; Jimmy Garrison, bass; Elvin Jonesdrums; recorded: live at Penthouse Jazz Club, Seattle, US, 30 September 1965])

******Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe is the author of The longest genocide – since 29 May 1966 (2019) and co-author, with Lakeson Okwuonicha, of Why #DonaldTrump is #great for #Africa (2018) 
Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

Thursday, 25 April 2019

The archives project! Igbo people of Biafra: “The stink of genocide is everywhere...”


Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe

EXCERPTS ... from the gripping and indelible lines on the Igbo genocide (phases I-III, 29 May 1966-12 January 1970), the foundational genocide of post-(European)conquest Africa, during which Britain and client-state Nigeria led by Fulani islamist/jihadists and the coterie of pan-African constituent nations including, especially, Yoruba, Edo, Hausa, Urhobo, Jawara, Gwari, Nupe, Bachama, Tiv, Jukun, Kanuri, all in this southwestcentral region of Africa, murder 3.1 million Igbo people of Biafra, beginning 21 years after end of the Jewish genocide, in Leon Uri’s classic, QB VII (London: Bantam Books, 1970), pp. 392-393:
ABE studied them all, his worn-out little band of idealists. 
“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury,” Abe said in a voice that literally moaned with sorrow, “I would like to make a statement by quoting in effect the words of Thomas Bannister, Q.C., when he said that no one in their wildest imaginations would have believed Hitler’s Germany before it actually happened. And he said, if the civilized world knew what Hitler intended to do then they would have stopped him. Well, here we are in 1967, and the Arabs vow daily to finish Hitler’s work. Certainly the world will not stand for another chapter of this holocaust. There is a right and a wrong. It is right for a people to want to survive. It is wrong to want to destroy them. But alas, the kingdom of heaven is concerned with righteousness alone. The kingdoms of the earth run on oil. 
“WELL now, certainly the world should be appalled by what is happening in Biafra. The stink of genocide is everywhere. Certainly, after Hitler’s Germany, the world should step in and stop genocide in Biafra. However, that becomes impractical when one considers England’s investments in Nigeria conflict with France’s interests in Biafra. After all, members of the jury, it is only [African] people[s] killing other [African] people.  
“We should like to think,” Abe said, “that Thomas Bannister was right, when he said more people, including the German people, should have risked punishment and death by refusing orders. We should like to believe there would have been a protest and ask why didn’t the Germans protest? Well today, young people march in the streets to protest Biafra and Vietnam and the principle of murdering their fellow man through the medium of war. And we say to them … why are you protesting so much? Why don’t you go there and kill like your father killed?…” (added emphasis)
(Eric Dolphy Duo, “Alone together” [personnel: Dolphy, bass clarinet; Richard Davis, double bass; recorded: Fuel Records, New York, US, {May?June?July?} 1963]) 

******Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe is the author of The longest genocide – since 29 May 1966 (2019) and co-author, with Lakeson Okwuonicha, of Why #DonaldTrump is #great for #Africa (2018)
Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

82nd birthday of Joe Henderson

(Born 24 April 1937, Lima, Ohio, US)
PRODIGIOUSLY INFLUENTIAL tenor saxophonist, one of the leading lights of the instrument in the jazz repertoire underscored so classically with his The State of the Tenor: Live at the Village Vanguard, Vols I & II (1985)
(Joe Henderson Trio, “Beatrice” {composer: Sam Rivers} [personnel: Henderson, tenor saxophone; Ron Crter, bass; Al Foster, drums; recorded: live, Village Vanguard, New York, US, 14-16 November 1985])
Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

91st birthday of Johnny Griffin

(Born 24 April 1928, Chicago, US)
VERY DISTINGUISHED tenor saxophonist, composer, bandleader
(Thelonious Monk Quartet, “In walked Bud” [personnel: Monk, piano; Griffin, tenor saxophone; Ahmed Abdul-Malik, bass; Roy Haynes, drums; recorded: live, Five Spot Café, New York, US, 7 August 1958])
Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

Monday, 22 April 2019

84th birthday of Paul Chambers

(Born 22 May 1935, Pittsburgh, US)
Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe

VIRTUOSIC bassist, composer, member of Miles Davis First Great Quintet/Sextet (1955-1963) and subject of salutary, standard compositions by varying artistic colleagues: tenor saxophonist John Coltrane, “Mr P.C.”; tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins, “Paul’s Pal”; pianist Tommy Flanagan, “Big Paul”; pianist Red Garland, “Mr P. C. Blues”; drummer Max Roach, “Five for Paul”
(John Coltrane Quartet featuring Paul Chambers“Walkin’” and “The theme” [personnel: Coltrane, tenor saxophone, Wynton Kelly, piano; Chambers, bass; Jimmy Cobb, drums; recorded: live, German television, Düsseldorf, Germany, 28 March 1960]) 


*****Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe is the author of The longest genocide – since 29 May 1966 (2019) and co-author, with Lakeson Okwuonicha, of Why #DonaldTrump is #great for #Africa (2018)

Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe


97th birthday of Charles Mingus

(Born 22 April 1922, Nogales, Arizona, USoutstanding bassist, composer and bandleader whose music encapsulates all the critical junctures of jazz history and his Jazz Workshop a landmark conservatoire of an age)
Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe

IN SEPTEMBER 1996, I published an essay on the work of Charles Mingus in the African Peoples Review (Vol. V, No. 3, September-December 1996, p. 22) entitled “Wednesday night prayer meeting” under the signature of Nnamdi Nzegwu. The essay is reissued here (below), in the original, in commemoration of the iconic bassist/composer’s 97th birthday: 

*****IT is no mean achievement that Charles Mingus’s music encapsulates all the critical junctures of jazz. His work with the pioneering geniuses of Charlie ParkerDuke EllingtonLouis ArmstrongLionel Hampton and Art Tatum in New York of the early 1950s gives Mingus the compositional and arranging insights that would soon be the bassist’s forté.

Few jazz scholars would now disagree that the success of that much discussed May 1953 concert at Toronto’s Massey Hall featuring the Parker Quintet (Parker, alto; Dizzy Gillespie, trumpet; Bud Powell, piano; Mingus, bass; Max Roach, drums) is not just a Parkerian triumph but equally that of the iconoclastic bassist from Los Angeles.

BEGINNING with Mingus, the bass ceases to be merely an “accompanying” time-keeping, harmonic instrument in jazz. It still has to contend with “time-keeping”, but it has entered into the interplay as a polyphonic participant. The work of subsequent bassists particularly Paul Chambers, Ron Carter, Jimmy Garrison, Scott La Faro, Gary Peacock, Eddie Khan, Charles Haden and Dave Holland attest to this Mingusian redesignation

In 1954, Mingus launched his Jazz Workshop experimentation which was to emphasise more of “group” or “collective” improvisation in jazz, away from what was then increasingly becoming the tedious and formularised “theme-solo-theme” structures of the bebop revolution that had been launched in the 1940s by the Parker-Gillespie-Thelonious Monk troika. As a critic once observed, it was not that Mingus was “avoiding Bebop, he straddled it”. He still had to absorb the great jazz heritage to move the music forward to wrestle with the new possibilities.

Creativity and rehearsals and creativity

It is therefore the case of Mingus trying to return jazz to the “group feeling” of those years of its early development in the closing decades of the 1800s. The soloist still has a great deal of space in Mingus’s thinking but their musical concepts has to develop in anticipation and in response to the polyphony of collective interaction; there are now multisided and multiple centres of creativity soon after that infectious bass intro! The act of creativity is no longer dependent on some space and time limitation. The workshops could not distinguish between rehearsals, for instance, and real performances! Creativity during rehearsals becomes rehearsals of creativity occurring at bandstands with or without an audience (for the latter, listen to the ethereal 1962 album Mingus Presents Mingus, featuring multiinstrumentalist Eric Dolphy). The music is always in a state of flux: evolving, developing, maturing, breaking up, only to form the nucleus of another centre of activity, itself interacting with other centres of the medley.

WITH THE CLASSIC Pithecanthropus Erectus album (1956), Mingus gives notice to this sense of continuous creativity – after all, this composition is his portrait of the formulaic development of a cataclysmic human form and the (predictable?) resultant chaos that this produces in the world by the end of the 20th century. Using distinct but unusual forms of squeals, grunts, duets and harmony, the composition exacts a coherent understanding of this tragic travelogue that a 1996 earth inhabitant would perhaps be familiar with (exhaustion/appropriation/destruction of the world’s limited resources, rupture of the ozone layer) than their counterpart 40 years before. The impassioned crystalline-striking lyricism of altoist Jackie McLean, the Rollinsesque rebuttals of tenorist J R Monterose and the plodding, haunting echoes of pianist Mal Waldron strokes keep the narrative of the age on course and there is relief, at the final movement, when the pulverising destroyer falls, is destroyed.

In Blues and Roots album that follows suit, Mingus pays homage to the sacred music of his roots. The rhythmic tension at play by soloists McLean, Booker Ervin (tenor), John Handy (alto) and Jimmy Knepper (trombone) over such compositions as “Tensions”, “Moanin’”, “Cryin’ Blues” and “E’s Flat Ah’s Flat Too” always calls for new insights, ever more challenging interpretations on replays. “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting” is predictably such a joy and by the time this composition is confronted yet again by a new Mingus personnel line up live in Antibes, Juan-Les-Pins (France) in 1960, detailing Mingus (bass and piano), Ted Curson (trumpet), Dolphy (alto), Ervin (tenor) and Dannie Richmond (drums), it has become the launching pad for intuitive flights and virtuosity.

Commentary

Mingus’s vivid commentaries on contemporary American life and worldwide developments are prolific. These samples range from ballads (“Sue’s Changes”, “1 X-Love”, “Bemoanable Lady”, “Celia”) to the very humorous (“Eat that Chicken”, “Hog Callin Blues”, “Wham Bam Thank You Ma’am”, “Old’ Blues for Walt’s Torin”, “My Jelly Roll Soul”), sentimental/sensuous (“Portrait of Jackie”, “Love Chant”, “Orange was the Color of her Dress, then Blue Silk”, “Peggy’s Blue Skylight”) to outright, politically serious (“Pithecanthropus Erectus”, “Ecclusiastics”, “Passions of a Man”, “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting”,“Letter to Duke”, “MDM – Monk, Duke, Mingus”, “Oh Lord Don’t Let Them Drop That Atomic Bomb On Me”, “Meditations on Integration”, “All the Things You Could Be By Now If Sigmund Freud’s Wife Was Your Mother”, “Fables of Faubus”, “Haitian Fight Song”, “Weird Nightmare”, “So Long Eric”) and dirge – “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat”, Mingus’s salute to tenorist Lester Young, and of course Epitaph, his 127-minute long composition which was performed posthumously by a 30-piece orchestra at the New York’s Lincoln Center in 1989.

NEARLY A DECADE before critics would use the term “free jazz” to describe the music of revolutionaries such as Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry, John Coltrane, Albert Ayler, Cecil Taylor, etc., etc., the Mingus workshops were already redefining and laying the foundation of new points of departure for jazz. Names of workshops’ alumni read like the priority core zone of the restless and most adventurous innovators of the jazz directory of the era: drummers Willie Jones and Dannie Richmond; trumpeters Clarence Shaw, Richard Williams, Ted Curson and Johnny Coles; altoists Jackie McLean, Charlie Mariano, John Handy, Eric Dolphy (also flute and bass clarinet virtuoso), Charles McPherson; tenorists Teo Marcero, J R Monterose, Roland Kirk, Booker Ervin and Clifford Jordan; trombonist Jimmy Knepper; pianists Mal Waldron, Jaki Byard, Horace Parlan, Roland Hanna.
(Charles Mingus at Antibes, “Wednesday night prayer meeting” [personnel: Mingus, bass, piano; Ted Curson, trumpet; Eric Dolphy, alto saxophone; Booker Ervin, tenor saxophone; Dannie Richmond, drums; recorded: live, Jazz à Juan festival, Juan-les-Pins, Antibes, France, 13 July 1960]) 

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