blog for Japan

I couldn’t bring myself to write a blog for Japan, even though I had already committed to, mentally.

I had thought that my blog would be just about music, not about politics. That is, I was going to try to keep the blog a space where anyone who wanted to buy my records, god bless them, could read without coming into contact with any of my peskier beliefs, without coming into contact with anything that might keep me from potentially making a fan, keeping a fan, making a dollar off what I believe is my best talent, my most useful and beautiful skill.

But I can’t be truthful and ignore that I have been changed by the disaster in Japan, energized into a kind of fearless desire to insist that the world move, that we no longer put our planet in harm’s way, that we fight for Earth and the Japanese, and in expanding concentric rings, everyone and everything, all beings, like some old Buddhist chant – that all my relations. should live on the beautiful planet free of the fear of poison from radioactivity and petroleum and toxic rainfall and senseless, brutal murder.

Honestly, I don’t think it should be that much to ask. So many of us are mothers and fathers. We are stewards, by choice (hopefully) of others – we learn, step by step, what that means, how that works.

I lived in Japan in the mid-1908’s, when gaijin were not so common, and Black ones even less so. I first sang Jazz in Japan, and, although I know that I got initially gigs because, to the Japanese, I looked the part, I believe that I kept getting them because I was so devoted to getting better. I really wanted to get better. In Japan, there were coffeehouses that were fronts for the pure delivery of sound from Vinyl. In a temperature-controlled, glass windowed room, thousands of records were housed, along with a pristine sound system, a turntable, and a person that served as your maitre’d of music. You made your request and sat, in near-silence, as your record was played in a room where no one chatted much, excess noise was frowned on, and the clientele was devoted simply to the sound of music on vinyl. American music. Jazz.

I met Abdullah Ibrahim in a crowded Tokyo train station, because we were both African and at least a head above the rest of the crowd. I made friends and lovers I couldn’t speak more than a few words to. Visiting Mount Fuji on a train, and autumn festivals, and being able to walk the feral cat-filled streets safely at 4AM, and air pollution so thick it turned your sneezes gray – even before this man-made catastrophe, I thought of Japan often, and looked at her across the ocean, wondering if I would ever go back, and bring my son. The Pacific Ocean, and the shifting Earth between us, link us all up around the ring of fire, as do our nuclear power plants. The one in my childhood backyard is Diablo Canyon. And if the ground breaks up beneath us, we should all know now that there is no plan, there is no safety, there is no intelligent design behind the soul-sucking greed that Tokyo Electric and PG&E and British Petroleum foist onto our Planet. They are parasites with no intention of playing nicely and picking up after themselves. And they seem not to have realized that they are killing their host.

So, I make music, and I believe that is what I do best. But I also believe that it is not just my job to sing of the moon in June, but to look at the world and tell the truth that I know. The voice is the first instrument, only love lasts forever, and Earth will survive, even if she has to start all over again. If it’s isn’t too late to help her stay the beautiful planet that she is now, we should do our duty, and help. My knowledge is limited – I’m open to ideas.


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