A Fireside Chat with Randy Weston
FJ: Has Western civilization changed the face of Africa and have those changes been positive?
RW: That is a very deep question because when I go to Africa, I go for the ancestors. I go for the spirits. I don't go for the people that are there. What I mean by that is, of course, I know people there and of course, I have good friends there and of course, we have the chaos and the sickness and the wars and all the terrible things, but when I go to Africa, I go for the ancestors. I look for the elders. I look for the elder musicians. I look for the monuments. I read the books of the civilizations, of the spirits, and of the ancestors. That never changes. But for me, I have been very fortunate. I have been to fourteen countries in Africa and performed there. Everybody has been very beautiful to me, very wonderful to me, just wonderful. But when I go, I go for the ancestors.
FJ: Your music has gone undocumented for a handful of years.
RW: The big companies just forgot about art. Everything now is about money. The big corporations have taken over everything now. The artistic people in the company had the leave or they went into another direction. But they don't have people who know about the music anymore. Now, it is just money. If you hit a piece of metal and it sells, they're happy. Now, everything is sales. They no longer record artists anymore. Now, it is what is going to sell a million. That is what is important, whereas years ago, it was art that was important and that is why we had so many wonderful recordings. It is all money now, all profit. If it sells, it is great. Most of the companies now only have bureaucrats. They don't know anything about this music. They don't know anything about the history of this music. The few who did know had to leave. All I can tell you, Fred, is that I have been blessed. I don't have not one complaint. I just turned 77 on Sunday. Unfortunately, Babatunde Olatunji died on my birthday. He died 7:30 Sunday morning. I have been blessed because I have been around some of the most fantastic people on the planet. I have become a composer and become a pianist. I couldn't ask for anything more.