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Jane Bunnett: The Spirit's Dancing in the Flesh!

Raul d'Gama Rose By

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This is what makes her so unique. That, pulling down all vanity, she is able to subvert the self in favor of the music--to risk her life for every note!
"The ant's a centaur in his dragon's world.

Pull down thy vanity, it is not man

Made courage, or made order, or made grace,

          Pull down thy vanity, I say pull down.

Learn of the green world what can be thy place

In scaled invention or true artistry,

Pull down thy vanity,

          Paquin, pull down!

The green casque has outdone your elegance."

          From "Canto LXXXI," in The Cantos of Ezra Pound

"I see the ancient being, the slave, the sleeping one,

Blanket his fields—a body, a thousand bodies a man, a thousand

Women swept by the sable whirlwind, charred with rain and night

Stoned with a leaden weight of statuary:

Juan Splitstones, son of Wiracocha,

Juan Coldbelly, heir of the green star

Juan Barefoot, grandson to the turquoise

Rising to birth with me as my own brother."

        From "IX" in The Heights of Macchu Picchu, Pablo Neruda

"Things that have no claims, such as for instance:

stones that smell the water, men who go through

periods as trees, are good for poetry."

        From "Matter of Poetry" in The Descriptive Grammar of the Ground, Manoel de Barros

We were still getting over our existential angst then. We cared little about protecting our lives, preferring instead to dive off the deep end—literally... and figuratively. We took up causes that everyone else abandoned and we fought for them: Africa... Cuba... Brasil... Chile... Argentina... Civilization corroding, and with it Kulchur... because the dilettante was winning and with that art was in decay. The capitalist economics of wealth was triumphing over our art... We smoked fat cigars, down to the very end, until the stubs burned our fingers as we held jealously onto them. We were ready to die for what we believed in. And so we wrote—poetry and music. Our muse was Pound, Ezra; and where there was Pound there was also Neruda, Pablo, and Manoel de Barros.

If we fasted at Lent, but at sundown there was wine and samba! We showed our support for Angela Davis... Stephen Biko, but always there was poetry and music... as every word meant freedom, so also did every note that rang from our fingertips as we beat the hide of the djembe and surdo and bata... and from our lips as we exhaled and blue notes tumbled down rocks and stones that sang while our fingers bled and our lips cracked. And we agonized over the sound that poured forth. Did it sound right? Was it what we wanted to really say? Did it come from our souls, set free by vers libre and all that jazz? From rhumba and all that jazz? From music and the wide world out there, waiting to be found and sung about. We would die for every word spoken and every note sung—from lips and sax and drum and flute and bass and trumpet! From slave and freeman.

The sixties turned into the seventies... Black Panthers growled and Vietnam burned with napalm. The seventies gave way to the eighties... Soon MTV was a bigger virus than AIDs! But then our souls were strong. We wrote and sang and played into the night... We had heroes and were not going to let that be forgotten. We lived in awe—not only of Pound and Neruda and de Barros, but also of Pops, Duke, Mingus, and Roach; Miles, Coltrane, Tyner, Garrison and Elvin Jones...



We delved into many new stellar regions, where we discovered a galaxy of new stars... Ornette and Eric Dolphy and other stars also rising... Dewey Redman, Don Pullen, Sonny Fortune, Archie Shepp and Rashied Ali... Charlie Haden, Carla Bley and George Adams... Pharaoh Sanders and Don Cherry...

Walls collapsed and borders crumbled... But who knew that we would be bathed in the cleansing fire of Essaouria and Maalem Mahmoud Ghania and his mystical Gnawas... washing us clean with 'guembri' and 'krakeb...' We fell prey to the charms of the Yoruba and Babatunde Olatunji's spectacular drums of passion... Bewitched and made new by Bechir Attar and the Master Musicians of Jajouka... While back in Brasil, and Tom Jobim and Elis, Chico Buarque, Gil, Milton Nascimento and Caetano Veloso made us laugh and cry, and love again... Egberto Gismonti and Nana Vasconcelos took us back, dancing, to the rebirth of our roots! But we knew not what would become of Cuba, so brutally blockaded... Who would hear their 'son' and the 'rumba'? Who would feel the vibrations of their 'batas,' 'congas,' 'timbales' and clave as they carved out a special music and melded it with the heartbeat of Africa, gospel and jazz too? What would become of the legacy of Ignacio Pinhero and Celia Cruz and Merceditas Valdes, Tata Guines, Guillermo Baretto Brown, Patato and Pancho Quinto? With 'tumbadora' and 'batas'—'okonkolo,' 'itotele' and 'lya'—whipping up a spiritual storm, they paid homage to 'Ana,' as they recalled the trance of 'Ifa...' 'Lukumi...' and propitiated the 'Orishas' of 'Santeria'!


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