Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Goodbye, Sir

Max Roach's passing tapped my heart's rhythm. The death of piano great Oscar Peterson now tugs at my heartstrings as powerfully as his legendary piano solos sweetly hammered sound from many a grand piano. He was a gentleman and well-loved friend to many musicians in his time on Earth, a teacher who raised the bar of jazz music in his time, and an ambassador of goodwill to music lovers all over the world. My prayers are with his remaining family and every music lover who enjoyed "the technician" as much as I did.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Thank You for Letting Me Be Myself Right Now

My focus on work is at an all-time low; here comes music to the rescue! This young lady is one of the artists on my Myspace page. Honestly, she is BEAUTIFUL... but her voice doesn't move me as much as her looks and her band's sound have. I am NOT speaking anything negative! Some voices that touch other listeners would need a lightning bolt strike attached to them in order to move me. She is extremely talented... period.

Enjoy the video, and tell me if you like what you hear.

I don't know much about THIS young lady, but her voice DOES move me. I can safely say that she studied most of my favorite singers and songstresses of the last nine years. Just listen, and you'll quickly catch the DNA helix combinations of Jill Scott, Beyonce, Musiq, Bilal, and others. Again, enjoy and lend me your thoughts.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

No More a Casualty

Poking around on Youtube in a "munchies for music" moment, I found this video of a young singer named Rene Sebastian at a spot dubbed "Blowout Lounge" somewhere in NYC. Lyrics catch me, and this song had an interesting message: What can a woman (or a man, too!) do to stop the cycle of becoming a "casualty of love?" How many bad relationships, spurned loves, achy-breaky hearts, and joy-pain/sunshine-rain commitments must a person endure before he or she finds a different way? Do we habitually keep ourselves in a heart-directed harm's way until we just get sick and tired of the same results? For those who have made the same moves to different faces more than once, what brought you back down familiar paths... and what made you walk different trails? My people, educate me on YOU!

FYI, my NYC peeps need to take me to this spot when I make the trip East!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Road I've Traveled

Ma Dukes and I were talking by phone recently-- our constant ritual and my joy-- about life in general and God's blessings. Family life was the biggest smile: Darian and Wanda, my brother and his sweetheart of a wife, have their hands full with the "wonder twins" Jayda and Mikayla, their youngest of five amazing kids; Pop is doing just fine in God's hands as he quietly mourns Gramma Thelma's recent passing and comforts his siblings all over the country; and Kris and I are learning every single day that our dating-time expectations can't scratch a match to the love-filled marriage we share in our peaceful apartment. That smile bred laughter as our talk on children's precociousness, adults' busy schedules, God's enduring power and current events in the Ballard/Harris clan poured a full bucket of joy and surprise into our hearts. My family, my foundation... my blessing.

Poverty didn't destroy our love. We endured an early life of bouncing from place to place as my mother struggled to feed two and a half mouths (she hid from us that she was feeding herself with the few crumbs she could pull aside from our meals in the roughest days), living in the squalor of backwood slums and the shamefulness of family who spent more time dragging my mother's good name and pride through the mud than they invested in helping us through those intensely rough early days. Ma Dukes taught us to be proud of every element, molecule and atom of our being. We had each other and God; what more did we need?

Racism didn't warp our vision. In kindergarten at Riser Elementary in West Monroe, I learned that hateful people could be teachers. My grandfather, grandmother, and mostly-estranged father (by his own whim-- Mom never talked anything more than positive words about him to me in those days... though he deserved a good ol' project beatdown back then) were teachers, but they were nothing like this woman. I read Bible scriptures by age 2 and Shakespeare by age 5 (hated his work until I read OTHELLO), but this "teacher" swore that I belonged in the remedial group. It made no sense, and I let her know (outspoken even THEN, seen?) that my mother taught me that I could do more than what anyone could expect of me-- including this "teacher." In her usual way, Mom entered the situation, checked the lady politely for her obvious bias, invited her to the principal's office for a nice discussion of the teacher's "wonderful" marriage to the Grand Dragon of the local KKK faction, and walked out of the classroom. I was the class reading tutor for the remainder of kindergarten. Dig that.

Cynicism didn't rape our morals. Local police were on a rampage: the crack-infested Eighties (thank you to the CIA, FBI, former mob boss... oops... President Ronnie "Who Needs Coloreds, Anyway?" Reagan et al.) gave them a brand-spanking-new excuse to rain terror on our neighborhoods... and on young Black men-in-training. I saw good friends turn into overnight criminals and thugs because "the cops don't see a difference anyhow... so what's the point?" Imagine that: a full life ahead of you, and your sight-robbed mind accepts AT AGE 12 that the cops "won't let [you] be more than a nigger and a monkey behind bars." I have never been inside a jail cell; I never will. Some of my childhood friends are doing multiple life sentences.

I am blessed. I had a future and followed it. Even the twists and turns that knocked me on my back didn't sap away my hope. My God, I have lived 12 years longer than I believed possible in my teen years! The life I enjoy, the family I treasure, the entrepreneurial spirit I hold dear and follow, and the soul change I celebrate are God's blessings, my sacred gifts from my Father. My life has been something akin to classic poetry; this "road less traveled" with all its deliberate bumps, bruises and breaks on my spirit has encouraged me and stoked the fire within me. In Jesus' name, with my eyes aflame with life and love and peering at a world of adversaries and friends, I will enjoy my purpose as I grow in it. I can, so I will.

Merry Christmas... enjoy the day someone set aside to celebrate my Savior's first day in human guise. Be safe, be free with your love of family and good things, and be a good neighbor. Peace to you and yours...

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

We Are Blessed

Bygpowis has impressed me with his thoughts on Black life in America from an islander's perspective. Watch his BygTalk podcast (available on Youtube and Itunes), and please share your thoughts.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Is That a Demonic Clone of Sly and Bootsy?

What would happen if Rick James, Bootsy Collins, and T-Pain were morphed into a Frankensteinian creature, a musical demon? Snoop Dogg attempts to answer that question (and the question of how many afro wigs a rapper can wear in one video) with this little slice of video pie. Check it out, and please leave your thoughts. FYI, the video feature immediately follows the advertising (MTV, you sponsor whore).