"The Indians and the Chinese would have a musical culture very closely resembling ours if they did have one at all. Yet in this respect they are still imprisoned in deepest darkness and barbarism. In their downright childish ignorance we find not even the beginnings of organized orchestration. Besides, they talk of music in what we would simply call ´cat music´". Hector Berlioz (French composer1803 - 1869)
Hector, in his limitless wisdom, did not mention African music and we can only assume that he did not consider Africa as a musical culture at all. On to the Twentieth Century. In an interview from the nineteen-eighties Brian Eno talks about two principal types of music: music with Africa and music without Africa. And in his book ´A year with swollen appendices´ (Faber and Faber, London, 1996) he tells the story of Europeans who attempted to ´make Africans civilized´ by exposing them to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. Up to then it had been rather unusual for successful white record producers to give credit to black music - usually it was simply used as an inspiration and a means of exploitation. Thank you Brian.
Africa is an extremely highly developed and refined culture. Any person of a certain evolutionary stage who takes the time to study it with care will find this to be the case. Unfortunately - and largely stemming from the influence of the white race - ancient cultures like Africa are going through confused and difficult times. The white race has always wrongly assumed superiority for itself: the spastic dance of academic scholars of natural sciences at birthday parties aptly illustrates this.
Africa always favoured the Homo Ludens to the Homo Faber. The new music of the twentieth century was not that of Hindemith or Cage but music influenced by Africa - directly or indirectly. However economic exploitation - Gospel to Disco etc.- prevented further development and refinement of it in Europe and America. When I was seventeen I wanted to be black; very soon I saw the foolishness of the positive racism in this aspiration. Today, listening to the early Staple Singers again, I recognize in it a certain intuitive wisdom.
The title NEGUS started as a tongue-in-cheek idea: Aid for the spiritually developing countries of the white man. I want this music to honour three principles: African culture, the sovereign and that of translating traditional and popular music onto a plane sublime. The latter has been my endeavour during the last thirty years: through a kind of abstraction and reducing the entertaining aspects, a more profound satisfaction in music should be achieved, similar to what Wassily Kandinsky did in visual arts a hundred years previously. I gathered that if I could draw bliss from this type of music there is bound to be others in a global context experiencing similarly. Meanwhile, and without any marketing structures, there are now probably a hundred thousand persons worldwide interested in what I do. It is interesting to receive messages from kindred souls, say, from Nowosibirsk, New York, Samarkand or New Zealand.
Slower, more subtle, less, closer - the philosophy has proved enduring, effective and satisfying.
Africa has an ancient tradition of sovereignty. The Negus Principle represents the noblesse and grandeur of the African continent - the current difficulties in Africa only prove my point, so much as older souls on their way back to the source always encounter greater hardship. A sign of true spirituality.
Negus, the King, as a lofty principle, one to ponder in times where democracy is being hollowed out. Presidents and ministers would seek wise counsel that contain humour, intuitive and spiritual wisdom from the King who has risen beyond duality - someone like Hound Dog Taylor or Pallukollo Baba.
That it should have permanence and continuance under all circumstance was the criteria for the music on NEGUS. Those with ears will hear.
AGK April 2008