These places are so sacred Trump’s America should kiss their ground if they were allowed to land.
Beyond anger, it is profoundly saddening to hear the President of the United States slander places of the world where beautiful people of color live. Disgusted by his words, and the depressing political discourse that followed, I returned to an antidote that never fails me: Music. For the past two weeks, I’ve only been listening to the music of places Trump’s cold-hearted America hates - the Middle East, Haiti, Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and Asia. In fact, I went on a mad spree of buying the most obscure and esoteric songs from these cultures I could find and I am richer for it. After all, I come from India, also a shithole country I guess, where people still defecate in fields, millions live in poverty and extreme right-wing zealots rape, murder and plunder women and minorities. But that's not what defines India. My country of origin is much greater than that.
Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Nigerian multi-instrumentalist pioneered Afrobeat, one of the most influential African artists. Image source: Pinterest.com
Trump’s America has never heard the wild sensuality of Fela Kuti’s saxophone, his inflammable jams, nor watched him prowling on stage like a beautiful panther, bathed in sweat, surrounded by a troupe of ecstatic musicians and dancing “queens” in primal heat. They haven’t been lifted by Miriam Makeba or Abida Parveen nor swayed by the scintillating surf guitar of King Sunny Ade. The sweet pale ghost of Salif Keita in joyous harmony with dark Mandinka women never penetrated their hearts and made them cry or laugh in delight. They did not have a visitation from the sublime S.D. Burman.
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Those supporting Trump’s exclusionary and dumb immigration policies haven’t seen the young Baba Maal at Joe’s Pub, regal like a prince, a slender black shadow in the blue light, setting free a constellation of flamingos into the night with his song. The lost tapes of mad, sultry love songs from 70’s female Somali singers have not rocked their world. Cheb Khaled’s seething, intoxicating dance grooves are not meant for their awkward bodies and the enchanted wailings of Egypt’s devastatingly beautiful Asmahan would be a wasted treasure on them. Meringue, Mamba, Kreyol and Cumbia, Afro-pop and Rai, Jazz, Tuareg blues or Indian ragas - every music is lost on them except the trash and bile of Kid Rock and Ted Nugent.
Asmahan, Egyptian singer and actress of Syrian origin, died in a mysterious car accident. Image source: Pinterest.com
I laugh at anyone who thinks that Haiti or Nigeria, Mali or Algeria, South Africa or India or any other country where people of color live and dance is a shithole. These places are so sacred Trump’s America should kiss their ground if they were allowed to land.
As a sensual act of protest, we should passionately embrace cultures that are demonized by Trump. We should relish their music, eat their food, wear their clothes, inhale their fragrance and love their people. We should silence their haters with song. Every nation has its share of rogues, murderers and morons. Millions of us idiots in America were duped into electing this President. But most of the innocent people being casually slandered are generous, hardworking and inspiring. Their ancient cultures are a deep and complex repository of wisdom and mythology. They are cradles of civilization thousands of years older than America. And their tragedies and triumphs, wealth and spirituality are the bedrock of humanity.
Without these countries and their gifts to us, America would be Death Valley, a bone-dry emptiness devoid of music or color or taste, a vast stretch of jagged and cruel whiteness, a wilderness of sorrow from the slaughter that made this nation possible. There would be no Jazz, Blues, Salsa, Rock n Roll, Funk or Hip-Hop. There would no Yoga! The food would suck too, as would life itself. In fact, we should be begging people from these countries to come settle in the USA so some of their magic and grace rubs off on us and enriches our hollow and empty culture.
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India’s Asha Bhosle is the most recorded artist in history and has been the singing voice of Bollywood actresses for over six decades. Image source: fablefeed.com
The partial playlist I am providing below started as an act of self-medication for the specific blues of our times - a gnawing, menacing sadness, the fear of a thief in the house, stealing our treasures, threatening our children. The songs are anti-depressants and painkillers. There is no pretense of it being a cohesive anthology or an all-inclusive music survey compiled after rigorous research. The hardcore music junkies will complain that I have left out many musicians that merit inclusion. (What, No Angelique Kidjo? No Ali Farka Toure? What about Ravi Shankar or Amjad Ali Khan?). Like I said, this is one man’s cure for a fortnight of angst. Perhaps, instead of the usual escapes, you will find some strange, new and exotic drugs.
What an exciting juxtaposition this music provides against the regurgitated, soul-numbing mediocrity of most American pop music today. Hopefully what will come through is an intoxicated romp through a much maligned but endlessly intriguing and magical world the current American regime wants to distance itself from. I have heard these songs many times and perhaps when they have slipped into your bloodstream, you too will feel what I do: The crackling, burning angst of today's Lebanon in Mashrou Leila’s "Roman"; the psychedelic nostalgia of Loop Guru in "Often Again" and the blistering, jazzy joy of Rai. Maybe you experience Fela's heart pounding, smell the streets of Bamako and the weed and sweat inside a Cape Town club. Perhaps you will understand the anguish of being Syrian today in Omar Souleyman’s "Mawal" and the agony of Jackie Shane, the black, tormented transgender soul pioneer from the 60's USA whose music is finally being rediscovered.
Omar Souleyman, started out as a wedding singer in his native Syria and presents a joyous, pop culture side of his beleaguered country. Image source: womad.cl
After decades of cultural imperialism when America and the UK target-bombed our shithole countries with their pop music, ideologies and brands, it would be a smarter strategy to listen to the rest of the world and embrace its ideas, cultures and concerns than to piss everyone off. Times have changed. Other nations are rising. The American Dream is losing its shine. Still, most Americans are generous and open-hearted and Trump, who does not represent them, should get off his arrogant high horse and listen to the outrage and ridicule his recent pronouncements have provoked. You are tarnishing our great nation, sir, and very soon, if you continue your misguided adventure in offending the world you might have to pay people to come to America rather than keep them out with walls and vitriol.
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And not everyone wants to leave their shithole country. I’ve met dozens of Syrian refugees who are innocently suffering the consequences of the screw-ups of the West, and who Trump despises, and not a single one of them would choose America over the chance to return home. Hugh Masekela, the legendary South African jazz trumpeter and activist who died recently remained in exile for decades during the 80’s without taking citizenship in any of the countries that welcomed him with open arms, and eventually returned to South Africa in 1990 after Nelson Mandela was released.
The recently released “Sweet as Broken Dates” compilation provides a glimpse into the secular, modern pop culture of 70’s Somalia. Image source: discogs.com
Of course, I am not going to be so bold as to suggest that #45 or his fans listen to the music of the shithole world. That would be too crazy. And it would be so alien and unknowable to them that it might cause a fresh bout of hate speech and retaliatory policies. Imagine Omar Souleyman performing in the White House! He won’t make it past security. Also, you need heart and soul and a warm torrent of blood rushing through your body to let the melodies of "others" overtake your senses.
My humble hope is that the magic of music will bring the rest of us closer to those being targeted by this current lapse in judgment and celebrate our beautiful differences rather than let Trump’s divisiveness tear us apart. We need to come together in support of "shithole" nations because it is their/our people and culture that give America and the rest of the world its SOUL. And now one clueless man and his army of misguided followers are threatening to kill that soul.
And we can’t let them.
Listen to the music. Spread love.
A REACTIONARY PLAYLIST OF MAGICAL MUSIC FROM A SELECTION OF "SHITHOLE" COUNTRIES
1. Aamina Camaari- Rag Waa Nacab Iyo Nasteexo (Somalia)
2. Khaled- Adieu (Algeria)
3. Fela Kuti- Gentleman (Nigeria)
4. King Sunny Ade- Sunny Tide (Nigeria)
5. Salif Keita & Cesaria Evora – Yamore (Mali and Cape Verde)
6. Soap Kills – Tango (Lebanon)
7. SEXWITCH - Ghoroobaa Ghashangan (UK)
8. Acid Queen – Yalaiti (Tanzania)
9. Mashrou Leila - Roman (Lebanon)
10. Cheba Zahouania- Sahar Liyali (Algeria)
11. Natacha Atlas - Duden (Egypt/UK)
12. Baaba Maal & Mansour Seck- Loodo (Senegal)
13. Bomba Estereo – Fuego (Columbia)
14. Temple of Sound- Solar East (Featuring Rizwan and Muazzam Qawal- UK & Pakistan)
15. Bombino- Tamitidine (Niger)
16. Asmahan- Ya Habibi Taala Elhaani(Egypt)
17. Reshma- Aksar Shab-e-Tanhai (Pakistan)
18. Lata Mangeshkar- Chalte Chalte (India)
19. SD Burman- Wahan Kaun Hai Tera Musafir (India)
20. Amadou and Mariam – Sabali (Mali)
21. Omar Souleyman – Mawal (Syria)
22. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan- Intoxicated (Pakistan)
23. Miriam Makeba/ Hugh Masekela- Soweto Blues (South Africa)
24. Jackie Shane- In My Tenement (USA)
25. Les Ambassadeurs - Nagana (feat. Salif Keïta)
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101India.com.
By Nusrat Durrani
Cover photo credit: Platinumlist.com