Music is our sanctuary. Where we go when distressed. Where we go to do a happy dance. Where we go alone. Or with friends. Even on the road with strangers. The music. Our music.
Our captors took damn near everything from us. Even on mean occasions, literally cut out our tongues. Fitted iron masks over our heads to keep us from eating, from talking to each other. It has been over 400 years. A lot has been overlooked. A lot has been forgotten. Forbidden. We were sometimes whipped merely for speaking in our mother tongues. Even today, speaking up can get you shot. If not by the po-po–who are modern day slave catchers–then sinisterly by the criminal elements within our own communities. And even worst yet, by our own self-killing thoughts that the system has drummed into our heads.
Fortunately, what has saved us is our centuries-long refusal to be what the establishment tells us, both individually and collectively, that we ought to be. Even though not all us flat-out resisted, a significant segment of us always held the line, even on pain of death. No matter. Regardless of the dominant social reality, there has always been some of us who refused to submit or surrender.
Flight to Canada was not no myth. We actually fled north, seeking freedom. Often carried with us only what we could tote on our bare backs, in our calloused hands. And most importantly in our wooly heads–sometimes secreted so deeply there that we ourselves would forget the details, but, fortunately, we never let loose the essence of who we are.
Over the years in the Western Hemisphere, the vital memory and practice of self-determination would skip around and pop up whenever it could, even generations later, seemingly out of nowhere. Regardless of time, space and/or circumstance, our sacred sound was never lost. Remained domiciled in the keepsake heart of us. The song of us. The unforgettable music we sang to stay sane.
Up (or as it actually is), “down” from Montreal, Canada, hails a multi-lingual (French and English) chanteuse: Dominique Fils-Aime. You can google her. She’s has created albums and regularly performs. Right now I’m interested in a November 12, 2020 collaboration led by UK producer Atjazz, who innovatively recasts the music. Between Dominique’s vocals and Atjazz’s arrangement they offer us a moving remix of Nina Simone’s iconic song See-Line Woman.
Dominique doesn’t sound anything like Nina but she has that irrepressible spirit. The lyrical determination of resistance. The willingness to reach back in order to journey forward.
Listen to her and feel renewed.