Saturday, February 28, 2015

Melodies Pure & True

It was about two months ago, a few weeks before our son would be born, when my wife and I were driving in the car with our daughter who was 19 months old at the time. During that short ride she did something that caused us to be both amazed and overjoyed, and ever since then this miraculous moment has now become an everyday occurrence (almost an “all-day” occurrence). Though it all started on that day when we first witnessed a simple miracle of word, sound, and power.

It starts and ends with music. Music is a big part of our lives and so we find occasion to play it almost anywhere and anytime, especially on our car rides. On that particular day we were playing an album that I had frequently put on while putting my daughter to bed. As we were listening, we suddenly heard another texture to the music, something like another voice adding to the mix. My wife and I looked back, and to our great surprise, saw our daughter singing and harmonizing with this one beautiful melody. Mind you, this was no simple nursery rhyme either. It was a rich piece of music with many elements, layers, and vocal harmonies. Yet, here was our daughter singing the words with perfect annunciation, perfect tone and in perfect time! She had been using a variety of words and speaking her own brand of melodic gibberish for some time, but this was very different… she was actually singing!

What made this moment even more special was the fact that this was such a wonderful tune to hear our daughter sing. It was a song about love. Love for a child, love of family, love for the Most High God, and one filled with gratitude.  While we listened, a verse came forth from her lips in perfect clarity. “Oh how I love you, oh yes I love you! My precious baby, you mean so much to me!” She sang loudly with a smile of satisfaction. Then as the album continued, other songs and phrases emerged like, “I love you baby, so overwhelmed by your beauty… It’s an honor to feed to you, a privilege to take care of you, a joy to hold you, and a blessing to have you… Each and every day, I do find time to pray, thanking God the Father for you my precious daughter!...

The songs came from an album sung by Marge Blackman along with her family members and friends. She comes from a family of musicians from Trinidad & Tobago who sing in a style called Jamoo, or JAH Music. If you’ve never heard of it before then it is because it belongs to a unique niche in world music and I am fortunate enough to have a little collection of these hard-to-find albums.  Jamoo could be described as a rootsy blend of calypso, soca, reggae and Caribbean folk with spiritual and uplifting messages. We used to play this album frequently even before our daughter was born. In fact, it is actually titled “Songs for the Womb and Beyond” and I owned it long before I was a married man, or had even thought of becoming a Dad, just because I loved the music and the style. 

Playing the album on that day opened up a musical floodgate. Songs spill from our daughter’s mouth almost as quickly as she hears them with her ears. It is simply amazing to learn how intently she’s been listening to the music and what she is picking up from it. She is grasping language so quickly and putting words together with ideas and abstract thoughts. Although she doesn't know exactly what a song may be saying, she hangs on important words and their associations, repeating phrases and feeling the general vibes of the whole tune, dancing and soaking it all in. Witnessing this has proven two things to me. First, that one cannot underestimate the abilities and the awareness of a young child, and second, one cannot underestimate the power that music has on people, even very young people. It makes me wonder what would happen if I was playing music with less substance, or lyrics with foul and crude language. What type of impact would it have on my little daughter, and now my newborn son? How could I not be ashamed if they repeated demeaning and dirty lyrics, or mimicked some inappropriate pantomime? Unfortunately, I’m not sure if every parent thinks this through until it happens. 

Toward the beginning of this month of February my family (along with many millions more in the world, I'm sure) celebrated what would have been the 70th Birthday of Bob Marley, the man who carried positive and life-giving music all across the world. Every time I reflect on that car ride, and the days since, a verse from one of Bob’s most famous songs comes to mind. “…Three little birds upon my doorstep, singin’ sweet songs of melodies pure and true, sayin’ this is my message to you-ou-ou…” I love that line. Melodies pure and true… yes, that is what sustains me. Everyone has their own taste in music and whatever else that grabs them and brings them to life. However in my own universe, and in the world I’ve created for my family, we surround ourselves with music that builds us up and fills us up with love and strength, with purpose and confidence. Music created from positive vibrations. Roots reggae, or sounds of polyrhythms and languages from all over the African continent, Jamoo, soul, and world music that give thanks and praise or speaks truth no matter what nation it originates from. This is the music of our lives and the beat that we march to. I feel so satisfied and happy to see the impact it already has on our young daughter, singing these sweet songs. And I give thanks for the melodies pure and true, because music is life. In the words of Mr. Robert Nesta Marley, play I some music!...

JAHsh

And Yeshua said unto them, “Yea, have ye never read, ‘Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings Thou hast perfected praise’?” - Matthew 21:16

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Midwinter Reverence

Midwinter Reverence

Fresh snow softly falls
Dressing tree limbs in white garb
Until the wind stirs
For who else would dare disturb
Such a divine handiwork

Frosted light enters
And blankets a sleeping child
Beyond the window
Where even the arctic chill
Melts against a baby's breath

JMC 
1/27/15
(c) 2015

Thursday, January 8, 2015

I Wonder

I Wonder

Upon my shoulder 
You rest so gently
And I wonder
Who will you be? 
Will you remember?
The way you clung
To me so tenderly
Will you remember?
These moments
With Daddy

We dance to lullabies 
Sung in every tongue
And I wonder
Who will you become?
Will you remember?
The stories I told
The dreams I spun
Will you remember?
These nights
With Daddy

I place my hands on
Your mother's belly
And I wonder
Who will you be?
Will I remember?
Waiting for you
My sweet baby
What will you look like?
I can't wait to see
With Mommy
Your sister
And me...

JMC 
1/8/15
(c) 2015

Thursday, December 25, 2014

He Is With Us

He Is With Us

Long and weary was the road
But the sign was in the sky
As prophecy had foretold
The sound of an infant's cry
Divine marvels unfold
Among us He does dwell

Wise ones traveled far to see
This baby who was just born
Witnessing divinity
Manifested in earthly form
Saving humanity
So man would know thyself

Throughout the ages they still tell
Of the promise JAH upheld
His name is Immanuel
A true love never withheld
Divine marvels unfold
Among us He does dwell
Saving humanity
So man would know thyself

JMC 
12/25/14
(c) 2014

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Say It

Say It

If you do not say it, who will?
Will you remain silent, until
It is too late to matter
Or too long forgotten
You have the power to fulfill
And stop them

If you do not speak, who shall?
Who will disperse and dispel
The ignorance and
The blindness
It must be you, to tell
An utterance

If you never break the silence
How will they receive guidance?
Directions to show
The right way
You possess the license
To inveigh

Don’t lock your voice within
For a life manifests when
The Word spins
Itself into flesh
Let it show, just begin
To profess

JMC 

12/5/14
(c) 2014

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Babylon Prism

Babylon Prism

Babylon, back weh!
With your ism, schism...
Refracting JAH Light
Through your dutty prism
While JAH People unite
You create your division
But you can’t check the light
That we shine from within

You’ve taken our spirituality
And turned it into religion
Replacing our roots and culture
With your own evangelism
Creating doctrines and dogmas
That have fueled fanaticism
But the truth is too big
To fit in your catechism

You’ve distorted our diversity
And you’ve created racialism
Drawn beguiling borderlines
To impose your tribalism
Disposed age-old traditions
For your cold intellectualism
If it doesn’t fit your world
Then you call it “barbarism”

Babylon, back weh!
With your ism, schism...
Refracting JAH Light
Through your dutty prism
While JAH People unite
You create your division
But you can’t check the light
That we shine from within

JAH Ancient Monarchy...
You dubbed it as despotism
Then took Selassie’s Throne
In the name of communism
Today, leaders of the world
Play a game of egotism
We vote in your elections
But we have no real decision

You’ve denied us of simplicity
For your new materialism
Turning women into placards
To sell us your sexism
The earth has been stripped
For your mercantilism
You’ve prostituted our dignity
For your commercialism

Babylon, back weh!
With your ism, schism...
Refracting JAH Light
Through your dutty prism
While JAH People unite
You create your division
But you can’t check the light
That we shine from within

Babylon, back weh!
With your ism, schism...
We burn out all illusions!
We’re free from your prison!

JMC 
11/30/14
(c) 2014


Thursday, November 27, 2014

I Dare Not Be Ungrateful

It has been some lean times. As a nation, most of us are in the same boat economically: unemployment, underemployment, rising costs of living, etc. It is no great wonder then, that the stress of uncertainty sometimes weighs on me and my own family. Being the parents of an 18 month-old daughter while expecting our second baby in January, we know that our livelihood is about more than just being comfortable, but about providing a happy and safe home for our children. Lately it seems harder to manage and stay afloat. Our income is actually less than it was when we were first married due to circumstances and of course a pregnancy that limits job opportunities. At times we worry about paying bills on time, accumulating debt, fixing things in our home, and saving for emergencies and for our future. We know that we just can’t afford certain things, especially during the holiday season, when people are bombarded with advertisements to buy everything and anything. It can be quite taxing on the soul, and the body. It can cause a disturbance in the home and restlessness in our sleep. At least, that is one way to think. 

Notwithstanding all of the very real worries that we have, as a family we have so much to be thankful for! First, we have each other. My wife and I vowed to walk side-by-side though the hills and valleys on life’s road. It is comforting to have this companionship. Some families have a hard time enduring the stress and people often forget their commitment to one another. We have our health, and our unborn child is growing just fine! Many people struggle with chronic illnesses, or have children with developmental problems, and they do not have the means to treat them. We even have great health benefits and insurance due to my job. We have a roof over our heads! In fact, we own it, so we have home equity! We have food on our table! Even when we can’t necessarily afford to buy it ourselves, we have family that helps provide for us! There are hundreds of families in my community who have to depend on food shelters or churches just to have meals for the week. We have employment! Even though one of us is underemployed, we still are earning an income that more or less sustains us. We live in a safe community, where there is no crime and where we don’t have to worry (within reason) about robbery or gunfire! We have luxuries! We have running water, electricity, (which most people would say are necessities), we have cable television, we have possessions!

For all of these things, I give thanks. When I compare all of the blessings that we have to the worries and problems that we carry, it is almost embarrassing. My Uncle’s family lost their entire home in a fire last year. I have a close bredren (Rastafari brother and friend) who has been struggling with unemployment for several years now. I have family members and friends who are battling disease and health conditions. I have friends who live in neighborhoods and in cities where there is severe distress and where crime affects their livelihoods. I have students who are homeless, who are struggling with drug abuse and absence in their families. Even if I had all of these burdens, which would be hard to imagine, I have the air to breathe, water to drink... I have life! During these “tough times” (it seems funny to say now), I remember to wake up in the morning and give thanks to JAH for not being the worst. I give thanks for all of the little things that we have. When I lay my daughter down to sleep, I pray with her and give thanks even though she does not yet understand (although she does say “Amen”), because it is important that we acknowledge our blessings and good fortune. I dare not be ungrateful to JAH, Yahweh, Jehovah, Rastafari... because that would be an affront to all of the blessings that my family has received from HIM. 

Thanksgiving... yes, I know as a student of history that the first Thanksgiving is not necessarily the glorious moment that we celebrate in American mythos. I will not get into the socio-historical controversy here, because that is not my current message. I will however celebrate this day by truly giving thanks on a personal level. I will celebrate it as a day where I can join my family and extended family, break bread, and honor the Most High with a joyful heart! I truly believe that every day should be “Thanksgiving” (sans the overeating), but I am thankful for the tradition that puts a pause in our busy lives and a reality check to our woes and instead reminds us that life is precious, life is good, and we need to celebrate it! I give thanks to JAH Rastafari, to Iyesos Kristos, to Selassie I, for all of the elders and ancestors who guided the human spirit. I give thanks for all that I have and I dare not be ungrateful! Selah!

Give Thanks,
JAHsh