Pen lines that thrill like a solo
Today I break from tradition and write about someone who is not necessarily a musician, but makes music with his sharp mind and mellifluous verse.
I am talking about our master jazz poet, Keorapetse Willy Kgositsile.
Three weeks ago Kgositsile took over from the late Mazisi Kunene as the country's poet laureate. Jazz lovers should rejoice because we have here a man with a mind and heart of a jazz musician.
Says the poet Gus Ferguson, in his foreword to Kgositsile's book: "While proofing this book, I rushed to my vinyl collection to check the spelling of Pharoah (Sanders), pulled out the album Thembi (named after Sanders's South African wife) and, lo and behold - the thrill of the serendipity - there in the liner notes was the poem Pro/Creation."
A segment of the poem reads: (Pharoah), traveller in sound/spirit/ is direction firm, strong, firmly/ connected to root. Expression/ past any word. / Energies of sound/ old as ear of any god known or not/ now redistributed here to move us/ with Love, Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer.
In a recent profile he wrote on Kgositsile, my good friend Sandile Ngidi quotes the poet laureate as saying, "In African literary aesthetics, there is no boundary between poetry and music. Too often African poets compose verse as they go, just like jazz soloists." Aha!
Now, this is the exhilarating sound of jazz, the sound of poetry as living sound, "p-p-pounding p-p-pounding the s-s-s-ssounds of who we are even in this place of strange and brutal design".
And, they say, this noble music is dead them dragons that "don't care nothing/ bout nothing but profit".
Oh, the beautiful cadence of this canto. Did you hear that? Can you imagine this as a trumpet line?
And there is this one in tribute to the drummer, Mongo Santamaria: Mongo is not from the congo/ but on conga or any drum/ Mongo gathers all our memories/ like the crop from an abundant harvest.
Please forgive me, dear reader, if I come across as a tad too effusive in my praise for our poet laureate.
But the music that rages from his poetry is simply too mesmerising. It does to the ears of the reader what the sounds of the greats used to and continue to do to us.
The thrill of the energy; the thrill that must never ever be gone - that is the thrill of the music of Kgositsile.
This is the thrill that rides on wave or height or rock/ or depth or crevice of sound. amidst the bombardment of sound/ in the spell of the witchdoctor's son.
Kgositsile, son of man, one of mankind; please continue to bathe us in music.