When A Black Man Loves - a romantic journey

Just because people give you money does not justify that youíre good, and sometimes you donít have the God-given talent that you think you do

Zachary M.C. Harris
Monday, June 03, 2013

I wrote not too long ago about the audacity of ignorance in regards to a street performer I see in passing who believes that he has reinvented the drum while he has never learned to play it in the first place.  As I am learning to lead a more stress-free life, I chose to take the high road and keep our conversations to a minimum whenever I run into him, like “hi” and “bye.” 

Well, of course that didn’t happen because he simply is on a path of trying to justify himself to me; I guess my truth towards him struck a nerve.  Several times, I have noticed that he has his girls with him; I guess he picks them up when he gets out of school.  But I think the thing is that he takes them with him while he plays on a street corner downtown, which means that they sit there near his side while he plays; no remember this one fact. 

The last time I would run into him, he began a conversation talking about how he was going to get a djembe [which is the drum that I am most familiar with, as well as the accompanying instruments that comprise its drum family/battery/orchestra].  Knowing that he doesn’t know how to properly play a conga, let alone care for one (he transports it around upside down in a shopping cart, which is both an insult to the drum, and one of the worst ways to transport it as well), I asked him who is going to teach him.  You see, to learn djembe, you need to be taught a certain way, or you will never learn to properly play it.  There are tons of people out there who believe that they can play a djembe, but are usually either playing incorrect notes or playing all of the same ones, if not playing a drum that isn’t even tuned.  And let’s not talk about them playing off-rhythm.  You can only learn djembe by learning it in conjunction with the rhythms and the dances that go with them.  You can not transition from conga to djembe [even if you can correctly play the conga which he cannot] simply because the hand positions are different as well as the way of playing the drum.

So I ask him the pertinent question, “Who is going to teach you?”

His reply is that he’s covered, which elicits my laughter.  I have seen numerous people purchase artificial djembes with synthetic heads which no true drummer would be caught dead with.  I have also seen people with these drums on stage at concerts and not know anything of what they are doing.  It reminds me of when I see orchestral percussionists with congas who I am sure barely know how to play; it’s a joke and a cruel one against the culture of the drum because it breeds more ignorance.  It’s the same thing a real drummer feels when he sees someone pick up some bongos and then sets out entertaining themselves and their associates, neither knowing how to correctly play the drum, it’s history or any parts given to it in its music.

As I try to extricate myself from the conversation, he goes on and on in regards to people sometimes having natural talent and all that mumbo jumbo.  So, I’m all in and have to rip him to shreds in front of everyone; I did give him numerous ways to escape this, but he wouldn’t take any of the exits offered.  I mean, why try to prove something to me if it’s evident I will never respect you at all [for I can see past the bullshit that you tell yourself and continually tell others].  I started playing djembe in 1992 and so I have some two decades of a relationship with this drum, as well as the world it belongs to.  His one retort was that old tired line of how much money he makes as a street performer and it’s more than anyone else who sits on a corner playing a drum makes as well.  Guess what son, you’re performing on the street!  Those that truly respect the drum are rarely there, or in that position (note: I have seen some very talented performers take to doing this every now and then and it breaks my heart).  His challenge was to put any djembe drummer against him and that they would each play for thirty minutes, at the end of which he would have the most money.  Ludicrous and ridiculous was this proposal at best. 

What he doesn’t realize is that he doesn’t make money because of his skills, of which he actually has known, but probably because people look at him as a pathetic father who needs some money to feed his little girls.  Oh, and he argued that some talents are God-given and his ability with the drum is such.  I don’t think that God really wants to be referenced in this con at all.

And that brings me to what [sometimes] passes for women out here these days.  As I was sitting on my porch yesterday with an associate, listening to some music and having some vino, we spotted my neighbor across the street who fits a certain archetype.  He looks like the standard large and overweight Black man living a certain fictional lifestyle expressed by rappers like Rick Ross.  We have noticed before that there is an interesting dynamic going on over there as there appears to be two women living with him and between the two of them, they have three children.  We overheard one child call him uncle, but we also have the notion that he has a sexual relationship with both women.

And as my associate was commiserating on some things that happened in her life, with wondering how the crabs in the barrel can manage to make it, I replied that is because they will always find someone who will bail them out [but often mistreat them] and that the choice to stay is because they have nothing else to offer.  She mused on this for a couple of minutes and realized that it actually made sense.  You see, there are actually more women than men, and there are more women out there with nothing going on than men with just a little bit more than them.  The hardest aspect of these two [ignorant] people joined together is that more often then not, they spawn.

Look at the women with one or more children if any children at all, no true skills or education [outside of the bedroom], no job that really pays well, and no drive to truly do better for herself and you have the classic “going nowhere fast” archetype that becomes more a “going my way” girl for any man who can pay some of her bills, pay for her upkeep and perhaps put a roof over her head.  Throw in a butchering of the King’s English, one or more tattoos and/or piercings and possibly some fake hair, and you might be thinking that I am talking about someone you know or have spotted on the street.  Newsflash: we are awash in this stereotype.

And no one can really tell these women anything, because they believe that they are right and are making ‘dat’ money and that they will meet a baller and things will turn out just fine.  I will end it right here because all you have to do is read news reports and see how scenarios like this go horribly wrong.

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