I grew up on reggae music. I love it for that reason, as well as for its therapeutic value. Inna nutshell….Upbeats make a body feel… UP! 😀 Here is a video for you to enjoy while you read the rest of this blog entry.
Ernest Ranglin – a rocksteady legend! Listen for him to play ‘Row Row’ at the beginning and once at the end! ha, nice!
Considering this performance happened just last year, I’d say Mr. Ranglin is still going strong! He looks healthy and happy. Next time he comes to DC or Baltimore I’d like to meet him and have my photo with him. Considering my bandmates, friends and family that are in the reggae music scene here, things like that can usually be arranged with enough determination.
I wonder if Mr. Ranglin is a marijuana user? He is 79 years old. He looks healthy and happy. I wonder if he eats all food that is ital? Why in the world am I asking such questions???
Because today is April 20th. Many people celebrate today as a day to advocate for the legalization of marijuana. There are research studies happening that are investigating the effects of cannabis on people with ASD. I am as curious as anyone what they are discovering, and I will read the data when it is published. Both autism and cannabis are very controversial subjects in our society, and I will take the time to acknowledge this today, since it is 4-20.
I am confident that I have a thorough and authentic training in how to play keyboards inna reggae style. In my late 20’s, playing reggae was the only way I finally learned how to play by ear, as opposed to the classical sight-reading way I had been ingrained in since childhood. (so yes, alongside classical piano, I grew up with a deep love for ska/reggae, indie, punk, British and classic rocks). I tried to learn jazz as an adult, but I got so nervous about having to solo, it really wasn’t any fun… and the chords in jazz are very complex! Even as a kid, I simply did not have the self-esteem to even figure out the rock songs that I liked to listen to. I had been told too many times that I was “just classical” and I believed that untruth way into adulthood.
Reggae keyboard playing is filled with chords that are simple, diatonic, root position triads. For the keyboard player, there is typically only 2 or 3 chords to worry about in a reggae song… (PS, it can be said that the song you are listening to right now actually has only 1 chord!!) But just like it says in the Scriptures, “it is the simple things that confound the wise.” Reggae’s simplicity is one of those things that confound the greatest of musical artists of other genres. At my big brother’s weekly “Selector Pablo Fiasco’s Reggae Sweatshop” in Adams Morgan-DC every Tuesday night, I’ve heard plenty of jazz and rock musicians try to sit in, and after a couple tunes then sheepishly excuse themselves from the stage…
Reggae’s a lot trickier than it sounds, but what is even more remarkable is how the rhythms become more deeper and complex, the more you allow yourself to truly *listen*. You don’t need pot to listen better, that is just a plain old lie. A beautiful thing about reggae’s simplicity is that it makes it a perfect teaching and a therapeutic tool, with anyone, but particularly to kids on the spectrum.
I am creating a poster for the wall of Musical Autist Academy that has a picture of a reggae instrument that we dearly love – the melodica! I am writing a huge caption under the picture that says,
“SAY NO TO DRUGS. *ALL* DRUGS. – Let music be your medicine!!”
So, as you can see, I am against all drugs – whether they are grown naturally straight out of the ground, illegally made in some sketchy guy’s basement, or engineered in pharmaceutical labs and sold over the counter in order to: a. make people rich, b. let minds stay numbed, c. “fix” problems that don’t even really exist…to name just a few.
My favorite [living] pianist, Brad Mehldau, has similar views as I do, on the whole marijuana topic (just one more reason why I respect him so much as a musician and a role model). A great read is Mr.Brad’s personal account of his own smoking habit, and the effect it had on his musicianship. (Be warned, Brad uses swear words in his writing, but he really makes some great points with the anecdote.)
The gist of what Brad is saying is that for him it always seemed “like a great idea at the time”, but he’d always wind up feeling paranoid, and he soon realized that he plays music EVEN BETTER when he’s not stoned, and the added bonus of quitting smoking was not having to worry about doing/saying stupid stoner things.
“It was always back and forth – wonderment and pleasure at anything and everything that would sort of spill over itself and turn into insecurity, paranoia, and downright ineptitude, or slide into random speculation. So being on a gig was the same kind of thing.”
Another point I would like to make, while we are at it. The poster that I am going to make….it will be hung on the wall in the Musical Autist Academy of the room in the church where we will be holding music classes. We love dub and rocksteady. We love the feeling of a strong one-drop, skank and “bubble” – those are terms used to describe the unique feel of reggae “riddims.” It feels good because it sounds good. It sounds good because the chance of its ability to do some self-organization in the listener is quite likely.
Lol, gosh man are you allowed to play reggae in church? Did you know the glory of God inhabits the praises of His people? Where do you draw the line between ‘worship’ music and ‘secular’? What about jazz and classical? Is there really any particular *style* of music that is more worshipful than others? Doesn’t praise come from the inside? What type of music is inside you, and what is the fruit of your spirit that the music can draw out in you?
Here is one last topic I’d like to raise. What about Haile Selassie? Do people even know who that is anymore? Rastafarians believe he was the second coming of Christ. He’s only been gone 35 years now, and people barely know the name outside Rastafarian circles anymore. When I realized that, it really put into perspective how the reputation of Jesus has lasted 2000 years. Please let me extend my deepest humility to any of my Rasta friends whom I’ve just offended. I am searching for truth just like anybody else. I am continually searching, learning and growing. One thing that I absolutely *adore* in the reggae genre – rich lyrical history of the Old and New Testaments. The next post, I will make you a video playlist of some of my favorite examples of this.
Anyhow, getting back to the whole cannabis thing, for Teacher CJ, it all boils down to one simple word….
if you will, click on that word. Great! remind yourself of the definition. it’s such a great word isn’t it?! I remember my piano teacher ingraining that definition into me when I was a kid – and now I will do the same with my students, whether they be in person or online it makes no dif to me.
Let us consider our actions in the context of the children that observe us. Let us press on! Let us all help to raise these children well. They are our future! Be blessed..