“Funk” has its history beginning when Europeans owned slaves but not their human souls. Music that came from Africa from the tribes of each village transcended from the traveling barristers, the griots. You might disregard this thought but present trend as presented by NYC’s poet slam founder, BoB Holman, has a griot accompanying him with his poetries since he had traveled to Timbuktu to follow the trails of beat poet Ted Jones while Ginsberg was discovering his sexual orientation which might’ve seem unnatural for Amiri Baraka’s & Ted Jone’s perceptions. However, Ginsberg opened a whole new identity for the gay & lesbian movement in Amerika.
Meanwhile, I also had to find my roots from the Chinatowns of Amerika to China’s infamous silk road among other Chinese American artists. (Then I became an undercover agent for “my people”.) I had first exhibited the first “Chinese in America: Images from the Neglected Past” in 1975 via a grass root community arts group, Basement Workshop/Chinese Historical Society @ the foot of Statue of Liberty where resides the Museum of Immigration. Presently like all institutions, with various name changes and overlapping of “PC professional” staff members who call themselves, “revisionists”, the non-profit cultural arts has evolved into Museum of Chinese in America (MoCA). Eventually, the uptown NY Historical Society finally exhibited an in depth detail the Chinese diaspora as a slave labor force (“coolies”); Congress enacting the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 “Chinese Must Go” in American history that explicitly targeted a specific ethnic group; and establishing foreign artists as Asian Americans. In response to this negativity, in late 20th Century after the Black Civil Rights with affirmative action Asian Americans became included as “minority role models”. The “role model syndrome” is such a divisive tool to divide ethnics among other ethnics while others still impose exclusionisms. This duality causes further hardships while mainstream society can ignore such conflicts and continue to make affirmative action, feminism, & human rights as taboo or unattainable except for the privilege class.
As an artist, I always enjoyed music and wanted to develop my musical skills so I became a musicologist of alternative Jazz music. Somehow, I became a “friend” of the Charters family via their daughter Nora, many years ago, who is now studying Yoga & photography. Sam & Ann Charters write and publishes books about the Beat generation.
As a youngster Sam Charters became a musician “playing in New Orleans bordellos” as Nora states. He “also purchased numerous old recordings of American blues musicians, eventually amassing a huge and valuable collection and beginning to understand that blues and jazz were connected in the history of black music.” (Wikipeida). Sam also claims that Baraka had plagiarized his book, “The Bluesmen: The Story and the Music of the Men who Made the Blues”, 1967 New York: Oak Publications, as told to me after Amiri Baraka’s death in January 9, 2014. Unlike Sam & BoB, who had traveled to Africa, Amiri Baraka stayed home. He focused on his writings and performing with jazz musicians However, I believe Amiri broke away from the Beats to delve into his own poetry, drama, fiction, essays & music criticism to satirize Amerika’s inequities. Amiri became the poet laureate of New Jersey until 9/11 and ultimately, “considered one of the founders of the Black Arts movement,” as described in Academy of American Poets.
In the British, “the guardian’s obituary of Sam written in March 26, 2015 by interviewer Tony Russel, quoted Sam saying, “My books pretend to be scholarly analyses but none of them are. They’re all political tracts. Throughout all my books, I was attempting to make the black expression an alternative to the suffocating dead weight of white American culture.”
The Charter family has accumulated unlimited wealth by becoming music anthropologists and experts of the “Beat” gen. and not about the Black literary movement. Nora’s parents now reside in Sweden, “a free loving nation” until Sam’s death in 2015.
Sam’s later book, entitled “The Roots of the Blues: An African Search”, 1981 – Boston: M. Boyars, where it becomes Sam’s journal of the title. However, he could not discover its “roots” & the book becomes a comical self–realization of the ugly “Whiteman in Africa”.
As for myself, I started to document the NY’s alternative jazz scene where there is no audience. There were many various reasons since I had been writing poetry since 1974 after the Asian American civil rights movement highlighted by my first DVD “Democracies in Chinatown: 1974-1994”. Besides I had played the accordion at the age of 6-14 in my home state, Portland, Oregon to NYC & the viola in LES in JHS where eventually it was the drums when I had joined NYC’s Soh Taiko’s first year of inception. Later it has been conga lessons with Johnny Amira for 5 years with tape recordings @ Lesley Dance Studio near Soho. However, there were many disappointments & barriers to continue to perform in the music business, so I began using my skills as a videographer. In addition, I also wanted to become an artist in NYC.
There were many labels attributed towards me, Suzy Wong, IWK, Gold Digger, Spy, Concubine, Ghettoes girl, alcoholic, home breaker, Gook, & recently “Leftover” woman. All in All those were mainstream labels attached to narrow–minded “history of deceptions”. Now as things are completely stratified to make the movement of Black History as a stalemate via government control as witnessed by the headaches that President Obama Baraka is confronted with Global realities and as a minority, I’m stuck with impoverished retirement, unemployablenesses, & lotsa spiritual gains with many pains to write about and speculate.
Throughout the years of documentations, the most interesting highlights has been talking with Evelyn Blakey about her father, Art Blakey, as being the first musician sent by the State Dept. after WWII to Japan and introduce Jazz; Terry Clark’s (Vietnam Vet., trumpet player & psychologist) performance with a White clarinetist, (?); Oscar Mischaux who is re–introduced as a major director, filmmaker, producer, distributor, & writer in the history of Black filmmaking with music accompaniments by Will Hooker, Sabir Mateen & others which can be viewed on YouTube.
Later, I found on YouTube, Miles Davis who did a funky tune with electronics called, “Red China Blues” in 1972 in the “Get Up With It” album. Rolling Stone in its April 10, 1975 described the tune as “a hard-edged number with Miles back on trumpet, Pretty Purdie and Cornell Dupree are in the rhythm section and a wailing blues harp that would seem incongruous on a Miles album fits in perfectly. ” It starts with a slow bluesy rolling tune with a harmonica solo and back bass slowly the horns come in and then a guitar solo intercedes “wowing” with the harmonica. The sad bluesy sounds and riffs emphasizes the tension of strings while horns just blare in the background and sometimes very quietly not to disturb the guitar’s moaning solo. or battle with the harmonica. To some listeners, this is a sexy bump & grinding tune for “sex in a bordello”. At least Miles Davis recognizes the Chinese’s plights & struggles under the Communist flag.
After attending many music sessions with Ras Moshe, Hil Greene, Bill Cole, Johnny Amira, Patience Higgins, Roy Campbell, Bern Nix, Warren Smith, JD Parran, Kali Fasteau, Nioka Workman, Amiri Baraka, Ken Feliciano, Joseph Jarman, Jemeel Moondoc, Amir Bey, Daniel Carter, Sabir Mateen, Connie Crothers, Larry Roland, Jason Hwang, Will Connell, Eric Frazier, etc. & Jazz aficionados, I believe Funk exists due to these individual expressionisms of various styles where inherent impressions of their environment are musically interpreted. In addition, the European pop & music stars of the 60s had learned the blues beat from earlier Black musicians to reinterpret to America’s young population.
Often it can “come across” to some individuals who are able to interpret these life experiences and political situations. For example at midnight of an upcoming New Year’s Eve event at Brecht Forum, Sabir Mateen was performing out into the stratosphere on the night that Bierut was being bombed by American Air Forces. It was fireworks occurring in a foreign land and Sabir was able to emotionally express how it felt that night–Anger & Frustration. I felt privileged to video that moment and clarify the meaning of “Funk”.
Funk is the beat of the heart’s rhythm that can cause many emotions to erupt and be the primal scream of mankind in these horrific times. It becomes of course an escapism for expression and a form of talk story that the ancient griots had passed down to each new generation.