“If you feel bad about it then do something about it!”Posted: December 4, 2010
Art is a weapon and must be used as the tool for the people against their oppressors. That said, I see the healthy individualistic aspects of it. I love making art, and see the merits in it being an activity for internal growth and development. I have always made time to produce art, and creatively express myself, and that in and of itself is almost a form of resistance when capitalism tries to steal away all my time and energy through wage labor. Sure, some people make a living off of their art, but that is rare nowadays. You really have to struggle to make time between work and surviving to intellectually and socially satisfy yourself. I also see art as a form of survival. I grew up in a violent and unstable home, and making art was an outlet for me to express the complicated emotions and trauma I was going through as well as a mechanism to stay grounded and sane. Some people do drugs; I made art. However, as I grew and became more political so did my art. I wanted other people to see the healing aspects of art that helped me survive in this very difficult world, but I also wanted it to express ideas that were bigger than just individual survival. That is when I begin to see art as a weapon, and a necessary aspect of revolutionary struggles.
I began to get interested in other artists, who used their art in similar ways. Nigerian saxaphonist and keyboardist Fela Kuti represents such an artist. He came from a political home with a mother, who was active in anti-colonial struggles in Africa and was also a feminist. Although that didn’t seem to influence Fela’s gender politics, because homeboy had several wives. The man also had style; check that yellow jumpsuit with the beautiful pattern he is rocking above; very fresh. However, the music is still incredible. He popularized the afrobeat sound, which consisted of a fusion of jazz, funk and African music that can put you in a trance…in a good way. Black power struggles in the US and anti-colonial struggles in Africa influenced Fela’s music, which reflected radical politics of socialism and anti-imperialism. The song that I am featuring below is one of my favorites, and is off of his classic album Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense. I love the opening monologue of the track where he is commentating on imperialism, referring to an ‘alien system’ in our midst. He is also addressing artists and the need for them to produce art that is socially relevant. He states, “as an artist politically, artistically, the whole idea about your environment must be represented in the music and the arts.” I also love the last few lines of the monolgue: “i think as far as africa is concerned music cannot be for enjoyment, it must be for revolution…if you feel bad about it then do something about it.” Very dope. Besides my obvious love of the radical art politics, the music itself is delicious. It moves you. The horns are incredible; so clean. The hypnotic rhythm makes you want to dance and get lost to the beat. The music also moves you with the ideas that it conveys about the world, and hopefully, as fela says, it causes you to do something about it. Enjoy!