Music is life

In ozstraylia, tunnnneeeee! on April 2, 2010 at 6:57 pm

I don’t know when I became obsessed with, but more likely made the decision to submerge myself in, music. I remember dancing to songs at primary school, as an eight or nine year old, we were taught Indian dance by our teacher, and then the year after I was a cockney king, amongst a welter of kings and queens, dressed in sequins and black suits, dancing for the old folks, in various resting homes around Lambeth, bringing a little cheer to their lives. I used to love the dancing, the energy required, the concentration on the songs, to remember the lines of each song and sing it distinctly, no slurring of words allowed here. I remember liking Bucks Fizz’s Eurovision song, “Making your mind up”, particularly the bit of the routine where the girls skirts were pulled off to reveal shorter ones. I remember my cousin playing hip hop to me, Roxanne Shante and Biz Markie and being entranced by it. But I must have listened to it before, because I remember trying to body pop and being afraid to breakdance in play times and later after school hanging around outside the gates, or up in the playground round the corner, with its swings that we were just starting to get too big for, and the roundabout spinning , that we’d hang off, head close to the floor, as one of us span it faster and faster, the centrifugal force wanting to rip you away from it, and fighting the sick feeling that rose in your stomach.

I remember the exact moment when I knew I would never body pop again, as Candy Girl was played at a friend/relatives wedding in a church hall in Clapham, and running into the center of the empty dancefloor to shake my arms, and contort my torso, and sing along with Ralph Tresvant’s premature falsetto, cringing now as I write it down, commit it to paper, expose the failings of my junior self. But I suppose that was a harbinger, the way that, that one song had wormed its way under my skin, made me lose my gotdamned mind, and thrust me into a space to close my eyes and feel nothing but the music, the bass thumping in my chest and the drums driving my feet. Hip hop when it arrived was all encompassing. I don’t remember many songs before I found hip hop, but after it I remembered them all, even if I didn’t remember their names, but fragments of lyrics would rise as the intro started and the scratching cut the record into shards of sound (why does no one scratch anymore, I still move my hands in an approximation of scratching when the DJ starts to cut on those records of old, is it the hip hop version of air guitar?) But hip hop filled my life like I thought no other music could, until I got into funk off the back of it, hearing hip hop samples in their original context and liking them as much there as in the hip hop tune I’d danced sweatily to the night before. Listening to the 80’s soul that my sister would play loud from her bedroom, as she prepared to go out to the house parties which I was still too young to attend. Militant at fourteen when Public Enemy became my whole world, sitting on the school bus once, back from a football match on a Wednesday evening, and all of us, black faces all, knowing every word, every line, every verse of Rebel Without A Pause, singing/rapping it back to each other. Don’t know who started it, but it spread like widfire down the coach. Capturing our adolescent souls. I remember not liking it that much when I heard it first. Staying up late on a Friday night, tape in the hi-fi, finger hovering over the pause button to record or stop a song so that I could cut out the sponsors, the jingles, the inane chatter, just wanting the beats and rhymes. Sometimes a tape would last a couple of weeks before it was filled, sometimes it would be filled in that night. New songs to play, to rewind, again and again and again, to learn the words of, no lyric sheets here, having to learn each song line by line, verse by verse, to play to friends, to figure out if they liked this new mc, more than the others. Discovered recently when listening back to some old tapes before I threw them all out that I’d liked Rebel Without A Pause more than I knew having taped it like five times on one tape.

But looking back I can’t find one exact point when this love of music came over me, when it became so important that it could lift/change/define my mood. When not to hear music was like a punishment, that dead space needing to be filled, by humming, whistling, singing, rapping. Not sure when the dependency began, but knowing I can’t be weened off it, or want to be, this music junkies not going to rehab, oh no, no, no. I sit here typing this, in the urgent heat of Melbournes afternoon, listening to a playlist, push out song after song, portable speaker throbbing, ipod hard drive churning, and it brings me joy, it makes me happy. I went to see The Dark Knight at the Botanical Gardens here, part of their moonlight cinema season, I took the portable speaker and the ipod and listened to the Bright Times on the grass, as the sun set, and evening cooled and we all waited for the film to start, munching on food, sipping on chilled beers. I suppose I could have bought headphones, but what would have been the point in that, it was early evening, it was still warm out, and it is so very very fitting to sit eyes closed and the lowering sun, turning your lids, that warm orange as the shadows lengthen and the music lilts and trips out of the speakers, and into your ears. Once heard/read that the difference/schism back in the day, and probably still to this day to some extent, between east coast and west coast hip hop, was that east coast was designed to be listened to on your headphones in a rocking, rattling subway car, or pounding the pavements in your fresh new sneaks, whilst west coast was designed to be played loud out the back of a car, window down, elbow out, rolling down the center of the boulevard or over to the next block. That night at the Botanical gardens I wanted nay needed to be west coast. And as I nodded my head, I wanted to know why everyone else wasn’t doing the same.

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