This originally appeared on misteragyeman.blogspot.com on April 25, 2015.
I want to apologize to all those who were so nice and supportive when I said that I was going to do a concert. The Sitdown was an experiment- ‘no cash, just kindness’, I said , and wonderful people stepped up, willing to bet on the idea. I got a supporting band, supporting acts, equipment, logistics and a venue- from friends, old and new. There has been a very positive response too, from people willing to come and trust us to give them a good time. Everything about this experience has been a lesson in what is possible in this world, in this country, in this industry, and I want to thank everyone for teaching me. And I want to apologize, and explain why I can’t do it.
It has to do with snowflakes and mountains.
When I think of mountains, I think of substance. Mountains look noble and everlasting, and they make us feel small. We sometimes say we want to conquer mountains, but we really mean that we want to own them. To be them- to be substantial and permanent, wearing the forest as a robe, and the weather as a crown. In contrast, snowflakes don’t wear forces of nature. They are etched by them, sculpted and whittled into shape by vectors and polarities too small to measure. Atoms draw graffiti on snowflakes.
I wish I was strong enough to surrender like a snowflake. I’m not a mountain either. I’m tar, some days; suck in life, spit out blackness. I have been blessed with shelter and grace in life, and yet I manage to meet the most interesting monsters in my head.
Anyway. The concert was born out of this, in a way. I joined a charity walk in support of the Korle-Bu Hospital’s children’s ward, but I felt very useless. We were supposed to cheer up the patients, and I couldn’t get over myself. Sick kids don’t want spectres padding around and gazing with poetic empathy into their souls. They want teddy bears, and cookies. I thought about things, and decided I’d be more useful making music to raise money to buy more cookies and teddies. My friends got on board, and together we wrote a bunch of songs. Of course, we have no public capital, no reputation- even though two of my friends are successful professional band players. We could either release the songs and donate the proceeds, or we could do a benefit concert. Either way, we needed some publicity. Then I got the idea for the Sitdown. A debut concert for me and my mates.
Honourable motive, yes. But there were others, not all positive. Envy, for one- seeing others claim their patch of the world, and thinking, ‘I could do that.’ Envy isn’t that big a deal. It’s easy to handle, because it makes you feel cheap. But righteous spite is much harder to beat.
I don’t know how to grade artists in terms of ability. It feels too static. But I do gauge quality; I expect the artist to strive to touch something higher. As I learn and grow, this virtue becomes more valuable than craft. Especially with music- I could write a song in five minutes, but then I may have to wait three years to understand how to fit a certain piece right. Sometimes something clicks, and everything just happens. Sometimes I play chords I never learned, if I can just be patient and get in that space. It’s a hard thing, but I’ve come to see that this patience and humility is all that is required of me if I want to channel real beauty. So when I see people who are ignoring this reality, I dismiss them. I’ve also dismissed people who have ability in bushels, who have grown adept at polishing rubbish into marketable goods. I feel they let down the calling. And then there’s people who don’t have ability or humility- they usually talk about unappreciated talent. I dismiss these too.
I dismiss a lot of people, don’t I?
Is it wrong? In itself, no. I’ve been lazy, and I can be crass, and I can be just plain bad. I’m fighting the same fight. If somebody stops fighting, they’ve failed. And there’s an industry exploiting the failures, drowning us in white noise so it can take our money. And besides the injustice of it all, honest art is just better than pretentious, hurried, veneered art. I’m just trying to sift the chaff out, trying to find what I truly like- which songs just feel right, which movies just make sense. That’s the upside. The downside is, I’ve become a bit of a douche. I have grown complacent and self-exalted in the blessing of intuition for music, and the eye for my world.
Art melts the mountain and the snowflake into one. The sensitivity becomes the substance. If you want to hold the audience in your palm, you have to let them hold you. You have to let them into your shoes. I get to appreciate this even more, because I have painful nervous attacks when I go on stage. But then I feel the grace of the audience in waves, willing me to do what I have to. It’s a special feeling. But I wasn’t going to surrender to you. I had a long agenda, and many people to prove wrong. I was coming to stupefy and astound you, and spit in the eye of those who don’t understand. And I’ve had a bit of time to think, and it all seems pointless. I’m not the saviour of music or consciousness, and it would be harmful to do anything under that delusion. It would be a sad way to fall short of the standard to which I have held others. It is disrespectful to those who have supported me. It’s an ignorant spirit that doesn’t deserve beautiful music. And I believe I can do better than that. But I’ll need some time.
So thanks for the love, and sorry for the disappointment. Nothing went wrong; it is important that I establish that. It’s very possible to do good things without burning money. I have been struck by how wonderful people have been, and I only want to live so that I can repay the kindness with genuineness. We are planning to get into a studio to record the jazz pieces we prepared for the show. It avoids the ego trip, but it helps us to get our sound out there. I’m not sure when I’ll do the proper songs, or how I’ll do them. We’ll figure something out.
Again, thank you.