About My Cancelled Concert

This orig­i­nally appeared on mis​ter​agye​man​.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.

Religion strives for this sort of beauty.

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.