Wednesday, October 5, 2011

WHEN THE 33'S SPIN - Music, Race & a Little Girl - Pt. 1

When The 33's Spin - A poem

Eleven and home alone
with the turntable 
and the shiny liquorice  platter
playing a set
for memories to be made treasures and cuckoo stories
of broken hearts, of lost things found,
of courage liberated
the triumphant fist of blues
the spectrum of emotion played  in those grooves
onyx plates of Soul Food 

Bobby Womack's gravel molasses tones
riffs stretching notes  beyond the elasticity of time
Funkadelic dooloops scoop me on my roller skates:
ripped carpets, broken door handles 

Let's Get It On - big peoples music, it felt new
Marvin understood the expanse of a night for lovers hue 

and why did Anne watch and listen to the rain 
if it made her feel so blue?
I would come to understand, as woman, later
but I know something in my new soul moved
as they crooned...

Mum had a taste for fine tuning the house with music
and how the Magpies came to seduce my little bird spirit
to surrender my soul for barely twinkling things
that swell my fantasy wardrobe
to slice my wrong flesh
press it with a perfection of salty blonde
and brighter skin
silicon to parody beauty
Look at me I'm Sandra Dee

my skinny heart was 
used to the blanking of all the boys on the estate
dark, no good hair, invisible keloids rise like the tower blocks
at their stripping words
just wanting to be looked at so as not
to disappear at ground zero

so I skip tip-toed over turning vinyl landscapes
jumped laughing over the needle arms
Played 'tag' with the reality of life as this girl
and the life as the one imagined
dancing on paving stones, illuminated
with each giggle, holding Micheal's hand
both our heads back smiling
Written by Zena Edwards© 

As  child I plastered my bedroom walls with the front pages of US African American women's magazine, 'Essence'. Back then the covers were straight up head shots, no shoulders or  hardly showing off the fashion, just the faces of women of color looking straight into the lens, with no agenda, no seduction, no power plays, just see me, see my spirit, see my beauty. 
Why? I think I did it subconsciously so that I could look at brown skin and be calibrated with what I saw in the mirror in conjunction with the lack of what I saw as minority on the streets of London everyday.  Mum thought I was strange, having them up, but  this was a subconscious insurgent act of purpose, like a wall of protection and conservation. 
For example, an Asian friend of mine's 2 and half year old was over heard saying, 'I don't like brown eyes." She's TWO! and everyone who passes through the house is either Black or Asian. We are all still trying to work out why she would have a judgement of her looks already. TV? Watching Mr Bloom and Peppa Pig?! (Black Doll White Doll Experiment - check all the YTube links on this page. They cross time, each as alarming as the previous.)

At two she doesn't have a concept of 'culture' just yet but she has  two healthy eyes with which  (thank God) she can see and she is smart, making her own assessments of what feels right and wrong for her, therefore innocently concluding what's 'good' or 'bad'.  So at 10 and 11, I was deep in the battle of preserving Love for my African Caribbean self, for my features, my skin tone and hair. (A link to a kind of archive of back issues but I'm talking the 80's.) 

Thankfully, along with the rows of brown eye and white teeth pinned on my walls, to compound and solidify my armour, my Mother would select vinyl, particularly toward the end of the week, that conjured my skinny body in towaves, bends, jigs and bumps I had no control over. In fact, it would get me into trouble because things got broken. I was tall, long and gangly pre-pubescently clumsy. 
But as a little girl of Afri-Caribbean descent in the UK, my soul needed a cultural soul food that was not rejecting where I  had been born and lived but addressed the balance of my heritage. These ad hoc images and sonic caresses cushioned the blows, focused the distortion, leveled the turbulence of a disturbed sense of self awareness and self esteem.

The lyrics of Marvin and Ann Peebles went over my head but the soul in their voices spoke to a part of me that understood Love and even some degree of sensuality, but understood it innocently, in a pure state tthat had not been jaded by sex or rocky relationships. It was pure Soul Music.

I used to play Aretha Franklin's 'Say a Little Prayer' over and over and OVER again (like kids do). For some reason I was obsessed with it.
"Typical", Mum said. "I met your father to this tune. Yeah, it was playing when we first met in the bar in that Suffolk army base..." and she rolls her eyes and swishes away. Me, I smile secretly and conspiratorially smile at my absent dad for the gift that psychically connected us over time and space.

I found I would daydream to this tune. It lent itself to the dreaminess of looking at ocean horizons  because the story reminded me of my own quiet times alone during Summer holidays while Mum was working. Something in the lyric, "Sitting here resting my bones and this loneliness won't leave me alone," resonated with me. Only child to single working Mum...
Plus I just wanted to be able to whistle that good.
I remember finding the hidden rainbow roller skates that were a 12th birthday present for me under my mums bed, putting them on, blasting this track and ripping up the carpet rolling around the house in them skates.
But this is the track that revolutionized my individuality. Wanting to buy Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones collaborative  Off the Wall album was the first time I knew what I wanted when it came to music. With a five pound note in my hot little hand that Mum had given me, we walked to Our Price Records (now no longer in existence).
"Why don't you let me put that in my purse Zena or you might lose it." Mum said. "No. No I wanna hold it." and I held it with a resolve that as clumsy as I might have been around breaking and losing things before, this fiver, this bluey green piece of paper, this was going to buy me new realms of ecstasy and joy that no other music had done before.

Well, I should stop now. I could go on but I hope you enjoyed my little musical trip down my memory lane and that it inspired you to go and listen to your own selection of happy music memories.

1 comment:

Sloetry said...

no no don't stop...
beautifully written poem Zena, as was your account afterwards.