I pretty much had made peace with moving on from dance and all in the last couple of years, enjoying training for myself and finding myself at a distance to those worlds. Then, late-last year, Isabelle said, “You’re doing a solo!”
We’ve been rehearsing irregular weeks since late-January, slowly building a work that finally got a formal-ish public outing on the weekend in Isabelle’s studio at Wiesenburg (masks and physical distancing and pandemic attentiveness obviously). First time performing in more than two years, and, after a decade living in Berlin, first time I’ve performed here — in a formal, dance scene context at least, not counting small, more private art-ing.
It’s been huge, a lot of work physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and a lot of responsibility in being seen. Being seen by both the audience, some of whom recognised parts of themselves in me, and understand what that means, and being seen by those who came before, aunties, mothers, old ones who visited, who I called on ’cos I needed their strength and support and approval, and I needed them to see me, us like this. And my babaanne, wandering around after just out of sight. I am grateful for them all, and for those who came up to me after, who were the ones I needed to fully see me, and who I needed to see also.
Another pause now, then — as always, pandemic allowing — at Sophiensaele in early-November.
There was a big gap this year when I had a little money for and no way of getting books. All that talk on social media of supporting artists during pandemic quarantine by buying their books hit up against furloughed supply chains.
Completely off topic here, I discovered yesterday I’d been using the entirely wrong word, furlong instead of furlough (and lifetime usage of either is in the single digits). And then I discovered furlong is 1/8th of a mile, so now I have Vin Diesel, or rather Dominic Toretto in my head going, “I live my life two furlongs at a time.”
Back to buying books. And no, e-books are not an option. I like paper, I like the feel and smell and aesthetics of books, I like how line lengths, page size, fonts, typography, layout, margins, the density of ink on paper, all that, I like how it creates a specific way of reading. So, no new books for some months and a rapidly dwindling pile of that variety which take months or years to read (Spivak, I’m looking at you.)
And then my favourite bookshop let me know books were available again and damn did I go hard. First, the Jhalak Prize announced its 2020 long and short lists and the winner, and I’m doing that thing again where I’ll end up throwing cash at about half the long list.
What is the Jhalak Prize (’cos clicking links scares me or something)? It was started in 2017 by Sunny Singh, Nikesh Shukla, and the sadly defunct Media Diversified and is an annual award for British and British resident writers of colour in any genre. And it’s consistently a banger. If I had the cash, I would without question by everything on the long list as soon as it’s announced.
And second, a bunch of weird old books I’ve been hitting my bookshop up for availability and prices for absolutely years turned up. A couple I’ve been asking about for five years. No, I cannot say no.
Some of these books have been sitting on my reading shelf since last year; some of them I finished months ago. I’m not doing that way too intense essay per book and annual Book(s) of The Year thing anymore, pumped the brakes on that. I still want to remind myself and celebrate a pile of authors who, all of whom did that indescribable magic a book can do. Some of these (’cos that’s my tendency) are hard, painful reads. Even these have beauty and joy and hope in them, and I reach for that. All these authors are my teachers and I’m grateful beyond words to have enough space in my life that I can read and appreciate and celebrate them.
Seen off Sonnenallee, desert sand immaculate and shiny with tires looking like they haven’t rolled further than showroom to transporter, a 2018 or later (I think) Toyota Land Cruiser J76 Hardtop absolutely stunting. The thing that got me is the Tunisian temporary registration / foreign residents license plate. Yes, Wikipedia has a truly work-of-art beautiful per-country documentation of license plates, and yes, I went through every Arabic or adjacent or possibly country looking at the plates as soon as I worked out ن ت was not a country abbreviation, and yes, I was dead pleased and relieved when I finally saw those two letters. “20 Pound of Diesel mate”
Seen on Uferstraße, Berlin-Wedding parked outside Uferhallen while Dasniya and I were doing veeery slow blockies on foot post-gigantic steamed fish lunch and coma-ed out. A 2003–2005 Buick Park Avenue Ultra, yeah fukken Ultraaaa says so on above the back bumper and triple vents above the front wheel arch and Supercharged! Not a turbo but Americans love their whirring superchargers bolted to V8s — or V6 in this case. Here for the burgundy with a hint of purple deep paint job, wads of chrome especially on the b-pillar, and Those Rims! True early-’00s tuner style and I’m generally not into American cars but shit looks low-key tight. “If I fill up my tank it’ll make me late.”
Messiaen = Prog ov the GodZoR
Ligeti = lame after he found fame (eg by the 80s)
Penderecki = mark-down Lutoslawski = Radiohead for strings
Ligeti and Penderecki hold a special place in my heart, prolly ’cos I’m an uncouth sod who don’t know music good — proper music, I mean, and I feel dead ignorant and embarrassed if I’m ever in a room with people talking up the category: 20th Century Composers Who Rate. Buuut … Ligeti, yeah, some of his stuff pinged me right, and same with Penderecki. I don’t have the education to appreciate, say, Messiaen, I mean, a lot of composers (or any other ‘canon’, theatre, art, opera, etc) don’t really open themselves up until you know a heap about what they’re saying, their context, the decades or centuries-long conversations (arguments) different composers and genres have with each other, so my first response to music is very emotional. Penderecki hit that. The strings in Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima or the whistling in St Luke Passion (I’m naming obvious ones here ’cos like I said, going deep in Western Classical music has never been easy for me), these, the sound, the emotion, I want to be buried in that. (Radiohead though, gotta say, fuck that basic noise.)
New music for the new week when we’re all on lockdown. OkayAfrica’s 7 South African Female R&B/Soul Artists to Watch In 2020. Ami Faku, who I cannot believe I failed to blog about, ’cos I bought her album IMALI about 5 minutes after first listening to her. Refentse Solo, who I’ll probably ending up also buying whatever I can once I get around to listening to her. I got stuck on Valerie Omari though. Very casually listening to Just Like The Rain and had to pause ’cos, “Did she just say, ‘she’?” Why, yes. Yes she did. “Just like the rain / She had me dripping way down.” South African R&B and Soul is doing the business right now. And Valerie Omari is criminally underrated.
Ice-T. Crossover. Thrash. Speed Metal. Rap Metal. Hardcore. Cop Killer. LA and California. Suicidal Tendencies. Bad Brains. Dirty Rotten Imbeciles.
I was giving one of my condensed and erratic histories of music to Gala when she was here, enthusing very hard about D.R.I. and their still fucking brilliant album Crossover and how important it was in this moment of punk getting harder and heavier and metal getting faster and thrashier and meeting in that album, playing her Five Year Plan, maybe from Live at the Ritz and Body Count was there in the sidebar. Body Count! There Goes The Neighbourhood. I have not listened to this goodness in years.
Coming back from my ride today, all along Columbiadamm and Flughafenstraße were billboards for their new album, Carnivore. They cover Motörhead. Fukken 🤘🏿❌💯💯💯.