Upcoming Events and Review of MUGABEE's CD
The Mad Drama Acting Troop, under the direction of Mark Henderson, in conjunction with the Jackson State University Margaret Walker Alexander National Research Center present Langston Hughes' Black Nativity. The production is a benefit to raise money for the MWA Research Center, which has the mission of archiving the achievements of the 20th Century African American. The production will take place on Friday, December 6, at 9:00 a.m. at Anderson United Methodist Church, on Friday at 7:00 p.m. at the University Park Auditorium at Jackson State University, and Sunday, December 8, at 3:00 p.m. at Canton High School. For more information, please contact Mark Henderson at tragery@... or Dr. Alferdteen Harrison, Director of the MWA Research Center, at 979-2055. Also, for additional information about other Mad Drama Productions go to http://www.maddrama.com/.
SEVEN All Arts Cafe' is proud now also a book store. So you can purchase all of your favorite readings at SEVEN. This week's featured book is Before the Mayflower by Lerone Bennett, Jr. Get 15% off, by saying you got the email. Thrusday night Jazzoetry, will feature the saxophonist Michael Burton. He just returned from the Universoul Circus tour, so he'll be rocking with the band. Doors open at 9:00 p.m., poetry and jazz begin at 10:05 p.m. Friday Neo-Soul night's featured band is the Soul Collective. (Neo-soul night features LIVE bands doing that Jill Scott/Angie Stone thang.) After the neo-soul, let's say around 12:15 a.m., REGGAE until 3:00 a.m. with dj RED CLEY frm WJSU. It's free if you cm to neo-soul. Saturday, writers workshop, 9:00 p.m., and open-mic set starts at 10:00 p.m. Sunday, jazz and mo jazz with a special featured artist.
================================================================Earth Tones: The Eclectic Preciseness of M.U.G.A.B.E.E.by C. Liegh McInnis
Men Under Guidance Acting Before Early Extension (M.U.G.A.B.E.E.) is composed of Maurice and Carlton Turner. They coordinate their talents into a mesh of experimental soul that opens musical and topical doors at every turn. Maurices trumpet, vocals and rap blend with Carltons vocals and rap to create their unique sound that comes to fruition in Earth Tones, which is a very smart album because the group rarely sacrifices imagery for rhyme, and no beat or groove is an exact replica of something else. Thus, the lyrics are engaging as is the music. The entire work is inquisitive, asking questions of themselves and of us. The album is filled with anthems that inspire one to continue to fight the good fight. M.U.G.A.B.E.E. rarely takes the easy way out with their subject matter and their writing skills. As their art is searching, the album reverberates with the act of wanting to know more, wanting to become better than we are now, and needing to find a reason to continue.
"Eternal" is the introduction, not just to the group but the their ideology. Horns blaring over the top of a big, booming beat--its 2001 Space Odyssey meets John Coltrane with some P-Funk coordination. From here, the work slips into a collection of tightly arranged musical movements and thought-provoking lyrics. "Watchugondu," featuring Princess and Tongyalahsol, is a evokes memories of Tupac. The beat bounces while the lyrics remain smooth and smoky with the lovely voices of Princess and Tongyalahsol rounding out the texture. The lyrics are smart and are accompanied by a groove that can be bumped in the clubs, the jeeps, and the picnics. The next cut, "2000 & Beyond," is driving by well arranged harmonies and the hip lyrical stylings of Carlton. Not only are they funky, but their lyrics are uplifting, "So let go of what they told u...anything u want u can have. There is nothing that can stand n your way."
"Full Moons Mt Promises" evokes images of Miles in an after hours cafe with the vocals of a midnight crooner all underneath the Carltons precision lyrics in timely spots. A "Strange Fruit" sort of groove, M.U.G.A.B.E.E. uses beautiful music and vocals to make social commentary, "What shall we implant in our seeds?" "3 2 Da 4" continues the jazz vibe. This is the most perfect blend of poetry and music, where the music is merely a complement to the layered imagery. The muted horn takes the hand of the bass and lays a carpet for the feet of Carltons metaphors to guide us into a mental awakening. Toward the end of the track, the horn engages the spaces left by the bass, providing both closure and framing.
"School Daze" introduces Gill Scott-Heron to Digable Planets. Spoken word comes to full fruition over the top of crackin drum and subtle bass as were are informed of teenagers whose lives are filled with "partly cloudy skies with a 5% chance of becoming famous." This is another smart and self-aware cut that plots the points between the wars of Bush I and Bush II, while the only things that have changed is artificial fashion and "baby girls baby girl just had a baby girl." M.U.G.A.B.E.E. wishes to awake us from our "School Daze," and become critical thinkers so that we may break the cycle of being the pawns in everyone elses game. And "Last Days Alpha" bookends "School Daze" and proves that the group is more analytical than political by venting their "metaphysical rage," and calling on the ancient spirits. With "Last Days Alpha" the group is stripping away the ideologies of organized institutions and shooting for right and wrong rather than democrat versus republican. Thus, the music is also stripped down to a "Rock the Bells" flavor that allows the lyrics to live and thrive on their own.
"It Duznt Matta" presents the group as ghetto poets, speaking to the concerns of the streets. If the brothers on the streets are willing to wade through the metaphysical musings of tracks 1-7, they will be rewarded with some street funk. The mix of Maurice and Carlton with the soul of Tongyalahsol and the razor swift raps of Cat Girl pond the songs meaning home. What separates "It Duznt Matta" from the nihilism of its peers is the ray of hope that it presents. The bad things of life do not matter because they will live the positive regardless. There is a peace that abides in M.U.G.A.B.E.E. that forces their feet to walk the narrow way of positivity. And this entire album is not about preaching that but about sharing some of it.
"Solar Systa" and "Get Urself 2gether" not only display the groups musical diversity, they do battle for the direction of the album. "Solar Systa" is a maze of horns flex and blared at precise points, and "Get Urself 2gether" is laced with bumpin beats and not much else. And just when you have settled into the battle between horns and break beats, "Lyf 2 Def" hits you with a house/techno inspired ramp that displays even more range. Accordingly, "Last Days Omega" displays more of their lyrical prowess. "U better start douching your mind from years of unclean living or ull be swept away in the minstrel cycle...if u allow urself 2 b caught up in anything other than progress." While Carlton is spewing verbal rain, Maurice reaches up with his horn and opens the windows of space so that Carltons words can soar freely with his musical phonemes.
While the album is hip and radio friendly, it is seasoned with just enough local flavor to separate itself from becoming cookie-cutter music. "Da Tym Iz Now" features local saxophonist Ezra Brown, and "Wyzen Up" features local guitarist Chris Alford. Browns playing affirms Kalamu ya Salaams notion that the musicians goal is to be poetic. Browns playing constructs a conversation with the discourse of M.U.G.A.B.E.E., further pushing the groups musical boundaries and dissolving their limitations. Maurice and Brown engage in a musical tap dance, trading licks as Carlton soft shoes just beneath them. Alfords fingering and the groups harmony creates a mellow but august sound, while Carltons lyrics call for the mass to take responsibility for their own understanding of life.
The apex of the album is "What A Wunderful Wurld," featuring poet/activist Jolivette Anderson, aka the Poet Warrior" and Tongyalahsol. Opening with scorching verbiage from Anderson, this track is a modification/reconfiguration of Louie Armstrongs work. The song is driven by Maurices raspy vocals and Carltons poignant lyrics, "I see blood skies & holy cries...I see hungry children with no medication...mothers tricking and no fathers there..." The genius of the song is that it exploits the gap of inconsistent space between Armstrongs message and the actual pain endured by Black people during that time. In the same manner, M.U.G.A.B.E.E. distorts the refrain and the verses to show the hypocrisy of the rhetoric of Condolezza Rice, Armstrong Williams, and J. C. Watts who proclaim that Black people are enjoying a wonderful time in history. This song takes on the hypocrisy that Black people are feed and forced to eat on a daily basis, especially in this time of pornographic patriotism, "I see 31 shoots fired...under patriotic flags...what a wunderful wurld..." Musically, this track keeps the agony of Armstrongs horn, but burns it with a fiery mute and cracking drums.
In 1987, the only knock against Princes Sign "O" the Times was that it is too musical, too eclectic, and too varied. If this is a flaw, then Earth Tones is guilty of this crime. The album is a Hip Hop challenge--no bitches, no whores, no n-words, no body killed. Constructing a musical and lyrical workshop, M.U.G.A.B.E.E. has erased certain words from their lexicon as if to challenge themselves not to fall back on the dogmatic or the cliché. What is left is a very experimental journey that plots indexes of the possibility of rap/poetry/music.
For more information about Earth Tones please contactsolsta999@.... McInnis is the author of seven books, a book reviewer for MultiCultural Review, and the editor of Black Magnolias. He can be contacted through Psychedelic Literature, P. O. Box 3085, Jackson, MS 39207, (601) 352-3192, 1725topp@....