Why do Black People have rhythm?

‘Having rhythm’ is usually meant to signify a person’s ability to connect with the rhythms contained in music.

Rhythm is central to African culture

I believe that the tendency for black African people to have rhythm is a reflection of the ‘rhythmic’ nature of our African cultures. By this I mean that our cultures tend to place a great emphasis on rhythm, not just rhythms in music, but also the rhythms of our fellow community members and of the environment and universe around us.

The Universe is a Cosmos
Marimba Ani tells us that African and other non-European word-views share the understanding that the universe is a cosmos made up of interconnected subjects. ‘Human beings are part of the cosmos, and, as such, relate intimately with other cosmic beings. Knowledge of the universe comes through relationship with it and thorough perception of spirit in matter. The universe is one; spheres are joined because of a single unifying force that pervades all being.‘ [Yurugu: An Afrikan-Centred Critique of European Cultural Thought and Behaviour, 1994, p.28]

The latter part of Ani’s comment points to another key understanding within such cultures; that all matter is dynamic and in a state of motion. Chukwunyere Kamalu explains that ‘[a]s in relativity physics, matter and energy in the African system are one and the same. This energy takes the form of forces which are the very essence of matter. Says [Kwame] Nkrumah in speaking about the African idea of matter: ‘… matter is not just dead weight, but alive with forces in tension. Indeed for the African everything that exists, exists as a complex of forces in tension.’ ['Foundations of African Thought' 1999, p85]

Everything has Rhythm
So everything in existence is united by the same energy which gives movement to all. If everything in existence is in a state of movement, then everything has its flows of movement. To put it another way, everything has rhythm. We see this all around us, all the time. Right now, your heart is beating out a certain rhythm, as is the case with every single living person. All of the multiple bodily functions within you are right now flowing to certain rhythms. Every natural phenomenon occurs to a rhythm. The seasons come and go according to their rhythms which we call seasons. Life and death cycles are constantly playing out according to their rhythms. Sun rises, sun sets. A baby is born, an elder transitions. A fruit ripens and falls from the tree, in turn giving birth to a new tree. The Earth revolves on its axis, and circulates the Sun according to its rhythm. Rhythm is within all of us and is all around us. Rhythm is life.

From these observations of the universe, Africans have developed social systems which emphasise connection with the various rhythms of life. For example, music (song, dance and drumming) is ever-present during virtually all aspects of African social life – the birth of new children, various rites of passage, everyday work, spiritual rituals, funeral rites, and so on. I believe this is because song, dance and drumming enable us to transcend the barriers which separate us from each other, and thus allow us to connect with each other and with the unifying energy or force… or if you would prefer, with the divine.

African Nature & African Nurture
Over centuries and millennia, a powerful dialectical relationship between African physiology and African cultures has developed. African people’s physiology reinforces and perpetuates our cultures’ emphasis on rhythm, which in turn reinforces our propensity to rhythm. So, why do black people have rhythm? It’s because our ancient cultures have deeply embedded within our bodies a predilection to rhythm which remains evident even when we are no longer living within our own rhythmic cultures.

Black Buying Power – Myth or Reality?

It’s the aftermath of “Blackout Monday” (8th Sept 2014) – an initiative to get black people around the world to abstain from spending money in non-black owned businesses. I am joined by criminal defence solicitor, political commentator and community activist Kevin Bismark Cobham who seriously and thoroughly critiques the whole idea of “Black Buying Power”, the “Black Dollar”/”Black Pound.” I shared this video with Dr Jared Ball and I’m honoured to say that he has added it to his article The Ever Enduring Myth of Black “Buying Power”. This is ironic, as it was reading Dr Ball’s article which helped to make this video happen in the first place!

Also, check out this new playlist I’ve created of YouTube videos centred on Cooperative Economics:

Tribalism still alive and well in Uganda politics?

The government of Uganda has been accused of perpetuating tribalism by handing top government jobs mostly to people from one region of the country. A fascinating report in the Independent newspaper outlines the numbers and goes into the various potential reasons for this imbalance.

Uganda: Genuine unity & cooperation required

‘Tribalism’ is one of those words that Africans have learned to fear, and with good reason. The term refers to the practice of people from specific nations or ethnic groups using state power to benefit their fellow tribes folk at the expense of others. The European colonialists found many ways of whipping up divisions and resentment between different groups in Africa in order to further their own objectives.

The Berlin Conference of the 1880s (which could be looked at as a meeting of gangland bosses) created new geo-political entities across the continent of Africa. These countries, protectorates and so forth reflected the interests of the Europeans, and not the Africans. Hence, the new borders separated entire nations and ethnic groups in different countries. Conversely, a multitude of different nations were lumped together in new countries despite often having widely different cultures, social and economic systems, languages, and so on. And the British colonialists in particular had a penchant for ethnic divisions of labour. In Uganda they assigned jobs in the police and army disproportionately to nations in the northern part of the country, while they developed the political and economic power base in the south-central regions of the country.  These and other colonial machinations resulted in simmering inter-ethnic tensions and resentment which were ready to boil over when Africans achieved flag independence in the mid twentieth century.

Uganda has made massive strides from the dark days of the 1970s and 1980s when ethnic conflict helped to sink the country into years of violent conflict. We should all be grateful for the relative calm and security in most of Uganda. However, negative tribalism must be eradicated from political life.in order for Ugandan people to move forward in true unity and cooperation,

Ancestral Voices 2 – African Spirituality Matters!

I’m once again highly honoured to present an interview with Dalian Adofo and Verona Spence-Adofo, the makers of “Ancestral Voices“, the ground-breaking documentary that explored about African spirituality. They are currently in the middle of producing a follow up film  and they join me to give some insights on the progress of the production.

Ancestral Voices 2 – coming soon – with your assistance!

Last time we spoke in November 2013, the pair were nearing the end of a crowd-funding campaign on Indigogo to raise the necessary funds for Ancestral Voices 2. This time round, I wanted to find out how the crowd-funding campaign went and what implications this has had for the second film..

In another wide-ranging conversation, we discuss how Ancestral Voices 2 will expand on the achievements of the first film. We also talk about some more general issues relating to African spirituality and how it is relevant to people’s day to day lives. This is another rich and multi-layered discussion which in its own way, contributes to raising the profile of African spirituality in a world dominated by the big Eurasian (‘Abrahamic’) religions.



Five hot new East Africa Music Videos – August 2014

1. Bobi Wine (Uganda) – “Byekwaaso” 

I have to say that I love almost every tune that Bobi Wine has been putting out over the past few months. His tunes tend to have a strong social commentary component, and his latest video, Byekwaaso (uploaded on 30th August) is no different. Check it out.

2. Pallaso (Uganda) – “Kilabe Embaliga”

Ugandan rapper/singer Pallaso is uploading songs like crazy right now, and his newest video entitled Kilabe Embaliga is catchy and fun with some great dance moves (of course). Pallaso is a very versatile artist who can sing, rap and deejay (in the dancehall sense of the word) equally well. He has a big future ahead of him I reckon. The video was released on 28th August.

3. Jaguar (Kenya) – “One Centimeter”

Mr “Kigeugeu” himself, Kenya’s Jaguar revealed the video to his newest single One Centimeter on 25th August. The song is another highly danceable jam and the video is very high quality. However, as some of the comments point out, it’s a shame that this flag bearer of East African music follows a growing trend of shooting the video in South Africa. From the accent of the actress who plays his bride in the video, it seems that the cast was also South African! Next time, hopefully Jaguar will use his video as chance to boost the profile of Kenya.

4. Eddy Kenzo & Barbi Jay (Uganda) – Talina Shida

Eddy Kenzo is on fire right now. Sitya Loss continues to blow up around the world, and he is taking full advantage by touring incessantly. The video for his collabo with Barbi Jay called Talina Shida was posted on 18th August (but not as yet on his own YouTube channel). This boy can sing and like all the big Ugandan artists, he has an ear for a sweet chorus.

5. Webi (Kenya) – Pamoja Milele

I must admit that I’d not heard of Webi before this video was posted by Maramoja filmz on 19th August. Pamoja Milele means Together Forever in Kiswahili and the video is based around a groom confessing his undying love for his bride. So like Jaguar’s vid, this has the bride in (Eurocentric) white, but there are none of the dramatics of One Centimeter! Check it here.

Tanzania now Kenya’s biggest export market in E.Africa

Recently released figures from the Kenyan government show that Uganda is no longer the country’s main export partner in East Africa. Uganda has traditionally been the biggest market in the region for Kenya, but Tanzania now claims that accolade.

But probably the more important statistic regards who Kenya’s biggest export markets are globally. The top three countries are: 1. USA, 2. Netherlands and 3. The UK. Tanzania and Uganda come in at 4th and 5th respectively. This is disappointing news in light of the East African Community’s aim of strengthening intra-regional economic integration.

Kenya’s biggest export markets

Check the full details in this article on The East African: Tanzania becomes Kenya’s largest East Africa market.