Roots and all...
As an Afro-American (wow! ..it's getting fancier all the time) I can see from old photos, and those I had the good fortune to know in my family, that we are predominantly from West African slaves who managed through sheer determination, good physical stamina, and some 'good' fortune to survive passage in the slave ships. A huge percentage of those peoples were Muslim. Could have been for my line as well. But who knows. They survived. And luckily for me, eventually they thrived.
My fraternal grandmother, however, was part Cherokee and attended Cherokee Nation schools as a child and teenager. She was a central figure in my life who did what only grandparents can do, give an unconditional love based on many years of living and struggling to provide for one's family. I remember how she danced. It was always the two step of First Nations peoples. I never saw her dance in any way, though she did not dance often. Her physical appearance and demeanour was very First Nations. And so I count Cherokee, or Tslagi as the people call themselves, as an important part of who I am.
And then, there were the Irish. Slave owners in the deep south were in large measure Irish. Strange. We never think of the Irish as having had the financial fortune to be owners of large tracks of land, not to mention 'owners' of people. But, alas, I have the stern green eyes, the fair skin and reddish hair of my great grandmother's photo that stared out at me from my grandmother's mantle. She was undoubtedly Irish in her features. She didn't look too Irish in her attitude though. But who would under those circumstances. She was no doubt the daughter of an already mixed race slave and an Irish slave master.
And what has all this to do with me, other than as history. Well, my friends, I believe that we come to this earth over and over, trying to 'grow up' and trying to help the folks of this planet grow up by doing so ourselves. And so I seem to have come with many memories. Some of them are from my African ancestry, some from my Cherokee ancestry, and some from my Irish ancestry.
As a child, I sought out the African drums, though neither of my parents expressed interest in drums of any kind, though they were both very musical. Nor did I hear them on the radio or anywhere else. I am today an African style drummer. Hmmm. My mother, bless her soul, is still wondering how that happened from wherever she is now. I can feel it. :)
And then there are memories I have been flooded with that come from my native ancestors. I remember bursting into tears when I first walked on the land that it turned out was the predominant area that the Sioux peoples crossed over into Canada. I did not know that, but my spirit did.
And finally, I have always seen myself traveling the North Atlantic by boat centuries ago from Northern Africa to reach this beautiful green island where I stayed and fell in love. It turns out that Africans did indeed travel to Ireland many, many centuries ago. And when I was twenty, I heard the pipes, though Scottish, for the first time as a pipe band marched by outside my window. I raced to the window and again, tears fell.
All of this and more have deeply affected my self perception, and my music. And so my friends, I share it with you. These roots that run so deep into the earth, the psyche, the memories - real or imagined - are the roots of my very being. And, it would seem, so is the DNA of so many different peoples - all busily affecting what I write in musical form.
It explains some of myself to me, and perhaps to you.