(Sept. 1 2005)
There is a darkness on the edge of town. Suddenly, little is safe anymore, we are being told not to walk the streets, that criminals target foreign nationals. The hotel where we are staying is in the middle of slums, multi- colored clothes hang to dry out of windows in 20 story tall concrete bunker slum apartments, people every where, walking and selling and shouting. Luanda- a city in a country torn apart by civil war for the last thirty years, only the last three years of peace. We just found a place to eat, outside, kids walking around with soviet AK 47’s. After the killing that had gone on, situations where entire families are chopped to pieces with machetes, no one is willing to give the government back their guns. The day the last president was assassinated, the war was over. And apparently, during it all, we were supporting the wrong side, the side that lost. So things are sketchy for us right now.
And here I am looking across the world at Katrina, the demon storm that has wiped out New Orleans, what destruction…
In Hinduism, this is considered the Kali Yuga, the age of destruction. Kali, a four armed goddess with her tongue protruding, holding the severed heads of other demons, a necklace of skulls: She is an aspect of Shiva, the god of destruction. But as with any god in Hinduism, Shiva is not evil: the destruction is only to burn everything to a state of purification, a nessesary fire that ultimately establishes only the good in the world.
So this is truly the Kali Yuga, and everything that is going on right now is described in the details of the Upanishads- war and famine, continual natural disasters and so forth. But there is a ray of light in all this hardship. The texts bring up a beautiful thing: That the worldly life will become so difficult, that everything will fall, so much so that we will be forced to turn within ourselves for that peace, because there will be no other place to turn, it is the age best suited for spirituality. So, even the darkness can only take you back to yourself to become stronger, somehow. But it will take courage.
With these thoughts swirling in me, I turn on the video camera and point it out the window in our embassy car flying down the streets, aim it at some buildings- immeadeatly a man begins screaming at me, he has giant scar across his face, in a car next to me, screaming “You want to take picture of Luanda, eh ?!?! Huh ? Eh ?!?! You want video ?!?! EH ?!?! “ I turned the thing off and just stared at him, realized I could not possibly know what horrors he may have been through, and he’s lashing out at the random tourist, he doesn’t want his country of his life to be a spectacle.
This is, I believe, how Dan Eldon died. Go to the book store and look at the book entitled, “The journey is the destination: The journals of Dan Eldon.” He was 21 when he was beaten to death with sticks in Uganda taking a picture of a rebel. After he died, his journals were zeroxed and published… for here was a beautiful spirit who loved life and spent his youth painting and photographing everything around him, creating works of art with his journals, multi media creations that are astounding in their clarity for one so young. They beat him to death as an example. That book is such an inspiration, the journey, the journey is the destination…. but I don’t want to journey into misplaced violence, so I put my camera away.
Next we went to where we will play on Saturday, a community arts centre teeming with students from the local art college, we are part of a cultural celebration that night with them. There is dancing and music: Oh, the music! ”Ladysmith Black Mambaza” is an African choir that played with Paul Simon on his famous Graceland albums. Well, that style originates here in Angola. So here is a 31 person choir doing traditional African songs, every bit as good or better than Paul Simon’s find. Young college girls and boys, with the most amazing voices I’ve ever heard, singing and singing, God, it brought tears to my eyes. It was incredible, and they were only rehearsing. So I asked to collaborate, so tomorrow we rehearse with them! We will collaborate on a few songs, including Bob Dylan’s “ Blowing in the Wind.” Of course, it will be recorded and video taped by yours truly, and there are drummers as well…!!! It’s incredible. And the college kids are great, and very friendly: I can’t wait to play with them.
Luanda: 4 million in this city, with a total of 12 million for the whole country. Luanda, with a brothel across the street from the US Embassy, a new Embassy that we have been brought here to play for it’s opening. And this is a country that hated Reagan in his years as president, because he supported the vile Idi Amin,(I don’t know how to spell his name), but most everyone has heard that name- a man like Hitler in his lust for cruelty and genocide. But it was the cold war, and we couldn’t let communism in now, could we? So strange to see all this here and now. Finally, he was assassinated.
To fly in to these cities, looking down at cars below me, those are people, with entire lives in there. And then randomly meeting a taxi driver, becoming part of his life, the cosmic paths we all cross with one another, it’s so fascinating to me. All this happening outside my self encased bubble, its eye opening to say the least. So cosmic. No Polotics, no views, just Hank Williams, yodeling, dancing and collaboration.
Well, it’s time to go to bed, and try and find the guitars that they lost at the airport…I will write more later, thank you for your generous time in reading these journals! :)
until next time-
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