Pyrrhic Victory of aTunde Adjuah
Yesterday, I finally caught a glimpse of a Bengal tiger. In the wild, our instinct is to avoid one another, to stake out vast hunting territories so that we won’t interfere with each other’s survival. Tigers meet only to mate, and I realized how humanized I have become. I remember all of these facts, but they have become mere facts to me, not even anything as personal as memories. I wonder if human beings have similar relationships to events in their childhood that occurred before they truly formed memories. You can look back at a photograph and even tell the story of how you visited Mount Rushmore or the Mall of America when you were two years old. But even though you’re telling your own story, it’s secondhand, transmitted to you from other people’s memories or the prosthetics of photographic images, diaries, or digital video. As a humanized tiger, I study and study, learn and attempt to better myself. The tigers out here don’t think about any of that. Everything above survival is a perk to be greedily consumed. My journey to India is turning out to be exactly as prosaic and commodified as I feared. Of course my parents are both dead. They’ve been dead for over a decade, more than likely.
I hope I don’t sound depressed. This is nothing I haven’t come to grips with many years ago. It’s only that visiting India has realigned my expectations. Everything human in India is fast-paced, frenetic, breathless. It’s jostling in a sun-baked sandstorm of bodies. Now I’m turning a real place into nothing more than one of the characters in my life’s little play.
Every step forward is a step back. Every attempt to impose order means creating a new sort of chaos. That’s what culture stalking is. Staring into a kaleidoscopic pool of created stuff and sticking your hands in it. You watch the ripples change everything in their path. No victory lasts forever. No defeat, except death, is enough to stop you from messing with the pool.
Christian aTunde Adjuah (AKA Christian Scott) expels frustrated energy in this piece. Among the pieces on his latest double album Christian aTunde Adjuah, it is uncharacteristically dense through most of it. Periods of calm are not quite as simple as they seem. Triumphant trumpet solos tear defiant streaks in the air, but they stand atop a restless rhythmic foundation, too elastic to let the listener rest. None of this is packaged too easily or allowed to settle. It’s messy and fractured, but it is also recognizably shaped and intelligible. Perhaps there is still hope for a wanderer like me, whose first instinct is to run into the hurricane rather than away from it. Musicians that do their jobs right are going to be troublemakers of some kind or another.