Happy Thanksgiving! I am thankful for things that make me laugh.
A Blog by Jeania Kimbrough
It has been a fantastic week for music in my life. I am so grateful to have been able to see two Cuban legendary acts live in concert – The Buena Vista Social Club and Chucho Valdés. I don’t know a lot about Cuba or Cuban music or what constitutes a Danzón versus a Son, a Habenera versus a Tango, a Guaijiro versus a Criolla, or even variations of a Rumba in Afro-Cuban Jazz, but I know what sounds good to me, and ALL of the above does.
There is so much integration and inspiration in this Cuban music I experienced, so many places it has taken me, so many textured moments and recuerdos evocativos on which it builds. It’s very … poetic and fierce, as much as music can be, telling a story, conjuring up ghosts and sense of place.
I guess one could argue that the place BVSC evokes is pre-revolutionary Cuba, when life seemed so dreamy and bucolic back in the day. Of course it is sad many of the well known old guard have passed from the iconic Buena Vista Social Club: Compay Segundo, Rubén González, Ibrahim Ferrer, Orlando "Cachaíto" López and Pío Leyva among them. But the remaining original members of the band: Eliades Ochoa, Omara Portuondo, Guajiro Mirabal, Barbarito Torres, and Jesus "Aguaje" Ramos were still amazing -- carrying on the spirit of the group in tributes that support their new album of previously unreleased “Lost and Found” recordings of the original members in this "Adios Tour."
The music they produced will always be distinct treasures, but for the band it is an end of an era.
And maybe the beginning of one -- era that is --as now I want to describe what I heard in the Chucho Valdés and Afro Cuban Messengers concert which was such an exciting fusion of elements that really puts him into a seminal class of his own.
Supporting the "Border-Free" album, Afro-Comanche (inspired by the deportation of Comanches to Cuba in the 19th century), sweet Caridad Amaro (beautiful piano jazz that play’s with a Rachmaninov concerto at the end) and Tabú (a kind of epic odyssey of jazz and percussion his band Irakere is known for) were stand out performances for me. Sometimes in music you think not a lot is new, but listening to Chucho Valdés you hear a sense of adventure and experimentation that comes together beautifully. More bands should be like this.
I’ve come away inspired from this week in music. Someday I will travel to Cuba and see the country that has produced such music I love.
I obtained Rising Strong (The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution) by Brené Brown through the LibraryThing early reader giveaway. I hadn’t heard of the author before but then noticed when I received the book someone quoting her on social media. I have forgotten the quote now but by my first sitting with the book, I had a quote I really liked as well that fit a context of something that was bothering me. It was when Cecil the lion was killed in Africa by the American big-game hunter dentist and there such an expression of mortification by so many people. In fact, it made me very sad myself. But there was also this backlash in social media against all the public outrage for Cecil, in the context of where was the social outrage for other horrible things that were happening such as the Ferguson-esque racial profiling and shootings, the Syrian refuge crisis, global natural disasters, and global natural disasters, etc. And that quote was: “compassion is not a pizza with eight slices.”
Whew, what relief to read that. It was how I felt! Yes, all these pressing social issues deserve some attention, but oh my – how exhausting and endlessly frustrating focusing on all the world’s problems can be! And if I can myself muster enough energy to do one good thing to confront a problem, even if it is only publically acknowledging an injustice– please don’t hate on me because I failed to mention so many others. I empathize with a lot more than I say.
This was not the only good part of the book for me, though. It got better. This book is about shame, feelings of doubt, problems that get under our skin that stem perhaps from our own emotions about ourselves and how we work through those issues (which I suppose amount to sensations of failure) and become better human beings as we rise stronger because of these experiences.
Another part of the book that caused me to reassess my own feelings was this question that gets at how you look at life: “Do you believe that people are basically doing the best that they can?” You see, how a large sampling of people have answered this question, and ultimately how you answer this question, says a lot about your own personality. Drilling down into why you would answer that question in whatever way you do is a fascinating bit of self-discovery in this book and I don’t want to ruin it by trying to summarize it lightly or reveal its simple power. Suffice it to say, it is worth the read just for that piece, because it made me think throughout the rest of the book.
There are so many good jumping off places for thought in this book – the difference between shame and guilt, how "creativity is," as Steve Jobs once said, "just connecting things," and how “in order for forgiveness to happen, something has to die.”
Another great chapter was the composting chapter, where the author interviews a business advertising executive who talks about failure quicksand and her own experiences with the remaindering process of her first book. From that to millions of people listening to her TED talks! See below for an example – this one is about the importance of vulnerability.