I’ve been asked on many occasions: “Brotha O, what do you mean you refer to yourself as a ‘Turntable Liberationist’?” The answer to this question is both easy and difficult. The easy answer is that i am a turntablist (one who uses turntables as an instrument) with a liberation-oriented agenda. This is where the answer become a lil more difficult. It requires that We break down the word liberation.
“Liberation,” according to several dictionaries, has something to do with doing away with oppression. I attempt to make this somewhat vague idea tangible in several ways. The first is through my music selection. As a self-styled turntable liberationist, i am careful to play music that i believe affirms people’s humanity and does not assault or insult them on the dance floor. Therefore, you’re likely to hear me play music that celebrates life and living in ways that do not cause harm to others. In other words, it’s veeeery rare that you’ll hear tracks that refer to people in disrespectful ways because of their race, class, gender(s), sexual preference(s), etc. I would like to claim that i never play tracks that are oppressive, but sometimes i miss or misunderstand lyrics (esp. when some songs are in languages that i don’t understand). I do try my best to avoid such songs.
Part of being a turntable liberationist also include education. I am an educator and attempt to expose myself and others to a variety of ideas and cultures. That requires me to play music you probably don’t hear 50 times each day against your will. Here are two fantastic songs that you may hear in my mixes and feel deep in your soul at a party:
Exhibit A [click here for an explanation of the song's meaning]
Sometimes “conscious” folks get into a habit of complaining about problems. Between the Trayvon Martin killing, police violence, hateful right-wing propaganda, etc., it can be difficult to refrain from raising a critique or two. And, some of us are also known to always have a less-than-flattering assessment of popular music culture in the U.S. of A. That’s why, as a self-styled Turntable Liberationist, i am always pleased to hear music that speaks out against injustice and begins to imagine a better world for us all.
Next is a dope track by my homeboy, FOUR (Fire of Underground Rap). The song, begins with the emcee invoking the spirit of Trayvon Martin and the countless others who fell victim to the evil actions of man. Listen to this track and leave FOUR some much-deserved feedback on Soundcloud:
Grand Kalle‘s, “Independence Cha-Cha,” has been on my mind recently (mainly because i recently got hip to rapper Baloji’s rendition… see below). I first heard the song when browsing a friend’s cds. Grand Kalle’s vocals over the laid back, jazzy vibe, along with the distinct soukous style guitar riffs made me feel so happy that i had to listen to the song several times, desperately trying (but mainly failing) to make out the songs full meaning. I heard “Lumumba,” but was not sure of the context, so i looked it up. I learned that the song became an anthem for the independence movement that was trying to rid itself of it’s Belgian political rulers. Here is an English translation:
Last night i had the honor of spinning on Lion’s Den radio, a Caribbean music show that mainly features Reggae of roots & culture variety, as well as Dancehall. With the fun i had in the radio station fresh in my mind, i offer these great Ol’ Skool Reggae tracks for your listening pleasure!
The Gaylads, “Africa”
Willie Williams, “The Messenger Man”
Denise Darlington, “War No More”
After We had sufficiently chanted down Babylon, the host encouraged me to branch out and play some music from Africa. I mainly hit’im with some current tracks from Kenya, Nigeria, and Zambia. But had i been thinking (or not deep into a dancehall set), i would have played a couple tracks like this:
Today, people are celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. From community gatherings to service projects, youth and adults are finding ways to pay tribute to a person whom they respect and credit as an important leader in the movement equal civil rights in the United States.
Musicians, including Doc Link of Liberate Recordings, are paying tribute to Dr. King. His twelve-track mix of deep and soulful house is reminder that music can be a great tool for expressing political messages, emotions, and respect for the people to whom We look up.
So, however you pay homage to Dr. King (or even if you abstain), set this as your background music and enjoy your day!
While on a record digging trip with my good friend, producer-emcee Charles Ski, i found a gem called Forces Favourites: Eleven Songs By South Africans Supporting the End Conscription Campaign. The album is nothing less than amazing! Covering a range of musical style from 80s pop to psychedelic rock, the musicians voice their refusal to participate in the South African Defence Force, which helped the government maintain apartheid.
My favourite song on the album is Mapantsula’s “Pambere.” The song has a great sound, punctuated by the phrase “a luta continua” (the struggle continues) and the word “uhuru.” “A luta continua” was the made popular by revolutionaries in Mozambique during their struggle for independence from Euro-colonial rule. “Uhuru” means freedom in Swahili. There is another word/phrase, “ irikuya,” that i’m not familiar with. I believe that it comes from Zimbabwe. By drawing inspiration from and paying tribute to African revolutions that were being waged in the mid- to late-twentieth century, the song demonstrates the beauty of having a Pan-African and international political purview. It reminds us that our struggles, though experienced based on the unique local conditions, are not isolated from one another.
Check out the song here. If you have any information to contribute, please feel free to help a brotha out! The song is great and i’d love to know/share the correct information about it. Much Love.
1. Max Romeo - Tell Jahsee
2. King Tubby – Exclusive Dub
3. Black Uhuru – Dread In The Mountain
4. Aswad – Drum & Bass Line
5. Burning Spear – The Invasion (Aka Black Wa Da Da)
6. Dennis Brown – Yagga Yagga (You’ll Suffer)