"So that when I look up at the night sky and I know that yes, we are part of this universe, we are in this universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts is that the Universe is in us.When I reflect on that fact, I look up - many people feel small 'cause they're small and the Universe is big - but I feel big, because my atoms came from those stars. There's a level of connectivity. That's really what you want in life, you want to feel connected, you want to feel relevant you want to feel like... a participant in the goings on of activities and events around you. That's precisely what we are, just by being alive..." - Neil DeGrasse Tyson
Allow me to publicly thank the Federal Republic of Nigeria for giving us the breath of fresh air that is Bez (Emmanuel Bezhuwa Idakuya), a talented musician who grew up in the city of Jos. His website classifies his music as alternative soul which is apparently a hybrid of rock, jazz and soul (which I love!) as well as RNB (which I'm not so crazy about but can tolerate). Basically, it's swing and I can't get enough of it. This is the kind of music that I want to write bestselling books to, I want invent disruptive innovations to, I want to sit back and watch the world go by to, take a long spontaneous road trip to, walk the streets of Stone Town to, take a nap to, raise amazing afro haired babies to, study epidemiology to, write reports about orphans and shoes in Lesotho to, dance on an empty dance floor to... this is the kind of music that constitutes the mental soundtrack of my life.
I discovered Bez courtesy of one of the directors of a project I am working on who pleasantly surprises me on a regular basis with his eclectic life pursuits that range from being a health and development capacity building practitioner, to being a pretty good amateur photographer slash sound engineer slash disc jockey slash highly credentialed statistician. I like weird mixes of things and I like it when people's arms and legs poke out of the neat little boxes we try to stuff them into. So anyway, back to Bez. His beautiful acoustic guitar riffs make me reminisce about warm summer nights under starry African skies. As I listened to his debut album, Super Sun, I felt a euphoria I felt when I stumbled on London Grammar performing live in Paris in 2013 and fell instantly in love. It's the same feeling I felt when I discovered Bez's fellow Nigerian, the prodigious Asa in Bulawayo in 1996. In fact, Bez has a very similar style to Asa. It's like if Asa, John Legend, Estelle and Corneille all combined their musical DNA, the result would be Bez. His big band sounds have had me finger snapping (I am not cool and I don't care!) and toe tapping for hours.
The album Super Sun is at times warm, soulful and mellifluous (More You) and at times playful and swingy (Stop Pretending and Stupid Song) and often times it's a little bit of everything (Super Sun and Zuciya Daya), giving credence to the "hybrid" label on his website. It has the singular honor of being the only album inmy iTunes library on which every track has a rating of five stars. Even Lupe Fiasco's phenomenal Tetsuo and Youth doesn't have a clean sweep (thanks to Winter and Deliver). Super Sun is a super Saiyan piece of work and I can't wait to check out Bez's sophomore album. Who knows, with the way my life is stalked by serendipitious encounters, I might just accidentally walk in on a live Bez performance in some random corner of the Earth. Best believe I'll rock out until the sun comes up.
Check this guy out, kick back and be grateful that you are alive at such a time as this!
I am not good at being still. Staying put, remaining in a single place or moment or state of mind. I am constantly on the move, going somewhere or doing something. Even when I am physically still, on a deserted beach in the middle of nowhere with the vast ocean prostrate at my feet, my mind is always wandering, a tireless voyager. I die a little whenever I am not on the move, discovering new places and people and things. I die a little if I spend the whole day indoors. I die a little when life loses its novelty. I die a little when it all becomes mundane and not only predictable but unremarkable. I die when my horizons are not stretched, when my brain is forced to process the same data over and over and over again with no new input, nothing new to puzzle over and figure out, no street to walk down and get lost on. When I say that I die a little when I cannot move, I mean that in every sense I die.
Physically, I lose vitality. My muscle memory dies and I lose the ability to do things I used to be able to do, like dancing or swimming, or holding the warrior pose or doing a round house kick or swimming ten kilometres or climbing a tree. Or smiling. I don't know how to smile anymore. I used to have a beautiful smile, or so they told me. I haven't seen it in years. I die a little in my heart. I lose the ability to feel anything beyond the narrow spectrum of stimulus provided by a humdrum urban rat race life.
I am numb in spite or maybe because of the desperate commitment with which I have engaged in the life that is expected of me; a life of the fine wines paired with experimental gastronomy, the cultural excursions, the vacuous conversations with self-proclaimed intellectuals all competing for relevance with an audience that doesn't care, the work that is aimed at half heartedly chipping away at problems too big to be solved in my lifetime.
I die a little at the thought of what little real joy these things give me and how they are a poor substitute for the childlike joy with which I once relished a rich inner life that cost me not a penny. I die a little when I am silent. When I mute my true self to try and make myself palatable to people. And the people, so many people. People who have treated me either as a vehicle for their upward social mobility, or as an oracle to turn to for counsel, or a priestess to whom sins are confessed then forgotten, or as a refuge to come home to when the world has rejected them and they need to remember who they once believed they were, or as an abandoned infant in need of pity, or as a provider of validation, acceptance, income and a receiver of condescension, disdain, judgment and malice.
It's not great knowing as well I do that I decide what to give and I ask for what I want in return. I am fully cognisant of the extent of my complicity with people I do not understand and never really have, knowing how intertwined I have made my fate with the crumbs of social capital that they throw in my face and which I never use. The place and people where my roots were first planted no longer feel like home. I am a dandelion in the wind, peregrine by nature. So I dream of new vistas, I chase new adventures and hope for a chance to discover my "groove," to unearth my body, to coax out my sunshine and steal back my smile. And I do this over and over and over and over. I find myself always where I started. It's a maze that has no end. The new vistas become old, new adventures succumb to tedium and my groove remains elusive. No sunshine, no smile. I know, right? How depressing!
But lately I've been thinking a little bit differently. I've been interrogating the humdrum, I've been, for lack of a better word, "taming" my body like you would a wild horse, a beautiful, spirited wild thing. I've been stepping back from the people and just observing; observing the people, observing myself, observing interactions, exploring motives, needs and emotional transactions. Lately, I've narrowed my horizons so I can better examine my life. And I am realising, with increased certainty every day that I am actually not in charge, and never really have been. Things don't go my way. Things hardly ever go my way and when they briefly do the results are spectacularly disastrous. My plans tend to go awry and things are always harder for me. Mine is the path of high resistance. Things don't turn out how I planned, they turn out better than I imagined. As battle beaten, solitary, excluded, tired and misunderstood as I may perceive myself to be and as guilt-ridden as I am at my role in creating what I perceive as a wallflower existence for myself, I am realising lately, in the stillness of it all that I have been so busy being a human doing that I fooled myself into thinking I ran the show.
I realise I am evolving and the old me, bless her, is simply no longer there. The old me, the high achieving, validation junkie who was always doing and derived fulfilment from checked off to do lists, is dead. She's just not there anymore. She had to give way to a new me. And I don't know who the new me is but I know I respect her. I respect her like one would respect an elder, I know she is wiser than I, she is more seasoned than I, she's built for something so important that I have to die so she can come out. It's not my job to coax her out or chase anything or anyone. It's my job to just be. A human being. I am not Sandisile Tshuma, a fixed and finished product. I am putty in the hands of a great creator, moulded into different forms and shapes as I am required to serve different functions at different points in time and to different people. I am not Sandisile Tshuma. I am God making Sandisile Tshuma.
A few years back I wrote a post about about a poem by Mary Oliver about "becoming the woman I've wanted." I look at myself and I can see clearly that I am not becoming the woman I've wanted. I never imagined myself like this, having done the things I've done, been the places I've been, felt what I have felt and seen what I've seen. I imagined a vastly different me. And while there is no version of myself I do not appreciate, I realise that I didn't make any of them. I genuinely can't take credit for any of the past me's and when I have tried to do so I have wound up chasing my own tail. So lately my peregrine leanings have taken new meaning, drawing me deeper and deeper in the present moment where I can do nothing other than just be. Alive. The reason why I can be alive in stillness and in motion is because I know that to simply be is the ultimate act of confidence. And I'm confident because I can empirically state that I am not becoming the woman I've wanted; I am becoming the woman He's wanted. And He pretty much always gets me right.