Africa is a place of sublime contrasts and savage indifference. To view for the first time a lion hunt and kill, muscles rippling in the sun, to see it pick up the body of an oryx with just its teeth – and all beneath the great blue bowl of a sky that seems to stretch to infinity – is a humbling experience.
How do I convey what it means to grow up amidst such beauty and such harshness? I can only share vignettes and memories that pass in and out of my consciousness, like sunlight through a diamond’s facets. The years, days and hours shift and blur like a mirage hovering over a burning hot road.
(Excerpt from my memoir Cultures)
思牢弩箭磨青石，sī láo nǔ jiàn mò;mó qīng shí，
绣额蛮渠三虎力。xiù é mán qú sān hǔ lì。
寻潮背日伺泅鳞，xún cháo bèi;bēi rì cì qiú lín，
贝阙夜移鲸失色。bèi quē;què yè yí jīng shī sè。
纤纤粉簳馨香饵，xiān xiān fěn gǎn xīn xiāng ěr，
绿鸭回塘养龙水。lǜ yā huí táng yǎng lóng shuǐ。
含冰汉语远于天，hán bīng hàn yǔ yuǎn yú tiān，
何由回作金盘死。hé yóu huí zuò jīn pán sǐ。
A ‘Silao’ bamboo crossbow over bleached stones
A Manzu fisherman, forehead tattood with flowers, fierce as 3 tigers
The sun behind him, he scans the lake for bright scales
The fish, startled, swim to the cowrie towers
Tempted by fragrant cakes on slender bamboo sticks
Green headed mallards, even swifter, swoop down to the pond
Covered with ice, sent to a Capitol that speaks a different language
Must they end up dead on golden platters?
Liszt: Performed by Mark Obama Ndesandjo
In ‘Carnaval’, Robert Schumann wrote a short piano piece titled ‘Chopin’. I recently revisited the piano compositions of the great nineteenth century pianist and composer Franz Liszt, and composed this piece in a similar spirit.
Mendlessohn’s Rondo Capriccioso: Performed by Mark Obama Ndesandjo
My good friend Natsu S. recently sent me this ancient recording of a concert performance during my high school days. The concert was in Nairobi, beneath that magnificent sky. The music is a little creaky and anxious, but full of life.