- 2020-08-16 14:40:49+02:00
The light rises, expands, and envelops, a synaesthetic moment sent from Africa. It sings, and takes rest in my soul. It steams from the speakers and becomes the room, and the room now becomes music, and the music is Africa, and Africa is everywhere and anywhere, and sings from the very first time that humanity sang, but it also sings with the voice of now, and the voice of Islam, and the voice of African soil, where humanity first became more than mere sentience. But the sound is digital stereo designed in Tokyo, and the album recorded in Paris, the middle of Europe, the gateway of ‘new’ Africa.
This room is mine, and it is in Kennington. I have found my way back. Inexorably, home has called, and with a slow, dragging step, I have returned. In the beginning I resisted: first staying in Notting Hill, and then Camden, in a squat originally ‘found’ by Finn, before his name came up on the Council House waiting list (marriage and a child, combined with years of semi-legal residence in the borough did the trick). There I was within earshot of the dawn-chorus at London Zoo, the roof leaked rain-water onto my sleeping bag, and the junkie who occupied the room below always looked likely to steal my clothes. The situation was definitely temporary.
Camden Town Tube station contained the Northern Line that dropped towards South London. Within it, destination boards winked and explained that the next train to Kennington left in one minute. Hesitantly, I went to visit friends who had recently moved there. They were not South Londoners by birth or even upbringing; they had migrated from Kent. I knew them from Berlin days, and at one point they had even followed me to New York for a few weeks. A room was available in their shared flat, and to my simultaneous relief and horror, they offered it to me. Cheap, close to the Centre, and near the tube station. Gratefully, nervously, I accepted. South London had reclaimed its own.
In many ways everything was as I remembered it. Behind our house was the ubiquitous Council estate, in fact one of many in which former school-friends, acquaintances and enemies had lived. I looked out for them as I walked down the Walworth Road, and through East Lane market, on a nostalgic, abhorrent, yet compelling walk. Here was the Aylesbury estate, a scene of endless throbbing threat, parties, sadness, desperation, disturbance, circumscription, stoicism. This grey and featureless complex had once been touted as an architectural showpiece city within a city. I’d worked here as a ‘music-worker-teacher-leader’ in ‘units’ that ‘treated’ criminal adolescents. You’ve been a naughty boy and next time we’ll put you away. This time you get to go to special school featuring smaller classes and specialists. Maybe they will sort you out. I walked past a place where I’d performed ten years earlier. I saw no-one I knew, everyone had moved away, or (hopefully) been imprisoned after their criminal tendencies had back-fired. What they get you on in the end, son? Grievous Bodily Harm? Taking and Driving Away?
South London; I don’t have a lot of love for you do I? Just a bitter pride because I’ve survived you. A question mark as to whether I want to know you again. This road we live on could be called beautiful: a terrace, small trees, hedgerows, roses. In the mid-morning mist of eleven ‘o’ clock a milkman walks from door to door, three pints here, two and a pot of cream there, slowly ambling in the direction of a verdant park, but it was only last night on the same pavement that I saw a man about my own age, swinging a golf club above his head screaming obscene threats as he ran after another. The pristine windows stared on, silent and unblinking. No light flashed on, no curtain stirred to reveal an indignant face to witness the scene. I passed quickly, taking another route to the corner shop that is fortified by dirty steel shutters and bullet-proof plexiglass, and the shouts receded behind.
However, life has been good lately. I’ve been working and playing a lot. I’ve regularly taken my bike across to to the Centre and home again, as days have been warm, nights cool and kind. When I’ve needed them the tube-trains have come and moved me to Camden, to Notting Hill, to Covent Garden, at speed. The streets on which I have exited are broad, and people have walked with the spring and arrogance that only London bequeaths. So I have walked that way too and remembered what it is I take with me everywhere I go: an insouciance and surety of touch that comes with being a denizen at the centre of the pop universe. London on a sunny day. Fuck you world, you can’t touch me. I am one of these, at one with this, I belong here, I make this place rock, I make it move, without me it’s poorer. The city has charm and I do too, with this inheritance I go anywhere and do anything...
Even as I scuttle nervously into my front-door, and slam the locks back in place, I still feel this, and take the glow into my rooms.
I get comfortable, and start to think. Thoughts have lives of their own, and when you are out your inner ones subside from your conscious mind. Getting out can be a way of vanquishing unimportant, but nagging thoughts. Important ones keep going though, quietly within, autonomous and lively. Sometimes when you return you find they’ve moved on, developed with no assistance from yourself. I think that’s why some people spend an inordinate amount of time out; they don’t like their thoughts. But I like mine, so I like getting home to them.
Besides, I’ve found new music, or rather, rediscovered things in music, and through it the potential of my music-making; and although it’s most definitely not London that created this sound (but arguably the London pop world has been part of it’s advent), it is here that I have found it. London, you bring me hope again, albeit in the creations and dreams of far-off places....
(To be Continued)