30 May 2013

Electric Slumgullion

8:34 PM. Burning off the dross of the day, the sky is undecided. Rain is on the way, I think. But there is music.

Lately I have been looking in the mirror carefully, trying to see who might show up. Or what might show up. See, I've also been unable to shake off the notion that if I had a totem from the world of plants, it would be an onion. I stare into the silvered glass, watching the layers morph and ripple across my tired face.

To have my animal self replaced by a plant is deflating. It should not be, perhaps. We are all of us made of many things, and not all of them mammalian. The identity drawn therefrom can serve as a wellspring of strength, courage, energy. In my case, I fancied my animal self to be Panthera onca, the jaguar. Powerful, enigmatic, and possessed of a shamanic energy I crave and envy.

The jaguar has been scarce lately. I catch the occasional glimpse, but full sightings are scarce like iridium crystals. I hold the totem in my hands, but the eyes are dull. This troubles me.

The jaguar, it seems, has given way to the onion. How long this will last, none can say. All I  know is that the last year has peeled away a lot from my outer surfaces, exposing even more layers within as well as creating the occasional tears. I spend a lot of time meditating on these circumstances. It is important for me to plumb my depths. I have no desire to be caught from behind by things I did not know existed within.

This is not to say that these layers are always serious. While I certainly have the tendency to be too serious, there are things I keep finding that make me laugh, or marvel at the oddities that contribute to the mass of intriguing weirdness that resides in my heart and head.

Case in point tonight: on my way home this evening, I caught a musical snippet on "World Cafe with David Dye"---an interesting radio show hosted by WXPN---that made me sit up and take notice. It was this weird but likeable mix of what sounded like Indian-inspired dance hip-hop party music. I had no clue as to genre, and I missed the name of the group, but I wanted to hear it again. I felt I had to know who, what, and why.

So I turned to our friend the Internet and looked up the play schedule for WXPN. Turns out the music I heard was by a the group Red Baraat, a Brooklyn, NY-based outfit that combines Punjabi bhangra with New Orleans-style jazz, hip-hop, and go-go music. I couldn't even begin to tell you exactly what all of those styles encompass, but I can tell you this: the music made me happy and wanting to dance. And I'm not a dancer by any stretch.

Dig this, too. The leader of the band is named Sunny Jain. Born in the United States, his parents were Punjabi immigrants. He is trained as a jazz drummer. The band is heavy on percussion and brass, including a two-headed drum---the dhol---and a sousaphone.That's right, ladies and gents, a freakin' sousaphone. And the guy who plays it also raps.

I don't know what it is about stuff like this that draws me in. It makes me wish I could play a sousaphone, for crying out loud. It is weird. It is loopy.Which some might say are accurate descriptors of me.

It is this sort of thing that gives me hope for the future, for the world, and for myself. I like to think the one who likes all this weirdness is the poet in my soul, the one hidden behind all those layers, and that doesn't get to the surface as often as I wish. What I heard made the poet smile, making me okay with my weirdness.

I bounced in my chair for a bit, listening to the music and tucking into a digital bowl of electric slumgullion. After all, the jaguar is in there, too. He is hungry, he must be fed.


  1. Music is so good for the soul, isn't it? The other day I heard a song that made me dance from one end of the house to the other, followed by my wee dogs who, I'm sure, thought I had totally lost the plot. Which made me laugh as I danced...

    A digital bowl of electric slumgullion, for sure, you onion-eating cat... ;D

    1. It is tasty stuff. And I do appreciate onions.

  2. Gumbo. I'm just returned from a concert in a tent in the middle of the countryside -it was filled with rousing sea shanties and a rebellious attitude. Make you want to move some - then more :)) You hit the nail on the head with this deft observation.

    1. Sea shanties in the countryside! Slainte!

  3. I came across this while searching for some of this Red Baraat goodness (because your description of their music made further research absolutely necessary):


    Also: I feel as though you need to read the top comment on that video.

    1. Thank you for that link. Wow! I especially enjoyed "Brass and Dhol". And that comment was hilarious :)

  4. Did somebody say go-go dance? That would be my inner totem. Dude.

    1. FL, I am still trying to figure out exactly what go-go music means :)


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