Normally, I shy away from interviews and do very little self promotion. With the exception of my current internet presence and a few old crazy fans, everybody else thinks I’m the dead guy by the same name. A fellow from the UK. Well, he came to fore much later and we couldn’t be any different.
During the mid-to late 90‘s, I realized that the so-called music “industry” was finished. If you weren’t a hot item by then, you could essentially forget about it. That being said, I never looked at myself as a careerist music maker. Indeed, I swung with the majority of serious musicians, in that I wanted to create, make, produce, record and tour. However, as a poet and performer with a long history in music as a percussionist, I no longer wanted to be the guy that certain types of band leaders, with contracts or serious concert dates, called to increase the “out” or “heavy” or “intellectual” quotient in their output.
There were some successful collaborations, as I saw them, but in the end, I was working FOR them. In fact, a person, who will not be named, put it out that I was a loose canon and shouldn’t be dealt with, in New York. Although, I admit in those days, I was pretty much a mess and difficult, but, many of us had serious problems then. I still succeeded in my contribution to the performances.The last straw was when I was working with a horn player, with a great reputation and a great band at the time, played me so hard at a live date at Lincoln Center (live broadcast), I walked out of the place determined to quit the business altogether. Ummm, that is a very negative particle in this piece and I certainly don’t want to be there anymore. It’s water under the bridge.
I grew up in Detroit, and in those days there was prosperity because of the automobile industry. Everybody had wherewithal, a house, a car. Public education was stellar, unlike it is now. They had the budgets for art, music, sports and normal things like special maths, English, even theatre, which they referred to as Auditorium.
I had an awesome music teacher, Mr. White. He was like an uncle. Viola was my first instrument which I adored but couldn’t figure out. Then I switched to playing the trombone and everybody hated me because it was so loud and I dare say, human! They had loved the viola.
We learnt to play by records. Getting into music was a tribal thing. I met musicians from everywhere, and there were jam sessions in my uncle Barry’s (Harris) living-rooms. Well, not my blood uncle...his sister Mayme was my mother’s best friend and she was the one who turned me on to painting. I will always remember a painting she made for Barry with these flying keyboards and notes with wings and shit. I was awed by her sensibilities. I was into bebop early, I learnt odd meters and pentatonic blues. My mom was a very beautiful widow and she drew attention from many cats who became greats like Paul Chambers and Kenny Burrell, so I heard singers Nat Cole, Sarah Vaughn, Dakota Staton and Billy Eckstein in the house all the time. By the time I was 12 I had gotten into Motown. Stevie Wonder came out with a live recording called Fingertips and made me want bongos for Christmas. It was a set with maracas and clave. It didn’t take me long to hear percussionists in Prez Prado and Cal Tjader recordings. Music was a live thing all of a sudden. I played my first gig when I was 16, in a club where you had to be 21 to get in. So my mom took me. It was a little bit uncomfortable. However, I also wanted to be a painter like my aunt Mayme.
I was a kid who loved books. I was the boy reading books inside the library while the other kids were playing football outside that library. I liked everything about books, even the smell of them. I could read and write when I was 5.
I was into painting and read nearly every book on art in the Duffield Public Library on West Grand Blvd. Names like Claes Oldenberg and Ben Shawn, Jackson Pollock and Kandinsky showed me a different way to look at the world around me. I was fascinated by abstraction despite figurative masters with their photo realism. I realized where Mayme got her vibe.
I began to compose verses after reading Arna Bontemps, who was a friend of my maternal grandfather in Nashville, where my mom was born and raised by her Blackfoot-Cherokee mother, because she tried to stump my reading ability after dinner one evening. She was totally extreme about education. Later, I discovered LeRoi Jones’ (Amiri Baraka) Preface To a Twenty-volume Suicide Note and was off and running.
I continued painting and playing percussion and had my first “gig” at 16 with an organ trio at the Chit Chat Lounge, headed by Don Davis, by the fact that the singer’s daughter was my sweetheart. I even played at an uppity Black Church once during Negro History Week.
Ultimately, my vision of becoming a painter got swallowed up by the social reality of late 60’s Detroit because only the rich kids had success at that, their doctor, lawyer parents’ friends would get them started by buying their work, not to mention it costs a lot to make art.
People thought I was weird because I liked opera already as a kid, but ‘the mind is a parachute’ and if it isn’t open, you’re fucked… My approach to it then wasn’t intellectual.
I was an atheist for a time too, until I got married and had to work jobs.
Detroit was an intensely political town. I was involved in The League of Revolutionary Black Workers, the Black Panther Party and Republic of New Africa, again, it was my mom who familiarized me with Martin and Malcolm. “These are real men,” she would say.
In the end, the mystery was always the thing. I discovered Sufism by 18, especially the poetry of Hafiz and Rumi, the annihilation of the self to be reborn through music and devotion...the dzikr and the 99 beautiful names.
I’m not that guy who learnt music and went off to play gigs. By my faith, I had to devote myself to my family.
The music was always the constant. My circle of brothers adored Coltrane and Dolphy and then Cecil Taylor and Sun Ra, Ornette especially was a favorite. One of my favorite Coltrane pieces was Ascension...but then again, Cosmic Music was breath taking. In those days we listened to everything, Jazz, Ethnic, Classical, even Rock, together, in silence.
Finally, there was Hendrix. It was everything in one guy. To play like that, look like that and be Black! Wow! I was drunk from his Otherness! For me he was the wizard. I collected everything that he did, everything recorded, even bootlegs and saw him live twice.
Coltrane – Hendrix – Marley. They were so powerful. People try to sound like them instead of taking on the baton and running with the essential voodoo.
Because of Hendrix, I was always the clothes guy in every band I was in since Hendrix’ days. Music performance is a ritual, as far as I’m concerned. Magic in real time...altering reality just for those moments.
>green_man/ on Soundcloud
Today the industry of music is in total disarray. And working musicians are professionals, so it’s a job.
There is something I call truth to ownership, against truth to power. Everybody is owned in music, in sports, in Hollywood. They make magic wands out of holly wood, ya know? And it’s about bucking and bowing to get jobs. If you don’t make your own label you’re screwed.
My satisfaction comes out of completing a composition and uploading for free download: internet presence has gotten me plenty of work. I earned my living in New York working on Wall Street as a document specialist in the old hustle days. Of course, to a degree, it depends on how you want to live, and if life is going to be about a bit more than survival I had to hustle to pay the dry cleaning bill.
I am a performance poet, I’m not an entertainer. How can I be an entertainer with what is going on in the world? I have been accused of being a snob, uppity nigga, blah blah blah. My work, however, consistently drives the notion of liberation for my people and, hence, all the oppressed peoples.
American life is based on money, I am producing art, not a music show. I was in New York working with Don Byron and Existential Dread. We had released ‘’Nu Blaxploitation’’ and we had had a college circuit No. 1 hit called Alien. Once, after a performance at Martha’s Vineyard, a producer asked me how long I was going to do poetry. He said that it was not going to last long. He told me that I needed a real career, and that I had what it took. He could get me a screen test in LA, if I wanted. I told him that I didn’t want that and I was doing exactly what i wanted to do. The band was astonishing on stage. I couldn’t get a job in New York after that. I’m a revolutionary. I will never be famous or rich. I have accepted my fate.
After 9/11 it was time to leave. I was on 14th street, in New York when the planes hit. New York was quiet that day. New York is never quiet, but it was that day. There was no transportation available, so we walked in that quiet city. There wasn’t even a helicopter in the sky for hours. For me, it was time to go.
I came to Europe, where there is a deep sense of tradition. America is a kid compared to Europe. I discovered that on my first tour in 1986 with the great pianist, Geri Allen. The city design around Europe blew me away, with its old buildings, not buildings that are torn down every 25 years and replaced by new crap buildings.
Coming to Europe was also a rude awakening. Many Europeans in the industry of music want you to be the Negro of 1963, and surviving here financially meant I either had to get a job or get a wife. I got a job. When you live in Berlin, you’re seen as local no matter how extensive your CV. But, I book a lot of gigs all over Europe and people ask how. It is because most of my downloads are for free. They are free because I want to stay alive as a creator and you have to let people hear you.
If you give, you challenge the system. We live among sales platforms, an infinity of ads and circus attractions. Of course, I agree that musicians should be paid for their music, and paid well, but that’s not how it works now. You are paid for working, for entertaining.
It seems people have their heads stuck up the ass of history. I published two books here in Berlin; Slow the Eye and Albert Ayler Is Blowing the Horn That signals the End, and wrote and produced Slow the Ear album which features brilliant guitarist, Jean Paul Bourelly, and opera star, Andrea Rost, with horn arrangements by Gebhard Ullmann.
Currently I am in the studio with six reels of tape from a band I had featuring James Carter, his brother Kevin, Tani Tabbal and Jaribu Shahid in the late 80’s. I’m in a high end studio retrieving these sounds because, after a month of searching, they were the only ones who owned a Studor machine that could handle 1/4 inch, two-track tape at 15ips. I am also doing a one man-show called ‘’The Dead American’’ and working with 3 Italian guys on a project I call Black Market Liberation Front (guess what that’s all about). Finally, I’m about to release a lot of >green_man/ tunes. It is time. I have been in a cave for eight years. I think that this is my year to release.
The Dead American 1
Radio active! Radio active! Radio active!
Not a nightmare, but a daymare. All day.
Why be afraid of a nuclear war? It has already happened.
We’re all dead. We’ve been dead since ’45. The working dead.
We just don’t know it yet. Just like movie zombies.
They’re making 3-D printed coffins. Hunting ground holes.
They’re building the furnaces daily. We are the new
Fuel, the new energy, corpses that still blink
that zombie blank blink of absence. Absent by default.
Born burned, burnt to blank. There’s nobody there!
That there is no revolution, IS the revolution.
Capitalism is the revolution, after all. The final refuge.
Against Earth consciousness, natural develop-mentality.
The monetized retardation of the gardener, the herder, the worker.
Primitive tactility, original touch consciousness…burnt to a crisp!
Artifice in circular restraint, to convince us that jerking off
is better than fucking someone real. Cancer of the digits, just
touch the screen bitches! Artifice guarantees your superiority,
your immeasurable distance from the warmth of human
fluids, the aversion to panic before the Black Unknown.
Primitive consciousness: the target of the War Machine in the
Disguise of Art(ifice), retard the Gaze and supplant with glance…
Exterior burns interior, radio active burn, what fucking identity?
The artificial infinity secures the Capitalist Revolution. Touch it!
The only power is purchasing power and Socialism matriculates
Capitalism’s gaze: mesmerism is Communism! Buy it motherfucker!
There can be no Public Ownership, because there is no public. Police enforcement is the absence of the public.
Marxism cannot defend trains of thought when the Classes,
the masses form into Clubs of Consumption. Feeding on
the tit of the magnetic field, the radioactive nipple of
useless information and apps. The Future is no longer a promise,
but a threat. The black hole of consumption and starvation.
Death by artifice…suicide en masse by smart phone, by drone,
by camera, by clone. Rub it! Our externalization as targets
of Artifice. The war of expropriation, human extraction, copy?
A new tradition of delirium and drunkenness from yottabytes
constructing the artificial infinity. The Death Industry. 2,119 detonations since 1945. We are burnt to the infinite artificiality, the rushing of counting numbers, the cash machine. Rothschild vs Rockefeller.
China has bunkers for all the Chinese. But not for bombs, for weather!
Radio active weather, dead waterways, poisoned fields of Monsanto
and of course, the disappeared Bee Communities. Dead, dead, dead.
More information, less knowledge. More emails and texts, less smiling, hand shaking, eye-to-eye…less feeling. Artifice re-invents feeling with Radioactive screen, replacing mom’s soft words of power. Copy?
Radioactive. American. Burnt. American. Dead. American.
Sadiq Bey' Sun Ra-tribute
Sadiq Bey is a poet, performance artist, percussionist, composer, author and magazine editor, currently based in Berlin. Originally from Detroit he has worked with a multitude of artists in Detroit, New York and Europe. Noted collaborations from his New York-years include ''NuBlaxploitation'' and ''Tuskegee Experiments'', with Don Byron, and from Europe the operas ''Der Kastanien Ball (The Fall Of Lucrezia Borgia)'' in collaboration with Stephan Winter, and ''The Othello Syndrome'' in collaboration with Uri Caine, for the Venice Biennale. Sadiq Bey is currently working with his projects >green_man/ and schwartzegeist.
For free downloads go to: http://www.versionist.net/green-man/playlist/54/medicine-man