Monday, 4 June 2012

In the dark lit hall in Longsight.

Latest Homework for the Poetry School summer class in Leeds.
'Think of a situation that you have been in and try and convey the music of the place, the sounds'. I went back to the 1970s, and my first experience of a Sound System in a Dance Hall stylee.

Updated and reworked poem reposted 11/6/12  - 1,500 words...too long?

In the dark lit hall in Longsight.

I look back at a time in space
and a place
where I took one step forward
and No step backwards ………………………
of that first step out of the realm of my family’s past,
That first step
that reached into my vital organs,
reached into my whole physical and spiritual being
Freed my heart
and bathed me in a sound vibration
that I had never conceived of
on any register of colour or musical stave,
I could not perceive or give a name to this.
It was unknown,

I look back with companionship to these tunes,
this music of liberation.
I choose to loose myself in the realisation,
That came from that sequence of noted moments,
that sound is a vital ital vibration,
That the community around the sound,
the dancing feet of strangers,
Says more to me than I         can               say                or convey,
Said more than had ever been said to me before.
Words can only short change that deeply significant event,
The limitation of word-centred descriptions
can only cast,
 at the best
into the penny saving tin of understanding
when compared to the gold and richness of the experience of that night.
When it has really all just been darkness
until that dark hot, black welcoming hall
in Longsight in Manchester
in the 1970s.
Music so colourful.

The first reggae record I bought was by the Mighty Diamonds,
‘When The Right Time Come’
on the Virgin label in 1976.
Bob Marley and the Wailers ‘Catch a Fire’,
Which, for all their Rootness
was a Westernised white-eared mixed production
by Chris Blackwell of the Island brand. 
………….and then an angel must have showed me the way to a real reggae night….
The time HAD come……………….
And a shine eye girl was giving a message to this blind-eyed, life muted deaf boy.

The muffled base I could hear
 as I wondered up to the hall on a winter’s night
Where the Rastafarian twelve tribes dance was called.
It filled me with expectation.
And I wondered.
as I paid at the door
and stepped into that dark hall on that dark winter’s night;
am I brave or mad?
I was on my own, solo…….
drawn to this event, this community,
by forces I have no comprehension,
no understanding of…………….

Kick start this new tune of life
Kick start this new tune of my life
Kick start this new new new new new flash
Twelve tribes
Twelve tribes
Twelve Tribes
Twelve Tribes
In Longsight
In Longsight
In LongSight
In LongSight
I’m dancing in this spot in this reggae shed
I’m dancing in this spot in this reggae shed
I’m dancing in this spot in this reggae shed
18 inch speakers are calling me.
cabinets of wood are breaking me.
shaking my body with quakes of sound.
In the dark lit hall in Longsight

The smell of beer
From the bar hatch
catches me,
The smell of weed
from splifs,
it raises me.
A sharp call to the senses; senses senses senses senses senses
That will end the top billing of
the dulled white rock music of my early teens
N ight n ight
R ight r ight
Te eth te eth
Bri ght bri ght
Ey es ey es
Flash it  flash it
In the dark lit hall in Longsight

What a night for this white boy I am saying.
Physical bass rhythm laying down a track so low
to a soul that was calling wordlessly,
voiceless in a heart-silence unnoticed,
One white boy in darkness with all these black folk
Surrounded by sound.
Bass cabinets lining the walls, one after another
with high frequency horns touching the ceilings!
crissed crossed spider webs of speaker wires
with hand twisted connections
conveying the music to us all in this dark near full dance hall.
This rhythm and music had an understanding that lifted me,
that bounced my heart like a basket ball,
hanging in space between the notes,
raging from these soft push-pull
valve driven
air cushions
of vibration bass movement,
that wrapped up my ears and my sense of hearing
into my very skin and lungs and solar plexus.
A white boy in the hands of coil driven
paper thin speaker cones
spun from the hands of bass players,
the music making of
black black Jamaican men.
In the dark lit hall in Longsight

Call me crazy,
call me a fool,
I am happy and I love this dancing.
moving to the beat
let the beat take my feat
let the music take your hip
move ya this is reggae music.
My back is struggling to loosen up
in that awkward way that white men have
when first reacting to the bass bass reggae reggae sound.
Place your back to the man-high bass cabinets
and the spine is caressed
and the harshness of Babylon falls,
blown away,
the layers of ill spread plaster
that was skimmed over its hidden chasms of oppression,
break, crack, fall, turn to dust and fly,
fly bird fly away,
like a flock of birds called to the sunshine.
In the dark lit hall in Longsight

Around me,
in their own worlds of love, romance,
brothers’ night out,
sisters’ dress-up time
religious meeting with soft shoes
their culture their scene
black British men and women
were just breathing in their music and distorted Toaster calls.
rub a dub dancing ,
hip and body moving
side by side skanking
they set aside my colour
and let me in,
in my white skin,
with my white conditioned mind
Which I struggled and suffered under,
which was my seen oppressor that night.
In the dark lit hall in Longsight.

For uncomfortable moments
these claw thoughts fought with suppressed happiness,
Chaffing to block out the rhythm and the music’s caresses
with small-minded concerns and rationalisation that I         I                 I                I               I ,
I am the only white man in this dark dark place Boy.
One white face bobbing,
A pair of white hands
I am the coloured odd-one-out
A first time ever for me,
raised in my white only family,
white only street,
County market town,
Rich London suburb
Grammar school,
Red brick university
And here I am now
In the dark lit hall                        in Longsight.

my only ken of black culture
was pictures of famine,
Beafran wars,
the blues and jazz
and the recent few reggae tunes
I played in my student room
on my treasured
but small speakered
hi fi. 
This track of my mind
throws me out of my time
with the way the music takes me.
my small minded chatter
born of a class and a schooling
and a soul broken to the wheel
of ‘people like us’
looses its reason to be
and I let the music
and sounds and dancing in.
In the dark lit hall in Longsight.

This experience,
this journey to my home of music
that calls to me,
that folds me in its texture,
the power of man driven base rhythms
and slap of snare
the roll around the drums
and crash of returning cymbals
and the horns calling,
brightly calling
and the keyboard tickling the tune
easing in so gently to the rhythm. 
And the singing,
the singing of words,
the live toasting of comments
on the singing words,
on what is happening,
and jiving up the mood and the tune and the
souls soul singing of the sweetened up words.
Always waiting for the echo and the dub version to cha cha cha cha cha cha.      
My mind just stops in the silence of a second start-up re-run monstrous tune
coming from the diamond stylus,
The arm now lifted on the high-stacked head-height sound system’s turntable
and then placed back into the record groove for the restart.
“so nice must play this tune twice; seen!”
In the dark lit hall in Longsight.

and I love it,
this place,
I love it
this space,
I love it,
 the strong bass beat
I love it,
the cut of the upbeat scratch guitar chankering
the call of Jah!!
from the toaster on the mic.
And the reply             R a s t a f a r iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii                            from all around,
from my lips too.
some words and language do re-form as I am recast,
hammered in the steel-shops of the black man,
sweetened by the voice of black woman,
warmed by the vocals on the tracks
renewed by the deep culture,
love and understanding,
of this life saving sound,
the years of fighting poverty,
enduring slavery discrimination,
uprisings and scorn
recorded, pressed and duplicated
by their own industrial machinery
freeing up progress,
to black music.
reforming and mastering
the means of musical production
taking control of the communication
to their Nation
produced in this dark dark dance hall
in Longsight, Manchester, England.
Yes I’m dancing in this spot in a reggae shed
I’m dancing in this spot in this reggae shed
18 inch speakers are calling me
cabinets of wood are breaking me
shaking my body with quakes of sound …………………………….. you know;
In the dark lit hall in Longsight.

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