Last week, I was ensconced on the 15th floor of the Tour
Centreville Hotel on Montreals boulevard Rene-Levesque.
The view of the citys skyline would have been breathtaking,
if Id have had half-a-chance to inhale, but I was
too busy to really notice it until my last night, when
a pink sunset refocused me.
I was in Mooseland on a musical mission and a reunion
with the good folks who run Montreals African Nights
I also was pursuing my explorations of the Creole Confederacy,
an imaginary meta archipelago, partly inspired by Cuban
cultural theorist Antonio Benito-Roja, liberal infusions
of Havana Club rum and the rhythms Ive been riding
from the Congo to Cuba this past decade.
My Creole Confederacy operates along theoretical lines
proposed by the brightest man left alive in the Caribbean-Martiniquan
Thinking has always posed major problems for any kind
of man or womankind, or unkind, for that matter.
Gratifying our physical or spiritual desires seems to
fill most of the available spaces in lives, long, short,
brutish or indifferent.
The energy invested and expended on these desires leaves
little time for the uncomfortable and usually unfamiliar
exercise of independent thought, while the legacy of the
plantation and its attendant psychopathology show no signs
of loosening their grip.
In fact, thinking is pretty much obsolete in the post-modern
world, having been replaced by a culture of lies, spin
and virtual reality.
Which is why I prefer to ride the rhythms and explore
Glissants rhizomes, those horizontal, rather than
vertical roots, which jump high, lie low, drunk or sober,
continue to intermingle and crossbreed throughout the
If youd like a map of this metaphysical region,
I suggest you consult the great cartographer and surveyor,
Dont give me a migraine, Harris. If this sounds
too daunting, we can go geographic and start in Brazil,
work our way up through the Amazon, via the Guyanas and
Venezuela, swing out into the islands, and then back into
With the major political poles of Chavez in the south
and Castro in the north, the Creole Confederacy probably
has a population of nearly 300 million (remember Brazil
alone counts for 190 million).
Its my contention that such a bloc, once confederated,
would constitute a serious contender on the world stage,
certainly economically and most definitely culturally.
Isnt it possible that extending ourselves beyond
the shores of our own little islands, and joining what
Benito-Roja describes as the meta archipelago of repeating
islands, wed create a more expansive mental landscape,
far beyond the petty constraints of small island politics
and concerns, which would allow for a true emancipation
of the mind.
Wed no longer be tied to the umbilical cord of dependence
on the West, whether economic, ideological, technological
Theres nothing new in this confederacy idea. Simon
Bolivar fought for it over 200 years ago; Toussaint LOuverture,
Louis Delgres, Jose Marti and thousands of nameless slaves
died for it.
With Emancipation Day in sight, and mental slavery embraced
by most politicians between Cayenne and Cuzco, Im
just offering a different rhythm and style and the possibility
of revisioning the region outside the stale parameters
of stultifying western discourse and commerce.
But before disappearing in a maze of amazement and the
labyrinth of lyrical mystification, let me return to the
rhythms and the melodies they inspire.
Montreals African Nights Festival effectively extends
the Creole Confederacy to its origins in Africa.
Im not talking genetics here, as empirically we
all originate in Africa, whether Azerbajani , Hakka or
To be musically specific, one of the many highlights of
the festival was the concert by Congo-born, LA-raised
Ricardo Lemvo and his band Makina Loka.
Quite apart from the fact that my good partner Ted Pouniah,
manager of the Kola Club where this concert was staged
gave me free run of the bar, it was feetically (sic) magnificent
in a dancing kind of way to move to rhythms brought across
the Atlantic by slaves bound for Cuba in the seventeenth
century and which crystalised into Afro-Cuban son, which
had then travelled back to Africa in the 1930s and 40s,
to be reborn as Congolese rhumba that segued into soukous,
which is now resurfacing in Creole music from Colombias
Caribbean coast, in Dominican bouyon and kadans and even
in St Lucian soca.
That night I danced till dawn and had bed for breakfast.
And if this wasnt enough, another night, I was treated
to a kora recital by Malian griot Balla Tounkara, whod
bought along his wife and three-month-old son Boubacar
Balla played some traditional songs on the beautiful kora
hed made himself, before launching into an Otis
Redding number and some more R&B, which sounded so
different on his unique 23-string instrument.
Im thinking of a course in kora playing at UTT.
Just to top this off, lemme tell you, one evening, riding
the elevator from the 15th to ground zero, I was joined
by James Browns sister, who is just as big in every
sense as her better-known bro.
I didnt really get what the fuss was all about until
the final concert of the festival, when I saw her roll
onstage and shake down the huge open air crowd with a
version of Get on Down Like a Sex Machine.
Wey pappi! Who needs Viagara or bois bande when it have
James Browns sister?