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The Beat Goes (Back) On!

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January 11, 2010

From Chris "Big Red" Johnson, host of "Groove Time" KXLU-FM, Los Angeles; KXLU.com

According to history, the Muses numbered nine. History, as Henry Ford said, is bunk. We all (at least we all in the know) know there are at least ten. Whether or not her parents are as oddly named as the Greek originals, the tenth is named Smith and known to one and all as CC. I had thought to describe her as a cornerstone, an organizer, the spark plug, things along those lines. But no. On reflection, CC is now and has been nothing less than a modern day Muse and I'll give you just a few good examples.
CC and I met face to face for the first time at the Executive Club, a little dive of a place on Crenshaw Boulevard in South Los Angeles. Of course I had known her as the ringleader of that little gang of mischievous revelers who took to the airwaves of SoCal every Saturday as "The African Beat" radio show. On the night we met that little dive became the Temple of Artemis for a night as Les Quatre Etoiles took to the tiny stage before a packed-to-the-rafters house. There's lots of exaggerated talk about these days , but the word transcendent really and truly applies to this particular occasion. Don't take my word for it. Ask anybody who was there. CC was DJing. In the confines of that little club she occupied the same corner as the stage, the same space as the band. She may never have looked more radiant before or since. It wasn't so significant that she was there. It was so significant that she belonged there - front and center.
It all unfolded so naturally, seemed so properly mise en scene, that the question became, "Who but CC?"
Who but CC could have turned a mimeographed broadsheet into the slick Beat that maintained our collective center, fed our delightful, healthful jones for great tunes for so long?
Who but CC could have wrangled those diverse energies and highly charged enthusiasms Ade James and Solomon Solo brought to the microphones of "The African Beat" for lo, those many years [11].
Who but CC could have steered a motley assemblage of music lovers (distinctly not producers, promoters, agents and the like) into a momentarily cohesive and effective event-producing, promoting and hosting team that became our beloved African Music Society?
Who but CC could have held on so long, keeping The Beat going for so long after the handwriting on the wall became plain for one and all to see?
Yes, we've seen, heard and grooved to that all, right here live or in print, from our seats ringside, right here in our own cultural wasteland, our 'industry' town, Los Angeles, where culture goes to die, chopped up into little bite-sized morsels, bland and easily digestible, if of little nutritional value. A cynic might say that the wonder is not that The Beat stopped publishing, but that it published so much for so long.
Not much of a cynic myself, I'm prompted to ask: So now, my colleagues and co-lamenters, whatever are we to do? One thing's for sure - things won't go on as they have. The changes - wonders and horrors - of the 21st century will make those of the 20th century pale in comparison. So, it simply must be said: In dismissing The Beat, we collectively yield to the creeping meatball of cultural homogeneity, that infernal engine dragging us all inexorably toward a morass of pap, pablum and a sea of musical mediocrity.
Yet, as they say, "You can get fucked, but you can't stay fucked." Further, Robert Nesta Marley said, "Every beat of the drum you hear is an African beat." Therefore, adding the two together and barring the extinction of the species, the beat will inevitably triumph. As one of only a handful of things that qualitatively differentiate us from all other life on this lovely blue orb, the ability to arrange melody and harmony rhythmically - to the beat - will see us through, in the end.
Personally, I liked things just fine as they were going. I really don't see any need for another to suffer the birth pangs of giving life to another version of The Beat. CC did that for us once already and the baby had enough aunties and uncles who cared and nurtured it to maturity to have made it the vital, vibrant resource and community it was.
That was good enough for me for a long, long time. I have no idea what will be good enough for me now. And as the the Minister of Information herself, the Muse of all things groovalicious, thousands and thousands of thanks, one for each tune, each word, each picture that made me happy when I beheld it in The Beat and thousands and thousands of best wishes from us all for whatever it is you choose to do next.
Como CC, no hay dos. Mil gracias y que les vaya bien!

1 comment:

  1. I was at that gig at the Executive Club. Some time later, I was driving w/a friend listening to CC on the radio and I turned to her and said,"This sounds like a show I saw a while ago." Well. guess what. CC kept the engine going.She connected an awful lot of people. A true promoter as in promoting everything a step up. I was lucky enough to play w/ Dodo Munoko, Bateke, and the Formula One Band all thanks to CC opening my eyes and ears to so much music on her show. CC, what's next? thank you Peter Carreiro

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