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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Musicians Shouldn't Teach History

A few weeks ago I went to a reggae concert at Red Rocks, featuring Tribal Seeds and Rebelution.  I'd never heard of either band, but like any white boy stoner, I have a fondness for the music.  There was a joy and positivity in both bands that really hit the spot.

On the way out, someone handed me a CD sampler that had a couple songs from Tribal Seeds latest record, Representing.


Looking them up later, I was struck by the album cover.  It features an Olmec head, huge stone monuments fashioned into faces from the Mesoamerican heartland. 
The Olmec are one of the oldest civilizations in Mesoamerica and are often considered the "mother culture" of all the later Mesoamerican civilizations, from Teotihuacan to the Maya and later Aztec.  They're known for the stone heads, which probably depict kings dressed in ballgame attire. 

In the modern age, looking back with our stupidity, we see these heads and see nothing but questions.  We give them numbers "Colossal Head 3" and mark their location, but the history is basically lost.  We look at the heads and it could be anybody.

But transport an actual Olmec person to the 21st Century, and they could tell us exactly who the heads represent. "Yeah, that's King George.  He was a power-mad drunk.  And this is King William, quite the ladies man.  He built this whole place."  (I use Anglicized names to demystify them.  Their real names and histories are lost.)


In our ignorance, we look at the heads and note details.  7 tons.  Made out of basalt.  Look, this one has almost African features...

Now I'll stop right there.  In my mind, the error is somewhat obvious, but other people look at these stones and this thought --"They have African features"-- actually occurs to them.  And when you say to them, "What the fuck are 'African features?'" they actually have an answer.

Look at the broad nose, the thick lips.  It's obviously a black person.  Never mind that we're talking about a stone head carved in Mesoamerica before anyone from Africa stepped foot on the continent.  The broad nose, the thick lips!  Must be Africans!

One's racist notions do not actually provide scientific proof.

At any rate, I mention this all because the flutter of excitement I felt when I saw the cover to the Tribal Seeds record --"Ah, cool, an Olmec head!"-- was quickly dashed when I realized they were intent on making that Olmec-Africa connection.

From the song:
History they’re teaching is wrong
Theres nothing new underneath the sun
Everything in life got it’s purpose
High above and beneath the surface
Each day we pray giving thanks
In remembrance of where we came from
The Olmec civilization is in alliance with the Africans
Well, no, the wrong history to teach is the one that says the Olmecs were buddies with the Africans.

Good music, though.

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