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KHEPERA

recorded  23 > 25 February 1998
Avatar Studios New York  USA
CD  1998    Verve/Gitanes    557 821-2


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liner notes


Randy Weston piano
Alex Blake bass
Neil Clarke
congas, djembé, percussion, gong, shekere
Talib Kibwe
flute, alt sax
Benny Powell
trombone
Victor Lewis
drums
Pharoah Sanders
tenor sax
, soprano saxophone
Chief Bey
ashiko-drums, vocal
Min Xiao Fen
pipa, gong (on 7, 9)

Melba Liston
arranger
Randy Weston
producer
Brian Bacchus
producer
Jean-Philippe Allard
executive producer
Daniel Richard
executive producer
Jay Newland
engineer, mixing
Barbara Lipke
assistant engineer
Rhashidah E. McNeill  liner notes

 

  1   Creation  (Weston)
  2   Anu Anu  (Weston)
  3   The Shrine
  (Weston)
  4  
The Shang  (Weston / Min Xiao-Fen)
  5  
Prayer Blues  (Weston)
  6   Boram Xam Xam
  (Weston)
  7   Portrait of Cheikh Anta Diop
  (Weston)
  8   Niger Mambo
(Bobby Benson)
  9   Mystery of Love
  (Guy Warren)


KHEPERA

 

KHEPERA was appropriately recorded in the month of February, African History Month, at Avatar Studios in NY from February 23rd to February 25th. 1998. This recording could easily have been named "Sankofa" because it required all the participants, from the musicians, to the scholars, to the researchers and writers, to the listeners, to the arranger, Melba Liston, and even Randy himself, to go back, to reach back into the past to learn more about the past in order to understand the present and go forth into the future.

This recording is titled "Khepera" because the Sankofa principle used in reaching into our great past must imbue our present generation with the energies for our transformation, our regeneration - The Khepera principle - needed in order to create a greater future. Khepera also celebrates the transformation that Africa has impacted on world cultures as in this case, Chinese Culture.

Recently deceased, world -reknowned historian, John Henrik Clarke often said, "there is no World History without African History." Randy's music has been influenced by African history, culture, and spirituality since he was a boy living with his father, Frank Edward Weston, and in the Black Church with his mother Vivian Moore.  "All of this has produced who and what I am today through continuous regeneration, 'Khepera:"

Randy says, "When I did 'Earth Birth' it had a particular direction... ballads, strings, Melba's beautiful arrangements and the 25 strings of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. Everybody was a little surprised at this move. But, this particular recording is somewhat like 'Spirits of Our Ancestors; in that kind of a historical recording. It reaches all the way back. How far back I'm not sure myself. Maybe it goes back to the time of being in my father's house as a boy seeing these unusual maps of African Kings, Queens, articles, and books by J.A. Rodgers.

"But, I'm sure it also goes back to my experiences with the Gnawa, my experiences with the Black Church, my experiences with spirituality in music which I've certainly experienced in Africa. All of this has produced who and what I am today.

"And, so with this recording, I want to do several things. I want to produce music that is truly spiritual and, in a sense, ritualistic, and at the same time produce magic and mystery. I want to put all these elements together to create something very beautiful, very creative but different from anything else I've done."

For this reason, Randy was very careful about the selection of musicians who include Pharoah Sanders, Talib Kibwe, Neil Clark, Alex Blake, Victor Lewis, Benny Powell, Billy Harper. Chief Bey, special guest Chinese artist, Min Xiao Fen (virtuoso pipa player) and, of course, Melba Liston, arranger.

"One of the reasons I got Chief Bey is that he supplies that traditional African drum. You see, there are different kinds of African Original Drums and the ones used in Latin America have their heads tight with a sharp sound when you hear them played. I wanted the African drum that is more of a speaking kind of drum. So I wanted to have Chief Bey on the bottom of the rhythm section. He was the key because he does all the basic things, the basic things are what holds everything together.

"I cannot over emphasize the importance of Victor Lewis in the rhythm section. The rhythm section is so important. Although I'd never worked with Victor before Jean-Philippe Allard suggested that I use him. I am happy I did," Randy explains. So where did Randy get the idea to focus on China and invite Chinese artist, Min Xiao Fen to play and record with him?

"The Chinese picture happened over 30 years ago. Sometimes things happen in your life that you really don't connect to or understand until 30 or 40 years later. When I was in Rabat, Morocco in 1967, I met the director of the Conservatory of Music and he had this huge, huge piano. It was almost the size of a Bösendorfer piano, 9' or 10' but it was made in China. So I said, "I didn't know that China made pianos." The director said, 'Yea, this piano was a gift from the Chinese government. When I went to Beijing, I heard the music and you know the Chinese Symphony Orchestra uses the same instruments that we use in Morocco; he said."

Randy also remembers another incident in the past that hadn't seemed as important as it does now. "I remember that when I went to the South of Morocco the people looked very Chinese. Their music was also very Chinese to the point that when I played for someone in Morocco they said, after 'That's Chinese music!'" Hence the connection of Africa in Chinese music just as there is Africa in World Culture. Africa being the cradle of both humanity and civilization.

So when Randy and Min Xiao Fen were introduced to each other in Atlanta, Georgia (USA) in 1997 after both had performed in a concert there separately, it was more than just mere coincidence. The pieces were beginning to come together for Randy and eventually for Min, too.

"Min told me she lived in Brooklyn too. She came to play for me at my house. We talked about the Shang (the African progenitors to Chinese culture). She had heard of the Shang but knew very little about them. I started doing this research about the Shang then Min brought me this big book on Chinese musical instruments and arts. The pottery, sculpture, etc., looked very African."

Ancient Egyptians who gave civilization to the rest of the world were definitely Black people. Diop had proved this through linguistics, anthropology, geology, physics, history, etc. And Diop's discovery would come at least 20 years before the world acknowledge that Africa is the birthplace of humanity. Diop was educated in his native Senegal, West Africa and at the University of Paris France. He was the director of the Radiocarbon Laboratory at the University of Dakar until his death in February, 1986. Cheikh Anta Diop is also the author of several books based on his research and findings. Historian, John Henrik Clarke wrote, "Cheikh Anta Diop is considered to be one of the greatest scholars to emerge in the African World in the twentieth century"

Further elaborating on the theme of the "Khepera" CD recording, Randy says "For me the whole idea was to look at the world as an African. How I see the world, number one, spirituality, that's the key. Wherever you find Black people, wherever you find African societies, you will always find a heavy recognition of God. That spiritually transform the individual when the true knowledge of one's past generates a higher consciousness.

"And, I can't emphasize too much the importance of author Wayne Chandler's contribution to this project. I first read his writings in the 'Journal of African Civilizations; edited by historian, Ivan Van Sertima. I wanted to talk to someone who was not only a scholar but who was also connected to the grassroots community. He's so great, a very warm human being.

"I told him that I wanted to connect Egypt, Nubia, China, and West Africa. Wayne is the only one I can remember who mentions and explains the original civilization of 'Egypt.' The word is of Greek origin. The real name for 'Egypt' is 'Kamit' or 'Kemet The Ethiopians or Anu came from the south, area of the Sudan, and Uganda.

"From the 'Anu' people came the gods Osiris and Horus, and the goddess Isis. These are the people who brought civilization to Egypt.

"Talking to Wayne and from reading his writings (and others, such as Chinese author and professor of archeology, Kwang Chih Chang's, 'Shang Civilization') I've learned that the first historical dynasty of China called the Shang was of African origin," Randy explains.

Their cultural influence, as a matter of fact, persisted in China up until the end of the second dynasty and the basic Shang styles and ways of life lasted for centuries almost up until the second century B.C., even after the Chou conquest of the Shang. The Shang, according to Kwang Chih Chang, was the first literate civilization in East Asia as well as one of the most politically powerful.

 

ABOUT THE SONGS
 

"I wanted to choose the artists on this recording very carefully. I chose Pharoah Sanders because Pharoah knows how to capture the spirits of the ancients and the ancient times. I chose Chief Bey because of his traditional African drumming and style. And, of course Min with the Chinese contribution. All of the artists on this recording are very, very important. Some I play with all the time like Talib Kibwe, Neil Clarke, Alex Blake, and Benny Powell. And, of course Melba Liston always has to be there, whenever she can, with her beautiful arrangements. She's great.

Creation is all the pieces of nature coming together to create the planet earth and civilization.

The Anu are a mysterious people who made a tremendous contribution to civilization.

The Shrine
represents all the places of worship, regardless of religion, particularly of African people.

The Shang
is simply about the Shang in Chinese history and what Min is doing is telling their story on her instrument. In the song, I represent Africa and I bring Africa to China, like the Shang did.

The Prayer
Blues represents African traditional society. There's simply no separation between secular and spiritual music. The purpose of the 'Prayer Blues' is to show that the two elements are very much a part of each other. It's a pretty, melodic blues.

Boram Xam Xam is a Wolof word to describe Cheikh Anta Diop, a very powerful and spiritual man of great contribution.

The Portrait of Cheikh Anta Diop is my dedication to the spirit of this recording.

Niger Mambo is a recording I've done before describing my experiences in Nigeria many years ago.

Mystery of Love is the theme of my group, 'African Rhythms' written by Guy Warren of Ghana.
"I thank everyone who contributed to this recording. Special thanks to Professor Yaa-Lengi Meema Ngemi, translator of Cheikh Anta Diop's books and research, the son of Diop (Mbacke Diop), who lives in Paris and who is also a scientist, his brother (Samory Diop) and Wayne Chandler, scholar, and writer. God bless you and keep you strong."
 

1998  Rhashidah E. McNeill
 

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