The Man I Love (February 2015)

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The Man I Love
Cassette: The Freedom Garden.
February 2015
Mastered by James Krivchenia.
Sold out.

The original cover of this album was a photo I took of Dazeka Michongwe and Tinashe Chiwara, two guys I met while working with a music education group in Luchenza, Malawi, for two weeks in April of 2014. Dazeka, or "Uncle D" as we all called him, was an extraordinary musician and a man I deeply admired. He told stories late into the night of his experiences travelling up and down the east coast of Africa with various bands, as well as about his experiences in Communist Bulgaria, having moved there from Tanzania as a teenager and staying until his mid-twenties. Tinashe was from a small city in South Africa and was in Malawi studying. He had given himself a tattoo on his forearm of the words "Port of Miami." I love the picture, which was taken in a barbershop while my co-worker Nico was getting a haircut, but for the past few years something about it had stuck out to me: a photo of two black African men sitting under a poster of Wayne Rooney in a barbershop in Malawi, with the words "The Man I Love" floating over them, the metonymy of an album by a white American musician. I had thought about the 'white gaze,' about the fetishism of white hipsters (in the original sense), about the white avant-garde's tradition of not just appropriating but accumulating representations of people of color as raw material for their (the white folks') aesthetic vanguardism, about realism, representation, reality, and how all these artistic questions can have racial inflections. (The attention goes, rightly, to Steve Reich (especially for 'Come Out'), as if he's an exceptional case. But he's the rule.) In April 2018, right about 4 years after the photo was taken, Cecil Taylor died. I paid my respects on Facebook, which prompted another friend I met in Malawi, Johnstone, to write me a message asking if I had heard that Dazeka had passed away. I hadn't heard. I thought about grievability, about how to express my strange feeling of loss for someone who really influenced the way that I think about music, someone whom I had written to several times since meeting and never heard back from. I changed the cover of this album, not as an erasure of a past embarrassment (the photo is still on the original label site, if you want to see), but as a way to reflect back onto what my thought process may have been like at the time. This current photo, taken by Nico, is of me looking kind of stupid playing drums at a hotel gig on that same trip to Malawi. It's me at a moment of trying desparately to understand what I'm in the middle of. My face is obscured by a microphone in the foreground, which is what I unconsciously was trying to get at with the original photo too, but in a way I would not have been able to account for at the time. If you're interested in checking this music out, I would feel grateful just to have you try to listen from both sides of the process, as I have tried to do with this footnote. I'm not excusing myself; I'm staying committed to the problem. Thanks for listening.

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