Monday, September 1, 2008

Labor Day In Crown Heights: My Thoughts, My Favourite Music

Rupam Islam Ma

Dado Topic and Time

Lucky Dube Let J-h Be Praised

There is a dull rumble that shakes the street near my house. There is nothing like Labor Day in Crown Heights. We have a massive parade with floats and flags from all of the young countries of the Caribbean. Walking down Utica Avenue is an exercise of "name that flag."

Although for most people, the holiday is a family celebration, sometimes the passions unleashed by alcohol can be deadly. There is a vast array of musical forms from the West Indies. That which lends itself to marching is not my favourite type of music. I prefer Bob Marley, who is viewed with reverence by many in this part of Brooklyn.

I entertain the heretical belief that Lucky Dube of South Africa is the king of reggae. It still saddens me that he was murdered in a carjacking in South Africa last year. What makes his music so appealing is that it promotes a social message with a cornerstone of personal responsibility. His recurring themes of religious faith and love of family strike a universal note with listeners world wide. He was a devout member of a Christian church with indigenous African leadership and clergy.

Ethnic pride can be a wonderful thing when it motivates you to share your cultural heritage with others. It is when it is an excise to denigrate and hurt others that it becomes a problem. Although I am not out watching the parade, I am happy for my neighbours that they have a chance to celebrate their heritage. It is interesting that the nations of the West Indies, from larger countries like Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad to small countries like Grenada , Dominica and St. Vincent share a sort of loose regional identity.

It is a combination of my own ethnic origins and my curiosity about the world that forms my musical tastes. Today's music on Rudi Stettner is from Dado Topic of what used to be Yugoslavia. He was born in 1949 in what is now Croatia. The next video is from Rupam Islam of India. Trained in classical Indian music, he is a popular Indian rock singer from Calcutta. He was born in 1974. The next video is of Lucky Dube of blessed memory who was born in 1964 and died an untimely death in 2007.

Posting this music is my quiet way of joining my neighbours in celebration. My thoughts are more attuned to the first day of the Hebrew month of Elul, which is marked with introspection and the sounding of the shofar (ram's horn). My best wishes are with my celebrating neighbours. In my own quiet way I too feel "irie".

Today is Labor Day, which is the psychological start of autumn in America. It is fortuitous that this day, which evokes images of dropping leaves and the impermanence of life falls out on the first day of Elul, when we reflect upon our numbered days and the need to make the most of them. Best wishes to my readers, friends and neighbours. Sphere: Related Content


MFL said...

Take pride in your cultural heritage and listen to Jewish music.

livitup said...

Lucky Dube was a great man, no matter his religious affiliation. He was against dividing people based on ethnicity, tribalism, nationalim and religion.

For more about his life and message, read starting on page 52.

And for a very cool poster of the King Of African Reggae, go to and click on the poster button the top right.