Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

A Native Illinois drum circle singing at University of Illinois a few years ago.

My new favorite radio show: “Sounds from the Four Directions,” Wednesday nights from 11:00 PM to 1:00 AM on KBCS, community radio from Bellevue Community College, 91.3 FM. (Bellevue is the historically conservative Seattle suburb, due east across Lake Washington. Belying its reputation, Bellevue is now the 3rd largest city in the state, behind Seattle and Tacoma, and it has a smaller percentage of white residents than Seattle. Every year it gets politically more liberal.)

“Annette Squetimkin-Anquoe hosts Sounds From the Four Directions, featuring Native music of many different styles.” Since my beloved spouse (who is white) started taking me to powwows several years ago, I have grown to love traditional Native American music -- rhythmically subtle, vocally exciting; at once energizing and calming.

The night before the famous WTO protests in Seattle in 1999, a rally for 3rd World debt forgiveness took place at a big downtown church. I got there too late to get in the church, as did a few thousand other people, out in the November rain. In a covered outdoor plaza-entrance to a big building across the street, protected from the rain, a Native drum circle sang. Hitting the solid, unvarying rhythm on the drum, singing their powerful, rhythmically surprising unisons -- they won the love of the assembled, rained-upon Jubilee-ers; after every song the crowd would roar with approval. The singers never looked up. We didn’t matter.

For some reason megaphoned Christian evangelists frequent lefty demonstrations to harangue and threaten damnation; there was one that night. (Why they don’t harangue crowds streaming into football stadiums, I have no idea.) At one point this recruiter-for-God said, about the Native singers, “Listen to the savages. Why do they sound so angry? Because they reject God.”

A circle of orange-vested “safety” officers from Jobs With Justice had locked their arms around the preacher to keep the crowd away from him. But when the evangelist revealed his racism, I lost my temper. I approached one of the safety people. “Why not let the Christian have his martyrdom?” I said. That pissed the guard off. “We’re not here to protect him; we’re here to protect the demonstration.”

Good point.

I didn’t really want to kill the man.

You can listen to Sounds from the Four Directions here. It’s a marvelous show.

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Sounds from the Four Directions is my new favorite radio show; my long-time favorite radio show is the Swing Years and Beyond, Saturdays from 7:00 PM to midnight on KUOW, the University of Washington’s NPR-affiliate station. For reasons I won’t go into now (maybe another time), the kid wanted to pose listening to the show. I got out some records for props. My beloved spouse took the photo.

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