Sunday, July 09, 2006

"i've seen ethiopians knocking out rome"

I've recently been reflecting on the Seas of David and have been working (for a while now) on a post which looks at a broad class of groups which are similar in a very loose sense. That process of reflection reminded me of a group called the Longhairz Collective who aren't Rastas or Hebrew Israelites but they sing about living a natural lifestyle, keeping the Nazrite vow (growing dreads), Black Jesus etc. Their album Dreadlocks and Ponytails, features the song "1nce in a Lifetime" which contins one of my favorite lines of any song.

1nce in a LifeTime

You don’t have to know
Just as long as you let your hair grow
So ease your worried mind
Once in a lifetime you could let your light shine
Once in a lifetime you could let your light shine

Once in a lifetime I write rhymes upon holy topics.
MC’s blaspheme me… I say stop it.
Once in a lifetime, or maybe twice, I’m gonna be a prophet.
So listen to the message when I drop it.

Once in a lifetime you realize that there is something greater.
Too many lifetimes have gone by, back to the Creator.
In prime time the rhyme I display to make you savor
Your lifetime, and every breath.

‘Cuz I know lifetimes that ended within a blaze of anger
My brother by his own hands, or neighbor killing neighbor.
The flavor I discovered my cousin at the hands of her lover.
Love her? Word to the mother.

Speaking of mothers mines passed on. I was a youth.
So now I am a wanderer searching for the truth.
I doubt that I exist. I need to find some proof
In this lifetime. What’s the use?

Once in a lifetime I see my existence worthwhile
If I can make a difference in the life of a child
Provide an opportunity for cracking a smile
In a lifetime.

My folks be living Volume 2: The Hard Knock Life
Once in a lifetime is a feeling and you can’t put a price
On the right time, the right place, the right situation
Like Malcolm giving speeches to a standing ovation

Like King when he preaches
Or Ella when she sings
Madame Zora when she wrote
It was a beautiful thing

In my lifetime I‘ve seen pharaohs upon the throne
I’ve seen Ethiopians knocking out Rome
I’ve seen Nat Turner rise and claim his own.
In my lifetime the Prodigal Son is headed home.

The Prodigal Son is headed home.

You don’t need to know
Just as long as you let your hair grow
So ease your worried mind
Once in a lifetime you can let your light shine
Once in a lifetime you can let your light shine

Do you understand Aaliyah as the muse to the Pharaoh?
What the hell you think they mean by “His eye is on the Sparrow”?
Have you seen Biggie and ‘Pac in guerrilla apparel?
You think that camouflage is the shit that they wanted to wear?

In my lifetime, when we were stomping Europe led by Hannibal
All folks could do is run, hide and call us cannibals.
My father ruled Spain as the king of the Moors
The blackness of my skin is what the named the Dark Ages for

Wisdom is what we had sages for. Don’t ignore!
How can I be rich if my grandmother is poor?
In this lifetime each move we make is for a goal
And every step we take works for making us whole.

All the cheddar that we earn and the plots that we plan
It’s moving us to levels we can't yet understand
In this lifetime we move from surving to thriving
From taking up space to really being alive

If we be seeing each second we exist as a gift
Living life ready to die, and dying, ready to live
Living life ready to die, and dying, ready to live
In this lifetime.

First of all, the song is amazing overall. But on the most literal level, the line "I've seen Ethiopians knocking out Rome" makes me think of how Ethiopia under Hallie Selassie fought back and successfully resisted an invasion attempt by Italy under the Fascist leader, Mussolini. But in addition "Ethiopia" and "Rome" sit in the middle of incredibly rich sets of associations. "Rome" is the heart of the ancient "West". It was the center of a fallen pagan military Empire. Cosmopolitan. Exemplified by compromise. (After all, "When in Rome...") The Roman Catholic Church. Ceasar. Nero. Caligula. Technological achievements, power and force combined with brutality and violence. Fascism. The aqueducts and roads. Crucifix and the Colliseum.

"Ethiopia", on the other hand, is the spiritual homeland of the Rastafarians. Ethiopian Orthodoxy is arguably a more ancient form of Christianity than the Roman Catholic Church. Ethiopia protected the early Muslims when they sought asylum from the pagans of Quraysh. Ethiopia is one of the few countries in Africa which was never successfully colonized by Europeans. Ethiopia is also the secret location of the Ark of the Covenant. There is also a tradition that Solomon and the Queen of Sheba (called Bilqis in Islamic sources) had a child named Menelik who brought Judaism to Ethiopia and was the ancestor of the Ethiopian Jews. (So not unlike the Da Vinci Code we have a secret relationship of a major Biblical character which left behind a bloodline of prophetic and political significance since Halie Selassie/Ras Tafari claims descent from this union.)

I could probably go on but I don't want to bore y'all. InshaAllah, I'll blog on the other movements later. But it's just amazing how much meaning is packed into that Ethiopia/Rome pairing. What side are you on? Genius. What can I say.. I'm a fan.

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