6 min read

Mushroom talk [Ókwú éló]

Upon returning from travel, much ado about mushrooms, worldwide conferences, and all sorts of new music.
Mushroom talk [Ókwú éló]
Sylvia Plath in her library
Nobody sees us,
Stops us, betrays us;
The small grains make room.
Soft fists insist on
Heaving the needles,
The leafy bedding,
Even the paving.
Our hammers, our rams,
Earless and eyeless,
Perfectly voiceless,
Widen the crannies,
Shoulder through holes. We
Diet on water,
On crumbs of shadow,
Bland-mannered, asking
Little or nothing.

— Sylvia Plath - Mushrooms

Let the top drop, and we out; Hit the liquor store
Give me O.E. and three blunts; no, make it four
Anything else?
Vitamin C pills and orange juice!
What are you drinking, gin?
Nah dude, it's the shroomz
The shroomz? What?… Yeah, that's some other shit;
One of the reasons why George Clinton sees the mothership.
How high it make you get? Fucked up? Throwing up guts?
We giving orders at the bar holding money
When all of a sudden all the people started looking funny
And started lookin runny, and liquified
Right before my very eye—This a different kind of high!

— Xzibit - Shroomz

Oh yes! X to da Z with probably the best sampling use in Hip-Hop of Ohio Players's seminal "Funky Worm", and also one of my favorite comedy rap tracks. The ending—It's cool! I just shot the floor, man. It's all good, it's all good…Aye, aye, where everybody at, though?—always has me laughing my arse off. I can just imagine the scene, giant, scorched hole in the shag carpet; Xz standing there with a Mossberg in one hand and the other raised in supplication.

I just came back from GITEX DevSlam in Dubai, part of what's billed as the largest tech event in the world. Having seen its scale in person, though, I think it must be the largest in the galaxy. I don't think the lizard heads of Zeta Reticuli have anything to match it. A couple of weeks before that I was in the woods of Hocking Hills, Ohio as one of the poetry teachers, alongside my friend Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, on a three-day retreat with a witty, energetic group of high school students. The prep for those events, plus ongoing Oori startup exertions ate up all the brain cells that might have considered this newsletter. My apologies.

At the DevSlam I gave a workshop on advanced Python programming data processing techniques, but I also got a chance to flex poetic, including reciting Sylvia Plath's "Mushrooms" to the audience. The talk was about how I my tech and creative careers boost each other.

Presenting "The Ode of Code and Poetry" plenary session at GITEX DevSlam 2023 (Dubai)

Speaking of Oori, our company blog kicked off last week with an article I wrote musing on my mindset in working on AI technology, themes that you might have seen before here, in this newsletter. Our approach at Oori is "AI for Humans, by Humans".

Mythopoetic mycopoetics

My friend Wendy Videlock often makes appearance in the Loomiverse, and here she comes again, having joined with fellow loomiversed Art Goodtimes to edit a new volume for Fungi Magazine, Medicine for Minds & Hearts, a MycoAnthology of Poems Inspired by a Love of Mushrooms. Wendy also illustrated the book, in her very vervacious style. I have a brief poem in there (they're all brief) alongside many others in the line of spore-spirited poets.

A few posts ago I mentioned Telluride's Mushroom Festival; Colorado has always been a hot-spot for the fungally focused. I can't claim to being as obsessed with mushrooms as many of my poet friends, but I certainly can't deny the mystery of that kingdom. They fascinate, in their style of shape-shifting through the geometry of life, and even, through their mycorrhizal symbiosis which underpins the forest process which perfected the terraforming of earth for the animals who supposedly rule it.

But long before mushrooms interested me so philosophically, Sylvia Plath's poem captured me viscerally. I tend to recommend it to people who react to my love of Plath along the lines of "ew! Ain't that that Daddy-writing bitch who went out with her head in an oven?" Whether you take it as a metaphor for immigrants or women, or literally—which works perfectly well—it's a nudger-shoving masterpiece of whispered mesmerism, a poem that wallops you in the head with its brilliant subtlety. In my GITEX DevSlam talk I also came up with another reading of the poem, one I'm pretty sure is uniquely mine, and uniquely alien to Plath's intent.

Other shit from the G Clinton mothership

My usual bent in these posts is to drop 3 recommendations: one in an African music genre, one for grown-up B-Boys (and B-Girls and B-NonBinaries), and one in any other style. Here we go hopping the bold groove toadstools. It's been a minute, though, so there's good deal of extra hop, this time.

I'll start with a nursery Hip-Hop project from Mega Ran. We've all heard some Kidz-Boppy nonsense, but just as the idea of soul is undefinable—you just knows it when your feels itch—what makes rap for rug rats any good is a matter of subtle impressions. Mega Ran is clearly a full-on B-Boy Blerd, and it shows in his new project, Buddy's Magic Toy Box. Hip-Hop is about realness, and he comes with that. I'm not saying every track on this is a magnum opus, but he's definitely not half-stepping, and you gots to respect that. "The Story Of Rap" is the best track, and you and your baby tag-alongs will have fun with the ska-pop stylings of "Recess" and the semi-broken beat of "Friends Winning".

Mega Ran - Buddy's Magic Toy Box (Spotify)

"Recess" also has a video, in medley with the affirmation tune "Lovable & Capable", shot with a bunch of school kids in a playground, as appropriate for the project, I think.

Mega Ran - Lovable & Capable & Recess (Youtube video)

When it comes to ambitious, full-length opera. Yussef Dayes brings us Black Classical Music, a relative newcomer spraying ear-bound bullets like a prog jazz veteran. There's so much I could say about this album that I'm just going to cop out and let the listen speak for itself. It's a trip through varying sonic landscapes, so drop the virtual needle on track one as you dig into some Sunday chores, or swing into some time at your favorite hobby.

Yussef Dayes - Black Classical Music (Spotify)

I mentioned Joy Denalane recently, and she keeps coming with it, this time bringing Ghostface in tow.

Joy Denalane x Ghostface Killah - Happy (Youtuve video)

An even longer-time favorite of mine is Meshell Ndegeocello, coming with a deep current of a track, The Atlantiques, making its merge with the movement of mother ocean.

Meshell Ndegeocello - The Atlantiques (Official Video—Youtube)

When the Luaka Bop label rediscovered the Eastern Nigerian psychedelic funk of William Onyeabor a few years ago, I had a mild, pleasant sense of dissociation. It was as if someone had transdimensionally warped musical memories back my way from my Okigwe/Nsukka school days. The label has doubled down on their enthusiasm by assembling a band to cover that enigmatic genius, and they do so with some verve. Check out The Atomic Bomb Band Plays the Music of William Onyeabor.

The Atomic Bomb Band Plays the Music of William Onyeabor (Spotify)

I really enjoyed a recent Soundcheck Podcast interview with Michael Olatuja, talking about his album, Lagos Pepper Soup, whose title track was a mainstay of my Pandemic-era Reddit DJ sets. The knowledgeable interview touches on everything from Naija cooking to "Refined Fuji Garbage"—the song, of course.

Cooking Pepper Soup with Michael Olatuja | Soundcheck | New Sounds
Bass player and songwriter Michael Olatuja and his band bring their cinematic Afrobeat sound to the studio with songs from ‘Lagos Pepper Soup’, a tribute to Lagos, London, and New York.

Soundcheck Podcast interview with Michael Olatuja

You already know I love living legend rapper new song sightings, and literally here we have Bay Area crew Living Legends with one of my favorite producers, Statik Selektah, and none other than Del the Funky Homosapien on the new track " The Return"

Statik Selektah, Living Legends, Del the Funky Homosapien - The Return (Spotify)

Finally, my music producer collective, The Beat Garden, put out a Halloween tape. I never found time to produce anything for it, but it's well worth a listen.

The Beat Garden Halloween Lofi - Night of the Living Drum Machines

I'll try to get back to the fortnightly rhythm again, but sometimes life throws its veto, and that's OK. Yours is my gratitude should you be generous enough to share this newsletter with others, and subscribe, if you haven't (button in the lower right). As ever, new sounds for the listening, new plays on the field of words, fresh takes for tech's sake, with the side sauce of odd juxtapositions. Dá àlụ́-nu!

❧ Égwú 🪘 Ókwú ✍🏿 Ígwè 📡 Ńdụ̀ ❣️