SAVED BY MS. HILL

I run to ease my mind… of stress. I run to immerse myself in thought. I went running earlier this evening. It’s the first time in Dakar and one of the most rare occasions in general. I ran so my body could release some of that tense energy I had accumulated over the past three weeks in Dakar. It felt refreshing. Throughout the day my body had felt like too much weight to manage. I felt burdened by the saturation of thoughts – most of it was from the amount of information and ideas I am juggling. There was also fear, impatience and angst… of what, i cannot say definitely.

Street art – graffiti, mosaic (made from fragmented glossy-looking wall tiles) and random writings – texture the walls and animate the city contributing to its aesthetics. I managed to sweat. My knees felt weak. My heart pounded heavily. I was excited: sifting through all the thoughts that flit across my mind while the sweet-scented breeze from the nearby coast rushed against my skin in all coolness. There was a tinge of nostalgia; I longed for the familiar.

I got back to my room, turned on the computer and queued in Lauryn Hill’s MTV Unplugged 2.0 discs 1 and 2. Lauryn took me on a journey — a surreal area where she too was confronting some personal issues. She bares her soul out to her audience in the live sessions. The music ranged from personal anecdotes of family, her relationships, her husband, her convictions, worldview, reformations, imperfections and so on – in fact, all the songs were about her and her experiences at the time . She willfully pours out to her listeners who appreciate her in that honesty and realness. I listened to every song as it played from Mr. Intentional to outro and noted the significant resonance which accompanied them.

There was an unwavering pathos in her voice on the song I Gotta Find Peace Of Mind – how easy she reels the listener into her world of emotions and invites you to share in the moment. On some songs she’s hoarse – you hear her voice failing and raspy but the passion and soul and will sustains her vocals then she becomes, in that moment, my (dear) friend, big brother, philosopher, poet and teacher.

Lauryn talks through some of the songs opening herself up within some of her earlier assumptions on life, and success, which have now been reformed or at least [un]learned (in the case of I Find It Hard to Say (Rebel)). The guitar, occasional percussion, rap and soulful vocals of Ms Hill, in harmony, visited me. They inhabited me and I it. We shared a long moment together.

Isn’t it interesting that one of the greatest Hip-hop artists ever to do it has acquired a new mode – an integrated form of singing and spoken word – in her evolution as a performer? She is embodying the identity of an artist who transcends the mere idea of monolithic expression.

Lauryn, through poignant, sometimes scathing lyricism,  sits me on her lap and engages me in dialogue. There’s “So Much Things To Say” right now but I’d rather let Ms. Hill illuminate them.

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