Banana Peel. What’s in a name?

(Gedicht n.a.v. 50 jaar Banana Peel, vrije Engelse versie van ons Nederlandstalig origineel in het boek ‘Portraits Of The Blues. 40 Years Banana Peel’)

The blues.

I’ve had the blues so many times.

So blue, so black, so blatant.

I got it from you, my brother,

From you, my lover,

From you all and all of you.

All the pain in the universe:

I got it for free

And for nothing.

 

But I knew I was not alone.

You had it too.

You got it from me,

And from the hardships of life,

For no good reason, it was

Just in the draw of the cards.

We suffered and moaned under her reign,

As we did not know how.

How to sing her out of our bodies,

We didn’t know how to dance.

 

Meanwhile, back in the New World…

The gospel, that cry for freedom,

Way out for earthly misery.

Hallelujah in Beulah Land,

Amazing Grace, Oh Happy Day.

Worksongs on the plantations,

Where the whip accompanied the sweat,

Where you, black man,

Still bearing your master’s name,

Or even free to enjoy poverty,

gathered the salt of the earth.

 

The Delta, Charley Patton, Son House,

McKinley ‘Muddy Waters’ Morganfield.

But also: the blind old man

Sitting on the front porch

With his ramshackle guitar,

A myriad of grandchildren playing around,

The men of genius: Sleepy John Estes,

Robert Johnson, Blind Willie McTell,

Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Willie Johnson,

Tampa Red, Skip James, Reverend Gary Davis.

The women: Ma Rainey, Memphis Minnie, Bessie Smith.

 

Because black man knew how to dance,

Celebrating the rhythm of Mama Africa

Until it became the devil’s music.

All the rest was picked up along the road:

The tools of the Handyman

And the best of all cultures,

The immigrants working that fertile soil

Where folk, country, bluegrass

And cajun came to be,

In that wondrous clash

Of peoples seeking the Promised Land,

Reaching for and dreaming of

The Land of the Free.

 

Mississippi crossroads

and Stormy Mondays in Texas.

North Carolina and the Piedmont blues.

The melting pots,

New Orleans, Crescent City,

The House of the Rising Sun.

Sweet Home Chicago, Windy City,

Cradles of what one day would become

Jazz and soul, and rhythm & blues,

and rap and hip hop.

And classic blues,

The magical mojo of mannish boys,

When the Kings were truely king.

 

And then…

From the Mississippi mud,

From Congo Square in Nola,

Walking down Beale Street,

From the open-air market on Maxwell Street,

From deep in the heart of Texas

To deep in the heart of flanders,

In tranquil Ruiselede.

Of all places.

Because the blues is everyone’s,

It is for everyone and eventually

By everyone.

Roland, Willy, Marino, Norbert, Steven, Andy…

 

At night, when it’s even more quiet over here,

You can hear gusts of voices

Coming through the slits and the cracks

of this patched up barn,

in the stillness of this forlorn village:

Eddy Boyd, Mojo Buford, Eddie Clearwater,

Luther Allison, Carey & Lurrie Bell,

Sherman Robertson,

Kenny Neal, Robert Cray…

And so many more.

 

Thank you, black brother,

Diamond in the rough.

Thank you too, Banana Peel.

Still got the blues… Over you.

 

Antoine Légat (Oct. 16th/17th 2016)

P.S. Guitar player Roland Van Campenhout was the first Belgian blues artist to perform at Banana Peel (February 1968) and he is still going strong, more popular than ever – Blues and jazz guitarist Willy De Vleeschouwer made countless appearances on the stage of BP with national or international stars like Canadian singer Theresa Malenfant. Willy is the mainstay of the Banana Peel Blues BandMarino Noppe, leader of the Maxwell Street Bluesband, is another true blues guitar player linked to the stage of BP – Steven de Bruyn (of El Fish and The Rhythm Junks fame), is a harp player extraordinaire, known all over the world, a worthy successor to the late Jean Toots ThielemansAndy Van Kerkhove was a drummer who played with many bands that also performed on BP’s podium. Andy died suddenly and unexpectedly in his early forties, but his drumkit is still in use by bands performing in BP, if need arises.

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