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The Odyssey of Anat Cohen



We are all – man and woman, child and beast – pilgrims here on earth. No matter where or when we are born, or where we live. No matter what we do for a living or where we worship. We migrate chronologically from a body with a finite age to another with a newly finite age. Or we may migrate geographically from one end of the earth to another – a tropical landmass to a temperate one…

And time unfolds in a linear spiral as we participate in the odyssey of our life. And in journeying so, we remember old things voices from the past and songs sung by our ancestors. The dances we danced; the psalms we sang. As we worshiped we carried the spirit in us – sometimes comatose until it woke us up again. Then it opened our mind’s eye as we shape-shifted into beings of our new culture and civilizations.

Ours is the Human Diaspora that came forth from the breath of God as Pithecanthropus Erectus walked on twos and began the first odyssey that would no one could stop.  We moved in fear and joy. We heard the cry and danced towards it. We moved to the beat of the log drum and the trees rustling in the wind. We mimicked the sounds that we heard and soon we strung sounds together as we best could remember the songs of the wind and the dance of the animals we raised. The heavens became the design guide: stars like necklaces, sounds like the stars like necklaces. Drums we beat as we hunted and gathered. Drums we beat as we settled and defended our desolate hamlets… our homes… against plundering hoardes and savage invaders of the heart.

And then as we conquered and hurtled through time and space – top new land and new space we sometimes forgot joy and remembered only sorrow. And then we longed for a place where we could live without fear of being dispossessed. So we began to journey again. Sometimes we did so in our heads; at other times in our hearts and souls. Our ships were real and imagined. Sails billowed on swart ships, no matter what where the wind brought us. We had journeyed again transported perhaps – out of body – into the spirit world. The Human Diaspora on the inevitable and unstoppable move again.

This time we managed to bring not just the voices of strugglers from the desert, but we also remembered the psalms of old, of our flight through the long night into the bright sunlight. And we remembered the songs of our ancestors and fashioned reeds – brass and horns to play them and remember the minute details of the journey, this exodus froim a long night into the light of a glorious day.

We remembered and glorified everything in poem, song and dance… we remembered the lion and the cobra. And we played and sang and exhalted the triumph of the journey – griot and priest, painter and poet… trobadour and musician. Our reeds were aflame with the excitement of adventure and the stories to tell of the spirits whom we met and of our trials and tribulations and of our blues and, soon of our joys as well.

The poem and the song and the dance was indellibly imprinted on the canvas of that painting became the mirror. The poem and the song and the dance became the enactment of the saeta, and the alegria in the soul. The history of a people recorded in art. John Coltrane recorded this in A Love Supreme and Meditations and in Ascension in “The Father, Son and The Holy Ghost.” Mingus saw it all as he crafted “Meditations on Integration.” And then Alice Coltrane re-discovered the road less travelled when she was inspired to write and record Journey to Sacchitananda. Let’s not forget Pharoah Sanders’ Journey to Love, Tembi and Journey to Home.

And let’s remember Anat Cohen, who emerged from behind the curtain of the Human Diaspora like a secret wind rustling up some rhythmic magic as she wielded a gleaming black clarinet or a warmly glowing tenor saxophone. She sang in her pied piper voice soft and wafting on a flue of air firm and without much vibrato. The woody lyrical inflections of the notes of her clarinet hung heavy, suggestive and breathlessly sensuous.  A quick switch to tenor and the notes, phrases and long loping lines turned more granular as she came close to groaning the blues and growling an apocalyptic shout.  Her soprano wail could be high and mighty. But then down she would swoop down to earth painting a narrative picture of the home she had left behind… saudades and a promise of alegria when she returned – albeit in her mind’s eye – to a house on a hill, perhaps…

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Based in Milton, Ontario, Canada, Raul is a poet, musician and an accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep understanding of music, technically as well as historically.

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