Bersama – Wavelengths

 

Please wake me when I am free

For I cannot bear this captivity

But my inner eye can see

A race

Who reigned as kings in another place

The green of trees were rich and full

Men and women together as equals

But please wake me when I am free

I cannot bear captivity

For I would rather be stricken blind

Than to live without the expression of my mind

At times, I often wonder

Could I ever see my neighbour as my Brother

Love tore us apart; love for the self and love for our kin

My teacher told me was slaves, my mama told me was kings

During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people.

Our nationalities divide us

Yet we created borders and gave them names

We created nations, and yet we allow them to control us

In this respect, we are all slaves

I have fought against white domination

And I have fought against black domination

But for all my troubles, I have witnessed no change happen

Every journey starts with a step, and Nelson said, it’s a long walk to freedom

I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony

To be free

It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve.

But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.

You see, Martin tried, 2Pac died, Nina cried

And Bersama roared

Power

Bersama – (MUN, UWC Day)

Bersama this semester has been very busy. We performed at UWC day and at the MUN conference  In both performances, I was able to perform solo pieces that differed in topic, style and delivery.

 

The performance at UWC day was a celebratory piece of the school and what we try to embody in the UWC movement. For the performance, we sang the UWC school song, written by Hannah Jones and Molly Stirrat. They asked me to write a short rap that would become part of the song. I was ecstatic when they asked me but I was also nervous because this is something that would probably last a while. The knowledge that the song would probably be performed after I had left the school was the hardest part; the challenge was to write something that would remain true for years to come as well as something that could be understood and appreciated by all, not just high school students. I came up with this:

It’s my squad, it’s my team it’s my crew

And when we stick together ain’t nothing we can’t do

Cause on my own I’m alone, but I still feel at home

When I walk through these halls, I feel in my zone

In this United – World – College,

Opening my mind through the learning of this knowledge

As I open up my heart and I open up my eyes

I see a sustainable future, a force to unite

Save the turtles

 

Then we performed at the MUN conference. This one was special because I also performed an original piece, a song that I call “We Are Free”. The song is about peer pressure, and being free from it which I think is a timely message in today’s trend-driven age. Below are the lyrics for the song:

 

Here we are today

And we’ve found a way

Cause we’ve escaped

From this place of pain

We’re no longer slaves

We don’t have to change

In this present day

We can now say…

We are free, we are free

There’s no stopping us

(We are free, we are free)

We don’t have to follow

(We are free, we are free)

We are not held by sorrow

(We are free, we are free)

We have a better tomorrow

(We are free, we are free)

We can now say

(We are free, we are free)

I tell the truth and I make the devil shame

Nowadays I leave enemies in my wake

Cause I’m no longer afraid

And I’m no longer a slave

To other people

No longer needing their approval

I’m finally free, and fresh out of jail

Locked up for putting my person up for sale

But I’ve never known freedom

Killing my self I’ve been charged with treason

I put the king in kingdom

I didn’t need a reason

To stop me being a victim

Only God could judge me, so I’m full of all his wisdom

But hierarchy is arbitrary , always been a visionary

My way or the highway, now i move when I say

Word to Uzi, I do what I want

Now I’ve got the backing so no need for me to front

I’m being blunt

Alpha, riding on my own terms

I went to the mountains, and here’s what I learnt

Here we are today

And we’ve found a way

Cause we’ve escaped

From this place of pain

We’re no longer slaves

We don’t have to change

Today

We will now say…

 

We are free, we are free

There’s no stopping us

(We are free, we are free)

We don’t have to follow

(We are free, we are free)

We are not held by sorrow

(We are free, we are free)

We have a better tomorrow

(We are free, we are free)

We can now say

(We are free, we are free)

 

Wave your hands if you know that you’re free

Always be yourself, not the one you pretend to be

I’m breaking new grounds, but they told me I was wrong

I longed to be myself, so I never could belong

And I’m out

You know what I’m about

Finally free, so I scream and I shout

But it’s my power of will, I finally feel

That we are free, just hope I’m bringing you along with me

 

We don’t have to follow

(We are free, we are free)

We are not held by sorrow

(We are free, we are free)

We have a better tomorrow

(We are free, we are free)

We can now say

(We are free, we are free)

We are free, we are free, yeah

[I’m breaking new grounds, but they told me I was wrong]

He is free, she is free, yeah

[I longed to be myself, so I never could belong]

They are free, I am free, yeah

[We are free, we are free, we are free, we are free]

We are free.

Unplugged 2018

Coming into this performance, I had all sorts of ideas in terms of what I wanted to do. I had originally decided to do Rise and Shine by J. Cole but before I went to audition I was told that all performances had to be played live; basically I couldn’t play an instrumental track and rap over it – like I was used to do doing. Realising that but trying to remain calm, I auditioned with the only piece that I knew well enough to perform with ease – Make the Money by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, which I rapped and played the piano to. The audition went well and I was accepted into the show, however, both I and the directors of the show agreed that I should probably choose a more upbeat piece. I spent a bit of time thinking about it and eventually chose Unforgettable by French Montana. I really liked the song and thought it summed up my first few months in the school. I took the song with me on holiday and listened to it on repeat. I started to write my own lyrics to it, which I had made a practice of to keep myself lyrically and musically engaged. However, for some reason, despite my excitement to perform it, I just didn’t feel as though it was the right song to perform. After going back and forth mentally with this dispute, I eventually changed my song to Unstoppable by The Score. Ms Stirrat told me she wanted me to close the show, and I felt that the energy in this song would be a nice touch, and contrast to the more melodic, slow songs that would be performed prior. I was excited that I ended up with my own band behind me: I had my friends Vir on the electric guitar and backup vocals, Nick on the Bass Guitar, Adil on the drums, and Alastair aka Stairly on the keys.

 

My lyrics were:

Unstoppable, born 2 ball

You can’t tell me otherwise

Cause I’m facts only, and you only lies

Turned to the left, can’t nobody stand against

So I switched to the right, I see no enemies in sight

Cause I’m Kobe in the fourth, I be Yoda with the force

I’m Kareem with the hook leaving everybody shook

Man, I’m sitting at the top looking down ain’t nobody on my floor

Through it all, He’s my source cause

Climbin up the ladder

Even when my body shattered

But my eyes’ on the throne

And He’s the only thing that matters

So I’m 50 and O

Mayweather flow

I’m strong on my own but we’re stronger when together tho

Can’t nobody tell me what I can’t do no more

Can’t no key limit my access to the top floor

Cause I’m Breakin all the boundaries

People still doubting me

Greatest undoubtedly

Stopping me clownery

They said it wasn’t possible now we unstoppable

 

 

All in all, I think it was an okay performance. I’ve realised that sometimes I start to shout which is a bit annoying in hindsight but I can’t help in the heat of the moment – sometimes I try too hard to energise the crowd but like it was fun, I guess 🙂 It was honestly a pleasure to perform with these guys and being my first official music performance in the school, I can’t wait to show what else I can do.

Bersama – Season 3

This season I think I really got a chance to come out of my shell and show my development in singing. Apart from From All Corners, the other performance that stands out is when we performed at the Grade 12 Assembly. This stood out for me because we sang One Day More, from the film Les Miserables. The song is quite vocal, and so I had to really challenge myself to hit some of the notes. What was also notable about this performance was the fact that I had rapped the day before in front of the entire high school and so throughout this performance, people (they told me after) were expecting me to break out a rap verse. This didn’t happen but it gave me added pressure because I felt like people were surprised to see me sing and not rap or dance.

 

 

Learning how to coach Gymnastics

As mentioned in my last reflection regarding our gymnastics service, I’m not very good at gymnastics. Thus, it makes it even harder to coach it, because it’ll be quite awkward, not to mention embarrassing, if one of the 4/5 year olds ask me to demonstrate what I’m trying to teach. However, I realised that I can learnt, at the very least, how to protect them from hurting themselves since they’re our responsibility. One day, Mr Dunn, our service supervisor was absent, and representing him were two gymnastic coaches: Coach Amy and Coach Tiffany. They were really friendly and offered us really good advice in terms of how to coach and control the kids. After the service session, they told us about their training sessions that they have everyday after school in which we could come and help out and learn from them.

 

I thought it was a good idea, and decided to go before I had basketball training, on Mondays and Wednesdays for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. It was a bit awkward at first because I was the only one from my service that went, and I was the only secondary school boy in the gymnasium. However, I’m really glad I did go for these “help” sessions as it gave me a chance to focus on keeping children safe, helped me get to know some of the younger kids that I still say hi to today. Also and most importantly, my learning paid off and our service benefited from it, even if they won’t admit it.

AIDA – School Musical [The Process]

This is much harder than I thought. I’m someone who learns by repetition. Like when I have to learn a musical piece, I don’t remember every note, instead I remember the flow; I remember what came before and what comes after. However, that doesn’t seem to be working in this situation. Perhaps, I haven’t done it enough but it feels like my confusion stems from my lack of understanding of the actual play. In all honesty, I think – keyword being “think” – the play revolves around a love triangle set in Egypt and Nubia, and a lot of people end up dying.

 

I am enjoying it though. I know some of the cast members from other activities and performances that I’ve been a part of, although, the whole cast has been really welcoming, leading me to make many new friends. Everything hasn’t been all rosy though. The student that I had to replace due to his leaving, ended up coming back to school and back into the musical. I wasn’t against his coming back, however, it did cause me to feel as though I would then be deemed as surplus to requirement, though I was later comforted by Mrs Stirrat that I wouldn’t be asked to leave and that they would figure out equal parts for both of us. Regardless, I still decided to just focus on what I was being asked to do and not worry about the politics of everything else.

 

All in all, participating in Aida really helped me grow as a person. I underwent challenges that I had never faced before, and through it all, I just tried to keep being myself, and keep giving my best. William Golding’s Lord of The Flies sends the message that given the right situation, even the purest of us can become savages. However, in this situation, I focused on the following: Don’t let your situation define you. The situation lasts only for a time but the impact it has on you lasts forever.

AIDA – School Musical [Initial]

I was initially asked to audition for AIDA, however, I had already signed up for football at the time. Because of my football commitments – 3 days a week: Monday, Wednesday & Friday after school – I had to decline the opportunity to audition. It was quite a back and forth process because I knew that this was a big opportunity; the school musical only happens once every two years, so me being in Grade 11 means I won’t have another opportunity to do this.

 

It’s quite interesting how we get second opportunities in life, most of the time, when we explicitly and deliberately rejected the first opportunity. I was approached by Mrs Stirrat in late November and was asked whether I could step in to feel in for a student who had left school unexpectedly. At the time, I was participating in the Basketball team, so I was still quite busy, however, I’m particularly close with Mrs Stirrat and I couldn’t say no to her, especially when I could see that she was very stressed about the situation. So I said yes. Being thrust into a completely new environment, my main goal was not to steal the spotlight, but to work hard to understand the story of the play, understand who my character (Egyptian soldier) was, and to be a good team player.

CultuRama – USA

Coming to the school this year, everyone was telling me that if I like to dance, I had to do CultuRama. Naturally, I inquired about what exactly it was and then I found out that it was a kind of dance festival that incorporate dances from around the world. Honestly speaking, at this moment I was a bit hesitant to audition because I like to dance but my dancing ability is mainly centred around hip hop. Thus, I decided to sign up to audition for the USA group.

Whilst rehearsing the dance choreography for the dance auditions, I showed my mother the choreography and she immediately said that she didn’t approve of my doing the dance. It wasn’t that she didn’t want me to dance, it was just that the angle of the video recording sort of depicted the dance in a sensual manner. My family and I are christians and so my mum felt the dance was immoral and ungodly. However, I was able to convince her that the recording didn’t do justice to the actual dance and, with help from one of the USA dance leaders, my mum gave her permission to let me audition.

I got into the USA group, however, there were only five boys that auditioned for the hip-hop part and so it was kind of a guaranteed acceptance for everyone. At first, I felt a bit scared and nervous, because at this time I was still new to the school, however, I soon realised that I was there for a reason; I was chosen to dance in this group. I just tried to be myself and soon I befriended everyone and became very comfortable in the group. I was put at the front for one of the dances as well as having a five second solo during the dance transitions. This I am extremely grateful for because it allowed me to just be myself and gave me an opportunity to shine in front of my new friends, peers and fellow students.

Looking back, I feel that doing CultuRama actually helped me settle into school better because people now look at me and remember me from my CultuRama performance. It also gave me more confidence to go and do events like Unplugged and was one of the reasons why I was chosen for Aida.

Bersama (LO2)

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All my life I’ve had a love for music. Listening to it, dancing to it, singing/rapping along. Talent wise, I can play the piano, rap and I enjoy dancing. One thing that I struggle to do, however, is sing. This is a source of annoyance for me because my uncles sing, my mum sings, my cousins sing, and my younger sister sings, so I feel as though I was left out in the singing blessings. For this reason, I wasn’t really that excited when my music teacher invited me to the a capella group, Bersama. Initially, I was asked to audition for Aida, but I had CultuRama during this time and so I didn’t want to sign up for too many things or else I wouldn’t be able to do well in school. Then, my teacher asked me to come for Bersama, and I couldn’t really get out of it since I didn’t have a valid excuse to not show up, and so, I went.

Don’t get me wrong, in my room, with my headphones on, I can sing like Mariah Carey but when I have to sing in front of other people, that confidence and ability vanishes. With that being said, I decided to take the same approach to Bersama as I did for Piano Masterclass; having a humble attitude and being willing to learn and take something positive away from the activity. I came to understand that singing in a group has been one of the best things for me, musically, as it has helped me train my ear for music as well as appreciate other styles that I wouldn’t readily listen to. I’ve also been asked to write a rap verse for a song that we’re performing at the end of the semester and so I’m able to not only learn from others, but show what I can contribute to the group.

Personally, I feel that learning how to sing – I don’t have to be great, just decent – will help me with my performances, that for the most part, are just me rapping and dancing. I usually interact with the crowd a lot but I feel as though sometimes my performances are a bit monotonous in the sense that people, when they see my name on the list of performers, already have an idea of what to expect. Learning to sing, however, will help me diversify my performances and allow me to perform my songs that I like, but am currently unable to sing.

 

One of my highlights this year was Wavelengths, it was our only performance for Bersama of the semester. Not only did I rap my own song during this performance, but we did a cover of Adele’s Rolling In the Deep in which I wrote a rap verse for. This was the first time I had ever been asked to write a rap verse, and I felt a bit of pressure for it to be really good, however ,I was excited at the prospect. It was an interesting process; I did research into the song, considered different ‘flows’ and tried to really communicate through what I was saying.

 

My verse went like this:

Roll deep, never lonely,

Cause I got the whole team, with me,

And you know this, hoping that your absence,

Will be noticed, thinking you’ll be so missed, so wrong

So I’m coming at you, I’m a savage animal

Discovery channel what I’m ’bout to show y’all

Thought it was skyfall, by the writing’s on the wall

I was running through the Six, you’ll be rolling in your woes

 

Piano Masterclass (LO1&LO2)

After 3 weeks of Piano Masterclass, I have come to understand my limits as a human being. Before starting the activity, I knew I wasn’t the best piano player, but I considered myself decent. However, after the first session, this consideration seemed very deluded. The issue was that I’m ‘gospelly trained’ in the sense that I learnt by playing in church. What this means, essentially, is that I’ve learnt to play what I play by listening to it. Most of the people in Piano Masterclass are classically trained, which means they have learnt (and most of them have been graded) how to play by reading sheet music and learning a lot of music theory. I immediately felt disadvantaged because my sheet reading ability is very bad and I know basic music theory. Everyone came in playing pieces from composers I’d never heard of, holding a giant book filled with sheet music and I felt quite novice, to be honest. For the first two sessions, I’d leave the activity feeling like I was a failure.

 

Despite all of this, I am committed to learning how to play classical music and to develop my music theory and sheet reading ability. I realise that everyone has to grow and that just because my growth might be a later stage than everyone else’s doesn’t mean that it still shouldn’t happen. I think that it also teaches me humility and actually, this has allowed me to develop relationships with the other students.

 

I didn’t get to stay in Piano Masterclass for Season 2, since I had to join Aida but one of my highlights was being able to perform at Esplanade. What made it such an accomplishment wasn’t that it was at Esplanade but that I did it despite me being fatigued from Unplugged, which was the day before. I played a personal arrangement of Kevin Gates’ Know Better. This was a significant performance for me because I was used to just playing chords, as I mentioned in my previous reflection, however, in this performance, I combined my chords with quick and simple melodies. Even though I know my performance was the best that night – that goes to Shoon – I still feel proud of my work, simply because I understand how much I grew from doing that performance.