In the past few days the world was shocked to learn the passing of a great American artist Michael Jackson at the young age of 50. Billions of people all over the world are still at shock about the untimely and sudden demise of this great icon and wonderful gifted singer. From Nigeria to India, Burma to France, many young and old were in tears after learning the death of the legend the one and only, Michael Jackson. As one Kenyan man said it correctly, the passing of Michael Jackson is not about one person only but it is about a passing of a generation and closing of a chapter in history. I am not going to waste your time by telling about the life and accomplishment of Michael, as you probably already knew it by now. But I want to share my experience with the work and times of Michael Jackson and how it affects me personally. I guess there are a lot of Eritreans who had had similar experiences and hope they will tell us more too.
Growing up under the brutal military communist dictatorship known us the DERG was one of the least pleasant times of my life story. Crushing poverty, Fear and terror, mass murders and arrests, disappearances and desolations, unemployment and under education were the norms of the day. Any thing under communism was drab and life was so mundane and monotonous and tasteless. From the box cart like apartment building complexes to the nauseating music and propaganda, communism and the DERG were stinky as a skunk to say the least. Those of us who been there knew it and those of you who forgot reset your memories please.
I was a skinny pale eyed teenager, who happens to live in this cursed part of the world in the eighties. Life was brutal to me and my family. I come from a poor family and we didn’t have a lot of amenities and luxuries many now taken for granted like TVs, Videos telephones etc. Though my family struggled day and night to feed and take care of us their children, life was harsh on them and to the best of my knowledge, they weren’t happy about it. Then comes a shooting star, my source of joy and smile a rarity in those dreadful times. I remember paying 1 birr(a hefty sum in those days) to watch Michael Jackson dance and croon and do all kinds of stuff on the stage. I still vividly remember watching in awe the thriller video and how every body in my neighborhood was trying to mimic those graceful moves. Who can forget Billie jean and beat it, remember the time and human nature, off the wall and moon walking and all the complicated dance moves?
Watching Michael Jackson was one of my few sources of delight in those dark and gloomy days.
I skipped many classes and school just to watch the amazing Michel Jackson. To hell with school and those sandals with socks wearing soulless teachers! I have Michael Jackson and am happy the whole day and night just by watching and remembering all the dance the music, beautiful lyrics and the happy excited fans.(Remember the fainting fans?) Those were innocent day’s and time when character was king and people were still God fearing. Michel Jackson was the spring of joy and enthusiasm for me and other billions of people who live under terrible regimes and under dire circumstances. Jackson was and is still an inspiration to many from Prisoners in the Philippines to Fishermen in the Gambia, Homeless children in India to Border Soldiers in Nicaragua. He really touches the lives of many and few had an impact like him artistically speaking.The main reason me and many other love Michael Jackson is not because of his intricate dance move or his shrill and child like voices. Though he was and still is an amazing dancer and highly gifted singer that is not the main attraction to me and of his massive fan base. Michael has the rare and once in a generation kind of ability to touch all sorts of people, specially the marginalized and the disfranchised ones. He sings about police brutality and terror in the Brazilian Ghettos in the song “All I want to say is they don’t really care about us”. He sang a touching and heart breaking song about homeless people. He even sang about unwanted and despised rat in the song “Ben.” Michael’s song” You Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' was and still is an inspiration and motivation to countless young people that any thing is possible. Keep the faith” is another great motivational and uplifting song by Jackson. The great one sang about the degradation of mother earth, about human greed about unconditional love and caring for each other.
The king of pop’s music and song was not about love women and lust and sex only as it is the case today in most of the Music CDS and VIDOES by the so called celebrities. He sing about the issue of race and color in America, way before Barack obama or Oprah!
In’ black or white.” He courageously confronted and attacked the ghetto life style and attitude by some inner city African Americans (way before Bill Cosby) in the music and video “Bad”. Generations to come will remember and sing to the tunes of” dirty Diana” about lustful, money and fame casing women. He sing and deeply cares for sick and disease stricken children and many still shed tears when they hear the song” heal the world and make it better place…..”Michel Jackson was a great humanitarian, social activist and generous person too. Many of us remember the 1985 Live aid help for the poor and famine stricken in Africa organized and written by Michel Jackson and Lionel Ritchie . Millions of people have benefited by these sympathy and aid by Michael Jackson and other performers and I am sure many of us who were there can testify about this humanitarian act. Michel Jackson was also a very compassionate and kind hearted person. During the mid eighties when the ravage of HIV AIDS was killing scores of people all over the world and the United States, Michael’s care and unparallel compassion was manifested to the whole cruel and uncaring world. A boy by the name of Ryan White an American teenager from Kokomo, Indiana who became a national poster child for HIV/AIDS in the United States after being expelled from school because of his infection. A hemophiliac, he became infected with HIV from a contaminated blood treatment and, when diagnosed in 1984, was given six months to live. Though doctors said he posed no risk to other students, AIDS was poorly understood at the time, and when White tried to return to school, many parents and teachers in Kokomo rallied against his attendance. When many avoid and shunned the boy, Michael Jackson befriended and invited the boy and his family to his house. Despite Opposition by many including doctors, Michael even invited Ryan White in his Jacuzzi. The boy eventually succumbed to aids and died in 1990 and Michel Jackson wrote a beautiful song entitled” Gone too soon”. Ryan white’s mother Debbie still cries when she remembers Michael Jackson’s kindness And empathy and how he keep in touch with her all these years.(You can check @ cbs.com/Ryan white)
The great Michael Jackson’s love for humanity, care and consideration for those less fortunate souls and amazing power to touch the hearts of many is unmatched by any one in the artistic world. A real artist is for the people .with the people and for justice. An artist, whether a musician or a writer should feel the pain and cry of the masses. A genuine artist is like a torch and a light to many and a thorn to those who don’t care. It is difficult to find great soul and spirit like Michael Jackson now a days. You can go to any music store and buy a cd. Mostly it is full of nonsense rubbish stuff that contributes almost nothing to humanity. Full of violence and degradation, vile words and stupid lyrics, most of today’s musicians are there just to churn money and to get some honey if you know what I mean.
Eritrean musician and artists are a great disappointment and failure in most cases. While the whole nation cringes under a terrible tyranny and barbarity, the likes of Bereket Mengistab and Ahmed wedi Shek choose to sing and dance to the tune of despicable inhumanity Eritreans ever seen before. While her husband suffer under a ruthless beast in the unmarked dungeons of somewhere in Eritrea, the so called famed Eritrean Tigrigna singer Abrehet Ankere( Gual Ankere) prefers to chant to the tunes of the blood suckers in Asmara. While his brothers where about is unknown and his fate is indefinite, the Tigrigna singer Dashem Misgina is dancing and waltzing to the jingle of Atheist fascists of PFDJ’S Eritrea!! While the whole nation is dying and an entire generation is wasting for the sake of an unstable leader, the famous Wedi Tukul is as deaf as a dove and prefers to live like a Chihuahua.
The greed, ignorance and cowardice of Eritrean artists is quite large and is not the main purpose of this writing. But compared with the likes of Michel Jackson, Bob Marley, Peter Gabriel, Bono and many others who stand for rights of many despite all the risks and dangers, Eritrea’s artists can safely be called accomplices to murder and genocide by the bestial regime in Asmara. I am sure history will judge them like that in coming bright days for Eritrea and Eritreans.
In any case it is a privilege and honor to know and live In the era and time of the great Michael Jackson man of the people and for the people! The world and humanity lose one of the greatest artist, humanist and wonderful personality who ever live .But great people and giants of history like Michael Jackson, Martin Luther King, John F Kennedy, Gandhi, Solzhenitsyn ,Gorky and our own gem, Yemane Gebremichael Baria are like a shooting Star, bright and shiny to many but gone too soon, yes too soon!