WEB POSTED 05-14-2002
|An instrument used for the glory of God
This continues the February 8, 2002 interview with the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan.
Minister Farrakhan: This violin and classical music caused me, at a young age, though fully conscious of my Blackness, and hurting from the suffering of our people, to have a heart that also ached, but in a minor sense, for the suffering of humanity.
Black people had my greater focus. If you could see pictures of me in my youth, my face had a beauty that was almost feminine because my heart was tender and full of love for humanity.
But I also liked to box, and would beat my friends through boxing, not fighting, so that they wouldn’t think of me as a sissy for playing the violin. I made sure that all my friends knew that I could thump so they never looked at me as sissified because I played the violin.
When I was going to music school, I would find a way to get there without notice because I didn’t want the stigma of playing the violin. At a certain point, I used to carry my violin case, in the same manner that one would carry a saxophone. I would put a bee-bop tam on my head to let the community know I’m down. So don’t vamp on me and dis me because of this violin.
When I became proficient at playing it, my friends and those who would criticize me, loved my playing it so well until many of them, outside of my immediate circle of friends, wanted to know how long it took me to play like that. When I would mention the years—that finished them. They didn’t want to bother because they wanted to be able to play like that in one or two easy lessons. But that just isn’t the case with the violin.
When I became a Muslim follower of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, my whole faith changed. My focus narrowed, totally and specifically on the Black man because that was the first phase of the mission of our father, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.
One day the Imam, in 1958, visited my home in Boston and we were looking at old pictures of the Minister. He looked at one of my show business pictures and he said, “This man is alive. But this man is dead.” I didn’t quite understand what the Imam saw at that time. It hurt me. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad raised me from the dead. How could the man in this picture be dead and the man in the show business picture be alive?
It took years for me to understand that deep insight of Imam Warith Deen Muhammad, because the man in the picture of show business was free in his heart to love all of humanity. The man in the picture was focused and narrow and therefore that aspect of him died.
In 1974, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad had me to bring my violin out to play for him. After we had dinner—the table was full—I got my violin out and stayed by his side and played. He looked up at me and said at the end, “You really can play that thing.” I smiled and thanked him and put my violin away.
Then sometime later in ’74, he called me on the telephone and said, “Could you come out on Tuesday and bring your violin? There will be nobody for dinner but Sister Tynnetta and her children and yourself.”
So after dinner, the living room chairs were all turned and Mother Tynnetta’s children put on a show. Rasul got to the piano and he had a wig on and they just had a little fun, you know. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad just laughed and laughed.
Then I got up to play. After I finished playing, he said, “Didn’t you play that for me the last time you were here?” I said “Yes Sir, dear Apostle.” With a frown he said, “Well don’t you know anything new?” How could I know anything new? I hadn’t been practicing. He was planting the seed then, to raise me to a level, again, where my heart and my breast would be expanded through the playing of the violin that would now prepare me for the universality of the mission to take the message to the Gentiles; to the kings; to the rulers; to the entire family of our planet.
So for those who criticized me for even playing an instrument that is considered European, and criticized me because culturally, they think I am extolling the value of European culture and as a Black man this is something that I should not do. I will say to my critics that I understand exactly what you are saying. I sympathize with your point of view. I will not be displeased or angry with you for your harsh criticism of me.
But you do not know how this instrument has prepared my heart to do a work for you and for others, that would lift you into the position that God created you for, and the rest of humanity for, who have oppressed us and inflicted pain on us, but who will, when you develop, not only tip their hats at you, but they will circumambulate around you, as all the races walk around the Kaabah and fight to kiss the Black stone.
[Jabril’s note: In an upcoming article, we get into this “how.”]
I want to remind you that all the instruments that we play today are fashioned from the Europeans. But they are not the origin of these instruments. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad said that a new God is forced to use the wisdom of His own Self to establish Himself as the God of His particular period of time. This world was to be ruled by white people for a certain period of time. But everything that they have developed, they developed it off an original creation that started with us.
We originated string instruments. We originated wood wind instruments. We originated the use of the horn of a ram to make sounds to call people to worship. So out of that, the Europeans crafted a violin and put the stamp of their genius on what originally came from our fathers.
Before the white people ever developed strings, the Chinese had strings; the Indians from the subcontinent of India had strings. I recently saw a Chinese woman, with one string, make music that was so fantastic, that those who had the violin with four strings stood up and cheered. So the string instrument belongs to us and we should not feel threatened over this new evolution of instruments.
We are to master it and then create even new instruments to make new and glorious sounds, even as we saw in Trinidad, where the Trinidadians took oil drums and heated them and created sound that we call the steel drum or the steel pan. Today, they have symphonic orchestras playing the steel pan. This originated from the creativity forced by the adversity underwent by Black people.
This is only the beginning of new world instruments that will come from the unleashed creative genius of our people, when their spirit is no longer bound by falsehoods. You must be free to look at God’s wisdom manifested in everything and respect it, use it and grow from it.
More next issue, Allah willing.