Thursday, June 2, 2011

Mumbo Jumbo


My original intention was to write a dance tune. I was imagining something along the lines of the Mashed Potato or The Twist. I began by strumming a nice Em riff . I added a simple yet elegant guitar hook rooted in the surf tradition. Then I began to think about lyrics.
I had the idea for some time to write a song about chair dancing. Not the strip club kind of chair dancing but the office worker confined to their cubicle kind of chair dancing. I was improving lyrics over the riff with the refrain: " Chair Dancing, She got me, Chair Dancing Yeah!" ...and some bits about sexting with strangers. The undefined part of it was coming out like this:Um maka wanna nana
Ya ma neema nama
Oko poko say papa
Ahmalee mayana
Mama lingua no wannaO mi coco pata.I often use gibberish to get a sense of the meter and to figure out what the tune would be. As I went on like this I started laughing out loud. This is always a good sign. It reminded me of the kind of mumbo jumbo my little brother and I would improvise when we were kids. "These should be the lyrics." I thought. Instantly I came up with the refrain:What he say?
What he say now?

What he say?
What he say?

I liked the deliberately racist over tones. I googled mumbo jumbo and confirmed its decidedly bigoted etymology. It's always fun to mock and exploit simultaneously.
When I first presented the tune to Kosi her eyes grew wide. I asked her to just improvise and she couldn't stop laughing enough to do it. So eventually I had to write it down and email it to her. She memorized them quite quickly to my amazement, faster than I was able to actually.The format goes like this. Guitar hook intro. I sing it. Refrain. I sing it again, Kosi challenges me. (We do an Ike and Tina Turner thing where we argue onstage) Refrain. Guitar Hook. Kosi sings it while I answer her. Guitar Hook outro diminuendo. The band picked it up quickly.

I did make the mistake of telling the drummer that the beat was getting mushy in the middle. I was rewarded with a 10 minute lecture on why it's not important for the drummer to keep the beat and that it was actually the bass player who's responsible for keeping the beat. This was concluded with a quote from Miles Davis ladled on top. That's band life. Note: I nearly neglected to mention one of my favorite moments related to this incident. As some point Amos was telling Kosi as she faltered, to just make it up. "It's just gibberish." He told her. "It's not gibberish." was her retort. "It's in a language we don't understand yet." This is the highest compliment I have ever received for my song writing.


  1. That ten minute lecture was not on Mumbo Jumbo, it was on Check the Box... get the story right, man!

    (and for the record, we argue off stage too.)

  2. note: the truth has been modified for sake of efficiency of story telling.

  3. hey you didn't mention how pretty you look in that picture.

  4. hey you didn't mention how pretty you look in that picture.

    That much goes without saying, doesn't it?


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