At a few different points in go-go history, there was a permeating confidence that the best was yet to come for the genre. But currently, faith in go-go’s future is notably inconsistent across go-go culturists. It’s not just the petty bickering that tells so much, but the silence of some of the brightest artists is so downright deafening that naysayers’ potshots at the bands are actually being paid attention to. What’s up with the thunderous crank of love and support from those who are best equipped to do so?
On every day and in every season, there is room for all that is good and positive, but collectively, most individuals have designated the holiday season as the time to pass the good vibes around. Christmas has passed and we are looking ahead to the New Year, but go-go did give itself a holiday package with the power to inspire some hope that go-go’s future is indeed very bright. The “Let’s Go-Go Christmas” show on Monday, December 17, 2012 held a multitude of gifts brought by some true go-go heroes, including the talented musicians and their loyal, appreciative fans.
The magic and wonder of the great go-go gift package was both inspirational and alarming. The show was inspirational because the scene itself was beautiful. The instrumentalists of the Chuck Brown Band and Be’la Dona sounded as good as ever, the featured vocalists gave very good performances, and the vibe of the attendees was on that love and good-time shit. How could all of that be alarming? Because of what was missing. When Buggs got on the mic and started singing, I found myself wishing I could turn to TMOTTGoGo’s Mark Te’ago Ward with a look to let him know I’d be expecting his opinion after the show. When the 5-feet-8-inch, 280-pound dude in front of me started grooving like he hadn’t felt that feeling in a while, I actually looked for Thomas Sayers Ellis, knowing he would have gotten that shot plus a thousand more delicate elements of the scene for our ethereal perspective of go-go history. When I ran to the front of the Howard just as fast as my male companions did when Be’la Dona came back to the stage a second time, I wanted to read how Bobbie Westmoreland would have described the group’s powerful charm.
Life and death are in the power of the tongue, so says the Bible in Proverbs 18:21. Though we have gone through the crabs-in-a-barrel stuff repeatedly (from the same folks, really) on the classic TMOTTGoGo message board and later on its social media page and the other go-go pages it hatched, the talk lately has become not only overly critical, but defeatist. Hardcore go-go heads have been expressing concerns that the bright light of go-go’s future is being extinguished by hip hop and that infamous bounce beat—if not self-destructing via squabbles over which bands don’t crank. All this negativity coming from the insiders, while the outsiders stay telling us how violent we are. Law enforcement, journalists, politicians, and venue owners with strong DC urr-eeuh accents maintaining that there is something about go-go that makes people act a damn fool. That’s death talk coming from too many sides, killing the culture more quickly than the few individuals who choose go-go’s as places to shoot and stab out their beefs.
The D.C. Metropolitan Area go-go scene is at least 37 years old. In terms of the world’s indigenous cultures, that’s newborn status. This is especially important given the fact that all people seem to do is criticize the bands that are relaying and reflecting this culture. Mainstream media relies on outsiders to tell a good story, and we indies rely on insiders to tell the truth from our perspective. But between mainstream and indie, disseminated reports about bands are either accusations that they attract violence or testimonies that they don’t crank. These days, anyone saying something positive about a band is either a promoter or getting something personal out of it otherwise; in other words, we don’t trust it.
The good news is that go-go does have people to write, reflect, and exhibit the truth. Sometimes it seems like these forces had a heyday, a peak time of impact in which go-go was chronicled with love and life, by people whose perspectives we respected. Actual go-go journalists! Imagine that! The unique viewpoints of champions like Kato Hammond, Thomas Sayers Ellis, Richard O’Connor and Nena Brown are some of the best gifts that go-go has ever given itself. That’s why go-go needs its reputable indie-insider press officers to work together to counter the entities speaking death into go-go. We need chronicling in the culture as opposed to the chronicling of the culture. We need the power of the tongue [pen, camera] to be a Life force.
As in other areas of our lives, we should not wait until the holiday season to show some appreciation to folks who truly deserve it. Go-Go musicians deserve all the appreciation we can rally, having dedicated their lives to create and maintain a brand of music so distinct and inimitable that half of the bickering is about its capacity for mainstream success. Part of Chuck Brown’s legacy for his go-go community is what made Chuck such a divinely gangsta icon: people knew not to talk that shit about him. Go-Go, as you thrive and progress, remember that everyone should know better than to talk that shit about you. None of us is promised tomorrow, and we will surely lose more go-go luminaries whom random people will insist they were *thisclose* to as they post their fan photos in mourning on the internet. Go-Go has done a lot for go-go, and as long as it breathes, can still do so much more.
At the “Let’s Go-Go Christmas” show, I fell in love with go-go again for the hundredth time and started writing about it the next morning. After two paragraphs, I needed to get back to writing two final papers and other schoolwork, so I never finished it. But here they go:
~The show, which featured the all-female crank troupe Be’la Dona, was in the line of Wind Me Up Chuck Mondays, the legacy series hosted by the Howard. It was a night for the queens of go-go to show off their vocal skills and irresistible stage presence, two elements known to elevate a mere crank to a phenomenal show. Be’la Dona rocked the stage in blazing hot red dresses and black come-get-me boots, offering just as wonderful a vision as they did a sound.
Though already certified go-go royalty and never a disappointment on the mic, KK gave an exceptionally inspirational performance. The content of her verses resonated as that from a seasoned emcee whose lyrics are something we can funk with. When she sings, “Look me in my face… I ain’t got no worries…” her voice is collected and comforting like one of your more spiritually-minded homegirls telling you that everything will be alright. You believe her.~
I wonder who else has been too busy to spread the good news that go-go still cranks, and very beautifully. It’s better late than never for me to shout out some of the women of go-go who instilled an extreme sense of pride in me that night. They made me feel proud to be myself: a certified rump shaker partying to their art, bubbling over with excitement to report on how well they performed.
For Christmas, for the New Year, and for every ordinary day we’re blessed to live through, go-go heads must continue to speak prosperity and good will toward men and women of the culture. Giving honor to Our Highest Self first, let us appreciate how much go-go has been blessed as we demonstrate our faith with good works to build go-go’s future.
“5 – Nobody will take a firm stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I proved to be with Moses, I shall prove to be with you. I shall neither desert you nor leave you entirely.
6 – Be courageous and strong, for you are the one who will cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their forefathers to give to them.”