Posted by: Reginald Cyntje | September 24, 2014

Remembering Lasana

I remember my big brother Lasana. We met in 2010 at a recording session for the Legacy CD. The brother greeted me by saying “I appreciate you.” After recording the album, we spoke about me joining his group. The message behind the music was powerful so I agreed to be a member. What unfolded over the next four years inspired me…

I loved Lasana’s poetic delivery. When I decided to record my first album, I asked Lasana to be a part of the recording. His track did not make the final cut. But it didn’t stop there. When I began working on my second album, I heard Lasana’s voice. I especially wanted him to perform on Faith. We had some meetings and discussed the meaning behind the music. Lasana came to the studio and captured the essence of the song. It will be strange listening to the Love album knowing Lasana is no longer with us.

Lasana loved Blacknotes. The family atmosphere he built for the group was amazing. In recent years, I knew it troubled him that he did not receive as much support as he desired. Many Blacknotes concerts were funded by Lasana (partly due to low attendance). He wanted to record another album this year and include more originals. But he was taken away before that happened…

Lasana loved community. I was in awe of how Lasana contributed his time and energy to his extended family. He envisioned a credit union for the community and took the steps to make it come to life. I know he wished more people joined Appeal, Inc. But there is still time for us to make the dream a reality…

When we spoke about activism, he would share that the work was hard and necessary. But he also expressed frustration when he did not receive support.

One of the lessons I learned was never let the woes of community building diminish the work needed.

People talk about doing but either don’t have the time or are unwilling to make time. My big brother was about action. He made the time. He taught me a lot and I will be forever grateful for his contributions.

Right now I’m sad, angry, motivated and in disbelief. His work was not boastful. Upon meeting Lasana, you would not know about his many gifts (Mobilizing, organizing, activism, financial empowerment, teaching, poetry, mentoring, father, bandleader, etc.).

Lasana, I appreciate you. I will miss you…

Blacknotes

Posted by: Reginald Cyntje | August 23, 2014

Why play it safe?

Why play it safe? If you have a platform you can use to create positive change please do so. 60+ million black people (conservative estimation) have been killed due to racism. How are we working to solve the problem?

We can physically take part in actively changing the course of this virus running through communities in the US. Financial empowerment, mentoring, unbiased education, activism and fair laws can change the poisonous narrative. Oppression should be a thing of the past. Too many racist individuals are in positions of power. According to CivilRights.org, “anti-black violence has been and still remains the prototypical hate crime, intended not only to injure and kill individuals but to terrorize an entire group of people.”

How can anyone remain complacent to crimes against humanity?

Is it this? Injustice to black people is a black story and many (non-black) people can’t relate. Or, is it this? Some black people who are so intent on assimilating somehow feel this injustice does not apply to them. These assimilators feel only poor black people are affected by this infection. To me, both streams of thought are irrational.

Imagine being hunted. Now compound that with the power of an institution working against you. People are trained to hunt you every day and when you seek justice you rarely succeed.

Imagine your children being hunted. Now combine that with school systems attempting to train them to accept the bleak conditions.

Does this sound like a fairy tale? Well, it isn’t. This unnecessary reality can be eradicated if we take a stance for justice.

Complacency only helps the oppressors. This is our problem. And if we don’t clean up this shit (racial injustice), it will spill into our backyards. Actually, it is already here…

Don’t play it safe. Speak out against injustice and do something to change it.

Posted by: Reginald Cyntje | August 18, 2014

Teaching My Children to Love Their Skin

In a 21st century environment where I can still find racial discrimination in different aspects of life, I strive daily to fight the system.

When I was a child, I loved cartoons. I often wondered why all the characters did not look like me. Luckily, I grew up in a predominantly black community. The leaders, the police, the good people and the not so good ones mostly shared a common ancestry. My kids are not living that reality.

Propaganda is a poison of this society. Because of this, I screen their books, TV shows, toys and the games they play. I don’t want to rob them of their childhood but I want to minimize negative conditioning. Media has been a weapon used to create the current skewed view of black people.

Colors are powerful. Many cartoons and books use colors to describe a negative character. Often times the evil/bad character is described as dark. In reality, negativity does not take on a skin color/tone.

They say, “Daddy, can we watch this?” most times I say, “No, it’s foolishness!” Then I’m asked why. So over the years I’ve talked about the multi-cultural world we live in. I’ve asked them what do they see when they are at school or on the playground. Then I ask if this cartoon or book reflects their reality.

My father did not have this conversation with me. I grew up in a culture that encouraged me to love the skin I’m in. The culture in the USVI had flaws and aspects of colorism but the overall message was black is beautiful.

No one was gunned down because of racial profiling. No one was treated differently in school because the administrators had preconceived notions about people of African ancestry.

There are multiple realities for different groups of people in United States of America. The reality for my children is my top concern. They are fun loving kids who do not fear the police. But they are witnessing inequality…

Often times, I’m a filter. But I can’t filter out all the racist BS that exists. From day one we’ve talked about love and respect. Bedtime stories range from imagined characters to civil rights sheroes/heroes.

“Daddy, why was the bus driver mean to the woman in the story?” they asked. I replied, “The color of her skin.”  

“Daddy, why are the people marching?” they asked. I replied, “They are marching for equal rights.”

People are still marching, organizing and strategizing for equal rights…As an artist, I write music for social justice but the songs/messages are also for my kids. They are freedom’s children, they are love and they are key elements in my life.

I want them to love and respect themselves (hair, skin, character, history, family, ancestry). I want them to love and respect others. I want them to understand history and use it as a tool to excel. Unfortunately, they are gradually being exposed to the double standards in society.

As a parent, I will continue to teach them to love while fighting the deeply-rooted cancerous hate that threatens the quality of their existence.

Posted by: Reginald Cyntje | August 12, 2014

Elements of this Summer…

So summer is winding down?! Wow! August represents the quiet before the storm. Or more accurately, the busy season. This fall I will be starting my last year in grad school, teaching at Montgomery College, performing frequently and possibly some light travel. I’m looking forward…

This summer has been filled with a full range of emotions, experiences and opportunities. On a personal level, I’ve been grappling with my loved one’s mental illness. The ups and downs created an emotional roller-coaster. With prayer and perseverance, brighter days are ahead.

Then professionally, I was busy getting the word out about Elements of Life. Can you believe we had 8 CD release concerts? Most were in the Washington, DC area. One was in Richmond, VA and the other in the Virgin Islands (also raised money for the IEKHS Alumni Association). Some concerts were successful and others required me coming out of pocket. But overall, the mission was accomplished. CDs were placed in the hands of old and new supporters. 

ElementsI’m also thankful that many radio stations shared the music. I did radio interviews and the album made it to the biggest gainer slot on Jazzweek. Plus, did I mention the great reviews?
Jazzweekcyntje

In addition to working as a bandleader, I had the opportunity to work in various bands including the newly formed Washington Renaissance Orchestra.

WashOrchestra (2) revApart from performing, mentoring was a priority this summer. I met with different trombonists of varying experiences in the DC area and in the Virgin Islands. While in the Virgin Islands, I met with some amazing young trombonists and also spoke with my former teacher about future goals (at least 20 young trombonists leaving the Virgin Islands yearly).

vi2014But with all the exciting musical news, society was weighing heavy on my heart. It would be nice to wake up in the morning and go through a day without the obstacles of institutionalized racism. But that is a convenience not yet available. The death toll continues to rise. Activism is one solution. Education another. Compassion and understanding will help. It’s 2014 and the war is not over on skin color. Don’t walk on the “wrong” side of the street. The penalty? Death by bullets, inequality, choking, psychological warfare and disease… Be careful. Racist landmines are planted every day.

Regardless of atrocities, I remain hopeful. I believe love is the answer. Love inspires me to mentor, to be creative and to grow. I’m thankful. Onward and Upward…

Posted by: Reginald Cyntje | August 10, 2014

Spiritual Awakening

In my lifetime, I’ve come in contact with many religious practices. While listening to elders of different faiths, I’ve realized that love is at the core.

In my humble opinion, unconditional love is freedom. Freedom to live and understand. Freedom to learn about our similarities. Freedom to celebrate our differences.

With the concept of love and freedom in mind, I composed nine songs.

Atonement: As a child, I heard many ill statements about other religions that were not of the Christian faith. I was blessed to learn, through research, that some early teachings were incorrect. I imagine many have failed to explore opportunities to love because of misunderstandings. Let us seek forgiveness, understanding and resolution.

Awakening: In my early 20s, I was on an ambitious mission to learn about different cultures. What surprised me were the similarities that existed between different religions. When the shackles of tradition were removed, once I met another spiritual being from a different faith, I was better equipped to understand them. I felt awake and aware. I’m still yearning to learn more.

Beatitudes: Yearning to learn has always been a part of my personality. In the 11th grade, I took a class called “Life Arts.” In that class, we spoke about self-love and self-respect. I think true love of self leads to supreme blessings. God is love. If we can love self, we can love others. If we can love others, we can remove the borders created by centuries of ignorance.

Compassion: Centuries of ignorance have prohibited our ability to see that we are all connected. Any attack on another human being, is an attack on the human family. But how can we see this if we lack compassion. Why are there people who desire to educate some, while keeping others blind? Why do some desire the unbalanced distribution of resources? With compassion, we can strive for equity.

Covenant: If we truly wanted to have a covenant with God, we would strive for equality. Let us work on agreeing to love. This binding agreement will ensure the survival of humanity.

Prayer: Meditation and prayer have played a key role in humanity. Many ancient traditions relied heavily on spiritual health. The path to spiritual health required going within and seeking guidance from the supreme spirit.

Rejoice: When the spirit is at peace, the celebration of life begins. The spirit rejoices when we give thanks for our blessings.

Ritual: Giving thanks is a ritual. Loving self is a ritual. Our religions started out as simple rituals. Let us celebrate life with the ritual of love.

Spiritual: Real love is spiritual. Spirituality (whatever the path) is the celebration of divine love. We can’t let religious doctrine prevent us from loving.

**Spiritual Awakening at Bohemian Caverns August 29th and 30th… Get your tickets at http://www.bohemiancaverns.com/calendar/

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Posted by: Reginald Cyntje | August 8, 2014

Sharing Spirit

As a professional musician, it is important to have different streams of income. Performing, teaching, CD sales and royalty payments all contribute to my livelihood. It’s a balancing act…

When in doubt, I look to my elders for guidance on how to manage the pendulum. I pay attention to elders who took care of their family while maintaining careers as musicians. In my community, I know great musicians who are not world “famous” but they have inspired generations of instrumentalist in addition to nurturing the lives of their kids.

I’m not a super star. I don’t have large groups of people going crazy awaiting my next release or buying tickets for upcoming concerts months in advance. I am thankful for my small nucleus of supporters. Seeing a familiar supportive face adds warmth to the music.

I’m amazed at the years folks have invested. They’ve shared encouraging words. They’ve purchased CDs (sometimes multiple CDs as gifts). They come out to concerts and invite friends to help fill seats. For some supporters, I know their stories. Their stories influence the music.

At times, negativity can take a toll on my spirit (wars, violence, family illness, etc.). But in those moments something miraculous happens that recharges my batteries.

Today I’m inspired by purpose. I’m reminded of that moment when I first discovered the connection between music and the human spirit.

This summer, I was able to get ‘Elements of Life’ into the hands of listeners. It was challenging and rewarding. CD sales helped me pay the band at critical moments. Our last concert at Westminster was the highlight of the CD release parties. The energy in the room was perfect.

Last night at my gig, a gifted photographer shared with me his experience at the concert. We talked about the circular energy that exists in a listening room. Most importantly the sharing of spirit… 

My purpose is to share the spirit of music. Life is not perfect but I should never lose sight. I will do my best to share love and hope with each note.

Peace

Posted by: Reginald Cyntje | August 4, 2014

Live Music Magic

In the age of computers, I don’t know if music is always alive. But when it is, it’s beautiful.

As a working musician, I love those moments when I perform in front of a listening audience. The energy ignites the music. I can feel the collective spirit in the room and magic happens.

On Friday August 1, 2014, my band performed at one of my favorite spots in DC. The sharing began at 6pm. We had musical conversations about life, love and freedom. I could feel people releasing their joy and pain as we explored the moment together.

We were aware of the atrocities around us. We were aware of the blessings. We collectively allowed the music to feed our soul.

I’ve always been a musician inspired by my surroundings. Music is a living being. The environment dictates the direction of the breath entering my horn. I felt the spirit travel through us. The spirit led us on a journey to our higher self.

I love performing at spots where management, staff and patrons have love and respect for the art. When all parties are contributing love, the end result is beauty.

There are times when the situation is off balance and either side can feel drained in the end. But on Friday August 1st, we shared love. We planted a seed of hope and experienced the joy of life together.

I’m thankful when reciprocity happens on and off the bandstand.

Posted by: Reginald Cyntje | July 16, 2014

If you encounter anyone with mental health problems…

If you encounter anyone with mental health problems be compassionate, understanding and thoughtful. If you don’t understand the severity behind mental health issues, it is best to do some research. Especially if you don’t plan on picking up the pieces when you offer advice that can lead to serious consequences (homelessness, abuse, rape, death).

We live in a world of predators. There are many people who are compassionate but there are others who will take advantage of any opportunity to use and abuse.

My family has been on the frontline working, researching and seeking guidance as we try to aid in the healing process. One of the biggest challenges has been misinformation shared with a mentally impaired family member.

We’ve encountered predator professionals claiming to have the answers… Our ability to help has been limited by laws meant to protect but they only prevent safety. We’ve been ignored by authorities. We’ve been charged big money for nothing by lawyers.

Paperwork that works in one city/state is useless in another. Though I understand the reasoning, it does not make sense to have laws in place that only react to trauma. An individual must be raped or commit an act of violence (self or toward someone else) before action can take place. Being proactive seems futile.

In the end we only want to ensure the safety of a loved one. A fragile individual that dedicated their life to building community during stronger times.

Four long years of ups and mostly downs. Four long years of struggling with folks claiming to help but impeding the process. Four long years of self-proclaimed professionals willing and ready to take money from the sick. Four long years of being ignored by officials until major trauma takes place.

I’ve listened to many stories of friends who have been through similar experiences. I listened as they talked about their dis-ease. I’ve listened to different religious opinions. I’ve listened to different cultural beliefs. In the end, all the information I’ve received has not prepared me for this…

I don’t know what the end will be. We have witnessed tremendous trauma…

The human body/spirit is complex. Saying I don’t know can possibly help save a life or get them the help they need. Don’t be afraid to say I don’t know. Don’t be afraid to seek guidance. Mental illness is real.

My loved one was a vegetarian. She avoided gluten products. She ate raw foods. She practiced yoga. She prayed. She juiced. She loved community. She is now suffering on the streets of Hawaii. The struggle continues…

Posted by: Reginald Cyntje | May 26, 2014

CD, MP3 or Both?

ElementsAs an independent artist, I try to pay attention to the buying habits of listeners. At gigs, folks seem more apt to purchase a CD. I remember offering download cards at gigs and supporters were not interested. But online, I get more sales for digital downloads.

Recently, a loving supporter purchased the album at a gig. As we were talking about the album, they said they will download the album as well so they can have it on all their devices.

I find that I purchase more digital downloads lately so I can have the album on all my digital devices. Now with the cloud, I can carry my collection everywhere without worrying about transferring files.

I still have tons of CDs I haven’t uploaded to my computer. I enjoy sitting back, putting on a CD I haven’t heard in a long time and remembering the first time I heard the music. I think that is one of the things I love about music. It’s ability to capture memories…

As I continue on the path of creating music, I wonder if listeners are creating memories with my albums. It is a high honor to know there are folks listening and sharing my musical dreams that became reality.

Thank you

Posted by: Reginald Cyntje | May 1, 2014

Little known facts

Wow! It’s been a week since the release of ‘Elements of Life’ and the response has been amazing. Thank you so much for listening and sharing.

Here are some little known facts about the album…

  1. There are nine tracks to symbolize the circle of life (360 degrees… 3+6+0=9).
  2. There were over 3,000 tracked clicks on the itunes smarturl link between April 22nd and 23rd.
  3. ‘Sky’ and ‘Water’ were written during sleepless nights.

I hope you are enjoying the music. If you have not gotten your copy, here are the links:

iTunes: http://smarturl.it/ituneselements

Amazon: http://smarturl.it/amazonelements

CD Baby: http://smarturl.it/elementscdbaby

If you like what you hear, please leave a review. Your word is powerful!

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