Posted by: Reginald Cyntje | February 21, 2015

Spiritual Awakening LINERNOTES

The Inspiration…

“Our ancestors tapped into their spiritual power to achieve great things.” What you hear on this album is a musical manifestation of what I hope to inspire in the hearts and minds of listeners. The musicians (Allyn, Amin, Brian, CV, Christie, Herman, Janelle, Victor) did a beautiful job capturing the spiritual energy.

The Music…

The following nine tracks explore the fruit of the spirit… As a community, we’ve witnessed our share of atrocities, and it is not enough to simply sit idly by awaiting action.  It is time for a Spiritual Awakening, a process used by our ancestors to create real lasting change. The music on this album captures the journey of a people waking up.

When the soul awakens, the spirit soars. Awakening… The soul becomes aware of the dissonance and calls for the body to rise up. The tension propels us to take action. The ostinato of life’s challenges submits to our will to create a new dimension of melodic possibilities. Self-awareness diminishes ignorance. Social justice seems natural, but there is a barrier. With the tool of hope and a will steeped in faith, we take the first step.

We are Spiritual beings. Our DNA is coded with instructions on how to achieve greatness. The groove helps us march forward in our quest for resolution. We are restless because we know all God’s children deserve justice. There is a war on peace, and we will fight back with love. We repeat. There is a war on peace, and we will fight back with love.

With a spiritual awakening, we begin to see life around us differently. With love and newly enhanced senses, we seek Atonement for mistakes. Family, friends and allies set aside differences. We sing our collective blues and begin to break free from draining restrictions. We begin to taste the possibility of freedom. The groove is lucid. The dream is vivid.

The dream becomes reality with affirmations of love. Love is reinforced with Beatitudes. Divine love, self-love, community love. We sing out loud using a rich harmony passed down from previous generations. There are leaps and twists but we tackle each interval with determination. We dance to the polyrhythms dictating the complex strategy needed to navigate society.

The polyrhythmic patterns make it hard for everyone to participate in this movement. As we dance, we have Compassion. Our awakening encourages us to inspire our brothers and sisters not yet on the path towards freedom. As they experience our passion, they begin to follow our seductive sequence.

Our Covenant with God keeps us motivated despite the obstacles. We feel the intense connection between all living beings. Our unique voices create a collective composition. We are relentless. We can’t sleep because the moment is near. We step forward together. We take position and begin to explore the depths of harmonic possibilities within our commitment. The scene changes and the message passes from one messenger to the next.

We strengthen our commitment to community through Prayer. The dream of a brighter tomorrow becomes clear. We see ways to resolve the complications. We give thanks for our transformation.

We call on our ancestors during a Ritual that feels as old as time. First one voice, then others join. We feel the drums, the harmony, the resolution. Transfiguration…We feel the challenges. We’ve done our spiritual work and now…

We finally arrive at our destination and begin to Rejoice in freedom unobstructed.

We are awake.  With music we heal and inspire a Spiritual Awakening.

Reginald Cyntje
February 2015

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February 2015

Posted by: Reginald Cyntje | February 12, 2015

Spiritual Awakening and NPR Jazz Night in America…Reflection

photo by PATRICK JARENWATTANANON

If someone told me this week I would record my 4th album and be featured on NPR’s new show Jazz Night In America, I would be apprehensive to believe the tale. But here we are…

I was told to sit and appreciate the moment but my mind was already thinking about the next step. The week started with a gig with Herman Burney on Sunday, then rehearsal, then teaching and classes on Monday, preparing (food, drinks, music, recording schedule) on Tuesday and recording Tuesday night.

By Wednesday morning I was fried but I had teaching, classes and son’s concert on the schedule. The NPR feature was Wednesday night. By the time I got to bed, I was exhausted. I woke up the next morning with a terrible headache and unable to fully function. Life was telling me to take a break and reflect.

Upon reflecting, I must say thank you God for the many blessings. Thank you to family and close friends for the constant support. Navigating life can be challenging. Having people who love and support you makes the journey more enjoyable.

NPR’s Jazz Night In America…

How did this happen? Was it my plan? No! NPR… First, I approached Omrao Brown about doing an Artist in Residence (AIR) at Bohemian Caverns. I was considering the AIR to give the band the opportunity to season the music for our upcoming recording. He said no dates were available so we worked on booking the group for a weekend date. We booked January 30th & 31st.

After booking the date, I reached out to the band members. 90% of the band was available so I moved forward with plans. I was committed to only doing music for the upcoming recording. Sink or swim, I felt it important to work on the music.

On January 18, Patrick Jarenwattananon approached me about featuring my band on NPR’s new show Jazz Night In America. Something happened and the February 11th slot became available. I agreed. Later I found out that he also spoke with Omrao and Gio (Capital Bop). Everyone thought that our gig was a perfect fit.

If I wasn’t focused on preparing for the Spiritual Awakening album, I might have changed the setlist. But we had to get things seasoned for the album. And just like that, I was told we made history. Bohemian Caverns was featured. My band was featured. And we represented aspects of DC’s diverse music scene…

Recording Spiritual Awakening

Photo by Herman Burney

Photo by Herman Burney

Originally, I scheduled the recording session for Spiritual Awakening on February 28, 2015. As the recording date approached, conflicts began to rise up. I tried to keep the date on February 28 but it was looking bleak. I contacted the studio and asked about available times (keeping everyone’s schedule in mind), February 10th was the best possible date for 95% of the people I wanted on the album.

Now that I reflect, this week was challenging, exciting and memorable. A true awakening. I’m thankful for the exposure and accomplishments. I think this album is by far our deepest musically and spiritually.

Spiritual Awakening
THE BAND

Photo by Herman Burney

Photo by Herman Burney

Allyn Johnson – piano and rhodes
Amin Gumbs – drums
Brian Settles – tenor saxophone
Carroll Dashiell, III – drums
Christie Dashiell – voice
Herman Burney – bass
Janelle Gill – piano
Kenny Rittenhouse – trumpet
Victor Provost – steel (tenor) pan
Reginald Cyntje – trombone, composer, producer

Posted by: Reginald Cyntje | February 7, 2015

Remembering Uncle Cisco

My Uncle Francisco Cyntje passed away earlier this week. His love and kindness for family and friends inspired everyone.
uncle cisco
In 1993 on my way to Boston for college, my uncle gave me my first winter coat. It was a blue lined jean jacket that kept me warm for my first winter. In 1995, I stayed in his home for two months while searching for a job in NYC. While in his home, I witnessed his love and kindness for humanity first hand. When I walked with him, he greeted friends and strangers with respect. Every evening was a lesson in life. I cherished our evening conversations. He taught me many lessons (some I was not aware I was learning at the time).

Uncle Cisco taught me about using the subway map as guide while navigating NYC. I remember going to Yonkers for an interview. I had to take extra busses to get to my final destination. On my way back, I ran out of money and made it back to the beginning of the NYC Metro. Remembering what Uncle Cisco told me, I was able to use the NYC Subway map to make it from Yonkers to Seward Ave in the Bronx (a very long walk).

My uncle lived in NYC. As a child growing up in the USVI, my dad always spoke highly of Uncle Cisco. I wish we had more time together but I will always cherish the lessons in life and love. Thank you Uncle Cisco! Rest in peace…

Posted by: Reginald Cyntje | December 31, 2014

Happy New Year

Happy New YearHappy New Year to my family, friends and supporters. I’m looking forward to 2015. Every year provides us with new opportunities to achieve goals and enjoy life.

I’ve adopted the philosophy that we can always make each decision better than our last. 2014 had many triumphs and challenges but we made it. Like me, I’m sure you experienced loss and enjoyed beautiful gains.

Together let us work on freedom. The freedom to live, love and learn.

Let us intensify our focus on the things that really matter.

We all have goals. We can make a commitment to finish projects we started.

With faith and hard work, we will succeed.

Music has taught me that frequency is important. For me to grow, I must practice frequently. We can apply frequency to our passions.

The fulfillment of our deepest passion will lead to life flowing effortlessly.

We enter this plain of existence during one year then leave at another. The life we live represents all the years in between. What will we fill that dash with?

Let us be better human beings in 2015.

Posted by: Reginald Cyntje | December 30, 2014

Nia (Purpose): Artivism

What is our purpose on this planet? What is our purpose in our community? What is our purpose in our family? What is our purpose with self? All these questions are connected.

I look at the connected lives of Queen Mary, General Buddoe, Toussaint L’Ouverture, Harriet Tubman, Nat Turner, Women’s Political Council, SNCC, the Black Panthers and many others to be reminded of the ongoing rebellion. The reality is that the fight for freedom is not over.

Our ancestors fought for future generations knowing that informants were in their midst. They fought for good despite the physical and mental attacks on people of African ancestry.

Like the Matrix, there are many who don’t want to know the truth. After they learn the plight of their sisters and brothers, it becomes too much to tolerate. They make deals to sell out leaders. But people are still fighting.

Today people are protesting. Technology makes it easier for powers to trace and infiltrate, but that has not deterred voices from speaking out.

In our community we know how the power structure has assassinated leaders, burned children and bombed citizens. Our back has not been broken.

We are still fighting. We are building community despite the many methods used to directly or indirectly destroy. There are detractors who aim to demean the actions of those on the frontlines. But they forget that Malcom and Martin did not agree on everything. All hands are needed to create a climate for justice to blossom.

But for justice to blossom, we must see clearly. I know there are many who refuse to believe that these injustices occur. For those who don’t believe, or say these things are in the past, here are a few things to consider: COINTELPRO, NO-KNOCK, STOP-AND-FRISK, etc. Conveniently many will not research and then act surprised when a video exposes the truth.

The truth is there for us to learn. And history teaches us that our ancestors had allies. I believe in allies. My place of birth had Kalinago and Africans working together to fight off the European occupation. The place where I was raised had women and men fighting for justice.

As an artist, I think about my purpose when it comes to justice. My purpose involves loving self, family and community. And because I love, I use my gift to speak out against injustice. In the process, I hope to inspire positive change in a reader or listener.

Posted by: Reginald Cyntje | December 28, 2014

Habari Gani! Ujima (Collective work and responsibility)

As I look back on 2014, I ask myself did we make our sisters’ and brothers’ problems our own? There are many examples I can pull out of 2014.

When my band was getting ready to record our third album, the musicians pulled together to make it happen. Outside of regular scheduled rehearsals, Amin drove from Baltimore to meet with Herman so they could work on smoothing out rough edges. Allyn opened up his home to us so we could work on the music and get acclimated to the recording environment. Christie also acted as engineer for the last tune. We collectively worked on the music. The end product resulted in unity.

On a personal note, I witnessed complete strangers helping my family locate a loved one in Hawaii. Our hands were tangled by various mental health laws. Thankfully, two women provided info that aided in saving a precious life.

Another example of Ujima was when Lasana went missing. The community pulled together to search and support. I was disturbed by the news of his passing but felt blessed to see how his legacy brought the collective under the same roof.

Today I’m hopeful. With the growing Black Lives Matter movement, I’m thankful to see communities practicing Ujima. People of different backgrounds are pulling together to create positive change.

We are making our sisters’ and brothers’ problems our own. We are empowered.

Posted by: Reginald Cyntje | December 14, 2014

Learning: A Two-Way Street

I listened and learned about their views on music and life.

“Professor Cyntje, what are your thoughts on this situation?” I replied, “tell me what you think.”

At first, I was greeted with a puzzled look. So I explained that I feel teachers should foster critical thinking. In a classroom setting, I don’t think students should memorize and regurgitate the “right” answers but truly understand the text and analyze the information. Too often there is someone in front the room lecturing on their thoughts as the students sit and listen (check out) while taking notes.

Like music, learning is a part of communication. Listening and sharing is a two-way street that leads to discovery.

I turned to another student. “Do you agree with the information? Is the author biased?” The student stated their opinion and communication blossomed.

Through discussion each student learned about each other, music and life. The lessons from history became our launching pad for new ideas. Together we saw that there is a deep connection between art and historical events.

When we arrived at the 60s, I asked “How are artists today different from artists in the 60s?” Different students gave their perspectives before I spoke about the activist spirit that made the 60s a turbulent era. I asked them if they feel artists today should do more to speak out about injustice.

We saw that police brutality was not a new concept. From the Civil Rights Movement to the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, students saw videos of injustice.

They expressed their concerns and I listened.

The goal was not to tell them what to think but to encourage them to ask critical questions.

Is payola still taking place? Is big business controlling the music industry? Who created the top 40? Who created the labels (soft rock, urban, etc.)? Why? Are mainstream artists puppets? Is race still a factor? Who is telling radio stations what to play? Why? Should listeners support Spotify? What should we learn from history? Are we listening?

One student said, “I want to do more to create change but I don’t know how.” I replied, “start small.”

In the end, I hope I inspired critical thinking. In the process, I think an activist was born.

Posted by: Reginald Cyntje | December 6, 2014

Culture Shock: from the Caribbean to the mainland

I grew up on a small island. I didn’t feel it was small. I enjoyed the warmth and comfort of family. Most of my family and friends were nearby. I grew up in a neighborhood and knew my neighbors.

I felt loved and supported. There was evidence of corruption but I never feared being targeted solely based on race because most everyone was black.

My mom worked in the service industry. As a teenager, I remember having an argument about the local tourism channel. I found it strange that many black people were serving white people during daily advertisements. I asked “Why is there no racial diversity? Only white people travel to the Virgin Islands?” There were issues of colorism and remnants from colonialism.

While in high school, I had the honor of learning about VI, US and World History from teachers who refused to give me the watered down version.

Caucasians I encountered were usually kind. As I got older, I heard about a few that were racists who reserved their thoughts for small circles of like minds. Most of them were from the “mainland.”

“Frenchies” (Caucasian immigrants from France who first settled in the VI in the 1600s) were entrenched in the VI culture. Many frenchies did not like to be called white. We used the same dialect and celebrated VI cultural heritage.

The VI population (Black, White, Indian, Native American, Asian, etc) did not escape forms of racism. Institutional racism was far reaching and there were ways in which large corporations on the island implemented the system. But as a child, I was insulated. I knew of the injustice but did not experience any teachers or mentors who tried to limit my growth based on racial bias.

Crime was simply crime. I wasn’t predetermined to be a criminal simply based on my skin color… There were positive individuals in the VI. There were also people who were criminals.

Culture shock first took place when I attended Interlochen Arts Camp in Michigan. I was 15 years old and I noticed a huge difference in how people interacted with each other. Many of the students of African descent gravitated to each other. I met some cool white people at Interlochen who shared my love for music. I also met others who felt comfortable making derogatory statements about black people from the “mainland.” I guess some felt since I was from the “islands” I was different and they could make derogatory statements about my newly acquired black friends. But I was armed with history, love and self-respect.

My next culture shock was moving to Boston in 1993. When I arrived in Boston, I was older, taller and did not have on cultural identifiers to separate me from “mainland” black people. I was viewed as a young black male. Fortunately for me, the black student union armed me with information to survive the Boston scene.

I made some white friends in Boston. But in Boston, I first experienced the fake smile accompanied by the energy that reeked of hate. Then I went on to have many experiences associated with being black in America.

Unfortunately, some white people were not taught the true history of racism in America. They were just taught what not to say when in the company of a black person.

I walked in on a few white people making racial jokes while in Boston. Their response “oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t know you were there.”

I have many stories that explore the tense black-white relationship in the US. I experienced racism in classrooms, on jobs, in the military, as a musician and now as a parent.

We have schools and parents teaching white kids diluted US history. These kids grow up to be adults making the following statements: “why are they mad?” “I don’t see color” “post racial” “black on black crime” and the list goes on.

But the biggest culture shock for me is having to have a conversation with my children that my father did not have (nor needed to have) with me.

My nephew is 13. A kid his age was shot by the police. That boy died for carrying a toy gun. My boys are getting taller and some will look at them as a menace to society.

I constantly try to find language that will not rob them of their childhood but that will hopefully save their life. I don’t have any childhood experiences to use as a frame of reference. So I’m experiencing culture shock on many levels…

Posted by: Reginald Cyntje | December 5, 2014

Cooperative Economics

UjammaDuring the time of segregation, most black people looked out for each other. Today, we are fragmented. Unity is needed. Pan-Africanists, Black Nationalists, Black Christians, Black Muslims, Democrats, Liberals, Republicans, African Spiritual traditions, Black atheists, Afro Caribbean, Immigrants, young, old and others are all needed to invest in our collective community.

Many of us tried assimilation. Assimilation is not the answer. At one point, assimilation meant survival. But today, we need group power.

Political, economic and spiritual power will assist us in getting the results we craved during the recent mockery of justice.

You know what is revealing about the recent lynchings (unlawful murder of black women and men)? The racist institution feared no repercussions for its actions.

No one feared political, economic or legal backlash. No one feared people protesting.

We must use our collective power to inspire positive change. If you are not a part of a social justice organization, join one today. If you are not supporting black businesses, start today. If you are not working on building a stronger community, learn today.

We cannot afford to wait for the next injustice. Sustained action is required for our survival.

If you are interested in sustained recovery in our community, buy black. If you want to see a stronger community ready to offset the gross injustices, invest in black. If you want unbiased education for our young black children, build progressive schools.

Let us build our own businesses, control the flow of resources in our community and together enjoy the benefits of cooperative economics.

Love is the answer. Let us love ourselves. With community power, we will succeed.

Posted by: Reginald Cyntje | December 4, 2014

Through the Art of Sankofa

sankofaThe institution counts on us not joining forces. The institution is confident we will not invest in our businesses. The institution will use whatever method possible to distract us from the truth. The institution counts on us not knowing the politics of crime in the US. The institution feels comfortable lynching black bodies.

Black human bodies, deserving of equal justice under the law, were lynched (unlawfully murdered). The troubled history of this country reveals a past of inequality. Now how are we going to build group power (combining our $1 trillion net worth)?

Family and friends, we can invest. Economic power is a great start to leveraging our position in this unjust system. Economic power will ensure folks in our community have access to resources. Economic power will allow us to build.

Where are we spending our money? Are we investing in businesses that have our best interest at heart?

Family and friends, we can educate. Education can release a shackled mind. If we are tired of unbalanced education in schools, we can build our own schools or enroll our kids in schools that will invest resources into our children.

Let us turn our anger into action. Protest injustice. Don’t be confused by the media. Protesters are not looters. Protesters are people fighting for a dream deferred.

We can protest injustice by joining a social justice organization and take part in the process. We all have a gift that can be used to bring balance to an outrageously skewed system.

Family and friends, use your voice, your skills, your financial resources, your education and anything else at your disposal to counteract injustice.

Institutionalized racism does not pick or choose who is next. Will we be victims or will we use our collective power to take control?

Through the art of sankofa, we will achieve. Let us learn from our ancestors and ask them for guidance…

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