Releasing the reins

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When Bob Marley sang about emancipating oneself from mental slavery, he was probably referring to the conditioning that comes as a result of being raised in a colonised or somehow dehumanised heritage. He was a popular artist who could cast himself in the role of preacher from the Old Testament and somehow pull it off. The idea was expressed in the terminology of political sloganeering, but the principle of releasing one’s self from a version of Stockholm Syndrome is applicable in many situations, ranging from the personal to the universal.

In the early days of my artistic development, I made some strategic moves in order to set up my stall in the marketplace. These involved aligning my creative output with the trends of a particular point in time, so I could be seen and heard by folks who could spread the word. In my heart of hearts, I was never really a fan of the music that was in vogue, but I knew enough about it to communicate with some clarity.

With the passing of time, I found myself gravitating towards other musical genres that were not compatible with the straitjacket I had chosen to wear. I remember colleagues telling me I should regard involvement in opera and art music as a “retrograde move”. I pressed on regardless, but I hadn’t sorted out my personal feelings on a fundamental level. It didn’t help that there was one associate who phoned me almost on a daily basis, telling me I was misusing my talents and ruining my career prospects by taking an interest in classical and contemporary art music repertoire.

No knowledge or experience is wasted, in my opinion, so I have no regrets about my forays into genres that didn’t fuel my passion. It has taken a long while to process the information I’ve taken in and to accept that no one can possibly be all things to all people. One has to make choices and shape things accordingly.

Nowadays, I can look at certain areas of activity and accept that I don’t need to make an effort to be part of them, because they are not relevant to the path I have chosen. I still feel twinges of compulsion, pushing me to get involved, but I have released myself from the need to be everywhere, all at once.