We Celebrate Halloween, Why Not All Souls Day, All Saints Day?

By N Oji Mzilikazi

31 October 2016

While helping a buddy earlier tonight push his stalled car from one side of the road to the other to avoid a parking ticket, I couldn’t help but notice children accompanied by parents, unaccompanied tweens and teens in costumes and without—all going about “trick or treating.” I should say “treating.” I don’t think/can’t remember the last time I heard a story/report of a child/children exposed to a “trick(s).”

I never got Halloween celebrations. Perchance it is the Christian in me, as well as I coming to the party late—as an adult.

Though I had knowledge of Halloween; understood its ideology, my encounter with Halloween was only upon emigrating to Canada in the 70s.

With the arrival of children, neither them nor my wife and I were participants—even when my children would screw up their faces and complain about missing out on all the fun with their friends. (They eventually rebelled and…) Halloween was “too devilish” a thing. Allow me to explain.

The Celts once occupied a huge part of Europe. Gaelic, Erse and Welsh are the Celtic languages that survived. Halloween, celebrated on 31 October marked their New Year.

Halloween was the day of the dead and a day of blood sacrifice. Halloween welcomed and invoked the spirits of the dead with the thrust of gaining supernatural powers, as well as having the dead come back to life. Tricks and treats were tools in their invocation.

Ghost stories and tales of the macabre were also told and listened to, not to scare or frighten, but to encourage the presence of the dead. (Transplanted in South America, Halloween was transformed into their religious day of the dead.)

Despite the rule of the Roman Catholic Church in Europe and its colonies, “pagan rites, rituals and religions” flourished.

In recognition that Christian theology and punishment were no match for such deeply held beliefs, the Church decided the next best thing was to temper those beliefs by introducing and instituting Holy Days the very next day; the day after the high days of “pagan” festivity.

Thus, Christmas came after Saturnalia, the Roman harvest festival that pays tribute to Saturn, the God of the harvest; Ash Wednesday followed Carnival, the ancient festival that celebrated the joys of the flesh. Ashes are used to make the sign of the cross on the forehead of believers and those who might have participated in the carnival festivities. Ash Wednesday launched the Lenten period of purification; a forty-day period of fasting, penance, and prayer; and the two days following Halloween being respectively All Saints Day and All Souls Day.

Since Halloween involved invocation of the dead, cemeteries were fertile ground. Graves were vandalized.  And so, on November 1st and November 2nd, All Saints Day and All Souls Day, prayers were said and candles lit on the graves of the departed and on the steps, porches and balconies of homes.

The festival of lights was a commemoration of the faithfully departed as well as to calm and guide the spirits of loved ones/the faithfully departed back to their place of abode, just in case they were disturbed by Halloween celebrants.

Anglo-Saxon/Norman immigrants introduced Halloween to North America. Repositioned as a children’s trick or treat adventure, Halloween was monetized by Big Business to peddle costumes, chocolates, candies and sweets. Halloween and its association with “evil” became a source and inspiration for horror movies—as entertainment.

The abundance of “evil” based costumes is a reminder of Halloween true essence. Even though we are tempted to think that celebrating Halloween is harmless fun, law enforcement officials annually warn parents and kids of possible dangers lurking within the goodies received. Also, animal rights groups reveal that annually a lot of dogs and cats are mutilated on the night of Halloween. As a preventative measure, there are animal centers that would not allow the adoption of any pet days before Halloween.

Besides the hyperactivity in kids the high consumption of sugars engenders, the constant and high consumption of candies, sweets and chocolates contribute to, as well as result in dental cavities. Trick or treating/Halloween provides kids with candies and a sugar-high for days.

As someone whose formative years involved the celebration of All Saints Day and All Souls Day, it would be an understatement to say I missed their celebration.

Chicago, Earth, Wind & Fire: Live In Montréal

By N Oji Mzilikazi

31 October 2016

I own some 29 Earth Wind & Fire albums, including the 2002 Live in Rio, the 1989 Live in Atlanta, and the 1975 Live in Liverpool. I would never pass up any opportunity to see Earth, Wind &Fire live. I am a fan.

Rooted in funk and R&B, I own one record by Chicago, a 45, the 1982 Peter Cetera and David Foster penned, Hard To Say I’m Sorry with the B-side, Sonny Think Twice. Still, you cannot live in Montreal, be exposed to Ralph Lockwood and CKGM, and be unfamiliar with the band Chicago.

On Friday, October 28, my buddy Anthony Dyeth and I attended the Chicago and Earth, Wind & Fire Heart & Soul Tour 3.0 at the Bell Centre.

Thanks to Tony (E, W&F) and Naskademini, we had great seats (C11 and C12); third row on the ground floor, right seats in the left of the stage.

The Bell Centre was packed. It looked like a full house to me. Patrons were treated to a laundry list of hit songs by both groups separately, and then together as a 21-member ensemble during which they jammed, rock and roll’ and sang each other songs.

I didn’t know what to expect from Chicago. I thought they would been more rock and rollish. They were smooth, jazzy and MOR (Middle Of the Road). The interplay between the drummer and percussionist on I’m A Man was something to behold. The killer songs, If You Leave Me Now, You’re the Inspiration and Hard To Say I’m Sorry had everyone rocking. While I didn’t know the full range of their repertoire, fans screamed their lungs off.

I still can’t get over Chicago James Pankow’s performance. Pankow, a founding member of Chicago was funkier than a mosquito tweeter. His skill and dexterity with the trombone was such, it sang… and what beautiful melodies. He was truly one with his instrument. His love for it, love of music and what he does was unmistakable, and on full display. I couldn’t help but jokingly whisper to Dyeth that he sleeps with the trombone next to him. Much props to Mr. Pankow.

What can I say about the 12-man Earth, Wind & Fire group, their trademark horns, funky jazz musicianship, and video-screen backdrops including their trademark flames that hasn’t been said before?

Video backdrop of E, W&F co-founder Maurice White and group singing along was touching.  Philip Bailey showed no signs of vocally aging. His falsetto chops were stellar. His solo on the Kalimba pure heaven. Percussionist and vocalist B. David Whitworth was livewire for real. Verdine White killed the bass. He poured so much of his heart, soul, love, and energy into the instrument and performance, I experienced an osmatic transfusion. Verdine was on the one.

I’m an old school funkster. I was weaned on the funk, cut my teeth on the funk, got high off the funk, made love to the funk and made babies to the funk. I’ve broken the funk down; place them in categories according to the licks of the bass. I have the funk grouped in categories like “Fat leg funk,” “Dirty low-down funk,” “Hard Funk,” “Phat Funk,” “Commercial Funk” “Party Funk” and so on. I know my music. When I say Verdine was on the one, he was.

Backstage, I had a great conversation with Whitworth on House Music, New Jersey Garage, Club Zanzibar, Marshall Jefferson, Paris Grey…  He went to school with Ce Ce Rogers. Rogers gospel-laced 1987 “Someday” is Classic House, and the Essay Mix of his 1990 smash “All Join Hands” induces goosebumps. And I thanked Verdine and Ralph Johnson for the music.

I told Verdine that the last time I saw Earth, Wind & Fire in concert was in the mid-nineties at Madison Square Garden with Evelyn ‘Champagne” King and Frankie Beverly (Maze). He reminded me it was in December, and was put on by Kiss F.M. Verdine concluded that this show in Montreal was better than that one.

Nuff said!