Rootsie's European Roots  

Cool and Funky  
By Rootsie
December 04, 2003

The cold weather here up north got me thinking about coolness, and I remember this favorite essay of mine called "Hear that Long Snake Moan" by Michael Ventura. It's about the African/Yoruba/ Voudou roots of jazz, blues, rock 'n roll... and so on.
"It's a root that goes so deep that some of our most common terms-terms often associated with the music-come from African languages...

..."funky" is from the Ki-Kongo lu-fuki, meaning 'positive sweat'. Which is virtually what it means, in a metaphoric sense, in America today. Now the Bakongo people use the American 'funky' and their own lu-fuki interchangeably 'to praise persons for the integrity of their art.'

...Mojo... is Ki-Kongo for 'soul'. In North America for at least a century it has meant an object that's invested with spiritual power.

...Our 'boogie' comes from Ki-Kongon mbugi, meaning 'devilishly good.'

...And the use of the concept 'cool' among the Yoruba people of Africa is precisely the same as its use as popularized by jazz musicians in New York...said one Yoruba informant... 'Coolness is the correct way you represent yourself to a human being.'"
Robert Farris Thompson writes in his book Flash of the Spirit:
"Like character, coolness ought to be internalized as a governing principle for a person to merit the high praise, 'His heart is cool' (okan e tutu). In becoming sophisticated a Yoruba adept learns to differentiate between forms of spiritual coolness...So heavily charged is this concept with ideas of beauty and correctness that a fine carnelian bead or a passage of exciting drumming may be praised as 'cool.'

Coolness, then, is a part of character...To the degree that we live generously and discreetly, exhibiting grace under pressure, our appearance and our acts gradually assume virtual royal power. As we become noble, fully realizing the spark of creative goodness God endowed us with...we find the confidence to cope with all kinds of situations. This is ashe. This is character. All one. Paradise is regained, for Yoruba art returns the idea of heaven to mankind wherever the ancient ideal attitudes are genuinely manifested."
So cool. I won't be cold this winter. I'll be cool. And that will keep me warm enough.


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