The Royal Krunk Jazz Orkestra
Pyramids | Liner Notes
‘Everyone fears Time, but Time itself fears the Pyramids’ – Arabic Proverb
I go by a many different names, “Russell Gunn” to the government, “Lil Russell” to my family, “Gunn Fu” to my friends, “Daddy” to my children, but Mtafuta Ukweli is my chosen name. In Swahili it means “Truth Seeker”.
In the last few years I have been at a crossroads in life, where I have been in serious question of the purpose of my or anyone’s existence. What is it all for? Why put forth any effort? After all, our time on this planet is but a less than insignificant drop of water in the ocean of time. Case and point, The Pharaoh Khufu is supposedly the builder of the Great Pyramid at Giza, A true wonder of the world that “Egyptologists” (and I will get to them later) date at around 3000 B.C. and most “truthful” scholars date at least 6000 B.C. And this monument is still today standing on that hill in Giza, and how many people even know the name Khufu?
Let’s go back to before I came to the crossroads. Anyone that knows anything about me knows that in music and in life, I consider myself to be a practitioner of the Pan-African ideal, which in its simplest form advocates for the Unity of all African descendants wherever in the world they find themselves. But the roots of mis-education are so deep and tangled and brilliantly orchestrated, that I myself was working from a colonial mindset and didn’t even realize it.
“See in the third grade this what you told, You was bought, You was sold” – Goodie Mob
And unfortunately our own people reinforce the purposely-misguided belief that African American history starts with the slave trade. See, names like “Olmec (Xi)”, “Kemet”, “Nubia”, “Meci”, “Mansa Musa”, “Akhenaten”, “Dogon”, and “Moor” were never taught to us, unless it was used as a negative term, therefore completely leaving us blind to the facts that people that looked just like us were charting the stars, harnessing electricity, and navigating ships back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean at least 2500 years before Columbus was even born. It’s so deep, that I grew up a few miles from one of the biggest Pyramid Complexes in the world and didn’t even know what it really was. It took a random conversation with Hélène Faussart of Les Nubian about Mali to lead me to discover the “Dogon Tribe” but once that light came on, it started to illuminate the entire connection for me. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do not think I know everything, in fact the more I learned, the more I realized I didn’t know anything. But what I have learned is that the truth about our history has always been hidden in plain sight. The problem is the ability to take off the metaphoric blinders and see what is actually there. This is actually much easier said than done when you are mentally conditioned from birth to reject anything “African”, but oh this goes both ways. I have been to Africa many times now, and I dare say that colonial mindset and mis-education is far worse than the African-American, also what Africans know about African Americans is so small that it rivals if not surpasses what African Americans know about Africans. Most Africans think African Americans are over here living the good life, drinking expensive coffee, getting rich playing basketball and calling each other Niggas for sport, having no real sense of the mind crippling pressure that it has always has been to be black in America since the slave trade.
So back to my original point, what’s it all for? If Khufu could build a Great Pyramid that you can see from space and nobody knows his name, who gives a **** if I can play the trumpet a little above average, and write some catchy tunes?
Have you ever heard the name Ziryab? Probably not, but in fact, that was the African man who literally started what is known as the European Renaissance. Three course meals, cutlery, form to songs, fifth string on the lute, astronomy, make up, tooth paste, shaving, bad ass clothes, etc. Europe owes it all to the “Moor” the Spanish called “Black Bird”.
Compared to Ziryab my artistic contribution seems to be meaningless.
Then it dawned on me, most people may not know the names “Ziryab”, or “Olmec”, “Kemet”, “Kush”, “Meci”, “Mansa Musa”, “Akhenaten”, “Dogon”, or “Moor” but I do, and those that follow my art also know these names now. Therein lies purpose!
Finally understanding why we were told that Cahokia was a simple Indian burial mound, not the biggest Pyramid complex in North America and why we have never heard of La Venta, which is now called Tabasco, Mexico, or that probably the largest Pyramid in the world is in China.
“Egyptologists” and most “historians” have for many years purposely hidden, stolen, laid claim to, and falsified the clear evidence that thousands of years ago the Nubian and Kemetic people and cultural systems populated every land mass on earth, and built monuments that stand to this day even as other cultures and people lay claim to their origin.
This music started out as a body of work that I was originally writing for the centennial of the East St. Louis Race Riots, After finishing what was the first draft of the piece, I felt in my heart that it was too negative in tone and basically abandoned the idea after a short performance with music students at East St. Louis Sr. High School. It wasn’t until I took a trip to Egypt myself and actually stood at the foot of the Great Sphynx and nine Pyramids that are visible above the sand, that I decided to rededicate the purpose and re work the music, anchored by Cahokia Pyramids into a positive dedication to the ancestors that flowered this planet with their culture.
This Suite is dedicated to the ancient African Pyramid builders, who’s magnificent monuments have defied time to reveal the truth of the origins of people, science, mathematics, art, engineering, navigation, music, religion, and subsequent cultures.
My name is Mtafuta Ukweli and I seek truth. – Russell Gunn