Karma Chameleon is one of the hits of the 1980´s UK new wave band Culture Club. Bandleader Boy George once said in an interview it was “about the terrible fear of alienation that people have, the fear of standing up for one thing. (…) Basically, if you aren’t true, if you don’t act like you feel, then you get Karma-justice, that’s nature’s way of paying you back.”
The song came to my mind last week, when dear musician friend S. asked: “What is it, that makes you so passionate about Jazz?”. Good one, don´t you think? The kind of question that demands some time of reflection. My answer was: “It makes me feel at home”. I thought it was quite a clever one, somehow enigmatic, sincere without being obvious, but then I got greedy and added: “And a bit of Karma, as well.” Do you know the saying: There is no greater disaster than greed?
S. asked me to elaborate. Karma, jazz, home. Each one of these words represent a complex concept, but first of all, I shall clarify that I meant Karma not as fate, but rather as destiny, your mission, you know, the one thing that you got to do in order ‘to be true’. So far, so good? Great! Now read the title of the post again and I will explain the ‘feeling at home’ part.
Chances are you´ve recognized the first original verse of ‘Desafinado’ (Off Key), by Antônio Carlos Jobim and Newton Mendonça, worldly famous in the voice of João Gilberto. The lyrics begin with: ‘If you say my singing is off key, my love…’, a sentence that resonates to most comments to my singing style made during my childhood and teenage years. Unfortunately, I did not know this tune so well by then and therefore lost the opportunity of replying using another verse of it: ‘Isso é Bossa Nova, isso é muito natural’ (this is Bossa Nova, naturally).
I do remember quite well though, saying to playmates who claimed I was always “changing the songs” and “singing them wrong” that there was no point at all in simply imitating the singers. How old was I? Six, maybe seven. A little jazzy soul trying to explain that it don´t mean a thing, if you ain´t got that swing. Did they get me? Nope. Nor did many musicians who crossed my way during my learning years.
Sometimes it takes a while to find your way home but, once there, it all makes sense.
Be seeing you!