Wisdom of Kammbia 3.26: Is Classic Literature Relegated To The Same Fate As Classical Music?

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My wife and I went to the Symphony this weekend for our date night.  We both wanted to try some different than the usual dinner and a movie for our night together.  We thought going to the San Antonio Symphony would be just the thing to take a chance on.

Well, I must admit both my wife and I were falling asleep during the 1st piece by Mozart (Piano Concerto No. 22) and though the second piece by Shostakovich (No. 8) was louder and more interesting than the Mozart piece. I still had trouble staying awake and we both left the theatre before the Symphony ended.

I’m a music lover.  I listen to everything from Jazz, R& B, Rock, Gospel, and Country. So I’m always open to good music regardless of genre but I have never fallen asleep on a musical performance even if I didn’t like it.

I’ve been thinking about that experience all day (Even during the San Antonio Spurs-Memphis Grizzlies Western Conference Finals playoff Game 1. Go Spurs Go!! ) and wondered do modern readers have the same experience that my wife and I did at the symphony.

How many readers have given up reading The Scarlet Letter by Hawthorne?  Or Moby Dick by Melville?  Or a fat novel by Dickens like David Copperfield or Nicholas Nickleby?

If so, what can be done about it?  Has pop culture affected our ability to be able to read those aforementioned works or listen to a Mozart or Shostakovich?  Or is both classical literature and music relegated only to the elite in our society?

As you can read, I have more questions than answers or a solid opinion on this blog post.  I would like to know how others feel about it.

I decided a few years ago to make sure I read one classic a year.  I started with Madame Bovary by Flaubert and a couple years ago I read David Copperfield by Dickens.  Last year, I read Utopia by More. I’ve learned in reading these classics than human nature is basically the same regardless of the time period and it has taken me out my comfort zone from the contemporary literature I’m used to reading.

So how can we keep classic literature from suffering the same fate as classical music?  Or is it a lost cause?

Wisdom from Kammbia 3.3: Why Do We Like Cheesy Songs?

One of the joys at work I get to do is listen to music and working in an environment where you’re processing foreclosure claims on a computer for eight to ten hours a day can be monotonous. However, listening to music provides a much-needed stress reliever from my job and makes my day a little more enjoyable.

This week I was listening to a CD that has 70’s and 80’s music on it. Well, I didn’t realize I had Christopher Cross’s Sailing on that CD. I have always liked that song growing up and heard it on the radio quite often. Furthermore, I realized that Cross’ biggest hit was one of the cheesiest song of the 70’s.

After listening to Sailing, I began thinking about all the cheesy songs I heard and there are quite a few that come to mind:

The Macarena by Los del Rio

Whoomp There It Is by Tag Team

Ice Ice Baby by Vanilla Ice

Hello by Lionel Ritchie

U Can’t Touch This by MC Hammer

Shake, Shake, Shake Your Booty by KC & The Sunshine Band

Achy Breaky Heart by Billy Ray Cyrus

I know there are numerous others I could add to that list.  But, my question is why do we like cheesy songs?  Is there a psychological or sociological need to have mindless entertainment a part of our lives?

I don’t know if that’s true, but there may be something to it though.  Maybe it is due to our current lifestyle, where we work forty to sixty hours a week. Then we have to make room for family time, church, socializing with friends, and other extracurricular activities that we need some form of entertainment that doesn’t make us think or work hard to figure what kind of statement the artist or musician is trying to make.

To my readers, I would like to know what are some of your favorite cheesy songs and why do you like them?

Wisdom from Kammbia 3.2: I Like Christian Music, But…..

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I overheard a conversation between two co-workers this week.  They were talking about one of my favorite subjects, music.  One of the co-workers said he got this Christian Music CD from a friend and one of the songs sung the word “Jesus” sixty-seven times. He finished the conversation by saying that he didn’t mind Christian music as long as it was good.  But, he didn’t want the message thrown in his face like it was in that song.

I must admit I wanted to jump into the conversation and defend that song he was criticizing.  But, I felt deep down that I agree with him.  So I thought about that conversation all week.

There are many people like that co-worker of mine, who don’t want the message of a religion (mostly Christianity) or a philosophy overtly in their art. However, when I thought about it…doesn’t most art have a message that the artist is trying to promote or influence their audience with?

Let’s stay with music.  The Beatles glorified drug use in their songs during the 60s. John Lennon promoted a utopia with his biggest hit as a solo artist, Imagine. A lot of Rock-n-Roll and Rhythm and Blues songs glorify sex outside of marriage and adultery.  While Rap music glorifies gang violence, the excesses of capitalistic success, and political and cultural philosophies that are outside of  mainstream America.

So I get confused when people like that co-worker have a problem with the overtness in Christian music but will listen to secular music that can be just as overt.

However as I continued to think about that conversation, I still believe he has a point.

Listening to music one of the greatest passions in my life.  I grew up with older brothers that played music around our house all the time.  Also, I have a good friend that is a local jazz musician from Albuquerque and we would have music listening sessions on Saturdays where he would introduce me to music as diverse as Van Morrison to Tito Puente to Enya to Miles Davis to Brazilian musicians like Caetano Veloso and Milton Nascimento then back to groups like Earth, Wind, and Fire and Steely Dan.

So my musical tastes are broad and this is one of the things I lament in Christian music.  Not being broad but narrow.

“That’s when Christian radio decided that a mythical young housewife named Becky was its target customer. If you walk into a top Christian radio station today, everyone on the staff will know Becky, though they may have a different name for her at their station, an ironic and furtive attempt to make Becky their own. Becky is the one person they want to listen. Every little thing the station does is done with Becky in mind.”

“She’s thirty-five years old. She has two kids. She drives a minivan and is married, but her marriage is not all she dreamed it would be. She goes to church pretty regularly, but not every Sunday. She is mostly a stay-at-home mom, but she may work a few hours a week or may work seasonal jobs at different times of the year to bring a few extra dollars into the household.”

“She cares about issues that affect her kids: food, education, health, family, and leisure-time activities. And Christian radio stations cater everything on the air to this question, Will Becky care?”

“There was a time when theologians and the wisest minds of a church determined what was said and sung in a church.  Today it is what Becky likes gets played on Christian radio, and what gets played on Christian radio gets promoted to church musicians and church leaders. The result: our churches are filled with songs not because they reflect our highest and best thinking and artistry or because they remind us and teach our children important truths, but because they are—as many Christian stations say about themselves–safe for the entire family.”

The above quotes were from Warren Cole Smith’s excellent and challenging bookA Lover’s Quarrel With The Evangelical Church. I believed he hit a home run about Christian music with those quotes. It seems this genre of music as taken the roar and ferociousness away from the lion and tamed it like our household pet.

What I struggle with as a Christian (not only in music but across all the other art forms) is that we only study certain parts of the Bible and have it speak for our faith as a whole.

Shouldn’t we study the entire Bible?  The popular and unpopular?  Isn’t all of God’s word worthy of study and examination. So why do we continue go down the same path repeatedly?

Also, shouldn’t Christian music reflect that as well and not just Jesus loves me and forgives me songs?

What about songs on Moses?  God chose him to lead his people out of Egypt into the Promised Land.  Also, God told him he couldn’t get into the Promised Land but buried Moses when he died.  I could see a song about God’s grace from an Old Testament perspective. (God was nice and merciful in the Old Testament…who knew?)

What about songs on Job? There is a Country or Blues song waiting to happen about Job.  Also, there is a song about God’s ways being higher than our ways and that He is mysterious and beyond our total comprehension.

What about songs on Solomon? Lord knows we need songs about wisdom in our culture.  Everybody has information and knowledge but not wisdom.
Also, there is a rhythm-n-blues or smooth jazz song about Solomon loving the wrong woman and the consequences of that decision.

So in essence, I believe Christian music due to business and target marketing has focus a little too hard on Becky and not the depth and richness our faith has shown throughout time. While I understand that our songs should focus on Jesus, it seems the other people of the Bible get left out and we don’t sing about  their struggles and triumphs in trying to live out their faith.

If our music (as well as other art) revealed more of that…then all people (believers and non-believers) could truly relate to our message and even if they don’t agree with it….they could respect the message because it feels real to them and not sanitized.

Music Review 6: Incognito (The Best Band You’ve Never Heard Of)


I’ve heard said or written that good or very good is the enemy of the best.  That may be true in some cases.  But, my question to the saying is…why don’t we appreciate the good or very good?  It’s not bad or horrible….so if something is good doesn’t it deserve recognition or acknowledgement as well.

I’m thinking about the things that are good but get overlooked or unnoticed like Graham Cracker Cookies (chocolate chip cookies get all the attention) or the Nissan Maxima (a lot people have them but they are never on the most desired car list) or San Antonio Spurs in NBA Basketball (Only the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, and Chicago Bulls have won more championships than the Spurs) and the novelist Athol Dickson ( he writes Christian Fiction but his novels are dynamic and interesting and I would put him up against a Richard Ford or Russell Banks or Martin Amis or Michael Chabon and he would hold his own.)

That brings me to my favorite band, Incognito.  I first heard them back in 1992 when I was living in Atlanta.  I had a friend who told me about this group from England that were not quite jazz or not quite R&B, but their music was great.  He played the Inside Life CD for me and I was hooked instantly.

I went to Sound Warehouse (that was the record store popular in Atlanta back in the early 1990s) the next day and bought my own copy of Inside Life and I wore out that cassette.  Journey Into Sunlight was my favorite song on that cassette and I drove my roommates crazy with it.

Several months later in 1992, Incognito came to Atlanta for a concert.  They played at a small club in the Little Five Points area of the city. I saw Bluey and the band and they played songs from Inside Life and Tribes, Vibes, and Scribes CDs and rocked the house. It was my first concert and I left that night knowing I would be a fan for a long time.

Fast forward to 2012, I’m married with two kids and living in San Antonio, Texas.  Life has changed quite a bit for me. However, one of the things that has remained constant is listening to Incognito.  Their songs over the years have picked me up, chilled me out, helped me deal with my relationship issues from past girlfriends, and been a constant companion for long drives out-of town.

The odd thing is that every time I’ve played their CDs for someone I always get the same reaction.  That music is great. Who is that band? I have always wondered why I keep getting the same reaction. I’ve had several theories to why Incognito is not well-known in America.

Could it be because they are British mostly? (Maysa is from Baltimore….I know! LOL!)

Could it be that their music is a mixture of 70’s funk, jazz, house, and dance music. (People like having a defined genre for their music listening pleasures)

Could it be that bands are not popular anymore? (Acts like Beyoncé, Usher, Drake, Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber or Miley Cyrus are what the masses like these days.)

It could be a combination of all of those factors.  However, I keep going back to the saying that started this blog post, “The good or very good is the enemy of the best.”

With 15 studio CDs and several live and remix CDs, Incognito has put out good music nearly on an annual basis and that consistency tends to get overlooked and underappreciated.  Well, not here.

Incognito consists of Jean-Paul “Bluey” Manuick, the creative genius and founder of the band. Also, there is a rotation of singers like Maysa (the most well-known), Joy Malcolm, Pamela Anderson, Mark Antoni, Tony Momrelle, Imaani, Jocelyn Brown,  and a bevy of musicians that have created the Incognito sound.  In recent years, the band has worked with Chaka Khan, Stevie Wonder, and Leon Ware.

My hope is that this band gets more recognition from the American music public. I guess it’s a fickle business on determining what becomes popular for mass consumption.  However, when there’s good music it deserves to be recognized and celebrated for their contribution.  This blog post is my appreciation for what Incognito has done throughout the years and the smile it has put on my face many times over.

Lastly, I have created a list of my favorite 15 Incognito Songs.  This was the hardest list I’ve created.  Here we go:

1) Did We Really Ever Try from Who Needs Love

2) Fences and Barriers from Adventures in Black Sunshine

3) When Tomorrow Brings You Down from Eleven

4) Everybody Loves The Sunshine from Bees, Things, & Flowers

5) A Shade of Blue from Beneath The Surface

6) I Remember A Time from Tales From The Beach

7) Step Aside from Tales From The Beach

8) Marrakech from No Time Like The Future

9) The Way You Love from Surreal

10) When Words Are Just Words from Tales From The Beach

11) Pieces Of A Dream from Positivity

12) Barumba from 100 Degrees and Rising

13) Come Away With Me from Eleven

14) Promise You The Moon from Inside Life

15) I Can See The Future from No Time Like The Future

Music Review 5: Peculiar Image-Vertical Glory

For about ten years, there has been a growing genre of Christian Hip-Hop that has come on the popular music scene.  I must admit I have not listened to a lot of it.  But like any fledging genre, some of it is worth listening to, some of it is not and there are some hidden gems that standout.

I received a copy of Vertical Glory by Peculiar Image a few weeks ago and it took me awhile to listen to it.  I’m glad I finally did.

Peculiar Image are an Austin/San Antonio, Texas-based group that was formed in 2003 by Levester White, Larry Purefoy, John Johnson, and Mike Dillard. The mission for their music is to “Vertical, Relevant, and enjoyable to people of all walks of life.”

I believe Vertical Glory reflects the group’s mission statement.  It is a mix of hip-hop, 70’s R & B, and Worship music that will make you bob you head and even get you to dance down the aisle at church.

The standout cuts are: What’s That Sound, Beautiful to God, Humility, and It’s Alright (Back to the 70’s).  However, when you listen to Vertical Glory, you will have your own favorite songs immediately.

There are a lot of well-known groups in music that receives a lot of publicity.  But it was nice for this reviewer to find some unknown talent that deserves some recognition and has a bright future ahead.

If you want to listen to some good uplifting music that’s relevant. I will recommend you add Vertical Glory to your music collection and will give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Music Review 4: Incognito-Surreal

For those who known me personally know that Incognito has been one of the bands I have listened to consistently over the past 20 years. (Pat Metheny Group is the other band.)

They are my favorite band and everytime I have played their music for someone, people have always been very receptive to their British Soulful Jazz mixed with 70’s funk.  They are always surprised by the fact that they have never heard of Incognito before.

Boy, they don’t what they have been missing!

As you can see, writing a review about your favorite band will make you tend to lose any sense of objectivity.  However, I will attempt to do just that on their latest CD release, Surreal.

I got Incognito’s latest earlier this week and I have not stopped playing it since.  Surreal reminded me of the soulfulness of their 100 Degrees and Rising CD and the jazzy vibes of Tribes, Vibes, and Scribes & Inside Life CDs.

The standout songs on Surreal are The Less You Know (featuring longtime vocalist, Maysa); Goodbye to Yesterday; Above the Night (my favorite song); Capricorn Sun (another one sung by Maysa); Don’t Wanna Know; The Way You Love; and Rivers on the Sun (an Incognito standard instrumental and my second favorite song).

Moreover, there is not a bad song on the CD and after their last two CDs: Tales from the Beach and Transatlantic RPM which were disappointing for me. Surreal is a strong return reminiscent of Incognito’s best work from the early to mid 90’s.

I will give Surreal 4.5 out of 5 stars and highly recommended to it anyone who loves soulful jazz, 70’s funk, and good, uplifting music in general.

Music Review 3: Fred Hammond’s God, Love, and Romance

I read from an interview prior to Fred Hammond’s latest release, God, Love, and Romance that he was unsure how his fans would receive it.

Well, I believe his fans should not worry about that at all and he will pick up some new fans from this excellent CD.

Hammond covers the topic of love and relationships with a Godly perspective in a variety of genres from jazz, funk, r & b, gospel and rock.

What I can appreciate from Hammond is that he doesn’t covers the subject in a manufactured “Christianese” way.  He sings about dating, marriage, and divorce in a way that everyone can relate to, Christian or not.

BTW, he refers to the Song of Solomon throughout both CDs and that refreshing to hear.  (When was the last time a pastor taught from that book to their congregation?)

I played both CDs through in one setting and the stand-out cuts for me are: When I Come Home to You, I’m In Love With You, The Proposal, My Love Is Real, I See the Sunshine’n, and I Got A Good Woman. 

The last song I mentioned has an interlude where two men are talking and one of them asked the other how has been able to stay married for 20 years.  The man replied that their marriage had not be easy and they almost reached the breaking point several times during their marriage.  But, he saw his wife praying for him and he had never seen anything like that before. (Prayer works!) He was touched by and realized how much his wife loved him and would do anything to keep their marriage together.  Powerful and Touching!

Hammond’s latest shows how Christian music can expand and go beyond the status quo to reveal how God can work in one of the most important areas in our lives.

I will that write God, Love, and Romance deserves 4 out of 5 stars and is a must have in your CD collection.