Tree of Life Review



AIRMAIL: Bodhi Blues — A Year in India: Questioning The Maitreya Project by Jessica Falcone

COLUMN: Storiedmusic — The Night I Walked Out by DJ T’challah

NOVEL EXCERPT: In a State of Partition by Aneesha Capur

UP THE CREEK: Editor’s Notes — Art, Yoga, and Abu Ghraib



You never understand what people are going through until you sit down, share a drink, and try to get to know them. I can tell you there are some needy souls out there! I mean some folks need a hug bad.

I remember a man named “Trigger,” and he was dangerous. His dead eyes seemed to want to suck the life out of the sun itself, and his choice of tunes reminded me of a death march. The Pink Floyd song, “Comfortably Numb,” was one of his favorites, although I considered it “head” music for chilling out purposes, not the accompaniment for a lively go-go club. But, I understood there were times when he needed to win and get his, so once in a while I would “make his day” no matter how the dancers scowled at me.

One night, I was walking up the D.J. room stairs while one of my favorite James Brown grooves, “There Was a Time,” was playing, when someone yelled out, “Turn that black crap off.”

Shocked, I hurried down the steps. “Who said that?” I asked.

I got nothing but silence, and thought, “Oh boy, here we go. The times they are a’ changing.”

Things got worse. Especially as groups like the “Hair” bands of rock tried their best to sell decadence and drugs, and sometimes degrade women through their music with songs like “10 Seconds to Love” by Motley Crue, and “Lay it Down” by Ratt.

Not to be outdone, Rap artists stepped up their selling of poisoned messages with songs like “Gin and Juice” by Snoop and DR. Dre and “Pop That Coochie” by Two Live Crew.

I’ll admit I enjoyed a lot of it, but I can’t say it really contributed to my life or anyone’s in any real sense.

Does radio contribute to our lower selves by bombarding us with music that insults our divine nature, intelligence, and makes us think selling drugs and our bodies is a viable means to an end? Do we really want to degrade women and honor our mothers and sisters in the same breath? How does that work?

Musicians spend countless hours developing a soundscape inspired by an internal groove machine, and then coloring it with lyrics that degrade themselves and women to get a record deal. Ask Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg or Motley Crue how effective it is. They are spiritually incapable of matching the lyrics to the music since what a musician plays on an instrument is usually a series of experimental pieces linked together, such as intro, verse, bridge, etc.

After the music, the lyrics usually follow, and now we have to “sell” or “sell out” to a corporate machine of non-musicians who only know the bottom line of business.

Coors Light has a commercial where they use “Love Train” by The O’Jays to sell their beer. If men wrote songs that honor women, we’d have to be completely honest and acknowledge women and their divine greatness and relinquish our “control” over them. Men would write of world conditions and problem solving instead of what happened at the club, how much our rings and cars cost, or how little women mean to us. When, in fact, everything we do is to put ourselves in better favor with them. With a little help from a sperm cell, women incubate, nourish, and give us an internal head start on what awaits us. If she is brutalized and stressed, malnourished and so on, so shall we be. That should speak volumes about how important women are to the health of this world.


Now men love all sexy women, but soon patrons were asking, “Where the Black girls at, D.J.T.?” “Where the Spanish women at, bro?” “Where the Chinese girls at, dude?”

I had asked myself the same question from time to time, and I decided to follow up on it. One day, I asked the club owner to let me audition some “sisters.”

“Absolutely not,” he said.

Surprised, I asked,” Why not?”

“My dad won’t allow it,” he replied.

“That’s bullshit,” I told him, and I added that if his hiring practices weren’t changing, I’d be quitting immediately. Now talking to this club owner in that tone of voice was scary. He was a young, brash Italian and kept at least one enforcer with him at all times. I knew he must be loaded with cash, and/or “connected.”

“Get the hell out of my office,” he snarled.

So I packed my albums, pulled out my CDs, and removed my photos from the walls. Suddenly, I heard shoes thundering up the D.J. booth steps.

“So you’re quittin’, huh?” he yelled. “Well let me help you.”

He opened the window and threw a crate of records out of it.

“What the &*#$@ are you doing?” I shouted.

“Nobody quits on me,” he said.

This man has lost his mind, I thought as I got my things and hurried outside where I grabbed up my records from the ground and went to my car. And then it dawned on me. I was out of a job. Just like that. But I couldn’t help feeling a hint of pride at standing up to the owner.

A few days went by and I began hustling to make ends meet. You can imagine how surprised I was when I got a call from the club owner.

“Can you meet me for dinner?” he said.

I almost fell over when he suggested we meet at his home with his wife and kids.

After dinner there we took a walk and agreed on the terms for us to resume our business. “The patrons won’t leave me alone,” he said. “And I don’t like dealing with them.”

I knew each dancer and what kind of music she liked. And, of course he said the D.J.s he tried out didn’t have a clue about the styles of music I played nor could they simulate the erotic tone I had on the microphone. As he spoke my calculator added and added some more cash to my base pay.

I agreed to return to work for what I thought was an obscene raise and when he agreed to it, I said, “Damn, he got me.”

When I returned, it was as if they knew exactly what time I’d be there. The bouncers and patrons helped me with my crates of records and C.D.s. I enjoyed handshakes and hugs, along with assurances that the club was “dead in the water” without me. I heard a tape I had made for my off-hours playing in the background and realized that while I was gone, I was still there and they’d rather hear a recording of me than someone else. That really put joy and thankfulness in my heart and I knew there was no reason to hold back on any level anymore.


The music scene shifted to the newer rock/metal sound of Megadeth, Guns and Roses, and Metallica with some White Snake for good measure. I noticed the dancers seemed to like the aggressive nature of it, although it seemed to make the fellas more likely to fight. Well what’s a Friday night without a good bar fight?

I couldn’t help but wonder why there’s never a fight when I play “Who’s that Lady?” by the Iley Brothers, “Fancy Dancer” by The Commodores, “She’s Fresh” by Kool and The Gang, or “Mary Jane” by Rick James. Yet the intent of songs like” I Drink Alone” redone by George Thorogood, “Cowboys From Hell” by Pantera, “Back in Black” by Whole Lotta Rosie, or “Dirty Deeds” by AC/DC seem to make the guys plumb loco.

One Friday night, a guy found his way upstairs to the D.J. booth. I had never seen anyone in real life like him before. He wore a tattered denim jacket, the dirtiest jeans I ever saw, long crazy unkempt hair, a full beard and moustache covering his mouth and neck, a leather airplane pilot’s helmet from World War One with straps hanging on either side — and — he was missing a front tooth. He would have been perfectly cast in “Animal House” with John Belushi.

A bit taken aback when Mr. Tattered Denim barked, “I want to hear Judas Priest’s ‘Diamonds and Rust,’” I reassured him that, “I’ll play it as soon as I can.”

So he said, “You’ll bloody play it now!” At which point he slammed his head through the wall.

I watched with my mouth wide open as he backed up and aimed to do it again.

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“OK, I’ll play it,” I quickly screamed.

“You bloody well better or I’ll be back,” he said with his fist in the air.

“Whew, that was a close one,” I sighed out loud, still not believing what I just saw.

I started thinking, maybe I need security, and that ain’t good. I played his song straight away, backed it up with “Grinder,” and promised myself to get a containment fence the next day and pay a bouncer a few clips to keep an eye on who approached me from here on out. And that worked for a while...

DJ T'challah

DJ T’challah

Groomed to be an accomplished dealer of funky music from childhood, T’challah has studied all genres of music as an avid listener and drummer, guitarist and singer. He began Dee-Jaying parties at eight years old. He graduated from Essex County College where he majored in communications. T’challah has done approximately sixty weddings and 105 award ceremonies. A graduate from The Center for Media Arts with their “Golden Ear” Award, T’challah studied to become a recording and video engineer. He has worked for Hype Williams and Erik White as a live sound engineer and on videos for successful Rap Artist D.M.X., Ja-rule, and Nelly. He’s currently producing Hip-Hop and R&B acts with Erik White and Michael “Moon” Reuben.

COLUMN: Storiedmusic — In the Beginning
COLUMN: Storiedmusic — Where DJ T finds a home. Or does he?
COLUMN: Storiedmusic — The Night I Walked Out