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MichaelJackson:CrownedinAfrica

(Article/Interview)
Transcript

Whenhewasoutfrontasthe14yearoldleadvocalistoftheJacksonFivesinginggroup,
MichaelJacksonvisitedAfricaforthefirsttime.

Whenwecameofftheplanein[Dakar,Senegal]Africa,herecalls,weweregreetedbya
longlineofAfricandancers.Theirdrumsandsoundsfilledtheairwithrhythm.Iwasgoing
crazy,Iwasscreaming,Allright!TheygottherhythmThisisit.ThisiswhereIcomefrom.
Theorigin.

Nineteenyearslater,whenMichael,now33,cameofftheplaneinGabon,aWestAfrican
neighbornationofSenegal,hewasgreetedbyanexcited,screamingcrowdofgradeschool
studentswhocarriedabannerthanproclaimed:WelcomeHomeMichael.Drumsoundsagain
filledtheairwithrhythmthatflowedfromfanswhogatheredattheairportandlinedthestreets
inanticipationofseeingthekingofpop,rock,andsoul,whowouldlaterbecrownedKing
SaniinaWestAfricanvillage.

Despiteorperhapsbecauseofthisacclaim,thepopidolalmostimmediatelybecamethecenter
ofaninternationalcontroversybasedonanegativemediacampaign.Themediabashing
includedthesebiglies:

ThetripwasapublicrelationsdisasterforMichael.Truth:Itwasatriumphinwhichhedrew
morespectatorsinGabonthanNelsonMandelaandmoreintheIvoryCoastthanthePope,
accordingtoAfricanspokespersons.

ThesingercutshortanAfricantourafterastopovergeneratedthewrongkindofexcitement.
Truth:Thesponsorswantedhimtoextendhistourtomeetthedemandforhisappearances
everywhere.

HeheldhishandtohisnosebecausetheAfricannationssmelled.Truth:Hesometimes
touchedhisnose,anoldnervoushabitwhichearnedhimthenicknameSmelly,given
originallybyQuincyJonesbecauseMichaelwastouchinghisnoseinLosAngeles.

HecollapsedfromtheheatandhewenttoLondonforamedicalappointment.Truth:Hewas
neverbotheredbytheheat.Hispersonalphysician,Dr.R.Chalmers,accompaniedJacksonon
thetrip.JacksondidntgotoLondonforamedicalappointment.

HerefusedtoshakehandswithAfricans.Truth:Heshookthehandsofhundredsofpeople,
huggedandkissedchildreninhospitalsandinstitutionsforthementallyretarded.

HeisneitherBlacknorWhiteandisnotagoodrolemodelforchildren.Truth:AfterMichael
readaprayerinthebasilicaofOurLadyofPeaceintheIvoryCoast,a9yearoldboy
exclaimed:Michaelislove,love,love!Iwanttobelikehim.

Becauseheiswellknownforhishumanityandphilanthropy,tourorganizerCharlesBobbit
reflectedontheAfricantourandsaid:IwasimpressedwiththeinteractionbetweenMichael
andthechildren.Hesatonthebedwithchildrenwhoweredeformedandchildrenthatwereill
Hesatthereandtalkedtothem,hugged,cuddledthem.Heshookhandsanddidnotweara
surgicalmasklikehedoessometimestoAmericaThatqualifieshimasarolemodelfor
childrenhisdeedsandnothislooks.

Whiletheinternationalcontroversyraged,Michaelremainedaloof,refusingtoreadthestories
andsayingthathepreferredtolethisdeedsandhissongsspeakforhim.Strangelyand
significantly,hehadanticipatedthisandothercriticismsinthesong,WhyYouWannaTripOn
Me,intheDangerousalbum.Thesongsays,inpart:

TheysayImdifferent
Theydontunderstand
Buttheresabiggerproblem
Thatsmuchmoreindemand
Yougotworldhunger
Notenoughtoeat
Sotheresreallynotime
Tobetrippinonme

ItwasclearfromthebeginningthattheAfricanpeopleagreedwithMichael.Andfromthetime
ofhisarrival,thenativeofGary,Indianawaswelcomedlikearulingdignitaryandalonglost
son.

Hehadcometothelandofhisancestorstoparticipateinahistoricceremonyconducted
beneathasacredtreeinthegoldminingvillageofKrindjabo,populatedbytheAgnitribeand
locatednearAbidjan,IvoryCoast.Asthevillagepeoplestoodinadmiration,AmonNDjafolk,
thetraditionaltribalchiefofKrindjabo,placedacrownofgoldupontheheadofthemusical
monarchandpronouncedhimkingofSani.

Almostovercomebyemotions,theshy,sensitivesonofJosephandKatherineJacksonsmiled
andsaid,Mercibeaucoup,totheFrenchspeakingpeopleandrepeatedinEnglish,Thankyou
verymuch.

Hethenjoinedeldersofthekingscourt,signedofficialdocumentsandsatonathroneofgold
aswomendancers,cladinwhitegowns,gaveadazzlingperformanceofritualdances.These
elderlywomenaretheguardiansofthevillage,andtheirceremonialdancesgavetheir

blessingstothecrowningofKingSaniandaskedGodforprotectionatatreethatsymbolized
theessenceofpower.

Themusicalmessenger,whojourneyedtoWestandEastAfricannationsasaselfproclaimed
ambassadorofpeace,love,andgoodwill,achievedasuccessthatexceededhisexpectation.

FromhissunsetarrivalinGabon,wheremorethan100,000peoplegreetedhimwithspiritual
bedlam,tohisstopinCairo,Egypt,towhichhehadpaidhomageonhisnewestalbum,
Dangerous,withthebestsellingsingleandmusicvideoRemembertheTime,Michaelwas
caughtupinahurricaneofhappyhappenings.

InFrenchspeaking,oilandmineralrichGabon,hereceivedtheWestAfricannationsMedalof
HonorfromPresidentOmarBongo,whowastheofficialhostoftheperformersComebackTo
Edentour.

PresidentBongotoldJacksonthathewasthefirstentertainertoeverreceivethemedal,which
untilthenhasbeengivenonlytoheadsofstatesandhighrankingdiplomatsanddignitaries
includingNelsonMandela.

Ashostofthetour,PresidentBongoappointedhisdaughter,PascalineBongo,thenations
ForeignMinister,andhisson,AliBongo,tocoordinatethetouralongwithCharlesBobbit,a
consultanttothepresident,whoinitiatedtheideaforJacksonsvisit.

Jacksonagreedtogoonthenonperformingtourwiththestipulationthathisprioritywashis
desiretovisitorphanages,childrenshospitals,churches,schools,andplaygrounds.

DuringhisvisitstoGabon,theIvoryCoast,Tanzania,andEgypt,heencounteredMichael
maniaeverywhere.Hisimagewasonposters,Tshirts,billboards,apostagestamp(in
Tanzania),andstreetbanners.Hismusicwasplayedontheradio,pipedintohotelsOkume
PalaceinLibreville,GabonHotelIvoireinAbidjan,IvoryCoastandtheKilimanjaroHotelinDar
esSalaam,Tanzania.

Energeticandintenselyinterestedinhisfans,helogged30,000milesin11dayspassed
through11timezones,sleptinfivetimezonesandlandedonfourcontinentsSouthAmerica,
Africa,Europe,andNorthAmerica.His26personentouragetraveledinaBoeing707Executive
planewithstateroom,privatebath,openbar,lounges,diningareas,videoandaudioequipment,
telephones,andfaxmachines.

Andwhenitwasover,theentertainer,contrarytofalserumors,hadgivenanewMichael
Jacksontwisttopersontopersondiplomacyandhadtouchedthelivesofhundredsof
thousandsofproudAfricans.

INTERVIEW

OFALLthesuperstarswhoarereluctanttosharetheirpersonalviewswiththepublicviathe
press,MichaelJacksonrankseasilyasthemostreluctantone.Aconsummateextrovertwhen
onstage,heisastightlippedasaTrappistmonkwhenitcomestomeetingthepress.That's
whyJohnsonPublishingCo.considersitanextraordinarycoupthatthekingofpopabandoned
hisusualreticenceandgavethelongestinterview"ineightyears"toEBONYandJet.The
interview,whichappearedintheMay1992issueofEBONYisreprintedbelow.

ItwasconductedbyJetExecutiveEditorRobertE.Johnsonduringtheentertainer'svisittofour
Africancountries(Gabon,theIvoryCoast,Tanzania,Egypt).Duringthetrip,theentertainerwas
crownedkingofSaniataceremonyintheIvoryCoast.

EBONY/JET: Do you have any special feeling about this return to the continent of Africa?
Michael Jackson:
For me, it's like the "dawn of civilization." It's the first place where society
existed. It's seen a lot of love. I guess there's that connection because it is the root of all
rhythm. Everything. It's home.
EBONY/JET: You visited Africa in 1974. Can you compare and contrast the two visits?
Michael Jackson:
I'm more aware of things this time: the people and how they live and their
government. But for me, I'm more aware of the rhythms and the music and the people. That's
what I'm really noticing more than any thing. The rhythms are incredible. You can tell
especially the way the children move. Even the little babies, when they hear the drums, they
start to move. The rhythm, the way it affects their soul and they start to move. The same
thing that Blacks have in America.
EBONY/JET: How does it feel to be a real king?
Michael Jackson:
I never try to think hard about it because I don't want it to go to my head.
But, it's a great honor...
EBONY/JET: Speaking of music and rhythm, how did you put together the gospel songs on
your last album?
Michael Jackson:
I wrote "Will You Be There?" at my house, "Never Land" in California.... I
didn't think about it hard. That's why it's hard to take credit for the songs that I write,
because I just always feel that it's done from above. I feel fortunate for being that instrument
through which music flows. I'm just the source through which it comes. I can't take credit for
it because it's God's work. He's just using me as the messenger....

EBONY/JET: What was the concept for the Dangerous album?


Michael Jackson:
I wanted to do an album that was like Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite. So
that in a thousand years from now, people would still be listening to it. Something that would
live forever. I would like to see children and teenagers and parents and all races all over the
world, hundreds and hundreds of years from now, still pulling out songs from that album and
dissecting it. I want it to live.
EBONY/JET: I notice on this trip that you made a special effort to visit children.
Michael Jackson:
I love children, as you can see. And babies.
EBONY/JET: And animals.
Michael Jackson:
Well, there's a certain sense that animals and children have that gives me a
certain creative juice, a certain force that later on in adulthood is kind of lost because of the
conditioning that happens in the world. A great poet said once. "When I see children, I see
that God has not yet given up on man." An Indian poet from India said that, and his name is
Tagore. The innocence of children represents to me the source of infinite creativity. That is
the potential of every human being. But by the time you are an adult, you're conditioned;
you're so conditioned by the things about you and it goes. Love. Children are loving, they
don't gossip, they don't complain, they're just open-hearted. They're ready for you. They don't
judge. They don't see things by way of color. They're very child-like. That's the problem with
adults they lose that child-like quality. And that's the level of inspiration that's so needed and
is so important for creating and writing songs and for a sculptor, a poet or a novelist. It's that
same kind of innocence, that same level of consciousness, that you create from. And kids
have it. I feel it right away from animals and children and nature. Of course. And when I'm on
stage. I can't perform if I don't have that kind of ping pony with the crowd. You know the kind
of cause and effect action, reaction. Because I play off of them. They're really feeding me
and I'm just acting from their energy.
EBONY/JET: Where is all this heading?
Michael Jackson:
I really believe that God chooses people to do certain things, the way
Michelangelo or Leonardo da Vinci or Mozart or Muhammad Ali or Martin Luther King is chosen.
And that is their mission to do that thing. And I think that I haven't scratched the surface yet
of what my real purpose is for being here. I'm committed to my art.
I believe that all art has as its ultimate goal the union between the material and the spiritual,
the human and the divine. And I believe that that is the very reason for the existence of art
and what I do. And I feel fortunate in being that instrument through which music flows...

Deep inside I feel that this world we live in is really a big, huge, monumental symphonic
orchestra.
I believe that in its primordial form all of creation is sound and that it's not just random
sound, that it's music. You've heard the expression, music of the spheres? Well, that's a very
literal phrase. In the Gospels, we read, "And the Lord God made man from the dust of the
earth and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul."
That breath of life to me is the music of life and it permeates every fiber of creation. In one
of the pieces of the Dangerous album, I say: "Life songs of ages, throbbing in my blood, have
danced the rhythm of the tide and flood."
This is a very literal statement, because the same new miracle intervals and biological
rhythms that sound out the architecture of my DNA also governs the movement of the stars.
The same music governs the rhythm of the seasons, the pulse of our heartbeats, the migration
of birds, the ebb and flow of ocean tides, the cycles of growth, evolution and dissolution. It's
music, it's rhythm. And my goal in life is to give to the world what I was lucky to receive: the
ecstasy of divine union through my music and my dance. It's like, my purpose, it's what I'm
here for.
EBONY/JET: What about politics?
Michael Jackson:
I never get into politics. But I think music soothes the savage beast. If you
put cells under a microscope and you put music on, you'll see them move and start to dance.
It affects the soul... I hear music in everything. [Pauses] You know, that's the most I've said in
eight years. You know I don't give interviews. That because I know you, and I trust you. You're
the only person I trust to give interviews to.

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