Tiki Black writes: I was born with fingers that suggested a predisposition for playing the piano. So when I saw and touched a piano for the first time, my heartstring got stuck and my eyes almost came out of their orbits. It is this handicap that made it impossible for me to understand the financial strings that prevented my mother from buying me a piano and enrolling me at the conservatoire.
I knew that this would affect the way I heard and understood music in general and classical music in particular. I also knew that my lazy nature and the remains of a grudge will never allow me to grasp the piano in the same way later on in my life as I would have had right there and then. For one, I was a child brought up to believe that as long as I performed well at school, I could have all that I wanted.
I went to school between France and Cameroon, encountering music as diverse as the musicians’ experience will allow them to report. One of my schools was the lycee Frederic Chopin where I grew interested in the music of the polish composer, all the more as I was enrolled in the corresponding boarding school which had… a piano! Under the encouragement of one of my best friend (nickname: La Thouille), and the instructions of a beginners’ lesson book entitled “la méthode rose” (that La Thouille has offered me), I started practising assiduously 2 hours a day, trying to learn as much as I could, under the threat of a new move to Cameroon or elsewhere in France where they would have forgetfully omitted to make a piano available.
Ambidextrian enough within a few months to read and play my favourite piano piece, the Etude n. 69 op 2 from Chopin, I judged (clearly without the more mature advice of a piano teacher) that I knew enough to do what I truly wanted to do, play the way I felt, understand music the way that my heartstring and eardrums interpreted them and that all school rules were both too late or too religious to allow me to expand to.
It is in this quest, that I started serial songwriting, moved to Britain and somewhere in the midst of all that, that I met with the works of Samuel Coleridge Taylor. You see, hearing of a Black classical composer was as rare in that period (for me at least) as finding a place with a piano readily available and tuned. It felt the same. He became my piano oasis, my hope that, although not a classical musician or a pianist myself, I could establish myself just where I wanted, as the person I wanted to be. Colour (and beyond, gender and education) should never have to matter where the heart is.
I was introduced to Coleridge Taylor via his song “Deep River” (which I endlessly link to on the homepage of one of my websites). It was classical music but it had a familiar depth. Noone could reach my emotions like Chopin but there was always that one set of feelings that was not expressed in Chopin’s works. And there, right in Samuel’s Deep river, it laid, as if having forever waited for me. I played it over and over and over again (and I still do) as if it were a lost feeling that had finally found its composition, its expression, because it just was. In fact, I reckon that half of its plays on youtube are just from me.
I must say it took me quite some time to buy anything else that he had created. Just the idea of him was great enough, encouraging enough for me. Then the specific interpretation of Deep River filled any other possible gaps. What if I did not like any of his other works?
We did not really have the same style, far from that. We did not have the same story. Really, we did not have anything in common that we had worked to achieve, except I was hoping, creating our own distinctive works in a style that was not associated with us, in spite of all the prejudice of sarcastical probability. But creativity makes up it own rules where rules fail to encourage creativity.
So here I am now, composing my own music, not classical or other, in fact without the boxes of genres, letting my creativity flow freely in and out of the deep river of my emotions.