Written by Abel Alazo
It is hard for me to write about a person who lived before my time from a personal point of view. Although, music is a strange phenomenon. I’m used to listening to and enjoying any music as long as it is real and honest – Jazz, Rock, Classical, or African Music. In my view, there are no classifications in music. What matters to me are the emotions that spark. Even though our personal experiences of music may be different, the music is capable of connecting us emotionally, and Hendrix’s is no exception.
I was a 12-year-old boy in Havana when I heard Hendrix for the first time. I didn’t understand the sounds, but curiosity made me keep listening, and I’ve kept listening until today. It’s still out of curiosity, but a different kind. My curiosity today is based on a deeper reflection about his sounds and the emotional state that created them. Even more interesting to me is recognizing my own emotional states through those sounds. I’m not trying to understand Hendrix the man; that would be impossible. It is rather about understanding Hendrix as an artist, and the questions his art provokes within me – to which I still have no answers.
Many Hendrix followers and fans grew old in nostalgia. They got conservative, becoming exactly what he never got to be! Many criticize young musicians daring to play Hendrix. For some, it is almost sacrilegious to touch his music in an “unorthodox way”, when Hendrix himself was young and “unorthodox” in every possible way!
His music was as new as the times he lived in, and even today it sounds new! Many hear “cosmic” or “science fiction” sounds in his music…To me, that seems like a way of trying to categorize an open sound and encapture a free emotion. Hendrix knew he was opening new doors of perception with his music. He knew it was about directions and not answers. In many ways, he was an old soul. When we listen to his last two years of recordings, we hear a constant exploration, a search into the depth of his own capability to express. And a wish to touch peoples’ souls and even die trying!
Hendrix’s Grafitti in Havana Cuba 2019.
I was a 12-year-old boy in Havana when I heard Hendrix for the first time. I didn't understand the sounds, but curiosity made me keep listening..
There are some key songs that are my lifelong companions. Songs that heal me in bad times or inspire me to look beyond the possible. Songs like “Pali Gap”, “Voodoo Child”, and “Machine Gun”.
For example, the version of “In From the Storm” in the Isle of Wight concert is like coming out of some sort of dark unknown space within someone’s soul. But it’s still wonderful and benevolent music with no answers… only directions, emotions, notes, noise, textures, and heartbreaking honesty. The song starts with a drum intro that lays out a rhythmic structure, expanding and contracting like a chaotic yet controlled “march”. The guitar enters like a disruption that turns into a guiding electric rhythm in emotional chaos and imperfection. This amalgam of sounds is supported by a solid and bold bass line that beautifully completes the few-minutes-sonic-universe.
Why am I writing this? Well, I needed to express my humble gratitude to his work, which has given my life inspiration on many occasions and, a posture towards creative direction. I’m not a fan or a follower; I’m a sonic wanderer, and I found in his music a lifetime wonder. Thank you Jimi!