Interview with Fred Ho
Fred Ho is a musician, composer, writer and activist. A couple of books he edited, contributed to and helped get published were Legacy to Liberation and Sounding Off! Music as Subversion/Revision/Revolution. He is also a well renowned Jazz musician/composer and has led his own music group around to perform around the world. In addition, Fred Ho has been a member of the Nation of Islam, I Wor Kuen and the League of Revolutionary Struggle. You can check out his site big red media for further information about Fred Ho. I recently was able to conduct a very brief interview through e-mail, as Fred was currently in Costa Rica, performing. Many thanks to Fred as he seemed very busy, yet nicely enough replied quickly and concisely. My questions are in lowercase and his are in uppercase.
1. First off how would you state your own political theory?
IDEOLOGICALLY AND POLITICALLY I CHARACTERIZE MYSELF AS A MARXIST-LENINIST OR A MATRIARCHAL REVOLUTIONARY SOCIALIST SINCE I BELIEVE MARXISM IS ESSENTIALLY A REVOLUTIONARY FEMINISM THAT ASSERTS THE FIRST CLASS STRUGGLE WAS THE VIOLENT OVERTHROW OF WOMYN WHICH LED TO THE CONSTRUCTION OF PATRIARCHY, THE STATE AS AN INSTRUMENT OF CLASS RULE AND TO SOCIAL CLASSES. BUT MY TRAJECTORY AND HISTORY IN THE M-L MOVEMENT COMES OUT OF THE U.S. OPPRESSED NATIONALITY MOVEMENTS, SPECIFICALLY THE API AND AFRICAN AMERICAN LEFT. I COUNT MY PRINCIPLE INFLUENCES BEING CABRAL, MAO, FANON, NGUGI, MALCOLM X, MARIA MIES, ALEXANDRA KOLLANTAI, ETC.
2. How do you see it working in the U.S.? Or will it ever work in theU.S., if so do you feel optimistic that it is in the near future?
THE U.S. IS A WHITE-SETTLER COLONIAL NATION-STATE ERECTED UPON THE OPPRESSION OF NATIVE NATIONS, THE NEW AFRIKAN NATION, THE CHICANO-NATIVE NATION, THE HAWAIIAN NATION, SEVERAL COLONIES INCLUDING PUERTO RICO AND OTHERS, AND MILLIONS OF OTHER OPPRESSED NATIONALITIES INCLUDING FORMER OPPRESSED NATIONALITIES FROM SOUTHERN AND EASTERN EUROPE WHO WERE ABLE TO ASSIMILATE INTO THE WHITE OPPRESSOR NATION DUE TO THE RACIAL DIVIDE BASED ON WHITE SKIN PRIVILEGE AND PRIMACY. THAT MAKES NATIONAL LIBERATION AND SOCIALIST REVOLUTIONARY STRUGGLE EXTREMELY COMPLEX AND FRAUGHT WITH HUGE CONTRADICTIONS. THE IMMENSE WEALTH WROUGHT FROM NATIONAL OPPRESSION AND IMPERIALISM HAS CREATED AN ENORMOUS FALSE CONSCIOUSNESS AND SOCIAL CHAUVINISM AMONG ALL AMERICANS, WHO ARE MISLED IN IDENTIFYING WITH YANKEE IMPERIALISM OVER THEIR CLASS INTERESTS OR ANTI-IMPERIALISM BECAUSE IT MEANS "SACRIFICING" THAT TERRIFICALLY PRIVILEGED STANDARD OF LIVING AND SENSE OF SUPREMACY. SO THE ROAD IS TOUGH AND TORTUOUS WITH MANY COMRADES GIVING UP, BEING BRIBED OR BOUGHT OFF INTO COMPLACENCY, ETC. IN THE HISTORY OF THE U.S., THERE HAVE BEEN HUGE UPRISINGS, REBELLIONS AND CLASS AND NATIONAL WARFARE. THE PROBLEM IS THAT NONE OF THESE UPSURGES HAS CRYSTALLIZED INTO A LEADING, DEEPLY ROOTED, AWESOME REVOLUTIONARY PARTY (OR PARTIES). THE BLACK PANTHER PARTY WAS THE PRIMARY MOVEMENT FOR ARMED STRUGGLE IN THE U.S. DURING THE 20TH CENTURY BUT IT LASTED ONLY A FEW YEARS. THE NEW LEFT M-L MOVEMENT ALSO BARELY MADE IT BEYOND A DECADE AT THE VERY MOST. THE REASONS FOR THE PARTIAL SUCCESSES (OR YOU COULD SAY PARTIAL FAILURES AS WELL) ARE STILL BEING ANALYSED AND SORTED OUT. SHOULD WE BE HOPEFUL? OF COURSE, UNLESS YOU THINK YOU'LL BE FORTUNATE TO HIDE OR JUST COAST ALONG WITH RACISM, SEXISM, CLASS EXPLOITATION AND INCREASING JINGOISM AND FACIST ESCALATION. THE PROBLEM IS THE RACE AGAINST THE ECOLOGICAL CLOCK, BEFORE CAPITALISM DESTROYS TOO MUCH OF THE ECOSYSTEM TO A POINT AT WHICH IT BECOMES UNSUSTAINABLE AND IRREVERSIBLE. I GIVE IT ABOUT ANOTHER 100-200 YEARS, BUT SOONER WITH MOUNTING CRISES AND INTERNATIONAL ERUPTIONS.
3. What do you feel is the role of radical (and I'm going to defineradical as left in action and thought of progressive/liberal) APIcommunities in order create true social justice within North America.
THE API LIBERATION MOVEMENT IS A MULTI-CLASS STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM FROM THE MYRIAD EFFECTS OF NATIONAL OPPRESSION. THE WORKERS, BOTH IMMIGRANT AND U.S.-BORN, ARE THE BACKBONE, THOUGH THE ENTIRE "COMMUNITY" OR "PEOPLE" WILL PARTICIPATE TO VARYING LEVELS OF INTENSITY AND CONVICTION AS "RACISM" AND NATIONAL OPPRESSION EFFECTS THE ENTIRE NATIONALITY. WE SEE THIS IN EVERY ISSUE TAKEN BY BY APIs. THE UPPER CLASSES (PETTY BOURGEOISIE AS APIs DON'T REALLY HAVE MEMBERSHIP IN THE BIGGEST BOURGEOISIE, THE IMPERIALIST CLASS THAT RUNS THE U.S. ECONOMICALLY-POLITICALLY-MILITARILY-CULTURALLY) TAKE UP ISSUES THAT EFFECT THEM AND IN THE MOST REFORMIST WAY, ISSUES SUCH AS GLASS CEILING, RACIST IMAGES IN THE MEDIA, JOB DISCRIMINATION, ETC. THE WORKERS AND LOWER STRATA IMMIGRANTS (WHO OWN VERY SMALL BUSINESSES AND BARELY EAK OUT AN INCOME) USUALLY CONFRONT ISSUES THAT AFFECT THEM MOST DIRECTLY AND IMPACTFULLY: SUCH AS RACIST VIOLENCE, RACIST IMMIGRATION ATTACKS, CUTS AND LOSS OF SERVICES, ETC. THE KEY IS TO UNITE THE API, AND OTHER "THIRD WORLD" (OR OPPRESSED NATIONALITY) MOVEMENT WITH THE SOCIALIST (PROLETARIAN) REVOLUTION TO END U.S. IMPERIALISM. THIS INCLUDES SPECIFIC DEMANDS AND STRUGGLES AS THE SUCCESSION/INDEPENDENCE OF HAWAII, AND OTHER SUCCESSION/INDEPENDCE STRUGGLES BY NATIVE, NEW AFRIKAN AND CHICANO NATIONS; THE ENDING OF ALL FORMS OF INEQUALITY AND WHITE PRIVILEGE/SUPREMACY; ETC. THIS IS WHAT IS CALLED UNITING THE NATIONAL STRUGGLES/MOVEMENTS WITH THE PROLETARIAN REVOLUTION, MEANING FORGING A UNITED FRONT AGAINST THE COMMON ENEMY OF U.S. IMPERIALISM; CONSTRUCTING NEW NATION-STATES AND ACTUAL INDEPENDENT POLITICAL GOVERNMENTS SEPARATE FROM THE U.S. WASHINGTON-D.C. BASE.
4. How and when did you first get into music?
AS A YOUNG TEENAGER, SEARCHING FOR WAYS TO EXPRESS THE POLITICAL AND CULTURAL EXPLOSION I WAS GOING THRU, DISCOVERING MY IDENTITY AS AN OPPRESSED NATIONALITY, INSPIRED BY THE BLACK LIBERATION MOVEMENT AND ITS ATTENDANT REVOLUTIONARY CULTURAL EXPRESSIONS, AND MY CONSTANT INVESTIGATION OF WHAT WOULD IT TAKE TO END ALL FORMS OF OPPRESSION AND EXPLOITATION THOROUGHLY, AT THE ROOT SOURCE AND NOT SUPERFICIALLY OR COMESTICALLY.
5. How and when (if ever) did you make the link between music/art/cultureand resistance?
THERE NEVER WAS A SEPARATE LINK. TO THIS TODAY, I'VE BEEN PLAYING THE SAXOPHONE AS LONG AS I'VE BEEN IN THE STRUGGLE AND I'VE BEEN IN THE MOVEMENT AS LONG AS I CONTINUE TO MAKE MUSIC. SOMEHOW, MIRACULOUSLY, I WAS ABLE TO MAKE A LIVING JOINING MY MUSIC AND POLITICS WITHOUT HAVING TO TAKE A JOB AT A UNIVERSITY TEACHING OR WORKING IN ANYTHING THAT DIDN'T DEVOTE ALL OF MY ENERGIES, ABILITIES, IMAGINATION AND SPIRIT TO REVOLUTIONARY CULTURE AND POLITICS. AND IT HASN'T BEEN EASY, BUT YOU LOOK AT MY LIFE AND COMPARE IT TO OTHERS OF MY AGE AND GENERATION WHO ONCE WERE LEFTISTS. THEY HAVE THE ACCOUTREMENTS AND TRAPPINGS (AND PERHAPS TRAPS) OF PETTY BOURGEOIS, MIDDLECLASS SETTLER-COLONIAL LIFESTYLES AND CLASS POSITION: THE SPOUSE, KIDS, HOME, CAR(S), REFRIGERATOR AND CABINETS AND CLOSETS FULL OF PROCESSED CONSUMER GOODS, ETC.
6. What role do you feel does music/Arts play within the radcial APIcommunity today compared to the 60s/70s?
ALL OPPRESSED PEOPLES NEED A CULTURE OF RESISTANCE AND STRUGGLE THAT AFFIRMS WHO THEY ARE WHICH ISN'T WHAT THEIR OPPRESSORS MAKE OF THEM (THE STEREOTYPES, ETC.). AS CABRAL SAID, CULTURE IS THE FIRST PROCESS IN NATIONAL LIBERATION. WITHOUT A CULTURE OR IDENTITY, A PEOPLE WILL SIMPLY BELIEVE THEY ARE IMITATIONS OF THEIR OPPRESSORS OR WORSE, INFERIORS. WE NEED A CULTURE THAT AFFIRMS OUR UNIQUENESS AND NOT IMITATE OR IMBIBE WHITE SUPREMACIST FORMS SUCH AS BOURGEOIS CLASSICAL MUSIC, COMMERCIAL POP CULTURE, ETC. UNFORTUNATELY, TOO MANY OF THE SO-CALLED HIP HOP GENERATION HAS SWALLOWED THE MOST VACUOUS, SUPERFICIAL AND SHALLOW ASPECTS OF BLACK URBAN CULTURE THAT HAS BEEN CO-OPTED BY MADISON AVE AND HOLLYWOOD. RATHER THAN BECOME INNOVATORS, REVOLUTIONARY ARTISTS WHO SEEK TO TRANSFORM THE FORM OF THE CULTURE AND ITS CONTENT, THEY'VE BECOME SHALLOW IMITATORS AND POSEURS. "ATTITUDE" IS SIMPLY THE MARKETING OF FAKE OR FAUX MILITANCY AND NOT REVOLUTIONARY IDEOLOGY AND PRAXIS (UNITY OF THEORY AND PRACTICE, PERHAPS A SARTREAN TERM).
7. Are there any people or organizations (politically/musically) thatimpacted your life the most?
MANY, MANY, MANY. AND IT CONTINUES EVERY DAY. EVEN BY NEGATIVE EXAMPLE: TELLING ME WHAT I DON'T WANT TO BECOME OR GET INVOLVED WITH.
8. I recently read an article by Kenyon Ferrow, in which Kenyon critiques the appropriation of Black culture (eg:hip-hop) by API folk who seem to beusing it as a "radical" form of expression. What are your feelings ofBlack cultural appropriation and exploitation by non-Black folk?
BLACKS ALSO APPROPRIATE. THE QUESTION ISN'T APPROPRIATION VS. BORROWING AS ALL PEOPLE DO IT (OPPRESSED PEOPLES STEAL FROM THEIR OPPRESSORS AND COLLABORATE WITH OTHER OPPRESSED FOLKS LIKE ON A PLANTATION SYSTEM), BUT WHY AND HOW THAT APPROPRIATION/BORROWING IS DONE. IF API FOLK UTILIZE, INCORPORATE, GET INSPIRED BY, TAKE INFLUENCES FROM RADICAL AND REVOLUTIONARY BLACK POLITICS AND CULTURE, AND USE IT TO FASHION SOMETHING FOR THEMSELVES, GREAT. WE ARE NOT ARGUING ABOUT OWNERSHIP OR PROPRIETORSHIP: THAT'S CAPITALISM! BLACK MUSIC IS A MISCEGENATED MUSIC (HEY, THE SAXOPHONE, THE PIANO ARE ALL WESTERN EURO INSTRUMENTS!). THE POINT IS WHY AND WHAT IS BEING FASHIONED. IS IT FOR PROFITEERING AND PERSONAL AGGRANDIZEMENT OR IS IT FOR SOCIAL LIBERATION? UNFORTUNATELY TOO MANY API HIP HOPPERS HAVE TOO LITTLE CONSCIOUSNESS TO UNDERSTAND THE REVOLUTIONARY RESPONSIBILITY TO INNOVATE, SO THEY JUST COPY, IMITATE, MIME AND REGURGITATE, OFTEN OF PREDICTABLE AND NAUSEOUS RESULTS, SO BLACK FOLKS ARE RIGHTEOUSLY ANGERED AND THINK APIs ARE DOING A BLACKFACING JOB ("COVERING" LIKE HOW ELVIS DID ON FATS DOMINO). BUT TOO MANY OF THESE API HIP HOPPERS ARE CAUGHT UP INTO THE CONSUMER SPECTACLE HYPE THAT HIP HOP HAS BECOME AND CAN'T DISCERN ANY REVOLUTIONARY ELEMENTS AND ASPECTS. AND MOST OF HIP HOP IN THE MAINSTREAM IS SO REACTIONARY TODAY THAT EVEN WITHIN THE BLACK COMMUNITY THERE ARE SO MANY CONTRADICTORY RESPONSES.
9. Are there any new upcoming or unknown radical API musicians/artist orevents that you would like to shed some light on? (this of course includesyour own stuff)
LET ME JUST POINT OUT MY WORK AT BIG RED MEDIA.
10. And finally a geeky audiophile question: do you enjoy analog ordigital recordings?
I ENJOY BOTH. BUT DIGITAL IS FAR MORE COST EFFECTIVE FOR US GUERILLA ARTISTS. UNLESS YOU ARE POP OR HIP HOP AND HAVE RECORD LABEL ADVANCED BUDGETS, WE CAN'T AFFORD ANALOG ANYMORE. BUT MOST OF MY MUSIC IS STILL VINYL BECAUSE THE TOUGHEST MUSIC WON'T BE RE-RELEASED ONTO CD FORMAT UNLESS THERE'S A SIZEABLE ENOUGH MARKET TO WARRANT A RECORD COMPANY DECISION TO DO SO. AND I LOVE THE 13 INCH COVERS AND LINER NOTES AND I DON'T WANT TO SPEND THE BREAD TO RE-DO MY ENTIRE MUSIC COLLECTION.