Chile, 2009

Jorge Barrios

David Bowie last African flight

People throughout the world felt the rose flush of the memories of their youth turned to ether as the news rang out, David Bowie had left the earth, and would walk and sing no more.  I will miss his music and the thought that he is no longer with us.  I like to think that David Bowie last African flight is a fitting title for this article about an artist who helped so many of us grow up, almost from our cradles.

I am no expert on the life of the often reclusive Mr Bowie, but one of his most annoying songs has always held a fascination for me.  Sure, it was never the kind of track that you could leave on repeat, and it was never performed live, and like much in life, it never made much sense –  But, it was performed by David Bowie, and inspired by Africa.

Mr Bowie visited Kenya in 1978/9.  The album, Lodger, was partly inspired by these visits has been described as the great lost Bowie album.  Whether the music is good, mediocre or brilliant is a matter of taste I guess.  For an educated opinion I would have to consult my music guru, Jay Bailey.  Like most great musicians, he has spent lots of time in Hull, but I digress…..

Lodger – The homeless sofa surfer who has no fixed abode for too long.  Musically, that would be a fit for Bowie.  His music changed, evolved, seemed to die them be reborn many times during his career.

It is said that Bowie met a group of German pilots hanging out in a Mombasa bar.  Some were allegedly Luftwaffe vets, and reportedly Bowie was intrigued because they were just so out of context.  The article quote is, “aliens in an alien environment.”

They seemed without past, constantly present, and spent their days flying Cessnas out into the bush with cargo as diverse as contraband and arms for rebels.  When they were not on rebel killing missions or delivering cargo they were drunk.

Westerns drunk in Mombasa, out of time, out-of-place and doing what they did.  If this recount is true, then it is easy enough to see how the splattering mix of the European and African worlds collided to live alongside each other, but not quite mixing in the album that came from it.  Reportedly, part of the work is from the perspective of these anti heroes, in direct contrast to the Bowie album that came before Lodger.

Ian Mathers, in a post about the album from 2004 says that all parties, included David Bowie and Brian Eno were underwhelmed by the Lodger album at the time.  He went on to say that by 2004,  Belew did a 180 and dubbed it the “greatest thing that Bowie has given to the world”

There is a photograph of David Bowie which I cannot add here as I am uncertain of the copyright, but it would be easy enough to find.  He is standing with Masai men who are as thin as he himself appears.  It’s a great moment in print, I wish I knew who owned it.  As always, I will do the right thing as use only a Creative Commons picture here.  You might, however, be tempted to search for the picture.

I found a great source for anyone who would like to know more about the Lodger album, with some information provided by David himself.  This can be found here

David Bowie African Night Flight

The song, African Night Flight from the Lodger album was written after Mr Bowie went on an African safari with his son.  I will leave you with some of the lyrics from the song:

The chorus is a mixture of words that do not mean anything significant.  I would guess they were used for the way they sounded rather than because of any intended meaning.  it goes,

Asante habari habari habari, Asante nabana nabana nabana

The first verse of the songs ends with

Into the eye of god on high, His burning eye will see me through      One of these days, one of these days, Got to get a word through one of these days.

The second verse opens with

Getting in mood for a Mombasa night flight, Pushing my luck, going to fly like a mad thing, Bare strip takeoff
Skimming over Rhino, Born in slumber less than peace, Struggle with a child, Whose screaming dreaming
Drowned by the props all steely sunshine, Sick of you, sick of me, Lust for the free life
Quashed and maimed     Like a valuable loved one     Left unnamed

The full lyrics can be found here

Bon Voyage, David Robert Jones.  Here’s wishing you a safe landing in the place you discover next, who knows?  Perhaps back to the cradle that inspired you & gave you a wife.







David Bowie last African flight


Sources: *  photograph is public domain, sourced from google images as Jorge BarriosOwn work from here