This loose allegory is representative of a number of songs I wrote during the 1980s employing dialect to convey a sense of place. (A later song written along similar lines was “Never Put Down Your Horn” onThis Perfect Day.)
On a stopover in Lagos, Nigeria in 1987, I was told a story by a fellow traveler who had just come from Kaduna. He had arrived at the airport only to find that his flight had been wildly over-booked. A military bureaucrat stationed at the airport decided seats would be assigned to the victors of a footrace around the plane parked on the runway, and he had made the cut.
On that same trip I spent a fair amount of time in Kenya, where I discovered Kenyan author (and years later Kenya’s UN representative) Grace Ogot’s first collection of stories, “Land Without Thunder,” which I had in mind as I wrote this song. So connected to oral tradition, I was struck by how essential what we would call “magic” was to the everyday life she described. Striking in many African narratives (as in Latin American magic realism) is how remarkable things are delivered as entirely matter of fact. Even Jomo Kenyatta, I once read, would never venture into Luo territory without carrying a magic cane (which conveniently also contained a hidden dagger). Kenyatta was educated at London School of Economics, but he plainly knew on which side his bread was buttered.
This track was a wonderful collaboration between Dan Garcia, Jerry Marotta, Jimmy Haslip, Luis Conte, Rob Mounsey, Lew Soloff and myself. Not a single track on this recording was recorded at the same time as another. One by one, parts were overdubbed over a basic track bounced over from a prior Fostex 16-track demo tape recording of mine. I believe this may have been the first commercial recording on which Luis, who was by then an old friend of mine, ever sang.