I originally wrote this in 2003, at a time when it felt like the world was going astray. Now in 2022 we have far surpassed those days and are in uncharted territories of madness and mayhem and muck. And so what is there to do but turn to music to bring us together. I present a slightly cleaned up and updated journal entry, Music Makes a People.
I feel that during this critical time in our country, when separation is becoming the norm instead of inclusion, it might be time to remind everyone that Music Makes a People Come Together. Because look around…everywhere you turn it’s heartache, it’s everywhere that you go…
Ma ma se, Ma ma sa, ma ma coo sa (Mama-say mama-sah ma-ma-coo-sah). Some of the most expressive words ever put to music (note: these words should not be mistaken for mecca lecca hi mecca hiney ho, which were expressive, yet never put to music only a dramatic cadence).
I want to spend a little time discussing the meaning of this phrase, this poetry in motion as it were and if you will, and the very critical place it holds in the balance of our universe. (for the unenlightened, this phrase comes from the great Michael Jackson, although borrowed from previous music samples)
As I am fond of doing, let me first consult the book. I am, of course, referring to the Alpha and Omega of books…Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary (I am sure there will be those of you who are sons of preacher men, and will wanna be startin’ somethin’ with me for referring to this as “The Book”, but nothing you could say could tear me away from my god, my god, because literally, if god was one of us, or if god is a DJ and life is a dance floor, I think he/she/it would be OK with me making reference to multiple sources of lyrics).
Additionally, I find it valuable for us to slightly condense and/or modify this set of words, to help clarify the denotation for you the reader. What we would come up with as a more apropos representation of the phonetic is “mama say, mama SA, ma ma coo ça.” While the difference is subtle, it will allow us a more cohesive representation of the true meaning of the phrase.
Those of you who have mothers will be familiar with the first word of the phrase, and so this is the term we will begin with. Mama. While technically slang or baby talk, as seen in the definition below, mama is a perfectly acceptable replacement for the colloquial mother (not the mother superior, who is a nun and not typically an actual mother).
Main Entry: ma·ma
Variant(s): or mam·ma /’mä-m&, chiefly British m&-‘m[a’]/
Etymology: baby talk
1 : MOTHER
Who could dispute that some of the most important words of our time would include a reference to the holy and wonderful mother of creation, the mother earth? No one, that’s who. And if they did, then they obviously don’t believe in life after love and aren’t a part of this great and wonderful boogie rhythm nation that we call the United States. Because we’re never gonna survive unless we get a little crazy. (the attentive reader will notice that mama is a noun, and we all know that a noun’s a special kind of word, it’s any name you’ve ever heard, and you might find it quite interesting, a noun’s a person place or thing.)
Next, let’s schlemiel and schlimazel our way over to the word “say”. While you may think you know what this word means (“Why yes, I do! It’s the present tense of the action verb to say, meaning to verbalize thought through the mouth!”), you really don’t. The book defines say as:
Main Entry: say
Pronunciation: ‘sA, Southern also ‘se
Inflected Form(s): said /’sed, esp when subject follows s&d/; say·ing /’sA-i[ng]/; says /’sez, sometimes ‘sAz, esp when subject follows s&z/
Etymology: Middle English, from Old English secgan; akin to Old High German sagEn to say, Lithuanian sakyti, Greek ennepein to speak, tell
Date: before 12th century
1 a : to express in words b : to state as opinion or belief
You will notice, no doubt, that this verb stems from numerous languages and is therefore an important word in the world. Expressions and beliefs are some of the founding notions of our information society. The first amendment of our constitution provides for the ability to freely express our beliefs without retaliation or condemnation, no matter how divergent those beliefs may be – it’s an up thing. Kinda makes you think…Baby, I’m the lucky one. Obviously, society has found the great value and importance of the verb, say.
Next we see that the reference to the holy and wonderful mother of creation is so important, our phrase repeats it again. That brings us up to Mama say Mama.
So next up is “sa”. If you were to capitalize both letters to “SA” and give it emphasis, you might wind up with the city code for San Antonio, Texas. You may be asking yourself at this point, Who’s Johnny? Or you may ask yourself, what does our phrase have to do with Texas, being that we’re talking about words of IMPORTANCE here? If you were to ask yourself these things you’d be talking to yourself, quite possibly sharing the secrets that you keep while you’re talking in your sleep, which is a sign of insanity, and you obviously have too much free time and are probably sitting around on the beach drawing circles in the sand. But what else could these two letters mean or represent? Again, let us look to the book.
Main Entry: SA
Latin sine anno without year, without date (everlasting, eternal)
Well of course! The holy and wonderful mama, who speaks and expresses thought and belief and understanding and compassion without judgment, does so without end. World without end. Everlasting and eternal beliefs. Everlasting and eternal creation. The meaning is so obvious if it were a one eyed one horned flying purple people eater it might have … eaten us.
Next we come to the doublet of ma’s. While you may be tempted to attribute this to the contracted slang for mama, please don’t. (at this point you probably wish you could turn back time and not give into the temptations, but you can’t, so you’re just going to have to face the music and hope that love will save the day). This word has rich meaning in and of itself. Once again, let us consult the book.
Main Entry: ma
Usage: foreign term
This is truly a very interesting word to be incorporated into our phrase. My. Clearly what we see here is that use of a foreign language is critical in identifying that our phrase is for ALL people, not just for those of us who speak English as a primary language (obviously our phrase is encouraging us to go west, and shake our groove thing all across the world).
Additionally, by selecting French as the language of choice our phrase adds a touch of class and refinement to its meaning. Additionally, on top of the previous additionally, the word “my” represents ownership, belonging, membership, self realization. As we all know, self awareness is one of the key factors to determining life, as defined by Star Trek, so let’s go Star Trekkin’ across the universe, boldly going forward ’cause we can’t find reverse. The ability to be aware of one’s self, and one’s place in the universe created by the holy and wonderful mama is critical to the understanding of our phrase. And if you’re wondering where we are, we’re at Mama say, Mama sa, ma ma.
Next we come to one of the more interesting words in our phrase, “coo.” Let’s consult.
Main Entry: coo
Function: intransitive verb
1 : to make the low soft cry of a dove (which is representative of love and peace)
2 : to talk fondly, amorously (a love profusion)
You may have initially thought that this was a contracted form of cool, cootie, or Hacoona Matatta (what a wonderful phrase). It is not, so don’t. This word is big, it’s beautiful, and you’re gonna love it! Representative of peace, love, care and fondness, one should not be surprised that the holy and wonderful mama who eternally speaks of compassion and non-judgement would be juxtaposed with this word. (And in case you didn’t know, mother earth’s love is better than chocolate)
This word is not dissimilar to a ray of light, cutting through the darkness of the world, and illuminating us with a higher love. Love is a many splendored thing. Love, lifts us up where we belong, all we need is love. You should already see that all things just keep getting better in our magical phrase.
And so finally we come to the final word.
Main Entry: ça
Usage: foreign term
You will note the diacritical mark on the first letter of this word, as again, we note the use of a foreign language to remind us of the worldly nature of our phrase. Also you will note that the word is again in French, reminding us that the French are very important in the world (Voulez-vous danser avec moi?).
A phrase can never be complete without a blend of both first and third person. As we noted before with “ma” translated to “my”, there is a word which represents the self, the oneness that we feel when we look at the man in the mirror and see ourselves staring back at us with the look of love. Here we are seeing the inclusion of the third person “it“, which represents not the masculine, not the feminine, but the neutral.
In the eyes of the loving and wonderful mama we are all equal; we are family. Not created differently than anyone else but created from one and the same. The use of the word “it” reminds us all that despite our differences, we are all uniquely unique in our uniqueness. (at this point you probably wish you could take one moment in time to ponder this paradox, but you can’t, so keep reading)
And so, we complete our journey through this wonderful phrase. Powerful stuff isn’t it?
And so again, accepting this phrase as exceptional, meaningful and the whole truth and nothing but the truth (would I lie to you?), let us take a brief moment to explore some of the other musical ramifications on life. Not all music is positive and happy. While the phrase that we have recently analyzed gives us a sense of peace, life, meaning, goodness and grace, there are those bits of word put to music, which fall into the “e-ville” category.
Darkness falls across the land, the midnight hour is close at hand, creatures crawl in search of blood, to terrorize ya’lls neighborhood. And whosoever shall be found, without the soul for getting down, must stand and face the hounds of hell, and rot inside a corpse shell. The foul stench is in the air, the funk of 40,000 years, and grisly ghouls from every tomb are closing in to seal your doom. And though you fight to stay alive, your body starts to shiver, for no known mortal can resist, the evil of the Thriller.
OK…what the H-E-double hockey sticks is THAT?! Calgon, take me away!
(Interjections HEY show excitement YEAH and emotion WOW, they’re generally set apart from a sentence by an exclamation point, or by a comma when the feeling’s not as strong: ignore for a moment that the above lyrics are from one of the best songs of all time and stay within the world of “e” with me a bit longer)
I’m sorry, but that’s just plain SCARY! I hear those words and I’m no longer one of the shiny happy people. I’m in the world of terror, pain, fright, death, and am screaming lonely in my nightmare. When Thriller first came out on video I was in my middle school days of roller-skating-mania. Every free weekend a group of kids would go over to SportsWorld (which several years later was converted to an ice rink and renamed to the Ice House, which is also a brand of really cheap and repulsive beer, but anyway), and spend several hours spinning right round baby, right round like a record baby right round round round.
Sometimes the DJ would stop the music, tell everyone to don’t turn around (Oh!Oh! der Kommissar’s in town Oh!Oh!), and skate in “reverse”. This was often a good thing to balance the blisters we were burning on the inside of our ankles. Down in one corner of the skating rink was a huge movie screen that would descend from the rafters like Deus ex Machina whenever they decided to play a video. Additionally, there was a huge shiny disco ball hanging in the middle of the rink with little white lights pointed towards it to provide a glittering light show on the floor. (there was also an ultra-cool snack bar that sold hot dogs, burgers, dirty pop, and cotton candy, but this isn’t really integral to the story, so I won’t mention it)
Being that Michael Jackson was mega-popular with the middle school crowd of the 80’s, it’s no wonder that the management at SportsWorld capitalized on the captive audience they had and played the video as often as they possibly could. And this wasn’t the stripped down video, this was the full length mega-video. In case you weren’t aware, Thriller was the first music video to actually incorporate a plot and spoken story line into the production. In fact the video starts off with MJ and his girlfriend (this may have been Billy Jean, or Valerie, who later turned into a bad girl toot toot beep beep talkin’ bout the sad girl, but we don’t know for sure) taking a little stroll and coming across a very scary place…a graveyard with zombies and ghouls from every tomb, closing in to seal their doom, (notice how the e-ville creeps into everything, even my commentary) and having nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.
The video was amazing. Everyone on the skate floor would stop to watch the hero of the movie suddenly grow fangs and start moon walking across the tombstones. Little did we know that very early in our young lives we were being introduced to the influence of “e” on the musical industry.
Ironically, there are those who believe that just because the former-archangel Lucifer was the former-angel of music (just call me angel, of the morning angel), that he has a direct influence on our lives by making music inherently e-ville, but that’s just a big load of malarkey and the only people who believe that are people who obviously got a good job in the city, working for the man every night and day, never lose a minute of sleeping worrying about the way that things might have been if the devil had a blue dress on…oops, I did it again and got a little carried away there…back to our phrase…
By now it should be clear that the human population should rightly hold our phrase as the new mantra of celebration and unity (and while we’re at it, we might as well take a holiday and celebrate). We may not be movie stars, but when it comes to being happy, we are, and a day should never pass that we fail to kneel in front of our crosses, pentagrams, tetragrams, octograms (not to be confused with an octagon which would represent a stop in the name of love sign), polymorphic shrines, a father figure of a squatting Buddha, or any other icon which is representative of our own personal beliefs and gives praise to the new moon on blue monday.
I encourage all of you to get up offa that thang, reach up for the sunrise, jump for your love, and sing with me now (try to avoid singing this out loud at work, because voices carry) …
The world goes round and round but some things never change…the joy of living, joy of life, joy of laughing, joy of sight, the joy of Pepsi in your life, the joy of bubbles, joy of fun, the joy of Pepsi on your tongue, the greatest taste sensation under the sun. La la la la la, la la la la la…
All musical references are used as parody, sarcasm, or whatnots in order to enhance your enjoyment of this story. Don’t sue me. I have nothing.