1 min read

Being Totally Yourself

Each month, The Wire magazine plays an artist or group a series of records which they are asked to comment on—with no prior knowledge of what they are about to hear.

In the March 2024 issue, the magazine features an interview with percussionist and bandleader Kahil El'Zabar in this feature known as Invisible Jukebox. When "Bemsha Swing" by Thelonious Monk and Denzil Best was played, here's what Kahil had to say.

In my opinion, the most difficult thing is to really develop your own sound. You can work eight hours a day, or more, and develop all the techniques to play all the formal kinds of accepted ideas of how music is performed - but to get to something where you are just totally yourself, nobody else but yourself, very few musicians get to that. Monk did.

Developing a unique voice in music or any creative endeavor goes beyond mastering the technical aspects. Studying individuals known for their "think different" approach reveals a common pattern among them: a continuous cycle of self-reflection, experimentation, and a willingness to depart from conventional pathways.

When distinctive work strikes a chord with audiences, it stands the best chance of achieving a universal aspiration common to all creative endeavors: the desire to produce something lasting, a creation that becomes a legacy, inspiring future generations long after the original creator is no more. It serves as a reminder that our creations hold the potential to resonate across generations, inspiring individuals we will never have the chance to encounter.