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What If Mozart Was Not Famous?

This is the latest Ghion Cast, which was inspired by the write up below this video. 

Young Mozart was a prodigy who knew more about music before the age of seven than most musicians are able to comprehend after spending a lifetime honing their craft. Some people are just naturals; they are born into their talent more than they acquire it. Such was the case with Mozart. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was raised in a family of music; the youngest of seven children, he grew up surrounded by compositions and concertos. Yet, as talented and uber gifted as he was, Wolfgang was never appreciated as Mozart until he was “discovered” and elevated by a prince’s court. It took his death to elevate him to the level of musical royalty.

Mozart’s ability to compose music and turn notes into soaring symphonies were evident long before he became famous. For most of his youth, Mozart and his family were more like servants of the royals. The would be European king of pianos and violins was living a life closer to a pauper as his parents toiled to make ends meet. Five of Mozart’s siblings died during infancy. Luckily, Mozart lived beyond the age of his departed brothers and sisters. Before he was old enough to fully grasp the alphabets, he was already picking up bars and notes. Yet for all his aptitude and prodigious talent, Mozart was not appreciated by the broader public until Prince-Archbishop Hieronymus Colloredo noted his gift and accepted young Mozart into his court.

I write this within the context of a comment one of the readers of the Ghion Journal and my follower on Twitter made to me yesterday after reading the piece I wrote about Cornel West and Ta-Nehisi Coates [read Truths about Ta-Nehisi Coates]. I will withhold his name out of respect for his privacy, let’s just call this fellow a friendly stranger who direct messaged me to give me a word of encouragement and moral support. He noted how he has been following my work for the past couple of months and that he is fascinated by what I write about and how I convey messages of hope and inclusiveness in my articles. He specifically noted:

“Been reading your articles the last few months. Much impressed. You seem to effortlessly distill whats really going on. And I think to myself why isn’t this guy more widely known?”

To be honest, I was humbled by his feedback. In the age of snark and ad hominem, it is getting rarer and rarer to hear compliments—it seems clap backs are preferred to applauses. I responded back and thanked this friendly stranger for his kind words and responded to his query. I told him that the reason I’m not more read and why I have not reached public acclaim is most likely because a lot of the things I write about are counter to conventional wisdom. I question the very things we are conditioned to accept; consequently, I am speaking against the very gate keepers who are usually responsible for propelling people from anonymity to stardom. It is not my intent to claim that I am somehow the Mozart of Toshibas. I only bring up the example of Mozart to note how society overlooks the abundance of talent that can be found all about us only to jump on the bandwagon the minute someone famous elevates the profile of a previously “unknown quantity”. I’ve written two books so far and sold nearly 500 copies to this point since I wrote both a year ago (see below). Yet, let Oprah send out one tweet about either book and these books would sell tens of thousands in a blink of an eye. In this way, I share the burdens of countless writers and artists who are bracketed by the shadow of being a nobody until someone famous becomes our patron. Fame begets fame, we become famous not so much for the quality of work but because someone renowned made us famous by derivative. I take artistic license with Biggie Smalls lyrics to note that you’re nobody until someone kills you or until a famous person claims you.

I write on this topic not to whine about my circumstance but to give light to a wider issue. In a lot of ways, the reason why we suffer injustices and endure inequality as a society is because we have a tendency to bow before the alter of the rich and famous. We disregard diamonds as coals only to covet coals as diamonds once someone famous says it is so. In the process, we conflate external value for intrinsic worth. Aside from my articles, I send out tweets on a periodic basis that moves people to inbox me and say thank you for giving them a new perspective. Yet these tweets get a hundred retweets at most, but let someone like Jay Z or Trump say something bereft of any thought or originality and they will get tens of thousands of retweets. Social media, which once promised to democratize media and information has become an echo chamber of the rich, famous and the establishment.

These things have profound impacts beyond the banality of social media emojis and GIFs. Six corporations have direct control of over 90% of the news and information we consume as a society. Let me put this in proper perspective. Six people who own those six corporations have effectively monopolized news and entertainment and consequently get to dictate—through their conglomerations—policies that impact all of us and tilts wealth away from us directly into their pockets. The end of net neutrality and the continued consolidation of media corporations threatens to eradicate the little space independent journalists and unaffiliated voices have in the public square. Corporate princes are threatening to indenture Mozart and drown all of us with the cacophony of auto-tuned newstertainment.

A friend once told me that I should be writing for the New Yorker or GQ. To which I responded, “would my work be any greater or my writing gain more meaning if my words were found on a publication of note instead of a journal of my own?”. I don’t mean to be pious about this, I too pass by an endless stream of musicians and artists who display their talents openly on the streets of Washington DC. What if one of them was the next Mozart or the next Picasso? What if Jerome on 14th Street or Cindy on H Street was marketed by CNN or Huffington Post as the next revolutionary artist? Why can’t we appreciate the Jeromes and Cindys of the world before they become famous? This is the crux of the problem, we disregard what is given freely only to pay a king’s ransom when a struggling artist becomes famous. I write this for all artists, singers and creators world wide. Beyond that, I write this to engender a movement that builds up our communities and empowers our neighbors and those who live near us. Giving our hands to corporatism is a perilous game; each time we buy from Walmart is money we are transferring from our community into the bank accounts of billionaires and multinational corporations. Instead of protesting and demanding hashtag changes, let us be the change and empower each other. Next time you see an unknown artist or a writer who is not famous, spend a few dollars to support them. This is not charity I’m asking you to partake in; it is better to spend money on someone you know instead of buying trinkets from mega-corporations. Who knows, you might end up empowering Wolfgang before he becomes Mozart. #BeforeMozart

“Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Check out the Ghion Cast below where I discuss how we can empower ourselves and take on the few who pillage the many by citing historical examples of people overcoming tyranny through unity. 

Check out the Ghion Library, this section only has my books in it thus far but as I add more writers who have published books, I will add their books below as well. For now, you can find “Serendipity’s Trace” and “Soul to Soil” by clicking HERE or on the picture below.

Teodrose Fikre
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Teodrose Fikre

Founder at Ghion Journal
Teodrose Fikre is the editor and founder of the Ghion Journal. A published author and prolific writer, a once defense consultant was profoundly changed by a two year journey of hardship and struggle. Going from a life of upper-middle class privilege to a time spent with the huddled masses taught Teodrose a valuable lesson in the essence of togetherness and the need to speak against injustice.

Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.
Teodrose Fikre
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