Song 15: Cycles of the Moon

© 2016 by George Franklin

Am                       Em

Cycles of the moon, the stars, the Earth

Am                          Em

Secrets of the path, from death, to birth

Am                        Em

Keeper of the flame, the source, the light

Am                            Em

Presence of the deep, the dark, the night

Em                           Am                                Em

Stay with me a while, Spirits of the Nile

***

History & Lore

George:

The music for this song, originally called Spirits of the Nile, was inspired by Bob Marley’s song Exodus. The lyrics were inspired by a long-ago crush.

In about 1992, a friend and I were recording a pirate radio show in a garage studio in the SF Mission District. She did a segment about preserving the Berkeley wetlands – my role was making quacking sounds in the background.

By the time we finished, we’d missed the last train back to the East Bay. We spent the night at the studio and wound up going out into the postage-stamp back yard and doing a long ritual, during which she invoked Egyptian deities I dimly recognized.

A week later I was fiddling around with the guitar figure and started singing “Daughter of the Nile.” Pretty soon a whole long song about life and death and rebirth unfurled itself – not topics I typically wrote in those days, when I was playing in the political band Funky Nixons.

The chant here is the chorus of that song, with the lyric changed from Daughter of the Nile to Spirits of the Nile for musical and cultural reasons.

The Music

The chant is in 7/4. This was an accident, following the natural rhythm of the words. I only discovered the odd meter when I tried to put a drum machine under it.

For this recording, Paul did several takes on conga until he found a beat that kept the choppy 7/4 rhythm moving steadily forward.

The guitar part is basically in Em. The snaky guitar figure is an Am chord with the first finger lifting on and off to play the melodic lines, then resolving to Em on the down-beat as shown above.

Dress’s clarinet solo in the middle 4/4 section was done on a single take. The two of us have played the song around Witchcamp and Witchlets campfires for many years, and he knew the spooky feel it needed.

(Dress and I became friends in jail at Livermore Weapons Lab way back in the 1980s, notably when he wore a white formal wedding gown for the June 1983 protest – a sartorial choice which led directly to his current nom de guerre. The action is described in Luke Hauser’s book Direct Action: An Historical Novel – see sidebar to song 9).

Original Verses

Original verses to Spirits of the Nile, written 1992 and © 2016 by George Franklin

Cast your sail, ‘cross the River Nile,

Cross the desert sands, out past the pyramids

Search for signs of the older days

And feel the rhythm of the ancient ways

What did they know that we don’t know?

They knew something that we don’t know,

We don’t know, we don’t know…

Cycles of the moon, the stars, the Earth

Secrets of the path, from death, to birth

Keeper of the flame, the source, the light

Presence of the deep, the dark, the night

Stay with me a while, Spirits of the Nile

Verse 2 

If I knew, if I knew the words,

Knew the magic signs, I knew the formulas

Call you back from the distant shore

Sweet incantations ringing evermore

Bring us truth from the other side

Bring us the truth from the other side

Other side, other side

Cycles of the moon, the stars, the Earth

Secrets of the path, from death, to birth

Keeper of the flame, the source, the light

Presence of the deep, the dark, the night

Stay with me a while, Spirits of the Nile

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