The music community mourns the loss of rock n’ roll great from Harlem
The Harlem community was saddened last month by the news that one of its native sons, Tunde’ Ra Aleem, had joined the ancestors on August 14th. As word spread, many reflected on his… incredible legacy, influences that he has made in their lives, as well as on his musical career.
The following morning, streetball legend Peewee Kirkland expressed his condolences and recalled some fond moments with his decades-long comrade, as he walked down Harlem’s 125th Street, but said he wouldn’t be able to attend the going home services due to prior travel commitments.
Later that day, DJ Marley Marl paid homage to one of his musical elders during both, of his radio programs on WBLS FM – the Marley Marl Noon Mix and Golden Era Radio, later that evening – by playing some of his memorable recordings. The legendary Hip-Hop pioneer also revealed how remixing Tunde’ Ra and TaharQa Aleems’ 1984 classic “Release Yourself” was his first venture into digital sampling on wax, an innovative act at that time.
After having some respiratory difficulties in 2006, Tunde’ Ra was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis – a rare and terminal disease which scars the lungs’ bronchi, not allowing oxygen to be absorbed – and was told that he only had 3-4 more months left before his lungs would shut down completely.
Summoning up his ancestral spirits, and with the moral support of his family, Tunde’ Ra dug down deep, refused to accept defeat and defied the doctors’ death prognosis; and ‘willed’ his physical existence to endure another 8 fruitful years – scribing 3 books and completing 3 albums during that time span.
On February 14th, 1946, Arthur Allen and his identical twin brother Albert were Valentine’s Day gifts to their parents William Austin Allen and Dorothy Phoenix Allen, when they were birthed into this physical plane. As they navigated their 9000 miles back home mentally after acquiring the knowledge of themselves they took on the attributes – Tunde’ Ra and TaharQa Aleem – to reflect their higher consciousness as well as to honor their rich African ancestral heritage.
Harlem legend Robert “Ironhead” Bradley helped mentor The Twins as teenagers and recruited them into his renowned “Gladiators” bodybuilding crew. The discipline gained helped fortify their physiques as adults, which earned them much praise.
By the mid-1960s, The Ghetto Fighters, as they were then known, aligned creative forces with a young, unknown guitarist from Seattle, Washington, named James Marshall Hendrix, who fought for stage time at Small’s Paradise and other local venues. The three shared an apartment in Harlem producing and recording music together.
Hendrix eventually moved to England, acquired a recording contract and soon returned to New York, renamed Jimi. The 3 performed in a 1967 fundraiser for the original Black Panther Party out of Harlem, a.k.a. The Fair Play Committee, at Manhattan Center. Plus, they also rocked a few other local events, including a September 5, 1969 Harlem concert at the intersection of Lenox Avenue and 139th Street.
After Jimi’s untimely September 18th, 1970, passing The Twins continued recording music as The Fantastic Aleems throughout the next two decades, with Confusion, Hooked On Your Love and Release Yourself; being a few of their more popular records. During this time period they also worked in the studio with Rick James, Luther Vandross, among others.
Additionally, they ventured onto the business side of the music game, running their own studios, and in 1980 they established the groundbreaking independent record label, Nia Records, which featured Marley Marl and MC Shan.
The Aleems also ran the historic Harlem World night club on 116th Street and Lenox Avenue, which was a major attraction during the early to mid-‘80s. Plus, they managed the music careers of pioneering Hip-Hop artists Dr. Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde, who later as Andre Harrell (Jeckyll) founded and ran Uptown Records – responsible for launching the careers of Heavy D, Mary J. Blige and Sean “Puffy” Combs – while Alonzo Brown (Hyde) executive produced popular TV series New York Undercover and Judge Mathis.
Throughout the 1990s The Aleems headed Konkrete Studios in Times Square, where they continued producing music and mentoring up and coming artists such as New Kids On The Block, X Clan and Wu Tang Clan, and later Anthony Hamilton.
In the new millennium Hip Hop For Humanity was founded by The Aleems as a non-profit organization “committed to catalyzing entertainment industry entrepreneurs into taking a stance on social responsibility.”
After receiving news of Tunde’ Ra’s transition, Leon Hendrix, Jimi’s younger brother, sent out the following message…. “You know how much we love you…. meet you in the next world brother, Tunde-Ra Aleem. Strength, Peace and Healing to all the family and friends mourning. We are with you with very heavy hearts.”
During the Jamaaza services the morning of August 18th, various relatives, childhood friends, music comrades and cultural acquaintances filled Harlem’s First Corinthians Baptist Church (1912 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd.) to celebrate the life and legacy of Tunde’ Ra Aleem.
Many mentioned his love for his relatives and extended family, as well as his deep appreciation and sincere application of his cultural awareness, which he shared feely with all who came within his presence. They also spoke about his generosity, his musical talents and sense of humor.
Leroy Burgess, lead vocalist for 1970s soul sensation, Black Ivory, recalled the joyous times spent working with The Aleems while creating their 1986 collaboration, “Casually Formal”, as well as the moments performing music together.
Abiodun Oyewole, founding member of the legendary Last Poets explained how he and The Aleems became lifelong friends after initially meeting in the mid-1970s, and how they recorded “The Super Horror Show” together in 1984. The Hip-Hop progenitor then recited the recordings’ rhymes to the audiences’ soul clap, and concluded his homage with a freshly written poem eulogizing his friend.
The Twins’ older Brother, Tajiddin, childhood friend/world class boxing trainer Billy Giles, musician/close confidant Edwin Birdsong, Hip-Hop legend Marley Marl, original Black Panther founding member – David White and NBA great Earl “The Pearl” Monroe; were among those in attendance.
Sister Fatima requested that Tunde’ Ra’s 9 offspring and 13 grandchildren unite at the church’s stage, forming a magnificent display of her Brother’s continuing legacy.
TaharQa then revealed that their book “Ghettofighters In Harlem World” and a new Aleems/Burgess album will be released in mid-September, prior to explaining how his twin Brother began preparing for his departure from this physical realm.
“Tunde’ said to me, recently, he knows why we’re twins now.… and I asked… ‘Why?’ …he said, ‘Because I’ll have the ability to move into another realm of life, and I’ll be able to tell you what’s going on there.’ I said, ‘What do you mean Tunde’?’ And he said… “You’ll be sensitive enough to hear me, you won’t be emotional, you’ll be straight, you’ll be listening for everything that I say’… he said, ‘That’s what twins are about.’”
TaharQa explained what his ailing twin said he experienced after suffering one of many seizures “He knew he was going to be getting out of his body soon, and said, ‘I thought I was going into another world… There’s another world over here TaharQa…. Over here I don’t need my body,’” he quoted his Brother saying. “You know what? You’re over there already, I’m ok.”
Some openly wept as he recounted the moment his twin transitioned… “On his last seizure, I tried to call him back, but I felt selfish, and then all of a sudden a thought came to my mind… he said…. ‘TaharQa, leave me alone, I’m ok, let me go…’ I snatched the oxygen mask off his face, and said… ‘Go on Brother! Go on and be free!’”
The prayer of separation of host and light by Atun Ra Hru Ankhkaptahalem: I have obtained Mastery over the things of this world, triumphant in peace. I am strong, I’ve made a passage exalted into the heavens. I have purified myself. I have lived a long and fruitful life. I have given my all to my immortal family. I have paid homage to the God of my ancestors and I have made glorious their temples and shrines. I know my God, and I hear his words. When they hear my words of power they saith, “Let this soul come forth, there is light within it.” My seasons are within my body; I do not speak evil in the place of right and truth, everyday advancing in right and truth.
“They say our way is dead. They say our way is no more… Our way lives in our very DNA… I am the living spirit of the Ancient Ones. I am formed from the atoms of all the Gods. I am the yesterday, the now and the All that shall remain!” -Tunde’ Ra Aleem
Video tribute https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1-XS0SiPWY&app=desktopideo tribute
Release Yourself https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f21uwh7yisU