Literature » Poetry

Yusef Lateef’s poetic description of music

Yusef Lateef




     As his website reminds us, the late Yusef Lateef was “universally acknowledged as one of the greatest masters and innovators in the African American tradition of autophysiopsychic music – that which comes from one’s spiritual, physical and emotional self.”  He defined music as “a medium through which we express our feelings of love, sorrow, and joy.”

     Lateef, who died in 2013, was a virtuoso musician on a multitude of international instruments (he is frequently cited as a leading contributor to the popularization of “world music”) and was also a prominent educator, artist, writer and philosopher.

     In the liner notes to Lateef’s 1965 Impulse record Psychicemotus – an accessible mixed bag of flute-heavy standards and the imaginative playing of the obscure pianist George Arvanitas – the writer Ahmad Basheer closes out an entertaining recording session description with a timeless poem Lateef read during a September, 1964 speech at San Francisco State College, in which he communicates his philosophy of living and of music:


Basically, man is emotion, feeling and thinking

Thinking is the forte of our present generation

Thinking to feel deeply is needed

Realize life thoroughly

Experience all emotions








Like, emotions, art flows

Not pushed………imagined

                    Music is emotion

              Emotion is life

Music, the sound of life

              Sound to communicate

     Sound to project emotions

Sound experiences

     Aware and sensitive

               Beauty exists

                    Concern with beauty

          Love a beautiful force

               Within all


     Filtered through souls

cause, effect






Track listing from Psychicemotus:

  1. Psychicemotus” (Yusef Lateef) – 5:05
  2. “Bamboo Flute Blues” (Lateef) – 4:02
  3. “Semiocto” (Lateef) – 4:31
  4. “Why Do I Love You?” (Oscar Hammerstein IIJerome Kern) – 6:32
  5. First Gymnopédie” (Erik Satie) – 3:29
  6. “Medula Sonata” (Lateef) – 6:35
  7. “I’ll Always Be in Love with You” (Bud GreenHarry RubySam H. Stept) – 4:42
  8. Ain’t Misbehavin’” (Brooks, Andy RazafFats Waller) – 4:45