For 65 years, Bram Dijkstra of Del Mar has been collecting music. What began as a passion for the music of jazz great John Coltrane, is now a nearly 50,000 vinyl record collection that spans genres from Jazz and early R&B to Latin, Reggae, Afrobeat and countless other genres and musical movements.
The "John Coltrane Memorial Black Music Archive" — as Dijkstra has dubbed his collection — has been called “one of the major music collections in America." Apart from being an exhaustive collection of Black music, it serves as a testament to the wide-reaching impact of African rhythm and sound structure on global music.
KPBS Midday Edition spoke with Dijkstra about six selections from his archive, the importance of the songs themselves, and what role John Coltrane has played in his lifelong passion for music.
Here's more on the John Coltrane Memorial Black Music Archive, in Dijkstra's own words:
Well, it's called the "John Coltrane Memorial" collection because as a Dutch boy I became absolutely fascinated with the sound of John Coltrane - which I first heard with Miles Davis. I began to study his music and, essentially, he became the reason why I came to the United States some sixty years ago.
The interconnection [of the archive's music] is through rhythm, through the various poly-rhythms which come out of Africa and then spread through a diaspora of various forms of rhythm. Different cultures pick up certain kinds of rhythm, but they all weave back into a sound that is really a form of communication that is extremely important.
In the music of the Dogon, from Mali, there is a myth that the drum taught humanity how to speak. That notion is really something that weaves through all the forms of music that are connected with the drum, because the drum is the articulation of what we really feel; our emotions. It drives our emotions, and it is just fascinating to me to see how different cultures bring out these elements.
'Avila and Tequila' By Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers
'Avila and Tequila' is, essentially, Blakey's attempt at blending new world jazz and rhythms with African rhythms as well. What he would do, at some points during his concerts, is put together a drum track. His musicians - people like the wonderful tenor saxophone player Hank Mobley, the great pianist Horace Silver and Kenny Dorham, a wonderful trumpeter - they would all take rhythm instruments and start playing them, and Blakey, who was probably the most aggressive drummer you could possibly imagine, would play over all of that.
'Bonsue' By Joe Mensah
Joe Mensah was Nigerian, and he was creating music at the same time as Fela Kuti started to play his music. They were both heavily influenced by American jazz, and the interesting thing is that where Fela Kuti played tenor saxophone mostly, Joe Mensah actually played an instrument that has actually disappeared into history: the Moog synthesizer.
'El Toro (Live)' by Mongo Santamaría
'El Toro' is absolutely one of the most magnificent pieces of music that I know of. It has great solos by Mongo Santamaría, but also by all his musicians. What is fascinating is that some of his musicians were U.S. American and some of his musicians were South American or Cuban, and they all blended together in the most amazing fashion. I'm afraid you're not going to hear much of it, but this is absolutely one of the most fabulous pieces of music you can imagine.
'Balance Ya-Ya' by Raoul Guillaume
It's actually an early Haitian piece of music that precedes what became, later, Kompa music. It is a form that is called 'Congo' - I don't know why they called it 'the Congo,' but it includes, clearly, a lot of elements that come from Africa. So the link between Africa and Haiti, which is quite obvious, is very striking in this piece.
'Zombie' by Fela Kuti and Afrika '70
Essentially, it's one of Fela's many attacks on the political situation in Nigeria; the way in which the Nigerian government was trying to force people into doing the political will of the government. 'Zombie' is an indication of what he thought the Nigerian government wanted to make the people of Nigeria into.
'Just Friends' by The Cecil Taylor Quintet featuring John Coltrane
What is fascinating is that Cecil Taylor, when this album was recorded in 1958, was on is way up as a real experimental musician. At the time his music hadn't yet evolved the way it would later on and, at the same time, John Coltrane's music was on the way to an evolution of something entirely different to his hard bop environments. So Cecil Taylor and Coltrane came together, and I think what is most fascinating about 'Hard Driving Jazz,' which is this album, is that they inspired each other.
What I feel [when listening to John Coltrane] is absolute creativity, a kind of a sense of wanting to find out more about everything: about life, about creativity, about the world in general - a pushing style of creativity that might push the world into a different direction. Coltrane was one of the most creative people in not just jazz, but in the entire world of music and culture, and I have always seen him as one of my greatest inspirations.
— Bram Dijkstra, March 2022
This interview has been edited for clarity and length. You can find a playlist of Bram Dijkstra's selections from the John Coltrane Memorial Black Music Archive on Spotify here.