Whether you are into rap music or not, the name Tupac Shakur probably rings a bell. If you have never heard of Coachella before, after this year’s back-from-the-dead performance, I can guarantee you will know about the event now.
This year’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, an annual three-day festival held in Indio, California, featured a performance like no other. The performance was ground-breaking, and sent chills throughout the audience as they watched the famous rapper, Tupac Shakur give a live, original performance right in front of their eyes, despite being dead for 16 years.
The performance was truly astonishing. Video of the performance shows Tupac’s image on stage, with clarity that allows viewers to count the ribs along his side and the ruffles in his jeans. As he performs, his chain necklace bounces rapidly back and forth to match the flow and rhythm of his unique mannerisms. The performance, which also includes a cameo performance from Snoop Dogg (another famous rapper), is an original performance created specifically for Coachella, and not a previously recorded performance.
Now, regardless of if you enjoy rap music or not – or even any music at all – I wanted to write about this to get some feedback from others. As I sat watching the video of Tupac’s performance (which you can find here ) [WARNING: Content contains offensive and derogatory language and gestures], several things ran through my mind. First, I thought of the artist performing with this digital image. Snoop Dogg and Tupac had a history together, collaborated on many projects together, and were close friends. The image of Tupac on the stage looked frighteningly real, and I immediately scanned Snoop’s face for some sort of emotional reaction to what he was seeing in front of him. I thought, ‘What must it be like to perform next to a strikingly real image of your dead best-friend?’ I thought of all the memories that probably rushed through his mind before, during, and after that performance. Was this something he was excited about doing, or did he regret it later when he got off stage? The second thought I had was about Tupac’s family, and specifically his mother. During the wake of Tupac’s death, his mother Afeni Shakur, along with another deceased (rival) rapper’s mother, made several public appearances expressing their distress and contempt for the violence that occurs between rival rappers, that ultimately lead to the death of both their sons. I thought of Afeni Shakur, and how this experience affected her. According to CBS news reporter Camille Mann, Afeni did in fact approve of the performance before it was even created. But I still wondered, what it was like for her to watch her son perform on stage, after not being able to see his image for 16 years?
I also thought of my own experience with death. After three short years of losing someone close to me, I can barely remember what their voice sounded like, the unique curve of their smile, or their posture as they would walk. Loosing these memories has actually been a very difficult part of loss for myself, and sometimes the experience leaves me feeling as if my memories are seeping out of my skull like evaporating water. There are many days where I wish I could just remember that person without the aid of a picture. What if I were in Afeni’s position – would I want to have that resurrecting experience? If this technology was affordable for the average person, would it be something I would want as a keepsake for loved ones that have passed away?
I don’t have answers to these questions, but am presenting them for the purpose of discussion. I am curious as to what others think about this experience, and what they would do if they were Afeni or Snoop. After watching the performance, I am left impressed by technology, and amazed by the stoic stance of Snoop, but yet still left with chills at the thought of seeing someone I lost, live in front of my eyes.
I want to hear your feedback! What would be your reaction if you had the opportunity to resurrect a deceased loved one via the same technology used at Coachella?
Vanessa Lemminger, M.A., LMFT 53937
Marriage and Family Therapy Registered Intern