BWW Reviews: Sekou Sundiata Honored in Apollo Theater's TONGUES OF FIRE CHOIR
I was introduced to American griot, educator, activist, and poet Sekou Sundiata (1948-2007) on Saturday April 27, 2013 at The Apollo Theater's TONGUES OF FIRE CHOIR performance, a part of the Blink Your Eyes: Sekou Sundiata Revisited series. The performance featured poets Abiodun, founder of the Last Poets, Amiri Baraka, and Rakim, with special guests Regina Carter, Bobbi Humphrey, Vernon Reid, Wumni, Liza Jessie Peterson, and Craig Harris's Nation of Imagination Ensemble. This spoken word musical tribute to Sekou Sundiata enveloped the life of a great man who was renowned for nurturing poets.
Craig Harris, curator and musical director, chose special voices to present an evening of memoriam, music, spoken word and groove. The Apollo Theater is a wonderful venue to pay homage to such a gifted artist. Sekou Sundiata was a Harlem native, and he did quite a bit of his work to benefit the community of Harlem, while expanding his vision for a better world. This remarkable array of talent converged under one roof, with experience that stretched over three generations, to show their love for a major potent influence in their lives. Every performer melted into one pristine moment of magic that ignited all of our senses with words of power, punch, and bite healing racial wounds, soothing hates and distractions and uncovering some sores. But once the unapologetic flames of Amiri Baraka, with violinist Regina Carter, flutist Bobbi Humphrey, and the deep melodious voice of Abiodun, spoke words of freedom into existence, a new generation was exposed to a life blood of music and history that pulsed through everyone's veins and healed every soul.
Rakim, who is universally referenced as one of the Masters of the Microphone, came to school us as he flowed on the song Some of its Hip, Some of Its Not. Singer Tonya Hall sang a stirring tune called "I Found God," with guitarist Vernon Reid accompanying every note. Performing artist dancer extraordinaire Wumni lit up the night, cooking us a meal of explosive energy, funk, soul, and Nigerian Afrobeat, with a little juju on the side. There was a sweet spirit in the house as Carla Cook sang a lovely song called The Sea. The statuesque Liza Jessie Peterson shined every time she came on stage, delivering character driven narrations in full command. The show never ended, it gracefully came to a close with the rhythm, rhyme and spirit of Sekou Sundiata following me all the way home.
Photo Credit: Shahar Azram