On the SOUND MACHINE’s website, Kasse Mady Diabate, a griot from Mali, shares the song Moving Away, which says in part:
“People listen to me: black people, white people, Africans, Europeans, children and adults listen to what I am saying!
What I’m saying is for the young people to hear us, to know that the Kings and Emperors who passed away before us did well.
They were just human beings, but they worked hard and did well so we should be doing the same.
Let’s be proud of ourselves, get to know yourself and you will get to know someone else. Oh world, all the world, Africans and Europeans, let’s be together.
This is the best thing that could happen. Let’s help each other this is the only way we can succeed.”
In today’s world, Kasse Mady’s cry is both noble and timely. The mere thought of people getting together and living harmoniously with each other is music to the ears. Kasse is not Bajan but his song perhaps gives a perspective of how African griots see themselves.
For two good reasons, the last Saturday evening in July always has lots of light: it is a month away from June 23, the longest sun lit day of the year, and, benefits from one hour of daylight saving time. When linked with the shaded backyard of an upscale home, in the quiet neighbourhood of Forest Hills, Queens, the combination becomes a perfect space for the voices of poets, authors, storytellers and lovers of book readings.
By 6:30 p.m. all seats were taken. Many late patrons stood near the entrance. In the audience were: a core group of people who never miss this Griot event; Irving Burgie, composer the Barbados National Anthem; Jeff Broome, Principal of Parkinson School, and former parliamentarian Elizabeth Thompson.
Additionally, there were children sitting in chairs and in the laps of their parents while others clung to the back of their fathers. It was the type of setting that performers enjoy, and, the ten presenters — including Barbados Today columnist Donna Every — who flew in from Barbados — certainly did not disappoint.
Pat Waite is an active member of the Barbados Nurses of America. She attended the griots evening for the first time and said:
“I truly enjoyed myself. The presenters and the master of ceremonies were excellent. It is always nice to hear the Bajan accent. I also saw some friends that I have not seen in a long time.”
Two of the presentations had supporting acts: Sharon Allgood — who came from Maryland with her mother and husband — included her children Shyla and Sean in her children’s story presentation while Carolyn Empress Poetry Layne was accompanied by a singer as she read her poetry.
Other presenters included: Joyce Nightingale-Holder (poet and author); Austin Yearwood (author and Frank Collymore Literary Endowment Award winner); Alvina SooChan (poet); Katheanne Woodroffe (book author); Pastor Jenny Small (book author); Enrico Downer (book author); and Marsha Branch (poet).
The master of ceremonies was Sandra Lewis-Padmore who also thrilled the audience with some of her poems.
Ultimately, although there were no musicians present as with African griot sessions, the annual Consul General’s sponsored summer Bajan Griot’s evening had a full house and was a celebrity, family and “wordsmith” affair that has the potential to go on tour.
After the readings, patrons were treated to light refreshments. Many of them sat around and chatted long after the evening had ended.