A Poet’s Concert

Of the number of concerts I have gone to, one that stands out as one of my favorites was not of a singer/songwriter at all. Sekou Sundiata was completely unknown, at least to me, when I stepped into that very small local theater (normally a dance theater) in Washington, DC called Dance Place. Sundiata was a poet, and yet what I was about to see was apparently not a poetry reading. I had been invited by my step-mother, a poetry lover herself, and we both entered the house with a friend of hers and wondered what we were going to witness.

What I can best describe is that Sundiata put the spoken word to music. He did not sing. He did not try to speak to the rhythm of the music. He read his poetry, but great music served as an enhancement. Poetry does not music. Music is ingrained within poetry. With songs, on the other hand, the lyrics can hold no music, but rely on the musical instruments to provide it. Sundiata put together a hybrid of the two, where the electronic instruments served not as the music, but as the music enhancer. It was lovely to listen to. SO lovely in fact, the CD was purchased immediately following the performance.

Long Story Short came out in 2000, and I have listened to that CD in bursts ever since. I would forget about it for months, then play nothing but for the next few weeks. I keep waiting for the freshness to die, but it never does. I keep waiting for another year to pass and I find myself too old for that type of stuff, but I never am.

Unbeknownst to me, I recently learned that Subdiata passed away in 2007, at the young age of 58. But before he passed away, he managed to get interviewed in Bill Moyers’ (PBS’) The Language of Life. The interview was great, as they usually are when Moyers is the one asking the questions. Sundiata was not as famous as a Maya Angelou, but in a way, I like that better. I strongly recommend purchasing a CD to poetry lovers and music lovers alike.

In honor of Black History Month, here’s to you Sekou Sundiata!

Photograph courtesy of:

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