Walking through the entrance to Wave Hill, a giant garden on a cliff overlooking the Hudson with flowers that actually smelled like someone lit incense, and the sounds of more than twenty Griots playing their sweet, hypnotic music, it was hard for me to really convince myself I was in the Bronx. But there we were, at what a flyer announced as an “historic gathering of NYC’s Griot community,” up on 252nd street.
This summit of some of the best known and most beloved New York based musicians from Burkina Faso, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Senegal, and Sierra Leone was put together as part of the Make Music New York initiative and it gathered a smiling crowd up on Wave Hill. People danced and clapped along, sometimes at the behest of a stray Griot who found himself grooving through the audience. At one point, a little girl of no more than 3 walked up to each of the six singers, nudged forward by her dad, and handed them each a dollar bill as part of the ancient tradition of rewarding Griot for their musical blessings.
Though the Afropop team has definitely found itself in more distant lands than 252nd street, the adventure nonetheless provided some truly inspiring West African music in a picture perfect setting. Is there a better way to spend the first day of summer?
(Complete List of Griot Musicians: Abdoulaye Diabate, Abdourahmane Mangara, Abou Sylla, Awa Sangho, Ayiba Bangoura, Bailo Bah, Bebe Camara, Famoro Dioubate, Kewulay Kamara, Lankandia Cissoko, Mai Kouyate, Mamady Kourouma, Mamady Kouyate, Mmah Doumbouya, Salieu Susso, Sonah Dioubate, Tapani Sissoko, Toumany Diabate, Yacouba Sissoko, Yacouba Diabate)
Contributed by Henry Molofsky