Wednesday, July 18, 2007

In Memory of Sekou Sundiata



Today this blog honors Sekou Sundiata, born Robert Feaster, an African-American poet and spoken-word performance artist. Sekou was born just after World War II and he left this world at 5:30 this morning. I believe he was about 60: he died of natural causes.

A review of his CD, the sound of memory by Salon in 2000 noted that: “Harlem-born poet Sekou Sundiata's work is grounded in African-American culture, including its music. Sundiata came of age as an artist during the Black Arts/Black Aesthetic movement and his work is informed by the art of the 1960s and 1970s. His work is filled with the sounds of blues, funk, jazz, Afro-Carribean percussion and reference to musicians such as John Coltrane and Miles Davis. He is a teacher of literature at New York City's New School University and has inspired the work of artists such as Ani DiFranco and M. Doughty of Soul Coughing.” You can hear an interview with Sekou that originally aired on National Public Radio on November 20, 2002 if you click here. He received multiple fellowships for his work; among other places, he was an artist in residence at Stanford University and Sundance.

Perhaps one of the most memorable performances I have seen in my life was one version of what Sekou called The Talking Book. In this event -- the first piece of his work I ever saw -- he performed with poets Amiri Baraka, Jessica Hagedorn and Ntozake Shange, blueswoman Nona Hendryx and jazz musician Craig Harris. And at the end of the show, everyone was on stage jamming together. It was breathtaking.

One of his most recent works, blessing the boats, recounted Sekou’s struggle with kidney disease, which led to a kidney transplant in 1999: a reflection on his own mortality, Sekou also took the opportunity to work to publicize the fact that kidney disease is a leading cause of death among black men.

Sekou's most recent production, the 51st (dream) state reflected on American and global citizenship after 9/11: it was produced, among other places, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in the spring of 2006.

Because this post is not authorized by his family, I will not presume to recount the many people who will mourn Sekou, but I can say more generally that he will be very missed by his friends, colleagues, students and many admirers who have lost his humor, genius, artistry, grace and insight.

4 comments:

Lesboprof said...

Thanks so much for this post and the embedded video. He was amazing! I went to bed last night saddened by his loss but grateful that I had heard his message.

Anthony John said...

The last time i saw and spoke to Sekou was here in Cape Town, South Africa; after he completely blew the audience away with his performance during the Urban Voices Poetry Festival 2006.
The first time i met Sekou was when i staged managed the performances of the Are and Be Ensemble on theatre row in New York City.
My deepest sympathy to his family, friends and those who love him….
Anthony J. Sloan
Thursday, 26 July
Cape Town, South Africa

A kwansaba* for Sekou Sundiata

He passed this one way once again.
Droppin’ lyrics of poetic rhymes not complex
yet at times meant to truly vex
those not yet in the seeking depth.
We now salute you - a true Nubian
from the bowels of a cruel land
gone to voice our joys and pain

thePoet - Anthony

*The kwansaba -- a 49-word poetic form invented during the Writers Club’s 1995 workshop season (in East St. Louis), consists of seven lines of seven words each; each word must contain between one and seven letters. Exceptions to the seven-letter rule are proper nouns and some foreign terms.

MAPP International said...

A Message from Sekou Sundiata’s family and friends:

When Sekou Sundiata passed away in July 2007 he was in the midst of touring his acclaimed music/theater production, the 51st (dream) state – a work he considered his personal and poetic “State of the American Soul Address.” Sekou’s family, the entire cast of the 51st (dream) state, his artistic collaborators and his producers are committed to carrying on Sekou’s voice and vision by continuing to bring this important and timely work to stages around the country.

The premiere of the re-mounted the 51st (dream) state is coming up in November and we invite you to show your support, help us fill the house, spread the word and join us in Miami as long-time performer & collaborator LaTanya Hall steps into Sekou’s role as "the voice of the poet" backed by an all-star ensemble of singers and musicians.

Performances are being presented by Miami Dade College at The Colony Theater in Miami Beach on Friday & Saturday November 16 and 17 at 8pm. We hope you can make it for this premiere of the re-mounted show! Click here for details.

IT Training Articles Tutorials said...

The kwansaba -- a 49-word poetic form invented during the Writers Club’s 1995 workshop season (in East St. Louis), consists of seven lines of seven words each; each word must contain between one and seven letters. Exceptions to the seven-letter rule are proper nouns and some foreign terms.

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