Monday, June 05, 2006

Hot Fun in the City

For Brooklynites and other city dwellers in the know, the annual Dance Africa Festival at Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) is the unofficial kick-off to the summer. With movies, music, street fair and dance performances, this Memorial Day weekend event is a 4-day smorgasbord of culture from around the Diaspora.

As I walked the fair with my buddy George who was in town for a few weeks, I saw folks I hadn't seen, well, since last year's festival. We exchanged hellos while we chowed down on a coupla corns on the cob before making our way into the Saturday nite dance performance.

And my how it was spectacular! Baba Chuck Davis started off the festivites with his usual respectful dedication to those who had passed on to the ancestral realm. An elder was escorted to the customary spot on the stage where performers could offer up dance in his honor. (And as usual this all took too long!)

The Peruvian dancers Peru Negro were the final act, and they were wonderful. But I had been dazzled by the group who performed just before intermission, the Universal African Dance & Drum Essemble. Stilt dancers, an all female drumming troupe (spectacular in its own right as I have rarely seen a female African drummer much less a whole troupe!), "afrobats" and children no older than 4 or 5 years of age took over the stage in a whirlwind of motion. It is hard to describe the feeling that came over me while watching, the sense of kinship. It stirred something in my core, something rooted deep in the familiar. I was proud to see so many black people unapologetically taking part in an expression of their own cultural heritage.

Watching the young children on stage reminded me of the performances I had just seen at the New Orleans Jazzfest a month back. The Creole Wild West Mardi Gras Indians, too, had their tiny young children singing along on stage. And Sunpie Barnes (hmm that's my family name...) of Sunpie & the Louisiana Sunspots had his young son playing along on the accordian to their funky Afro-Caribbean inspired zydeco tunes. The children looked so free and natural and happy playing up there with their parents. I knew those kids, both here in Bklyn and there in NOLA, would have no doubt who they were when they grew up. In what seems like the endless sea of bad news we have to deal with about the possibilities for our children's future, watching them I felt hopeful for the first time in a long time.


When I'm feeling overwhelmed by the rat race and wondering why the hell I live in this overcrowded, overdeveloped city I remember Dance Africa, and all the wonderful cultural events in store for the next three months. There is nothing like summer in New York City.

Central Park Summerstage

Celebrate Brooklyn at Prospect Park

World Financial Center concerts

City Parks Foundation concerts

Wingate Park concerts

Asser Levy Park seaside concerts

Charlie Parker Jazz Festival

Brooklyn Museum 1st Saturdays

"NYC For Free"

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

yay!!! congrats on the hot blogspot! I can't wait to read more of your musings. Have a great day, Love! Kib