Sekou is to contemporary African American Poetry, what Marvin Gaye was to modern soul. He is gifted with a rich, undulating voice which heightens the bittersweet wordscapes heard through this collection. Listen carefully and he'll take you there!
"Music is reference, source, resource, and inspiration to me as a writer and performer," says Sekou Sundiata. "In fact, it's damn near impossible to understand what contemporary black poets are doing without understanding what's going on with black music and its relationship to black speech and black literature. My work is grounded in African-American culture, necessarily including African-American music." Indeed, the Harlem-born poet's words reach their full power when spoken aloud in his commanding baritone, and his concerts are almost always driven by a live band consisting of highly regarded players from the worlds of jazz and R&B, including trombonist/composer Craig Harris, a frequent collaborator. Predating (but still informed by) the current generation's embrace of hiphop, Sundiata came of age as an artist during the Black Arts/Black Aesthetic movement of the 1960s and 1970s. His first album, The Blue Oneness of Dreams, and its successor, longstoryshort, are both rich with the sounds of blues, funk, jazz, and African and Afro-Caribbean percussion. Sundiata's poetry is packed with shout-outs to inspirational musicians, including John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Bob Marley.
As a longtime teacher of literature at New York City's New School University, the poet has inspired plenty of artists himself, most notably RBR's own Ani DiFranco (who declares that Sundiata "taught me everything I know about poetry") and M. Doughty of Soul Coughing (who says "he really squeezed some amazingly good, honest stuff from people"). Moreover, his long-form work in music theater has garnered numerous awards and toured the U.S.. No matter what outlet he selects for any given undertaking—theater, classroom, book, or album—Sundiata brings many years of intelligence, craftsmanship, and intensity to the endeavor. In the words of critic Greg Tate writing in The Village Voice, "This brother is the conduit through which the direct lineage of Langston Hughes, Amiri Baraka, Gil-Scott Heron, and the Last Poets shall be maintained. Here is a writer with the bluesy poetic grasp, historical insight, and populist spirit to reach the bourgeois, seminar the politically correct, and still rock the boulevard."
"Sundiata's poems moan, soothe, stir, and shake... He is the griot of our times." —Vibe
Sekou Sundiata passed away July 18, 2007 from heart failure, although his voice is silent the power of his poetry and performances live on.