Sekou Sundiata – “Space”
Last weekend, I attended the Tongues of Fire tribute to Sekou Sundiata at the Apollo and I must say it was a beautiful, stirring and electrifying tribute. Curated by musical director Craig Harris, the show included his band Nation of Imagination as the musical background as for a few moving musical numbers, some with lyrics written by Sundiata and sung by the three singers of the band (“Song for a Friend,” “I Found God,” “The Writer,” The Sea.”). The other performances were a mixture of spoken word performances of works from Sekou Sundiata and Amiri Baraka arranged with music as well as performances from The Last Poets member Abiodun, rapper Rakim and Nigerian artist Wunmi.
The show opened with poet Liza Jessie Peterson reading “Urban Music” from Sundiata’s album Long Story Short and continued with Amiri Baraka’s “In the Tradition” and “Something in the Way of Things,” the humorous critique of today’s hip-hop with Abiodun and Rakim, “Some of It’s Hip, Some of It’s Not,” and ended the first part with Sundiata’s “Sound of Memory” and a funky “Blink Your Eyes” with Vernon Reid and all the performers.
The second half of the show began with Ngoma Hill’s reading his yoruba-inspired poem, “Poem for My Egun,” leading to a cacophony of poems and music with Peterson, Baraka, and Abiodun performing together “Reparations,” and “Whys.” Wunmi grooved on stage, even getting down with Harris, during the performances of wish-to-return home “The Healing Song” and Baraka’s recitation of Sundiata’s “Space.” Rakim was brought back out to finish the night with his classics, like “The 18th Letter,” bringing the night packed already with so much to a full-circle.