"One of our special initiatives this year was to have more prominent world music performers involved. These West African musicians, many of them kora players, came together for a Griot Summit at Wave Hill in the Bronx. There are lots of West African musicians who have ended up in the Bronx, where we've always had a certain number of Make Music New York concerts take place, but it's much more scattered than in the rest of the city. The Bronx is sort of laid out in a way where there's not a good central place that everyone wants to play, the way that people want to play in Lower Manhattan or along Broadway or Times Square. The Griot Summit was our major Bronx event. The tradition involves having musicians wander around, telling stories, and singing praises of the people who they come into contact with. And then people will give them a tip, or pay them, as they sing praises. This is how it works in West African countries. In the Bronx, 35 musicians all gathered, performed together, and then started to wander throughout the gardens, and even outside of Wave Hill, wandering around and singing praises to everyone who they came upon. So it was sort of a moment of West African culture transported into one of the most urban environments."
All quotes by Aaron Friedman
Photo of Nagna Diabaté, Aissatou Kouyate, Tapani Sissoko, and Mmah Doumbouya performing at the New York Griot Summit © 2011 by Magali Regis/Fula Flute Music