UNDER THE GRIOT TREE
Black History Month Festival
February 16-21, 2004 Roundhouse, Vancouver BC
This festival featured spoken word and vocals by Tanya Evanson, Vanessa Richards, Ndidi Cascade, CR Avery and Graham Kelly; music by Carlos Joe Costa, Fana Soro, Pepe Danza, Sal Ferreras, Hari Pal, Lincoln Thorne and John Howard; visual art by Ron Selmour and David George; presentations by Eleanor Collins, Lloyd Davis and Siobhan Barker; with curatorial work by Fade to Black Entertainment.
This series of events, featuring master percussionists and spoken word artists, included workshops, a unique drum circle, an evening of short films, an art exhibit and exciting performances allowed the audience to become active participants in the Griot tradition.
Griot (pronounced GREE-OH) is a French word that refers to the West African keepers of oral history. Griots are at once witnesses to the past, interpreters of the present and oracles of the future. They spin the history of the tribe as it was, as it is and as it shall be. Included in a Griot’s job description is storyteller, poet, genealogist, historian, adviser, spokesperson, diplomat, mediator, interpreter, translator, musician, composer, teacher, entertainer, exhorter, warrior, witness, praise-singer and ceremony participant. A single label doesn’t work here. And in this day of multitasking artists, Griot is an appropriate term for those specialists of words and music, who are shaping reality into a great social force which touches the senses, the mind and the heart.
Under the Griot Tree events gathered the audience, local spoken word artists, storytellers, MC’s, percussionists, musicians, dancers and visual artists from multicultural backgrounds, with an emphasis on local Afro-Canadian artists. The artists presented work which supports the Griot tradition, because Canadians do have Griots in their midst; the challenge is in preserving our stories.