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Archive for February 2012

Moments in Time by Tantra “Aminata” Zawadi: The Senegal-America Project December 2011-January 2012

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Reflections of Africa

Take me, take me home!

Across the wailing great blue

To the land of soul

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I am home!  The Motherland has received me and it is magnificent! The music, the family, the celebration, the fellowship is divine! Great concert last night.  Much love and gratitude to Bideew Bou Bess, Tony Vacca, Baaba Maal and Massamba Diop! The drummers are calling.  Let’s go – ‘yewoul bok’ (stop sleeping in Wolof).  Peace, Love and Light.

Nanga def?

Moctar, Tony, Tantra, Beydi, Ibrahima and Anne – Bideew Bou Bess)

The day after we arrived in Senegal, Tony Vacca and I prepared for a concert with Senegalese singers/musicians Bideew Bou Bess featuring esteemed guest Baaba Maal at the Daniel Sorano National Theater in Dakar.  The show was absolutely breath-taking.  The theater was filled to capacity and the audience was on their feet most of the night.  Bideew Bou Bess are brothers Moctar, Beydi and Ibrahima – international double gold disc artists with a captivating flow.  They opened their dressing room to us, shared a few laughs and thoughts about music and life.  At rehearsal the night before, I felt a soulful connection with them as we worked through our material.  I felt in my spirit that our collaboration would be magical.  Screams filled the air when they hit the stage and world renowned tama drummer Massamba Diop and percussionist Tony Vacca, raised the temperature for more foot stomping, hand clapping – grooving.  Later that evening, we had the opportunity to personally meet Baaba Maal and witness his soulful performance onstage with BBB.   They both have a strong connection with the people and BBB’s family, who were present, joined them onstage in song.   Much love to Cheikh for tending to our needs backstage and sharing a delicious dish of ceebu jen (fish and rice) before the show.  Our American travel companions were in the audience that night while Massamba Diop kept the energy flowing with us back stage.  DJ Awadi stopped by to show us some love and to welcome us to Senegal.   BBB blessed us again during our journey by visiting us in Malika where we enjoyed an evening of conversation, music and song; and again in Dakar the night before our departure to America.  I have so much love and respect for these brothers and am honored to have met and performed with them.  Much love to Tony Vacca for pairing me up with BBB on his track “Things Gotta Change,” and making beautiful things happen with the Senegal-America Project.   Love and respect to you Bideew Bou Bess!

Tony Vacca, Baaba Maal, Tantra-zawadi & Massamba Diop

Senegal is love ~ the sweetest experience ~ the embrace of home!

Ahh, the last day of 2011 here in beautiful Senegal!   Delighted to bring in a new year in the Motherland!  We plan to spend the day in Pikine with poets, rappers and artists like Focoti Mic and Bideew Bou Bess followed by a performance/celebration with Baaba Maal and Massamba Diop at midnight.  Just beautiful.

Happy New Year!  Today, we traveled to Thiess where we spent time at Galleria Arte, ate lunch (yassa) and spoke with the artist Samba Ly and his beautiful wife Adama.  Afterwards, we drove to Espace Sobobade where we ate supper, met with the owners and went to our digs a mile or so from the main entrance.  The grounds are marvelous complete with an amphitheater.

Sobobade in the morning!  Breakfast and music with Djibril Ba (riiti) and Pape Sakho on kora. Djibril and Pape gave me the Senegalese name of Aminata-Ba which means trusted and honest one, a beautiful Wolof name. We talked about our lives, the history of griots, music and language.  I had Ataya tea with another local named Djibril, walked along the beach and spoke with neighboring artists about their wares.

Pape Sakho, Tantra-zawadi and Djibril Ba at Sobobade

I visited a mosque with one of the locals during a peaceful moment at Sobobade.  We were the only ones in this quiet yet beautiful place.  He gave me time to be alone with my thoughts and experience the presence of the moment.  Later that day, I went to the ocean to pray for my family, friends and ancestors.  Contemplation is a natural part of life for me; but in Senegal, there is gratitude is in the air we breathe.

Horseback riding in Senegal is as amazing as it sounds.  We spent a few hours riding through villages, taking in the countryside, the animals and people going about their day.  It was picturesque and peaceful.  I wished I could have managed a camera to capture some of the beauty, but I captured it in my heart.

In my travels, I enjoy telling stories about the diversity of Brooklyn and how beautiful the people are with their colors and unique styles.  Senegal is filled with color and light.  Most of the women dress exquisitely in flowing dresses and skirts and the men look regal in robes, pants and tunics. I had the opportunity to have an outfit made by one of the local tailors.  It is absolutely stunning and was finished in one day.

Massamba Diop, Focoti Mic and Tantra-zawadi outside Jimmy M’Baye’s studio

We had the pleasure of meeting one of Pikine’s most beloved male hip-hop groups Focoti Mic (which means “grab the mic” in Wolof).  Focoti Mic is Alassane Diagne, Maguette Mbow, Fallou Diouf, Mamadou Lam and manager Ibrahima Pouye.  These talented young men have taken part in musical collaborations with Tony Vacca’s Senegal-America Project and Arts-Are-Essential.  I recorded a track with them in Dakar and we spent time vibing, taking photos, harmonizing, laughing and jamming outdoors in Malika.  We also recorded a radio drop for some of my favorite DJ’s!  It was a beautiful experience.  You are in my heart Focoti Mic!

Focoti Mic and Tantra-zawadi in Malika

Being in Senegal has created something new in me and I will never be the same.  This is as it should be.

The rain falls gently
A time to welcome new life
As tears fall away

We’re having a concert tonight at Espace Sobobade in Senegal and what an amazing line-up of talent: Massamba Diop, Tony Vacca, Barou Sall, Pitz Quattrone, Ndongo Diop, Djibril Ba, Pape Sakho and yours truly, Tantra-zawadi ~ with love for Senegal. WAU! WAU!

Wau! Wau! We just arrived in Yoff and it’s time to record in the studio.  We have arrangements to record in the studio of Jimmy M’Baye, world renowned guitarist with Youssou N’dour.   We plan on spending a few days recording with some INCREDIBLE musicians and taking in more of Dakar’s appeal. The last two days have been emotional.  The young poets at Daouda Fall surrounded us in love and I cried, releasing something deep inside of me. This morning’s send off from Espace Sobabade in Toubab Dialaw, went right to my heart as each beautiful sister and brother from the market area held me close and placed bracelets on my arms and necklaces around my neck whispering blessings in Wolof, French and English as I cried in their arms. Senegal has shown me myself in a way I have never seen.  This is what love looks and feels like.

Tantra-zawadi and guitarist Jimmy M’Baye outside his recording studio in Dakar

I met a young poet; a vibrant young man at a poetry gathering at the home of Daouda Fall. He wanted to give me a T-shirt from his English club, but I left before we could meet again in Toubab Dialaw. He called me today to see if we could connect, but I am two hours away now in Dakar. He said “no worries sister, I will hold it for you FOREVER – inshallah.” This is the embrace of Senegal.

Young poets at Dauoda Fall’s

The Door of No Return, Ile de Goree’

He held my hand in the room of “Femmes” as I rested my cheek against the wall and traced the dust with my fingertips. The water gently rolled against rocks of beauty and tragedy as he guided me next towards the light ~ eyes mirroring bottomless cries, streams of loss and rebellion ~ bearing witness to prayers of love buried inside. We are here – once again. This time, we are standing side by side ~ no shackles visible to the naked eye. Our toes square at the Door of No Return – (never to see you again my love, bye-bye Africa, bye-bye). He sensed the shaking of my limbs, the drum of my heart and the warmth on my cheeks.  He looked deeply into me and said “not everyone died. You have come back. I am here. Let us stand together and remember this moment.” Words tumbled from my mouth and African voices stirred with the dust, “Remember me Aminata. Remember our names.” His eyes gave me peace as his heart spoke, “Remember, not everyone died. We are here and you are home” as we faced east and prayed ~ Bismillah. Ile de Goree’, January 10, 2012

Tantra-zawadi at Ile de Goree’

Rising this morning in Brooklyn, New York and listening to the sounds outside my bedroom window. The clock flashes 7AM and I know it is noon in Senegal. I have thoughts of tea and moments of reflection after a good rest and hugs from my family. Showing love and gratitude to Tony Vacca and Massamba Diop of the Senegal-America Project, Jean Butler of Arts-Are-Essential, my wonderful travel companions (big love), the many spectacular artists/musicians and entrepreneurs we met along the way (you are amazing) and my new friends and family in Senegal ~ I love you. Your embrace has transformed my heart and now we are one. Nama nala ~ Jamm ak Salaam!

Tony Vacca, Shango, Tantra-zawadi and the young poets at Dauoda Fall’s

What does love taste like? A meal in Senegal for sure! There was a true sense of unity as everyone gathered around to eat from the same plate. Sometimes we sat on the ground with a cloth under us and at other times, we dined at tables; sometimes we used eating utensils, and sometimes we ate with our hands. Eating with my hands gave me a feel for the texture and temperature of the food ~ from dish to mouth ~ and a deeper appreciation for it as our host generously pulled apart pieces of fish and vegetables for our eating pleasure. I enjoyed the closeness of sharing like this and being a part of the love, laughter and conversation that flavored every dish.

Oh, Aminata

Please remember our culture

For many returns

I met a young woman at a café on the beach in Toubab Dialaw, Senegal who makes hibiscus and marmalade jam. We shared thoughts on feminine consciousness, her passion for learning and the baby she is carrying in her womb. We took turns listening to one another as I helped her decorate lids for her jars cutting away circles of fabric from kente cloth. Our talk was an interesting patchwork of Wolof, French (I have lots to learn) and English as we somehow managed to gesture, understand and communicate with one another. I enjoyed numerous fulfilling conversations like this in Senegal; many with musician Tony Vacca as we traveled to and from concerts. I spent beautiful moments with local artists (and it seems like everyone in Senegal is an artist), resulting in impromptu invitations for tea and one on one conversations about life, history, family and art. While taking a walk with a friend the evening before I left Dakar, he asked me to show him how I walk when I am in Brooklyn. I didn’t know where this was heading, but I demonstrated a fast kind of walking thing that most of us do on any given day in New York City. He laughed and said, “Now you are learning the ‘Senegalese Walk.’ Just take the time to look around you, greet others and see where the walk takes you. ” This is good I thought…practicing consciousness. In Senegal, you are aware of the rhythm of things like the sound of the ocean, calls to prayer, the beating of drums and the sweet people sounds as they move throughout the day. When I am in New York City, I naturally feel the rapid pulse that our city is affectionately known for and admittedly, don’t always take the time to go where the “walk” leads. Enchanting connections whenever I walked the Senegalese way unfolded into beautiful adventures of community, music and art. Practicing consciousness without a doubt, is a beautiful thing ~ the sweetest thought over three cups of Ataya tea. –Nodding in the affirmative.

Baobab Tree, Ile de Goree’

The Artist

A work of vision

Through his soul eyes hand crafted

Powerful women

Senegalese Artist Djibril N’Doye on percussion and Pitz Quattrone on didgeridoo

Our journey to Senegal revealed many beautiful lessons about timing.  Chance encounters blossomed into wonderful connections that made our trip even more exciting.  On the flight from New York to Senegal, my travel companions had the pleasure of being seated next to the wife of award-winning Senegalese artist/painter Djibril N’Doye.  To our delight we received an invitation to their home which we gladly accepted on our way from Toubab Dialaw back to Dakar.  Djibril, a self-taught artist from the Lebou tribe of Senegal, along with his lovely wife and family, welcomed us into their home and personally walked us through his exquisite art collection.  Djibril creates paintings with oil and watercolor as well as drawings with ballpoint pen, charcoal and pyrography/wood-burning.  I was fascinated by the way his pieces captured everyday living in an extraordinary way.  My favorites were drawings of women in their natural beauty and environment burned onto ebony hardwood.  His generous depictions exuded dignity with every curve, line, length of cloth and lock of hair. He shared stories about his process and the positive impact of women in his life. Djibril’s work is a feminine song of praise; a celebration of the African woman in her beauty and splendor.


I could smell the wood

The soil under their feet

Henna stained perfect

I found a quiet moment to thank him for his beautiful light and our special tour of his gallery.  Afterwards, we had a delicious Senegalese meal (every meal I had in Senegal was delicious), followed by a full out jam session!  We all got down with the get down (tama, balafon, didgeridoo, djembe and poetry).  Djibril, Tony, Massamba, Pitz and I, not to mention the family and friends that joined in dance and beautiful energy, made this session a soulful delight. After our mini-concert, we spoke about ways in which we can raise awareness and understanding through music and art ~ conscious talk by conscious people for positive change.


Gather the women

Chins tilted towards the sky

Gazing with their minds

Stories like this were an everyday occurrence in Senegal.  The gentle way conversations here and there led to sharing moments that our hearts will never forget.  Djibril’s gallery and home was one of those times.  It might have been the loving way his family opened their home to us, prepared delicious food and made us comfortable.  It could have been the way Djibril poured his love into every work of art to the point we too felt its sweetness.  Maybe it was the way the heart responds when it is open to the experience of love.  For me, it was all of this and more ~ a splendid moment in time.

When I decided to journey to West Africa with the Senegal-America Project, thoughts of my late aunt and uncle came to mind.  Corrine, my maternal great-aunt and Clyde, my paternal uncle, were Muslims during their lifetime. As a child, I was raised in a Catholic household in the throes of the black power movement in America.  The Nation of Islam was very much a part of our community in the Bedford Stuyvesant/Crown Heights sections of Brooklyn, New York.  My aunt and uncle shared their faith with us and an overall consciousness for the well-being of our community. Although they passed away some time ago, I wondered how a visit to a predominantly Islamic nation would have influenced their lives. Did they envision making a pilgrimage to Mecca?  I thought of them while I was in Dakar; whenever I saw beautiful mosques, woke up to calls for prayer, watched people quietly shift their focus to pray as they unrolled prayer rugs in the daily hustle and bustle with greetings of As-Salaam-Alaikum lingering in the air.  I noticed a quiet respect and acceptance as people of different faiths lived and worked side by side.  It was calming to watch my Muslim friends pray – mindful of the gift of time (inshallah), taking not one moment for granted as they enjoyed their families, friends, food, fellowship, nature, music and life.  I think my aunt and uncle would have been awed by this peace.  What would it have been like for them to practice their faith without toiling for dignity and respect as they did during the civil rights era in America?  I soaked up every moment for them.  I felt them in my spirit as I stood at the Door of No Return on Goree’ Island.  I was there to represent my family and the ancestors who never made it home.  I offered a quiet prayer facing east on the rocks near the tragically life affirming waters of the Atlantic Ocean, placed my hands in it and turned my palms to the sky.  It feels so good to be here and I am grateful to be alive.

Peace and Love,


Written by diamondandcompanypr

February 8, 2012 at 14:55

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