Earlier this month while on a road trip to Detroit to shoot an event, I heard a very fascinating interview with NPR’s Melissa Block & jazz diva Dee Dee Bridgewater on All Things Considered. They were discussing Dee Dee’s latest CD Red Earth: A Malian Journey which is a tribute to her African Roots.
Before the interview even began, I was hooked when I heard a clip of one of her new cuts “Afro Blue” & then I became totally engrossed with every word that Dee Dee spoke as she described her process for developing this new master piece.
One thing from the interview really resonated with me was when Melissa asked Dee Dee if she knew anything about her African heritage before the beginning of her Red Earth project & Dee Dee said “I didn’t know anything. And as a matter of fact, to be perfectly honest, I had grown up with very, very negative impressions of Africa. In, you know, schoolbooks where they would talk about Africa, it was always like the Africans were savages. I had no idea that there were African kingdoms, that there were, you know, these deep, cultural roots, you know, the whole, griot oral historians. You know, I didn’t know this stuff because we weren’t taught that in school.” To that statement, I was like hello!!! I also felt proud because I am teaching my children about the beauty of Africa as I learn myself (it’s really up to Black parents to learn & teach our children as much as possible about our own heritage because these white school systems are not down for the cause).
During the interview Dee Dee also talked about how Mali had this draw to her, some type unfamiliar familiarity but she couldn’t quite put her finger on it until she visited Bamako. To hear her describe the experience made me want to touch down on the motherland even more. On her website she says “The calling was so strong, so forceful, that I had to heed its inaudible cry. I took wing, and was guided to the land of my forefathers. The RED EARTH has always spoken to me, from the time of my birth in Memphis, Tennessee.
When I touched the red earth of Bamako, when I inhaled the Malian air, when I heard the tambours, and listened to the griots, I felt my spirit begin to dance.
I saw myself in the people; I saw that our customs were the same. I found the answers to long-standing questions about the ‘how’, the ‘where’, and the ‘why’. I was invigorated and inspired; my soul was filled with an inexplicable peace.”
I could go on & on about how awesome the interview was but I’m not, I beg you to listen to it yourself (here).
One thing that I would have asked Dee Dee would have been if she got a DNA test to confirm her link to Mali. Actually I guess it really does not matter because ignorance is sometimes bliss & adoptive homes are just as welcoming.
Lastly while I am on Dee Dee’s jock, I stumbled across an interview that she gave Baltimore Sun reporter Rashod D. Ollison where she said “…With this album, my concern was that my people, our people, would hear it and maybe it would inspire other brothers and sisters to make that connection with Africa. With this record, I’ve come full circle.” To that I say, you have me all in but then again, you are preaching to the choir.
Back to the music.
Since I got the CD, it has been in heavy rotation especially the song “Red Earth (Massane Cisse)”. It has this strong Blues jump off blended with heavy Afro poly-rhythms that just gets my head boppin’. She really has the Griot song style down pat & it shows in this cut I think also hearing her talk about red earth reminds me of playing in the dirt as a child in Alabama & then getting in trouble when I got home because I ruined another Salvation Army outfit.
“The Griots (Sakhodougou)” also has me addicted its words and sound. This cut also drives my imagination wild when I close me eyes & imagine people dancing on the continent when the song hits the orgasmic crescendo. Most of the song is in either the Songhai or Babara language & I have no idea what they are saying but of course I sing along. Good thing music is a universal language!
My last highlighted favorite is “Afro Blue”, where her Griot skills are showcased yet again wonderfully. “Afro Blue” is an up-tempo jazzy cut infused with African percussions that really make this song go over the top. I have also determined that this is a good song to listen to a few times while cleaning the kitchen after dinner.
Other favorites include:
I’ve always considered Dee Dee to be a very diverse artist but she mos def stepped her game up with something to offer the jazz, blues and Neo Afro rhythms fans on “Red Earth: A Malian Journey.”
If you have this album, I would love to know your thoughts…….. So talk to me…………