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Kalamu ya Salaam's information blog

Marie-Pierra Kakoma was born in 1996 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Her father from Congo. Her mother from Rwanda. Both were physicians. Her mother was imprisoned for a brief period. Her father successfully struggled to get his wife released. Subsequently, her mother and sister fled to Belgium, and a couple of years later, she joined her mother. Her father followed later and eventually, the family was fully reunited in Belgium.

Her’s is a depressingly common story with seemingly a happy ending, except her family wanted her to be a professional. She, however, loved music. By the time she was nineteen, she was kicked out. Initially, she lived on the streets and eventually found a corner in a music studio while working odd jobs. But she never gave up her dream of professionally making music.

Eventually, she rounded-up a crew and began performing under the professional name of Lous and the Yakuza. She has found success in a nascent modeling career and also has gone on to snare her first major label album, Gore, which was released in 2019. And now she has a Tiny Desk internet video.

Although she sings in French, her talent breaks past linguistic barriers. Given her unquenchable will to survive and succeed, Kakoma is a multifaceted talent who undoubtedly will make her mark in the world of entertainment.

 

In 1995, after a summer of conducting a commissioned writing workshop for men at SUNO (Southern University in New Orleans), I responded to Ayo Fayemi-Robinson’s challenging query: “what’s up with that–excluding women from your workshop?” And that’s how Nommo Literary Society was born, a three-part (first, study of a wide variety of published work; second, announcements of news and upcoming events; third, sharing our work produced in our Nommo workshop, which I led for ten years).

Nommo, is a Bantu-based word that literally espouses the power of the spoken word. In our workshop, we extended that concept to deal with both the spoken and the written word as produced by a familial society of modern day griots. Nommo Literary Society was wiped out when Hurricane Katrina forced us to de-ass New Orleans and literally spread out across the country–east, north, and west. We couldn’t go much further south because we would have ended up in the Gulf of Mexico.

Ten years after we had become fugitives in search of haven, and in some cases finding what became a new home, many of us now have produced books. Our cohort of writers and spoken word artists had been set to celebrate a decade of our beloved Nommo workshop where we held weekly meetings and monthly doing public readings and performances at Community Book Center, run by Vera Williams and our dear “Mama Jennifer” Turner. We intended to show out and throw down in joyful revelry. Alas, Katrina’s flood waters drowned those aspirations.

Fifteen or so years after the mighty flood, literally domiciled all across this wast expanse of North America, albeit, for the most part, enscounced in major urban locals, while Nommo has not reassembled,  our alumni have gone on to publish and proclaim their individual and collective truths born of experiences, observations, and conclusions that life has taught us.

Here is a video interview with Cassandra Lane who has produced an award-winning, wonderful, albeit sometimes painful, memoir.

 

 

If you go to to Kalamu.com you will now find a new landing page featuring six videos, one-click access to my blog, four albums of music and six books.

The videos are work I did while teaching at Students At The Center with the help of my students as crew and talent. They range from four documentaries to two dramatic movies. They are:
The Harp: It’s Magic!
Jackie Seal
Baby Love
He’s on His Way: A Second Line for Norman Dixon Sr.
When Love Hurts
Who’s Pedro?

I regularly blog two or three times a week focusing on a wide variety of subject matters including annoucements of presentations and poetry readings.

The four albums of music range from my initial offering My Story, My Song, to Munich Music, studio work and concert performances in Munich, Germany; Lonely Woman duets with pianist Courtney Bryant; and Catfish and Yellow Grits.

Six books of both anthologies as well collections of essays and poetry: Be About Beauty; The Magic of Juju; New Orleans Griot; What Is Life; Cosmic Deputy and I Am New Orleans.

On April 1, the New Orleans Poetry Festival (NOPF)-21 kicked off with readings from the new anthology from UNO Press, I Am New OrleansThe event was streamed live (with a number of virtual participants) from one of NOPF’s favorite venues from the “old days,” Café Istanbul, in the heart of downtown New Orleans. The reading featured editor Kalamu ya Salaam along with a gathering of poets from the anthology: Kristina Kay Robinson, Akilah Toney, Michael “Quess” Moore, Kelly Harris-DeBerry, Skye Jackson, Jahi Salaam, Chuck Perkins, and Frederick “Hollywood” Delahoussaye. Click on the link and enjoy.

 

 

 

I used to lay on the floor of our second story apartment in Parkchester, the complex adjacent to the St. Bernard projects in New Orleans. Late one night as I meditated in the dark, Pharoah’s heavy sound swirling in the air, Tayari (to whom I was newly married), inched down the long hallway. She was hugging the wall, frightened by the noise erupting from our front room. I assured her, I was alright. Don’t worry. Go back to bed. Since then, she loves Pharoah.

Half a century later, Pharoah has a new recording with an Englishman whose stage name is Floating Points combined with the London Symphony Orchestra. I’m not a big fan of classical music and was a bit skeptical of what this collaboration would sound like, until I heard it all. Swam in it. Immersed myself there-in. I was surprised by how warm I found these sonic waters.

This was not the Pharoah I remember knowing. The Pharoah for whom I once stood in a New York street blocking a parking space while my friend drove around the block to get across the street to it–another person drove up and I refused to move, he told me “brother, you know you’re wrong”. And I was. But I had been instructed by my up-south friend to post myself there and not give up the space while he rushed though the Manhattan traffic to get to this coveted parking spot.

I obstinately stood my ground, not simply because I had been instructed to do that but, rather, because we were going to see Pharoah. I was willing to pay the cost of knowingly being wrong.

That was in the way-out late seventies. This new record was some Covid-era stuff. It is both different and surprisingly affective. Pharoah is Pharoah, of course. But rather than jazz, this is a new age recording of an eighty-year-old former enfant terrible from way back when, who is not afraid of today’s modernistic, completely (and pandemically) surprising future.

I cried when Coltrane died and am deeply thankful that Trane’s compatriot follower and subsequent sonic titan, who carried forward Trane’s aural torch, remains active with us decades, and decades, later. This recording is actually more than a promise, it is a fulfillment of the wonderful world of sound envisioned way back in the day.

There are some people and experiences, once we have been touched by them, we remain changed forever.

 

 

 

 

You

Are tomorrow / what a blessing

To sit next to you

B-Mike’s studio

A crush of peoples

Before us

 

I was given

A chance to witness

And bask in the glow

Of your gentle uprising

Defiant as the upsweep

Of your bold afro crown

 

Beauty growing out of the lake

Of old admiration for new world a’coming

Don’t be no fool. Monday (April 1, 2021) @ New Orleans Healing Center/Cafe Istanbul (7pm CST), hosted by Bill Lavender and Megan Burns. Some of us will gather together. &. Celebrate. Kick off a festival and new publication: I Am New Orleans. 36 poets feasting on the signature work from the Christian corpus. My man, Marcus Christian. A comprehensive poetic compendium, defining being (and missing) New Orleans.

Young scribe Skye Jackson will weave us deep into the tapestry of 21st-century Crescent City. Tender. Terrifying. Real. Imagined. Bayou and river mapped. Canal and lake surrounded. Sounds and sensibilities. Old head Kalamu ya Salaam will drop some verbal morsels. Both complementing and contrasting with Skye, and the overall celestial sound of poetry based on ancestral work plus as yet unrealized imaginations.

Come. Find out what it all means. . . 

 

I was going to start with Sheku. After all he had been featured at the Royal Wedding and was probably the best known internationally. But as I got deeper into checking him out, I found out he was but one of seven siblings. Seven! And they all played music. Not just music in general, but rather, classical music in particular.


What were the chances of that happening? Such a family force. I quickly realized the most important story in the immediate sense was not the accomplishments of the children but rather who were the parents. What was their story?

After searching for them and listening to them reveal their backgrounds, I realized they are where the heart of the story.



Listen to Kadiatu and Stuart Kenneh-Mason deliver wisdom. Here is not just one inspiring story but also a second interview that makes clear the whole family is not simply some accident of nature.

The parents were clear in raising the children. The children are clear in inter-relating with each other and the world. There is so much beauty here, so much focused inspiration.

Enjoy. And not just enjoy, but also learn and be inspired by the Kenneh-Mason family story.

 

Haki is interviewed by Mark Anthony Neal

Back in the eighties, when I served on a National Endowment for the Arts “Literature panel” none of the other participants were aware of who Haki Madhubuti was–even though I was expected to know a wide range of majority-culture writers. Fast forward forty years later and I am afraid the situation has not changed that much.

Why are we faced with the seemingly unchanging same-o-same-o? Or as the French are wont to say: the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Although Haki has well over a couple of million books in print and has developed “the” leading, Black-owned press in 21st century America, I believe the  long-term cultural ignoring of Haki as a national figure is because outside of Illinois in general and Chicago specifically, Haki has been seen as focused near exclusively on Black people in the windy city.

As we say on the street, lesser poets get more establishment play. And, it’s not just a color issue. There are poets of color, who are far better known and more-often establishment recognized, but no where near as accomplished as Haki is; especially when you consider that he has founded not only Third World Press, but also IPE (Institute for Positive Education), and two other thriving schools on the south side of Chicago, all while continuing his personal literary work.

I believe the mainstream ignoring of Haki outside of the upper midwest  is really about the fact that he seldom, if ever, seeks validation from national cultural taste-makers combined with the fact that Haki continues to be what noted West African leader Thomas Sankara has called an “upright man”! Someone who stands on principle in the service of his people.

Let us love and promote this upright man. A true poet of the people: Haki Madhubuti.