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Sekou Sundiata: 1948-2007
Sekou Sundiata

Born: August 22, 1948 in New York City, NY
Died: July 18, 2007 in Valhalla, NY

Poet, Performance Artist

Copyright © 2007 

Blues, jazz, funk, and Afro-Caribbean percussion surrounded the soulful voice of Harlem-born poet Sekou Sundiata on his recordings "The Blue Oneness of Dreams" (on the Mouth Almighty label) and "Longstoryshort" (Righteous Babe). His words speak of black culture and tradition, often with a political edge. "People be droppin' 'revolution' like it was a pick-up line," he says in Longstoryshort. "You wouldn't use that word if you knew what it meant."

Sekou Sundiata recorded and performed his poetry with such renowned musicians as Craig Harris, Nona Hendryx, David Murray, and Vernon Reid, as well as with Henry Grimes in duo at the Vision Festival of 2006. Sekou's plays include A Circle Unbroken Is a Hard Bop, The Mystery of Love and Udu.

Mr. Sundiata was a Sundance Institute Screenwriting Fellow, a Columbia University Revson Fellow, a Master Artist-in-Residence at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in Florida, the first Writer-in-Residence at the New School University in New York, and a professor at Eugene Lang College. Among his students was folk-rocker Ani DiFranco, whose Righteous Babe label released Sekou's CD Longstoryshort. DiFranco has said that Sekou Sundiata "taught me everything I know about poetry," and the two performed together in 23 cities during her Rhythm and News Tour in 2001.

In 2003, Sundiata toured the U.S. again, performing his one-man theatrical piece Blessing the Boats, a chronicle of his five-year battle with kidney failure, blending monologues, readings, stand up comedy, spoken word, and storytelling, with recorded music and video projections.

The poet's latest theatrical piece, the 51st (dream) state, is a multi-media music-theater performance, Sekou Sundiata's contemplation of America's national identity, its power in the world, and its guiding mythologies. He has also been featured twice on Russell Simmons' Def Poetry Jam on HBO.

Television journalist Bill Moyers, who featured Sekou Sundiata in the PBS series on poetry, The Language of Life, has said of Sekou that his work "comes from so many places it is impossible to name them all. But I will wager that if we could trace their common origin, we'd arrive at the headwaters of the soul. Listen carefully and he'll take you there." Writes Amiri Baraka: "Sekou is one of the most distinctive and original DJALI (Poet, Historian, Musician Signifier) doing it. Sekou is Pre-Griot, meaning in the ancient tradition of 'The Gleeman.' Serious as light overhead in darkness."

Sekou Sundiata has been, and will always be, a primary personal inspiration and guiding light in my own life.

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