Saturday, August 20, 2011

Down Home Friendly

Depending on where in J-Ward you live and whether or not your windows are open, you can start hearing the music just before 4:00.

The moment I stepped out of the shower, there it was.

The Down Home Family Reunion had begun.

By the time I made myself presentable and ambled down Clay Street, reunion attendees were everywhere, walking with chairs, looking to park, chatting with friends on the sidewalk.

Passing the gazebo in Abner Clay Park, a gentleman tipped his hat to me and said, "You have a nice afternoon out there, miss."

I found a shady spot just in front of the post wall exactly where I sat last year. And the year before. In some respects, I am such a creature of habit.

Unfortunately for me, the organizers had decided to allow vendors to set up in the area behind the stage seating, so my view was somewhat obstructed.

I could see only part of the stage.

What I could see was the parade of sharp-dressed men (and a few women) passing in front of me. I gave first prize to the man in the pink driving cap (worn backwards naturally), pink and white striped shirt with the sleeves rolled up, white cargo shorts and white shoes.

Not every man can pull off pink and white without looking like an ice cream man, be he did so in spades.

Moments later, Tobey Foyeh and Orchestra Africa took the stage.

They were the ones I'd come to see. >Their music is a pastiche created from a fusion of traditional Nigerian Yoruba music with Afro-beat, Highlife, jazz and Latin elements.

The MC said that Foyeh began performing music at an early age in Ibadan and Lagos, Nigeria and is a self-taught musician who eventually went to Berklee.

Channeling Prince and doing it all, Foyeh composes, arranges, produces, and sings, interpreting traditional and contemporary African music.

Songs had a distinctly African slant, with names like "Market Place" and "The Rain Dance."

His orchestra features him on guitar but also traditional African instruments like the gangan (talking drum) and the kalimba (thumb piano).

His talented backup female singers wore African dress and did a call-and-response style of chorus singing while performing African dance.

Luckily, I could see them from my vantage point.

Naturally I ran into neighbors, one of my favorite couples, and they teased me that I never walk down their way anymore since I no longer have the beagle.

Guilty as charged. I need to change that we agreed.

During a break in between songs, one of the guys standing atop the post wall behind me called down.
"Hey, young lady down there! Are you doing okay?" he inquired with a big smile.

For the second time today, a stranger was concerned with my enjoyment.

Apparently that's just how people roll at a family reunion in Jackson Ward whether you're the kind of family they know or not.

God, I love this neighborhood.

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