Saturday, March 12, 2016

Orisa Urban World Festival Opens in Oakland Town USA

Awon Ohun Omnira
Adimu Madyun and Mama C
It was raining all day, but last night, an evening blessed with new moon wonder, the cleared air breathed -- inhaled a misty optimism peppered with spicy African folk. We were in an upper room remember  Brother Rafiq Bilal-- ashay, Oakstop was destination Orisa Urban World Festival 2016!

Adimu Madyun, event host, introduced  Awon Ohun Omnira who opened the evening -- evoking Esu/Elegba and all that is good and holy and wonderful as the ancestors parted earthly waters and danced and danced.

Baba Obafemi Origunwa

The elder panel was the featured event --
after the invocation and welcoming ritual
each elder was introduced and welcomed
to the panel with applause and standing ovations.  Some elders and other guests had flown into town from as far as Washington D.C., New Orleans and Houston. I heard that these guests were pretty tired and a bit hungry, having just stepped off the airplane, to drive to the venue. There was food, beverages and complimentary libations for all of age.

Facilitated by Baba Obafemi Origunwa, the panelists: Yeye Luisah Teish., Ph.D., Iyabeji Cathy Royal, Ph.D., Iya Nedra T. Williams, Baba Kola Abimbola, Ph.D., Baba Wade Nobles, Ph.D. shared personal stories about mentors and the presence of Ifa in their lives . . . stories of energy work, spirit call and response. It felt like we were home sitting around the table after supper listening to the grown folk talk. The conversation so sweet, dessert forgotten -- at least for a moment (smile).

James Gayles and Iya Bobi Cespedes
It wasn't as if there weren't other luminaries in the audience. We are royal. Most, if not all, seated at the table shared stories of friends and elders, family members who pointed a younger self towards a path best taken.
Iya Hadiah, Iya Lelani, Yeye Teish, Iyabeji and Iya Nedra

Panelists: Dr. Nobles, Iya Nedra, Iyabeji, Dr. Kola, Yeye Teish

Yeye Teish holding Iyabeji:
Make Way for the Mothers, Sweet Water Women
Yeye Teish said that one always has a choice. Everyone on the panel could trace his or her spirit development to a relationship with an elder, Baba Wade's was a relationship which spanned multiple generations through a name, his, "Wade." He spoke of being the incarnation or incantation of his great-grandfather Wade and how his friend, an Ifa priest, told him he needed to get initiated to accomplish the work he was sent here to complete. Dr. Nobles demystified the idea of orisha by called orisha, energy -- ashay, manifest in creation.

So to say Yemaya was in the house last night, means that her energy or ashay was manifest through those daughters who were sweet water women. Iya Sula (Zion Trinity) called out "Make Way for the Mothers," as Iyabeji came to the center of the circle and began to dance. Immediately taken by the song, Yeye Teish stepped near her and said, "I've got you baby."
Spirit of Orisha: Sula with hand on Sweet Water Women and Iyabeji
Yeye Teish was not the only one; we also saw a young girl child dancing with the elder woman, gesture for gesture, even anticipating others-- the two, A Grand Pas de Deux: entrée (introduction), an adagio with multiple variations, then acoda (or conclusion). This form called pièce de résistance and bravura is performed by leading or principal dancers and is a highlight of a ballet repertoire. Iyabeji's surrender last night shifted the energy so that Orisha could enter in all its majesty. The moment reminded me of another occasion when Zion Trinity, minus one, performed at the Maafa Commemoration in New Orleans last year. We were in Congo Square in front of the altar, libations had been poured, prayers recited but the energy was a bit to contained. There was hesitation, people weren't being freed, so Sula started pouring libations and talking and as she talked the air changed and when she finished, and she and Andaiya started singing, the square was filled with Africans unchained, literally unhooked.

Yeye Teish, Iyabeji and the Young Goddess
Sula signing Spirit of Orisha
Kele Nitoto
The Zion Sisters got it like that. I can't imagine this evening when they perform for the first time with a live band.  Later when I asked Iyabeji if she remembered the possession, she said no. She could recall thinking how at home she felt and then letting go, (when Yeye assured her she was protected). Iyabeji or mother of twins, reflected earlier on the panel how orisha is always present with her, and so she never walks alone.

Khalilah Isoke, Prosperity Movement, and Mama C
Mama C (Charlotte Hill O'Neal) who is visiting from Tanzania, opened the acoustic set. She played the East African Lute or obokano with accompanist Kele Nitoto on congas.

After her set, the three sisters: Sula (Spirit), Osun Ede (Water) and Andaiye (Fire), sang selections from Spirit of Orisha.  Theirs was a classical and fitting conclusion to a wonderful evening. We mingled, circulated black dollars, laughed and talked. Children slept standing up, too excited to sit for long, yet not used to being up with the grown folks. Others who'd passed out were held by dads and moms.

Wife and Husband, Khalilah and Adimu
with Andaiye (Zion Trinity) at Orisa Urban World Festival

The concert tonight, March 12, 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. at The Uptown in Oakland featuring Iya Bobi Cespedes is going to be awesome. She was present last night too. James Gayles shared with her a painting he made of her likeness. When I left at 12:00 midnight, he was working on a painting of Miles Davis for the opening of the new film next month in Los Angeles. I knew it was Miles from the eyes, which was all that is finished at this point (smile).

Name that tune? No, name the iridescence or soul mapping our eyes represent. 


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