Randy Weston is, without a doubt, the renowned cultural musical griot of African music. For over six decades, Brother Weston has been a world-renowned pianist, composer, bandleader and cultural ambassador of African music of the Diaspora, highlighting the greatness of the vast rhythmic heritage of Africa.
This past Sunday evening, Brother Weston premiered “An African Nubian Suite,” composed and performed by him and his African Rhythms Orchestra, at NYU’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts.
During this two-hour concert, Brother Weston featured an amazing array of artists and musicians from the African Diaspora, including revolutionary poet Jayne Cortez, author of 12 books of poetry and performer of poems with music on 10 recordings; distinguished UCLA history professor Robin D.G. Kelley, author of “Africa Speaks, America Answers: Modern Jazz in Revolutionary Times”; and Wayne B. Chandler, author of “Ancient Future: The Teachings and Prophetic Wisdom of the Seven Hermetic Laws of Ancient Egypt,” as the program narrator.
Weston’s African Rhythms Orchestra included an incredible ensemble that consisted of the legendary 93-year-old Cuban percussionist Candido, Min Xiao-Fen of China on the pipa, Salieu Suso, a Gambian kora player, T.K. Blue on sax and flute, Alex Blake on bass, Billy Harper on tenor sax, Cecil Bridgewater on trumpet, Howard Johnson on tuba, Lewis Nash on drums, Martin Obeng on the balafon, Neil and Ayanda Clarke playing African percussions, Robert Trowers on trombone, Ayodele Maakheru on nefer, singer Tanpani Demda Cissoko and Lhoussine Bouhamidy on the ganawa.
During the concert, the Skirball Center auditorium was transformed into a musical village with the spirits of our ancestors. From its inception, Kelley gave the audience a brief summation of Weston’s greatness and humanitarianism in showing the world the magnificence of African music and its influence on all music worldwide. He also mentioned that Brother Weston recently turned 86. Regardless, his vast contributions to the music are phenomenal, as he’s still constantly playing, composing and traveling to various countries, playing to packed multiracial audiences.
Between different musical arrangements, Chandler, narrating in his deep voice, gave an in-depth history of the superb richness of African music dating back to Egypt and the era of the Nubian people. This concert became a classroom on the majesty and greatness of African music.
During the concert, various members of the ensembles played amazing solos. Cortez, accompanied by Brother Weston on piano, electrified the audience, wailing sizzling poetic verses extending from Africa women becoming liberated to Trayvon Martin’s murder. Afterward, Sister Cortez received a standing ovation for such a powerful, revolutionary poetic performance.
At 86, Weston still resides in Brooklyn, where he was raised. Fortunately for New Yorkers, Brother Weston is one of our musical icons who can still be seen playing in various concerts in the metropolitan area. Music lovers must take every opportunity to cherish and support this legendary Pan Africanist, who has given us so much of the majestic greatness of African music.