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The ZYG 808 on Griots and Street Poets
Hip-hop Jazz percussionist and MC discusses the roots and influences of the Black American oral tradition leading to the formation of rap in Hip-hop.
By: Liberation Multimedia, LLC
Taking a break from recording, the young artist explained, "My father has a book called 'TALK THAT TALK', which has a bunch of folktales and poems in it." pausing to take a sip of his water, The ZYG 808 continued, "One is a piece he would read to me when I was little was called 'Signifyin' Monkey' and it's the version by Oscar Brown, Jr." It was a couple of years ago when he first heard the Rudy Ray Moore version, which is the street version of the folk-poem.
The ZYG 808 talked about the various oral traditions of West Africa including poets, singers/songwriters, historians, storytellers, teachers, and counselors, all falling under the collective title of "Griot". During the trans-Atlantic slave trade, many griots ended up in the Western Hemisphere, in the islands of the Caribbean as well as the United States. The hyper oppressive nature of European cattle slavery forbade many traditional practices among enslaved Africans who found ways to hide their traditions in socially acceptable forms. Some griots became preachers, others would tell animal stories that were really coded stories of rebellion and escape.
The storytelling and poetry traditions, together with the migration of Black people into northern, urban areas led to the rise of the Street Poet, gentlemen who gathered in front of stores and in barbershops to tell stories and recite stories in the form of poems. The ZYG 808 points to blues era singers and songwriters like Willie Dixon, Robert Johnson, and Rosetta Tharp as examples of the American griot tradition. "Somehow, when you know this history and recognize that rap comes from this tradition, it really makes a lot of the projects that have been put out a disgrace to the tradition."
Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Amiri Baraka, Askia Toure, Kurtis Blow, Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez, The Last Poets, KRS-ONE, Public Enemy, Dead Prez, Ice Cube, Rakim, Jay Cole, and Kendrick Lamar are a few examples of this traditions existence in the 20th Century leading into the present.
The ZYG 808 is recording his debut album "The Intro" and will be performing:
April 14 - Dedham Square Coffeehouse, Dedham MA - 8PM
April 28 - William E Reed Auditorium, Dorchester MA - 8PM
For more info, visit:
Liberation Multimedia, LLC