Sekou Sundiata Longstoryshort (Righteous Babe)
Reviewed by David Lynch, Fri., Feb. 18, 2000
Longstoryshort (Righteous Babe)Though it has several contemporary aliases -- word jazz, spoken word, etc. -- poetry has been around literally forever. Regardless of the tag used, this literary genre is currently enjoying a resurgence, both in performance and with record labels. It should then come as no surprise that one of Ani DiFranco's first non-Ani releases on her Righteous Babe imprint would be her former poetry professor at Manhattan's New School University, Sekou Sundiata. An urban wordsmith par excellence, Harlem-born Sundiata is both inspired by, and on par with, the greats: Langston Hughes, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Gil Scott-Heron, and Umar Bin Hassan. On his second release of musical poetry, Sundiata shines like the bright African summer sun: The title track, planted on a fertile sonic bed, is informed by Coltrane's Love Supreme as much as Gil Scott-Heron's "Whitey on the Moon," the organ-propelled slow drop of "Making Poems" breathes and flows like Amiri Baraka reading with the Funky Meters, and "Droppin' Revolution" is simultaneously as in-your-face as an NYC cabby's horn and elusive as steam coming up from a Manhattan manhole. Yet with such a labyrinthine mansion built of words, one wonders why Longstoryshort has no lyric sheet. Still, Sundiata's funky-blue-soul poetry holds up to repeated listenings, with music that's full of sonic surprises, which unfold like the multiple meanings of the poet's well-crafted words. What Sekou Sundiata -- America's de facto poet laureate -- offers on Longstoryshort isn't spoken word. It's spoken wisdom.