Programme Notes

Brown Sounds—The Story
Eden envelops us, all things are new, untouched, full of curiosity. Brown Sounds echo through the garden.
Violence tears us from our dwelling place; the original sin of slavery uprooting bodies and trees.
But the end is not yet. We dig our roots into the soil, we stretch our limbs to the sun, we find new truths, new loves, new power. Eden. Selah.
The Making of Brown Sounds
As a grad student living at International House in 2013, I was assigned a poem to recite for Black History Month. Every night, I had coachings with Columbia University playwright Lunga Radebe, who pushed me continually to find new colors and truths in the text. When the time came for me to give my recital later that semester, I realized the words were still singing in my being. I asked fellow Manhattan School of Music student Ayanna Witter-Johnson if she could set the words to music and she graciously said yes. At the premiere, I was joined onstage by dancer Dionne Simone Kamara from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center. Thus was born Brown Sounds, a celebration of the unification of the Black arts in poetry, composition, song and dance.
For this 2021 reincarnation of Brown Sounds, I wanted to add visual vibrancy to the Black arts represented, and I found inspiration in Allan Virgo, a Jamaican American designer (who has designed for brands like Michael Kors), who provided narrative with his designs. Soon after, I saw Lateef Williams dance in a digital short for which I had provided vocals, and completely fell in love with his movement. This featured artist of the Opera Ballet Vlaanderen in turn introduced me to a very exciting French director with a fresh aesthetic named Jérémy Adonis, who is based in Brussels, and together with award-winning, UK singer/songwriter Ayanna Witter-Johnson, we created an all-star Black creative team representing the vast experiences of the African diaspora.
In addition to the creative team, we meet the artistry of pianist Jeanne-Minette Cilliers, Studienleiter at the Royal Conservatory of Antwerp, as well as Andrew Richards, a famed Wagnerian tenor and recording engineer, and AV Inspire's Geert De Deken, who help us craft the iconic sound you will hear. Significant contributions are also made by makeup artist Joke Berton, hair stylist Lilly Odion, lighting and video sssistants Adrien Leonard and James Barbosa, and line producers Octopods.
The Message
Young Black children are often taught that their history begins with slavery. Our purpose with this consummation of the Black Arts Movement is to portray a history that goes back to the beginning of time and stretches far into the untapped treasures of the future: a celebration of Black art, Black bodies, Black consciousness.