The Griot: A musical and dance performance in honor of Black History Month
by David Drissel
Posted on 1/30/2012
Would you like to see an amazing musical and dance performance that draws on African and African American culture?
Then be sure to attend
Featuring KIJANA WISEMAN, M.Ed.
This event is free and open to the public!
Presented by Iowa Central’s Student Senate in Honor of Black History Month
A lyric coloratura with a 3.5 octave range, Kijana Wiseman, MEd., has lived and performed on the American, African and European continents. As "The Griot", she astonishes audiences by shifting genres as easily as her slides and on-stage costume changes. Inviting her multicultural audience to join her on a time trip to the dawn of music, she first makes them one people--again ("just with many paint jobs!"), then teaches them a South African "click" song for a wedding they'll be attending. The story progresses as she becomes a slave, gospel choir director, toddler, vaudeville artist, opera and jazz singer--demonstrating how music unifies mankind.
Audiences participate as Kijana's "Griot Chorus" and learn much more than music. High points of the show occur also when Kijana does a blues version of "Summertime" or struts her stuff while performing vaudeville's "I Can't Do Without My Kitchen Man." She even throws money around the stage then gives it away near the end while singing "God Bless the Child."
"Each audience is different..." says Kijana, "...and I like playing with people--from children to adults, so the Griot is full of audience participation. I adjust the level of the performance to match the age or needs of the participants. My job's simple...to musically and comically stir the cultural multi-mix of my "class," and allow them to first embrace their common roots, then taste its muticultural flavor with me... not just watch and applaud. My brand of diversity is inclusive."
Kijana lived in West Africa for 6 years where she was a former Peace Corps volunteer. While there, she hosted "Under the Palm Tree," an entertainment TV show, was assistant director of the National Liberian Cultural Troupe; drama coach of the American School and sang background vocals for Hugh Masakela and Mariam Makeba. She has performed with the Conrad Johnson Big Band, The Drifters, the Houston Symphony Chorus, Houston Masterworks Chorus and SssteamMoga in West Africa.
In 1997, Kijana won 1st place in the City of Houston Talent Competition. In 1998, "The Griot" program was awarded inclusion by Texas Commission on the Arts as one of its 148 touring artist programs, making it elegible for performance arts grants to non-profit organizations.
In 2001, Kijana's "Griot" was named "Best College Diversity Program" at the Association for Campus Activities national conference. She has also been nominated as "Best College Campus Speaker" for two years in a row.
In 2002, The Griot was not only named as "Best College Diversity Program," again, but Kijana was also named as APCA's "2002 Performing Artist of the Year."