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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Birago Diop - "Breaths" (poem) & Sweet Honey And The Rock's Song "Breaths"

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post showcases Senegalese poet Birago Diop's poem "Breaths". Information about Birago Diop is also included in this post. In addition, accapella performances of the song "Breaths" by Sweet Honey And The Rock and by two other accapella groups are also featured in this post.

The content of this post is presented for religious and aesthetic reasons.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to Birago Diop for composing this poem and thanks to Ysaye Maria Barnwell for composing the music for this song. Thanks also to all the featured vocal groups for their performances of this song, to all those quoted in this post, and to the publishers of these videos on YouTube.

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INFORMATION ABOUT BIRAGO DIOP
From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birago_Diop
"Birago Diop (11 December 1906 - 10 November 1989) was a Senegalese poet and story-teller, whose work restored the general interest in African folktales and promoted him into one of the most outstanding African francophone writers.[1] A renowned veterinarian, diplomat and leading voice of the N├ęgritude literary movement,[2] Diop exemplified the "African renaissance man"...

Birago Diop died on November 29, 1992 in Dakar at the age of 83... His legacy includes the titles of novelist, diplomat, a founder of the Negritude movement and veterinarian. Even now, decades after his death, his stories and poems still remain - sharing his dreams and ideals, whispering the great tales of the African values and culture, never to be forgotten."

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WORDS TO "BREATHS"
(Birago Diop)

Listen more often to things rather than beings.
Hear the fire's voice,
Hear the voice of water.
In the wind hear the sobbing of the trees,
It is our forefathers breathing.

The dead are not gone forever.
They are in the paling shadows,
And in the darkening shadows.
The dead are not beneath the ground,
They are in the rustling tree,
In the murmuring wood,
In the flowing water,
In the still water,
In the lonely place, in the crowd:
The dead are not dead.

Listen more often to things rather than beings.
Hear the fire's voice,
Hear the voice of water.
In the wind hear the sobbing of the trees.
It is the breathing of our forefathers,
Who are not gone, not beneath the ground,
Not dead.

The dead are not gone for ever.
They are in a woman's breast,
A child's crying, a glowing ember.
The dead are not beneath the earth,
They are in the flickering fire,
In the weeping plant, the groaning rock,
The wooded place, the home.
The dead are not dead.

Listen more often to things rather than beings.
Hear the fire's voice,
Hear the voice of water.
In the wind hear the sobbing of the trees.
It is the breathing of our forefathers.

Source:
Note from that blog: http://amesadeluz.blogspot.com/2008/04/breaths-by-birago-diop.html
"Senegalese poet and story-teller, who recorded traditional oral folktales of the Wolof people. Birago Diop's work helped to reestablish general interest in the African folktales published in European languages. Diop was also one of the most prominent African francophone writers." (daqui)
-snip-
The line "listen more often to things than to beings", and the Sweet Honey And The Rock song that was made from Diop's poem are often used by African American in African arts programs. I recall Pittsburgh, Pensylvania's Black Theatre Dance Ensembles' founder & lead dancer Bob Johnson chanting an adapted version of that line in a performance in the 1970s. That verse was:
"Listen more often to things than to beings.
Listen more often to things than to beings.
Thunder!
Lightning!
Rain!*
Thunder!
Lightning!
Rain!*
*elongate the word "rain"
-snip-
A review of a 1992 Chicago Dance Africa program included these comments:
"Even the audience is called on to give back some of the energy it's been given... Early in the concert we're told to "listen more to things than to beings"--things like the wind in the trees, for instance, the voices of our ancestors..." http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/ago-ame/Content?oid=880594 "Ago! Ame!"

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FEATURED VIDEOS
The sound file of Sweet Honey And The Rock is given first because they were the first group to sing this song. The other examples are given in chronological order according to their publication date on YouTube, with the oldest example given first.

Example #1: Breaths - Sweet Honey In The Rock



eejay999, Uploaded on Nov 26, 2009

From their 1980 Live LP, 'Good News'

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Example #2: Breaths



charlesns, Uploaded on Jun 14, 2009

Performed by The Flirtations, from their 1990 album

Poem by Birago Diop; Music by Ysaye Maria Barnwell

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Example #3: Taratibu Youth Association sings "Breaths"



Taratibu Youth Association, Published on Apr 14, 2013

Taratibu Youth Association performed Sweet Honey in the
Rock's "Breaths" at the Girl Talk Getaway in Cambridge, Maryland April
13, 2013.

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