Wumni & Fertile Ground at the Knitting Factory NYC

It’s not just a music, it’s a MOVEMENT” – Wumni

Wumni - photo by www.jenmazer.com

Wumni - photo by http://www.jenmazer.com

Navasha Daya: photo by www.jenmazer.com

Navasha Daya: photo by http://www.jenmazer.com

When WUMNI took the stage at THE KNITTING FACTORY on June 3rd around midnight, the energy of holy space had been raised.  The audience had experienced the presence of a Queen, NAVASHA DAYA, vocalist with FERTILE GROUND, who brought us BE NATURAL” – a prayer to our inner spirits — with lyrics I could relate to … and not just because of my “do”:


“You are closer to flawless, because evolution is the only form of perfection I’ve ever encountered…”

Navasha Daya: photo by www.jenmazer.com

Navasha Daya: photo by http://www.jenmazer.com

“Hey mister, did you say something, ‘bout my hair?

Why stare? Why do you care?

It’s my only prayer

Without it I’d be bare

A fire with no flare to bear the heat that nature gave me”

“If you listen to the lessons I’m trying to teach, your grasp will exceed your reach

Just let go of your leash

Take those shackles off your feet

I guarantee you’ll be free and happier

Live happier

Live natural”

“if you think that life is more than a fashion show

If you think it’s not who but what you know

If your spirit moves like a river flows ….”

This concert, THE CONTINUING LEGACY OF AFROBEAT presented by KNITTING FACTORY AFROBEAT FESTIVAL & WUMNIGIRL was a night filled with the very highest form of dance music: vibrations that form community and inspire the body to heal the heart and soul.  We felt it deep down – and we were moved.

Dancers: photo by www.jenmazer.com

Dancers: photo by http://www.jenmazer.com

Arriving during Fertile Ground’s mid-show, I entered the darkened main hall of the Knitting Factory, and was immediately drawn to the light. In an alcove, I was surrounded by the joyous energy of DANCERS — in the corner, way back from the stage, where there was plenty of room to move, to break out. Surrounding one dancer in the center, smiling, jumping, each in his or her own personal style – they were black, Latino, Asian, forming a ring of positive energy. Inspired by the music and the moves of the previous dancer, each spontaneously exploded into the energy center in a mixed repertoire of BREAKDANCE, WEST AFRICAN and the kinds of moves seen at VOGUING BALLS. These were beautiful young people, strong, muscular, precise — devoted to the body in service of the spirit, allowing freedom to flow.  The feeling was one of complete abandon, sensuality, silliness, experimentation and joy –when expressed through the bodies of these highly trained dancers– nothing could be more beautiful!

Navasha Daya: photo by www.jenmazer.com

Navasha Daya: photo by http://www.jenmazer.com

We “regular folk” were feelin’ the vibrations too. I walked through the audience, and stood next to a couple facing the stage, holding each other with exceptional tenderness – I could feel the intensity of trust and peace they experienced in each other’s arms, while they focused intently on the music. Others were totally immersed in the sing-along of “Be Natural,” with eyes fixed on FERTILE GROUND’S NAVASHA DAYA who wore a queenly crown of three elongated golden leaves and a bright red and gray short-short skirt covered with cowry shells.

Navasha – and Wumni knew how to keep that energy high.  These singers can DANCE! With style and ever increasing vigor, Wumni and her two beautiful backup singer/dancers and Ms Daya surrounded by her very tight band. These performers loved their audiences, and with each response from us, they re-doubled their energy.

Wumni dancing with the audience: photo by www.jenmazer.com

Wumni dancing with the audience: photo by http://www.jenmazer.com

At one point, after engaging the audience in a call-and-response, Wumni climbed off the high stage to dance with her audience. Shalewa McCall a local choreographer and educator who is dedicated to the study, preservation, documentation, performance and creation of dance works in the African Diaspora tradition, was right there front-and-center, basking in the radiance of Wumni’s performance, dancing with her to the music. Wumni invited individuals to join her and people jumped in to participate. A woman dressed in traditional African garb emerged from the audience holding a brightly colored umbrella covered with dollar bills – an acknowledgment of Wumni’s prominence and a blessing for her prosperity. With the umbrella over Wumni’s head, the audience and Wumni danced together, smiles glowing all around.

This was a homecoming, a celebration, a family reunited.

Wumni: photo by www.jenmazer.com

Wumni: photo by http://www.jenmazer.com

Of her many accomplishments and experiences, Wumni’s bio mentions she was invited by White Ribbon Alliance, an international coalition, working at grassroots and government levels to save the lives of pregnant women and newborn children in 90 developing countries around the world, to participate in their 10 day musical convoy tour across South Africa. At a high point towards the end of what could only be described as an ecstatic musical performance, Wumni suddenly called everything to a halt. The music stopped. She talked directly, even harshly to the audience.  TALK IS CHEAP,” she repeated – punctuated by the telling of tragic events in the African American community.  “A man got shot 41 times, and what did we do?, she asked, “We talked. A man got something’s stuffed up his ass, and what did we do? We talked. … We have a president who is trying to make something happen, and talk is getting in his way. … What are we going to do?” She demanded that we take action and reminded us “When you talk and you don’t listen, you become a Zombie,” whereupon the band broke into FELA KUTI’S “ZOMBIE,” and the party continued.

After the Fertile Ground portion of the show, I had time to talk with audience member Kelly Webb, who was obviously caught up in the magic. “I became clear that what I’m doing is right. My goals and purpose are starting to become clear. It was like a signpost, a nice signpost. You get these angels and they tell you things, you know…. We have the power to heal the earth.”

Chanting Navasha’s “We Can Heal the Earth” in call-and-response certainly hit home!

Paris: photo by Judith Z. Miller

Paris: photo by Judith Z. Miller

Yes, WE EACH HAVE OUR DREAMS, some profound, some, perhaps less soMe? I went outside after the show and stood in the light rain to speak briefly with Morgan, a visitor from France  … and was rewarded by the fulfillment of a modest but lifelong dream, to stand at 3 in the morning, in a faint, romantic drizzle, to light the cigarette of a beautiful, young, French woman.

Till next time,

Judith Z. Miller

Aka Artist Soul Speaks



Upcoming Wumni Shows in June: Philadelphia, PA Toronto, Ontario & Providence Rhode Island – for more information click here: http://www.myspace.com/wunmigirl

Upcoming shows in June: Washington, DC, Baltimore, MD & Dallas, TX; http://www.myspace.com/fertilegroundmusic; for dates: http://gruvr.com/band/fertilegroundmusic/

To see more images of these performers go to http://jenmazer.com/gallery/afrobeatfest2.html


About artistsoulspeaks

Judith Z. Miller, aka "Zelda," lives in an erotic, musical, spiritual universe; she writes as a way of coping with its beauty, sensuality, frustrations and ecstasies. In NYC, she has read at events sponsored by organizations such as Nehirim, Zeek Magazine, Essentuality, and at venues such as Blue Stockings, The Jewish Community Center, Wow Café Theatre - and late at night to her girlfriends in bed. She published in Inside Arts magazine, The Washington Post, and American Theatre magazine. Judith was trained as an actress in Washington DC, co-founded The Fine Line Actors Theatre, acted in numerous productions, created original performance material and was awarded an NEA Arts Management Fellowship in Theatre. Judith is a self-trained visual artist who is inspired by the beauty of nature and the guiding force of her intuition. She draws and creates primal sculpture and wearable art from trees, stones and found objects, which she fashions into ritual staffs, wearable amulets, and employs in healing rituals. She was profiled in The Daily News; the subject of feature articles in Mann About Town magazine, Home News Tribune, In Brooklyn, The Park Slope Paper, The Wave, and The Daily Sitka Sentinel, and featured on NY-1 Television. In 2008 her paper “Sometimes a Tree Isn’t Just a Tree,” was read at the First International LSP-and Translation Studies Oriented Textual Analysis conference at Chouaib Doukkali University, El Jadida, Morocco. Judith was the founder and director of ZAMO! representing a multi-cultural mix of world-class GRAMMY® nominated and JUNO ® award-winning performing artists for over 20 years. She taught self-promotion for performers, presented by organizations such as The Field, The Red Tent Women’s Project and the Brooklyn Arts Counsel. She was the Chief Rhythm officer of Microfundo, a crowdfunding platform supporting musicians worldwide. She was a 2011 British Airways Face-to-Face Opportunity contest winner traveling to Thailand where she met with indigenous woodcarvers and shaman. A healing ritual artist, she created Zelda's Body Breathing Healing System (TM), and offers private sessions and workshops. Judith (Zelda) resides in Port Henry New York.
This entry was posted in Afrobeat, Event Report, Performance Review and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Wumni & Fertile Ground at the Knitting Factory NYC

  1. Pingback: Teach Yourself How to Sing Fabulously Well || HomeSingingLessons.com

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s