By Avani Jurakhan, Contributing Writer
The Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute’s (CCCADI) 2017 Traditions in Evolution hurricane relief fundraiser event had a full day schedule that was composed of several panels and talks celebrating culture and uniting a community in a time of devastation. From the grassy entrance of Harlem’s Aaron Davis Hall to the laughter filled backstage, everyone was dressed in clothing of vivid colors and patterns. The main hue being yellow as a visual ode to highly respected deity: Oshun. Described as the “goddess of the rivers, love, fertility, maternity, divine femininity, gold, honey, riches, joy, laughter… what makes life worth living,” by Brooklyn born dancer, Maya Louisa, who began the most amazing part of the day: the evening concert. Performing as a mere vessel for Oshun’s spirit, Louisa began the show while vivid visuals played on a large screen behind her depicting images of water and the sun.
In a fiery and soulful transition, Navasha Daya began her set. With a single guitarist to her right and a heavy noted drummer to her left, she lifted the audience’s spirits with her soothing, breathy voice. Singing soul, R&B, and blues, Daya stayed grounded to her roots by incorporating several African chants into all her of songs. She concentrated on interacting with the audience throughout her segment, asking listeners to reply and even back her up vocally as well as encouraging clapping, snapping and stomping. She later explained performing on stage is a way of inviting everyone listening and watching to feel a sense of freedom and authenticity in their respective skin, embracing the music as a segue to fearless self-appreciation. Daya’s music combines this love with divine will as she tries to persuade everyone to put faith in the laws of nature and the process of life by tying her beats to spiritual lyrics. Her fun and bouncy music acts in a way to not only get everyone to take their masks off and dance, but to ignore the pressure of branding and uniformity on which popular culture prides itself.
The closing act was the New York University originated hip-hop duo: OSHUN. Their name was written in white lettering intertwined with two sunflowers as an independent beat loomed in the lack of their presence. Then suddenly the two young and bubbly ladies walked in calmly with Daft Punk-esque masks on and took the stage by storm. Musical soul mates, Niambi and Thandi, made the crowd move, sing and smile with their mere presence. Passionate and strong, the two wore red floral shirts, white dotted face paint and energy coated in charisma.
Dancing around the stage, they exclaimed that they graduated and they couldn’t be happier about it with their newest single “Graduate.” In the clean tune, OSHUN made everyone from little kids to grandparents ready to jump around. They closed the set by demanding everyone get up to shout with them in their red hot protest, “Not My President.”
After the show, they ardently discussed the mix of influences that go into their creative process. From traditional African-spiritual music and cultural roots to modern tinges of Drake’s “Nothing Was the Same”, OSHUN seamlessly blends and composes exciting, fresh new music in which anyone can indulge. CCCADI’s concert was a call to attention and appreciation of a systematically oppressed art form that brought together people from all backgrounds to support and share loving energy among one another.