WNPR

A Concert Of "Roots" Music With Cuatro Puntos

Oct 26, 2017

The ensemble Cuatro Puntos sees music as a catalyst for change. The group, which is based in Connecticut, performs and teaches around the world. The ensemble often collaborates with members of local communities during performances.

Cuatro Puntos presents a program this week inspired by a collection of papers housed at Goodwin College in East Hartford. The collection contains material related to the novel and television series “Roots” by Alex Haley.

When “Roots” premiered on TV 40 years ago, it became one of the most watched shows ever. “Roots” begins with the story of a young man from the Gambia who’s captured and sold into slavery – and then follows his descendants in the U.S.

In its performances this week, Cuatro Puntos’s music parallels the story of Roots, said the ensemble’s executive director Kevin Bishop.

“We start in Africa with two pieces with African origins written by composers who actually were born in Africa and who immigrated to the United States,” said Bishop.

“The first piece on the program is “Wawshishijay” by Obo Addy, who is a Guinean composer.” That work features a string ensemble with a vocalist and a percussionist who plays jinbei.

Another piece called Escalay by Hamza El Din depicts a water wheel. As the music plays, the audience watches a video of an old woman on a water wheel who is edging on an oxen with a whip. Bishop describes the music as minimalistic.

“It very slowly evolves over the course of the piece as the oxen goes around and around,” said Bishop.

Goodwin College Assistant Professor Brittney Yancey narrates the program. She’s the content coordinator the school’s Alex Haley Collection, and says as it becomes increasingly difficult to enter conversations about justice, freedom and equality, “...what I love about this particular concert series is that it's helping foster a conversation about race, about family, about meaning and belonging. And this is something Roots did in 1977.”

Music by Florence Price and George Walker will also be featured on the concerts. To find out more, visit www.cuatropuntos.org