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Wiseman brings interactive show to Iowa Central Monday

‘The Griot’ offers music, more to unify mankind

February 5, 2012
Messenger News

Kijana Wiseman will present her one-woman show, "The Griot," at 7 p.m. Monday at Iowa Central Community College.

Wiseman's show, which is free and open to the public, is being presented by Iowa Central's student senate in honor of Black History Month.

In West Africa, a griot is someone who keeps an oral history of the tribe or village and entertains with stories, poems and music.

According to a press release provided to The Messenger, Wiseman, a lyric coloratura with a 3.5 octave range, "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 Wiseman'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," said Wiseman, "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."

Wiseman lived in West Africa for six 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, Wiseman won first 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 nonprofit organizations.

In 2001, Wiseman's "Griot" was named "Best College Diversity Program" at the Association for Campus Activities national conference.



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