Dear Julien Jacob,
When my son, Kojo, turned one, my parents gave him a small blue and white CD player. Finding a simple one was difficult since they are hard to find or the ones still around have too many fancy options and settings.
He began opening and closing the lid with his persistent wet hands or pulling on the CD inside while it was still spinning. We marked the ON button with a big black circle. He learned the button was important so he would press it repeatedly. To our delight, the player still works two years later.
At a weekend market in Ghana, we came across a stand selling CDs. There were shelves of still unopened discs at bargain prices. We bought a box full and took them home.
Kojo has now perfected his skills and can intentionally turn on and off the player, insert and remove CDs, and adjust the volume when needed. One corner of our living room is dedicated to music with the player, CDs, chair and a small lamp all huddled close together.
This morning when I sat down to write hoping he would play independently alongside me, he chose one of the CDs in that collection from the market called “African Groove”. He gave me the book inside the CD cover and asked me to read it. As each song played, I showed him the photo of the artist. He loved saying and repeating names like: Issa Bagayogo, Badenya, Madeka, Didier Sourou Awadi, and Dady Mimbo.
When your song (number 4) came on, he pointed to your image and said, “Tell me that story.”
He stared at your face while listening to your voice as if he knew you somehow. He listened to the simple guitar chords that started the song. His body stopped moving and his eyes, although looking forward, seemed to be looking elsewhere.
I told him about where you were born and how close Benin is to Ghana. His hands relaxed with the baritone vibrations of your voice.
I explained that you speak French and that your mommy and daddy were from the blue seas of the Caribbean. His heartbeat seemed to slow down to match your steady djembe beat.
He heard about your journey from Africa to Europe when you were just four. He listened to you chant, Kalicom over and over again.
“What is he saying?” He asked.
I told him that you are a writer and thinker. I told him that you sing in an invented language that “flows forth naturally and spontaneously”. I explained that you want the listener to find his own meaning. We both sat quietly until you stopped singing and the room became silent again .
I am writing to tell you know that your message has travelled across time and space. And I thought you might like to know that we had breakfast with you this morning and something magical happened. I wanted you to be aware that although you don’t know us, we now know you.
Until meet again,
Kay and DJ Kojo