Shirazette Tinnin

Date: January 12, 2018

-Maya Mesola

Shirazette Tinnin Brought us There

 “the Black continent that had to be reached was you”— Gwendolyn Brooks

[“To the Diaspora”]

IMG_8336(Shirazette Tinnin @NYC Winter Jazzfest 2018, Tishman Auditorium, Photo credit: Maya Mesola)

Terri Lyne Carrington was a major player at the NYC Winter Jazzfest 2018, both behind the drums, organizing and performing in the sold out Geri Allen Tribute, as well as moderating “JazzTalk: Jazz and Gender” panel featuring Prof. Angela Davis and Esparanza Spaulding. During the panel, Carrington poignantly cited black feminist, Audre Lorde, “There is no thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives,” and Professor Angela Davis reminded us that music is a mechanism for activism, helping us to form the words for what it is that we feel.

Terri Lyne Carrington is indisputably the most prolific and hip female jazz drummer “slash” composer + producer + educator + bandleader today, with recordings that sit on the boundary of jazz, rock and roll, and R&B. Since the “Jazz and Gender” panel discussed the barriers that women jazz instrumentalists face, in which she mentioned the importance of her own mentors, I also wanted to pay homage to Carrington’s trailblazing lead by spotlighting Brooklyn-based drummer, Shirazette Letitia-Amara Tinnin, who has received private instruction from Carrington, and listed Carrington as one of her role-models and early influencers in previous interviews.

Shirazette Tinnin grew up on a farm in rural North Carolina, and is currently based in Brooklyn, NY where she released her debut album Humility: Purity of My Soul in 2014. She has traveled and performed in places as far as Peru and Angola, but always manages to bring it home, performing locally for her devout fans in New York City. During the NYC Winter Jazzfest she performed in Nicole Mitchell’s “Art and Anthem for Gwendolyn Brooks” Friday, January 12 at The New School Tishman Auditorium as a member of the Black Earth Ensemble (BEE) with Jason Moran.

Performing the day after it was reported that our nation’s president had made disparaging remarks about African and Haitian immigrants and the countries they hail from, Shirazette’s performance was earth shattering and electric.

Tilting her head towards the sky as she graced us with powerfully soft, rolling, cascading solos, it was as if she were pulling beats from the sky in a direct hard-hitting response to the president’s pejorative comments.

Shirazette’s performance was nothing less than heart wrenching and transfixing.

The audience was immediately transformed by the entire performance, which included the words of Gwendolyn Brooks’ poem, “To the Diaspora,” “you did not know you were Afrika…[you did not know the Black continent that had to be reached was you].”

Brook’s poem “To the Diaspora” speaks not of Africans traveling to the West, in search of “the American Dream,” but the inner desire to reach Africa as a destination for black people born outside of its glorious shores.

Even as we desire to seek travel to Africa, many of us do not have the privilege to go. But as Nicole Mitchell, and the Black Earth Ensemble reminded us during their performance last Friday night that even if we do not accomplish the journey, the desired destination – “the African dream” – is within us, not external to our bodies, and our spirits, regardless of wherever we may find ourselves to be, and whosever leadership we may find ourselves to be under.

Shirizette’s performance  in particular was not only expertly driven on her instrument, but she emotionally brought us there – leading the way to the desired destination – the mountaintop – within us.