Rolling Hills Chronicles: Griot


The Queen is slaying soul
Its grace giving life to every leaf – flower
And blade of grass carpeting Hardliner’s rolling hills
Hardliner finds comfort from her rendition
Of that Beatles classic ‘Let it be’
Few artistes could slay a cover – transposing it into an original
Well – Auntie Re-Re is gone now
Her Queen of Soul title unchallenged
Just like those of the King of Pop and the Godfather of Soul
Can nobody assume these hallowed musical thrones

Another story told – Ms Rennah states with a soft smile
Tugging the corners of her mouth – her eyes focusing on
Something only she could see
They are lounging in the shade of a giant oak
She runs her fingers through the fragrant grass
That seems to shimmer beyond the shady boundary of the tree
The Earth Mother suddenly turns – her eyes gleaming –
Sharply focused on Hardliner – what is your story chile?

Say what? – Sista is caught off guard
Her comfort – bitch slapped by Ms. Rennah’s sudden energetic shift
Dang – she was so loving that melodic little breeze
And the dreamy ambience of the tree
Instead she finds herself with eyes shut tight
And her arms wrapped around her stomach
As the familiar nausea of an abrupt displacement hits home
The melody on the wings of that little wind
Has become full-bodied – enveloping her – carrying her away
To what looks like a court yard with terracotta earth
Ms. Rennah stands in the middle of the court yard
Looking every inch a queen – decked in flowing golden robes
With intricate patterns of embroidery and beading
She motions for Hardliner come to her
A stringed musical instrument is propped against
A stool next to the Earth Mother – who by the way
Carries the same melody that transported sista to this place
Hardliner surmises that this is the melody of the
Instrument at the feet of the Earth Mother
It is called a Kora – she explains
An instrument of West African Griots
Who are storytellers – poets – historians – musicians
They are the noble custodians of oral tradition
You too have an anthology of stories Hardliner
Core stories you tell yourself about yourself – good or harmful
They have birthed many of your life experiences
And they can thwart the life you are capable of living
This is your stage Griot – tell your story

Ms. Rennah hands the kora to a nonplussed Hardliner
Its harped melody suffuses the air around her – seemingly flowing
From her very being
Aint Griots supposed to be male?

And aint you a game changer? – the Earth Mother guide fires back
With that humorous twinkle illuminating her wise eyes

Oh – Lawd have mercy – this is all so sudden
Let a sista catch her breath
A while ago she was lazing underneath a tree
Being serenaded by a sweet little breeze
And now she is being fed some griot mess
The woe is me epilogue has begun to take flight from her lips
Talk about out of her depth – she can’t play this thing no how
And Spirit just luuuuuuves to drop a sista
In deep dark green waters and expect her to swim

Can’t – one of your favourite words to anchor your stories –
But doggy paddling will do just fine
– Rennah answers with aplomb

Hardliner slices the Earth Mother guide a side eye
On her way to occupying her centre court seat
Holding the handles of the kora a bit too firmly
She tentatively plucks the strings
Wondering how she gon do this sacred musical instrument justice

Get out of your head chile – Ms. Rennah says in that musical lilt of hers
Spirit can only draw out of you what he put inside you
You are a master storyteller –
Inhabit spoken word poet that you are
Come on – find your tools and pluck dem strings
The melody will come

Never mind she aint been on a stage in two years – she mumbles
All the while acknowledging that her ‘woe is me’ rant
Aint doing a sista no favours
As she surrenders to the will of Spirit – Hardliner feels the familiar
Emotional pull of words – bubbling and clamouring for release from her gut
Demanding freedom to express their truth
Truth – a word that has been bandied about like a tennis ball
In this new age of self-discovery and spirituality
Ms. Rennah was correct in saying that sista gats some stories to tell
And to tell the truth – that word again – Hardliner would
Rather not tell some of her stories despite the urge to expel
Them from her gut

Why is that boo? Ms. Rennah interjects

Hardliner plucks a dissonant cord making her cringe
Because sista aint no open book that’s why
Umph – more disharmonious notes are flying off that kora
She deeply inhales – knowing when a good thing has run its course
So sista reigns in her pisstosscity
And throws herself back into the process
It is strange how she feels possessive about her stories
They have served her in some way – comforted her
Offering a sense of security – affirmed her reasons
For not going after and living her best life

Uh-oh – wait a min…
But that is the thing with regurgitation – it can’t be suppressed
And so – her story unfolds anyway – much to Hardliner’s horror

It reveals that sista does not truly trust and believe
That she will live her best life – the one she has envisioned in her mind
Cause well – it is just too damn hard as her life experiences have shown her
That nothing nothing lasts – nothing that she wants ever happens
Hardliner’s fingers are plucking all kinds of cords
Creating a story that gats no cute melody
And she can’t stop because they seem to have a will of their own
Jesus – some old dead griot betta come snatch that kora
Cause sista is dragging this sacred musical artform

And what is the story you created based on these experiences?
Ms. Rennah is at her side – her beautiful melody
A jarring contrast to the one Hardliner is creating
Hardliner is tired – she feels like she has been around this
Here mountain a million times
How much work she gats to do on herself to make it stick?
To wipe her slate clean?
She is tired of her inner chile issues – don’t get her started
On her mama and daddy issues
She acknowledges the impact of not being raised by them on her life

Maybe you could start from there –
Are you stuck in this story?
– Rennah offers

Good lawd – sista never looked at it this way
Although she has forgiven her parents for how their choices / actions
Affected her life – she has not come out fully on the other side of her story
Which has birthed her inner child stories of being unloved – unwanted
Not being enough and feeling unfinished
She slays these stories on her life’s stage
Not even aware that they have become her crutch
Here she was thinking that she is a spiritual badass
Living in the illuminating light of self-awareness
Having acknowledged – accepted and forgiven everything and everyone

And now you have realised that you are not channelling Gandhi
What is left of your story?

Hardliner fights the clap back riding the back of her tongue
In response to Rennah’s jibe
And remains focused – some of that work on herself has stuck after all
She breaths deeply and realises that instead of telling her story
As a victim – she will recount it as a survivor – with an erect posture
Rather then one that is bent
She acknowledges the damage that she did to herself with
The stories she told herself as a grown woman
She did not risk…

Personalise baby – Rennah counters gently

I don’t risk taking advantage of new possibilities
Because I told myself that I was unlucky and life is hard
Umph – sista strikes a dissonant cord
As she realises that this story – she inherited from her mother

Continue – Rennah encourages

I am afraid of making mistakes and people will see
My indecisiveness as stupidity
Oh heyul no – if that terracotta earth would do a sista a favour
And just swallow her bad-Kora-playing-ass right about now
Although she has been sucker punched by panic
The vestiges of presence lead her to reason that
That her melody don’t sound like a cat in labour anymore
Her nimble fingers are weaving together a tune
That is somewhat harmonious with that of the Earth Mother
Hardliner’s reaches beyond sheer mortification of being exposed
To acknowledge that these stories – all her stories can be rewritten
To add value and power to her life

Yes – she missed out on building relationships with her parents
And it jacked up her confidence and self-image
And basically – she bolts like a rat in fear of intimacy
Gawd – another story for another day
But she realises she can change her perception of this experience
And by looking at it from a different angle – i.e. not one of victim-hood
She can rewrite a story that affirms and empowers her

Hey Ms. Rennah – am I playing this here Kora or what?

Umm humph – don’t give up your day job boo
But hold on to it – you have more stories to tell
In fact you have homework – examine each false story you have
Told yourself about yourself and why you keep telling them
Maybe by then you would have picked up enough skill
To leave those dead griots in peaceful slumber

Ouch – that was so Almah like

Well she is my sista after all – one or two things might have rubbed off

My sympathies – Hardliner retorts with a smile
Gurlfriend is tired and her fingers are aching
Like give me back my tree mama and that little breeze
Eh – with no strings attached
And put Aretha back on – something that can slay the soul whole

Ms. Rennah blesses her with that mock side eye of hers
As ‘Dr. Feel Good’ transports them back to their tree
“Don’t send me no doctor – filling up with those pills

I gat me a man named Doctor Feel Good
Oh – yeah – that man takes care of all of my pains and my ills
His name is Doctor Feel Good in the morning
And taking care of business really this man’s game
And after one piece of Doctor Feel Good
You know why I feel good is his name…”

Yassssssssssssss – mama!
That is a mic drop right there
Rest in Peace Queen Diva
Rest in Peace


2 thoughts on “Rolling Hills Chronicles: Griot

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