Written by Dita Devi
Ancestral drums, hands clapping, loud singing and vibrant colors cascade across an underground dance floor in the middle of what is left of the Miami before high rises, the heart of Alapattah. With a big voice rising above all the senses, Ajhanou Uneek, singing a song in Creole, is more clearly understood than the English spoken by most of the people dancing and singing along.
Her stature is small, but her voice is big. She is shy, but behind the mic, she is a force.
The bright colors of her clothes always stand out from the bright colors of the murals at Esquina de Abuela. Suddenly, Dante Lee starts playing electric guitar joining into her Haitian Rara drum beats with a sound so different, yet perfectly blended. Then Lyrik El comes in and begins singing Jamaican Reggae music. Battlefunk bangs the keyboard into an electric funk and all of it perfectly comes together into a beautiful blend.
Caught in a trance like a Cobra to a flute charmer, I dance, dressed in my Indian clothes with all the beautiful women: poets, singers, painters and musicians. Occasionally, a brave man steps into the dance floor of intoxicating Shakti and joins the trance, then another and another. Ajhanou straddles the drum and as the vibrations move through the floor to the bottoms of our feet, we are momentarily transported to a different time; maybe the Harlem Renaissance, maybe centuries ago.
Feet stomp as the beat of the drums pound in unison with the hearts dancing to its rhythm. Most of the people dancing don’t even know the words to the song they repeat back enthusiastically, singing the alarms of the voice of a people united.
Not once in any of it do you realize that all the people come from different backgrounds, ages or religious beliefs. All you can feel is the unification with your family. The sacred song of the drum Ajhanou beats is a song you may have never heard, but will never forget.
Ajhanou reminds me of India. Not just because we share in that heritage but because she is vibrant color, sound, spirit and power blended into an experience that never overloads the senses, but satiates the soul. Her nose ring extends to her earrings and her proud Haitian beauty shines through her and her song. Her big almond dark deep blue eyes radiate kindness. Her smile lights the room.
We have marched alongside one another so many times, to protect water, to protect Mother Earth. She has used her gift not only to entertain but to bring awareness to key environmental issues as well as community building. I’ve felt honored for her to be such a building block of the Shaktiville community and am honored to be here in her healing.
Sunday we are celebrating healing. We are celebrating giving back to someone who has given so much to the community. We are unifying to jam together like we always have, to dance in the splendor of art and music and exercise the power we all have as a community to come together. Sunday is a day for those of us who can offer assistance in the form of donation: monetary, time, craft service or friendship to build together and as a community, as family. There will be a silent art auction and poetry, singing and a jam band.
Some of the pieces included are from well-known local artists:
We will be at Jude Papaloko’s Jakmel Gallery in an event thrown by Jayme Gershen, Melanie Olivia, and myself, Dita Devi from 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm on Sunday February 10, 2019 for Art & Beats. Donations are welcome but not required. Jakmel Gallery is located at 154 NW 37th Street Miami.
RSVP to the event: Arts & Beats: A Musical Benefit for Ajhanou Aneek
Photos of Dita Devi and Ajhanou taken by Jayme Gershen
Check out some videos from Shaktiville of Rara Rock Root Raisin, Ajhanou’s band