Vasti Jackson: Humble Griot of the Creator

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The Journey of the Blues

From Kush to Kemet to Alkebulan to Mali to Mississippi to all points in between, and beyond …

Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from a conversation with Vasti Jackson/The Griot.

Jackson Advocate: Is Mississippi the Birthplace of the Blues?

Vasti/The Griot: The rhythm of life began in the land now called Afrika!

JA: Where did the blues come from?

Vasti: Before the continental divide our ancestors walked the foundational components  labeled blues to what is now called the Americas, and other parts of the world.

JA: What about the music/musicians of the Mississippi Delta? Where and how did they get the blues?

Vasti: The blues is more than Robert Johnson, B.B. King, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Mahalia Jackson, Duke Ellington, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, James Brown, Beyoncé, and Prince.

JA: How did you come to this conclusion?

Vasti: Having traveled to Africa for more than twenty-five years, I have experienced the roots of all genres of America’s music. 

JA: Why do Africans in America say, ‘Blues is a feeling’?

Vasti: It is the sonic root of the African continent that vibrates stages, auditoriums,  concert halls, churches, villages, cities, and festivals the world over. With this heartbeat, the first and third eight note of the triplet (tri-po-let) gave birth to the pulse of the blues.

JA: Can you summarize the ethnomusicology of the blues according to your Vast Eye, the first eye?

Vasti: The beautiful, simple, and sophisticated polyrhythms, microtonal, and melodic energy that tell our stories without the need of words, or the limited European diatonic system, and Western music theory. This insufficient curriculum is often used in trying to describe the spiritual multiverse of blues genius and physicality.    

JA: Can you relate one place/people that you visited that traces blues back to Africa?

Vasti: I would say the Gnawa music, Moroccan religious songs, and rhythms that combines ritual poetry with traditional music and dancing that is akin to call and response,  the repeating of rhyming verses, and how we as Africans in America do in many of our worship services. Some call it the sanctified dance that is like being in a trance. A Gnawa song is where one phrase is repeated over and over as we see in blues songs of the Americas … accompanied by chants, moaning, humming, groaning, drumming, hand clapping, foot stomping and foot patting.

JA: A final thought?

Vasti: Dearly beloveds, may God’s grace, mercy, protection, and favor continue to abound.

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Vasti Jackson: Humble Griot of the Creator

By Brinda Fuller Willis
February 26, 2024