As the saying goes: "Things get lost in the translation."
That was kind of the case during the Griot performance Friday night. Although the stories, dancing and music were enjoyable and uplifting, the translation was left to be desired.This is nothing against translator Irene Assiba D'Almeida personally. It was the fact that the translations got in the way and slowed things down a bit. The stories Sotigui Kouyate told were translated from French to English and sometimes dragged a bit. Maybe the U. technical staff should consider projected superscripts like those used during operas.
With that aside, the performance, which was done in con-junction with the U. dance and theater programs, was entertaining and thought-provoking.
Kouyate, a Griot by birth and profession, and his family wove tales and fables throughout the night. Each story was highlighted by percussion music and humor.
While the Griot performance was obviously the draw of the evening, the U. students who had taken part in Kouyate's weeklong workshops were also given the chance to perform.
From ritualistic line dances to leaping celebrations, the dancers let themselves loose in dramatic fashion. And when their time to tell a story came around, they did it with the loose dramatics of a Dionysian chorus.
When Kouyate and his family - wife Esther Marty-Kouyate, Dani Kouyate, Hassane Kouyate and Ibrahim Traore - paraded onto the stage, the sold-out audience erupted into applause.
And after every story segment - whether it was Aesop's "Fox and the Crow" or traditional African legends that explained the origin of time or how elements can conquer each other or be conquered - the musicians burst into vibrant music, chanting and dancing.
In fact, after sitting patiently through some of the labored translations, the audience also let go a few cheers, screams and hollers.
However, the imperfections did create some of the charm. There was a looseness to the performance that humanized the messages and performers. And by the looks on the audience's faces, at least for the most part, you could see fascination, understanding, joy and reflection.
A cultural exchange took place Friday night. But when all the drumming and dancing stopped, it was easy to see how the exchange was only a thread in this collective experience known as life.