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Kamau Seitu is playing music with the celestial orchestra

December 3, 2009

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Kamau Seitu, center, with colleagues drummer Darryl Green and a trombonist - Photo: Wanda Sabir
Kamau Seitu, center, with colleagues drummer Darryl Green and a trombonist - Photo: Wanda Sabir
aba Kamau Seitu, jazz musician and cultural artist, is with the Ancestors playing music with the celestial orchestra. He transitioned on Saturday, Nov. 28, with literally dozens at his bedside while the drums opened the way for his transition.

A native of New Orleans, Louisiana, and resident of the Treme (Congo Square) area, Baba Kamau Seitu was a multi-instrumentalist, composer, poet and educator. He toured the world and shared the bandstand with musicians such as Sun Ra, Abdullah Ibrahim, Gil Scott Heron, John Handy, Andrew Hill, Herbie Lewis, Billy Higgins, John Gilmore, Marshall Allen, Tyrone Hill, Eddie Gale, Michael White and India Cooke.

Kamau’s Homegoing Celebration will be held on Saturday, Dec. 5, at 2 p.m. It will be held at Wo’se Community Church, located at 8924 Holly St., Oakland, Calif. 94621.

In lieu of flowers, the family is accepting monetary donations. Please call Kehinde Kujichagulia-Seitu at (510) 434-6926 for further details.

Please continue to think of Baba Kamau’s music and the magical moments of his memory. Asante sana for your prayers, visits and love. Remember, bring your instruments on Saturday. This is a celebration of the life and music of an extraordinary man.

Peace and blessings,

The Kujichagulia-Seitu Family

For my friend, Kamau Seitu

by Wanda Sabir

Kamau Seitu with Angela Wellman of the Oakland Public Conservatory of Music - Photo: Wanda Sabir
Kamau Seitu with Angela Wellman of the Oakland Public Conservatory of Music - Photo: Wanda Sabir
Our condolences to friends and family of Kamau Seitu, multi-instumentalist, composer, poet, scholar. Just a week ago, Kamau was doing so much better. We were planning a fundraiser for him the weekend of Nov. 28 when he passed. I wondered why no one called me to talk about planning the event, when I got the email and then the text message that our brother was gone, that he’d slipped out before the chemo and radiation and who knows what other tortures modern medicine had in store for a man who’d never had an operation before this. I’d planned to drop by the hospital to talk about Africa and my impending visit after the Diamano Coura concert; instead, the concert pageantry was a dirge for my dear friend, who slipped away before I could say one last goodbye.

I met Kamau about 20 years ago. He participated in the annual African American Celebration through Poetry, first Saturday in February – he and Damu Sudii Ali performed together. I think Pat from Vukani Mawethu introduced us.

That he was from New Orleans gave him saint status. My folks from home can do no wrong – that’s what I used to think – and Kamau was a great standard bearer for that truism: always honest, always fair and always kind, plus he was a great father and, while I was struggling with my two girls, it was nice to know there were men in the world, men I could name, who were happy to have their daughters around as much as the girls would have them.

Taiwo and Kehinde Kujichagulia-Seitu
Taiwo and Kehinde Kujichagulia-Seitu
Kamau set aside his career and his love of art to take care of his girls: Taiwo and Kehinde. I remember when he became a grandfather; I remember the happy day he no longer had to go to his day job at DMV. I remember when he got his senior housing over in the Dimond District. I remember being happy for him that he was finally free to pursue his bliss.

And not more than a few years later, while visiting him in the hospital just three weeks ago, I listened to Kamau speak about the persistent nausea and inability to eat or keep food down that led to the diagnosis which put him in the hospital: fourth stage pancreatic cancer. Yet it wasn’t the cancer that took him; rather it was complications after the surgery midweek which were the cause of death.

What is it about Black people and cancer? Kamau’s good friend, another musician, also has pancreatic cancer; the two men were diagnosed within a week or so of one another. Is it environmental – should we all think about relocating? Perhaps a back to Africa movement might save our lives – America certainly isn’t conducive to healthy living. We need to look as a community at the ailments which seem to target our health and wellbeing and institute some preventative measures. Kamau was snatched away all too soon. He had so much more to accomplish.

While reminiscing about him Sunday night with his teacher, musician and composer John Handy, one of the first teachers in the SF State Black Studies Department, John said, “You mean ‘Shorty?’” when speaking of Kamau – and we both laughed. I hadn’t known Kamau’s nickname.

Family gathered at Kamau’s bedside, drumming him home, a fitting return for the former Treme (Congo Square) resident as his recorded music played in the background.

Facebook comments

I posted an announcement on Facebook Sunday with a photo, and comments came from around the country: From Destiny Muhammad, “WOW! Called him at the hospital last week and he was sleeping. Incredible person and magnificent drummer. Now our ANCESTOR.”

From Rudi Mwongozi: “A great drummer … a great music historian … a great Afrikan … a great friend … this kind of thing makes me wish I was closer to Oakland … his going home celebration will be an event …. He will be missed.”

From Robert J. Carmack: “Wow! I did not know about his transition? I’ve been away from the Bay for a minute now. I loved this brother’s spirit! I at least had a great time working with him on the Jackie McLean tribute show for SFBAAAM a year ago. I can still hear his poetry about Jackie in my head. I will miss him as well.”

From Mechelle LaChaux: “Gonna Miss U My Brotha … He was sooooo soo Louisiana Cool … Such a Percussionist … Such the Drummer … Such the Performing Artist … Yes, Historian Extra Ordinary. I’m sure he and Eyarbe will be Drumming up a Storm together … Love, Peace and condolences to your family, Kamau!”

From http://wandasabir.blogspot.com Nov. 28, 2009

At 5:27 p.m., Zigi said …

“We’re still in disbelief … and heartbroken. Raymond had just answered a call to MC a tribute/fundraiser for Kamau while he’s with us – supposed to happen in a couple of weeks time, and now we hear he’s gone … from this world … I’m glad I got a good hug with you Wanda at Andrea’s memorial, and I’m so sorry for this loss of your dear friend, one of our musician/poet tribe … we have to hold on to each other tight right now. Love you, Zigi

At 8:33 p.m.

Kamau leaves us a rich legacy of history, performances, children, grandchildren, and love of community! I, too, am stunned because it takes your breath away when you hear of the passing of a loved one. My condolences to his family.

We will all remember Kamau for the music, history lessons, support, and love. Always. Ava

At 11:02 p.m.

I’m not sure what to say to news like that. Questions like how and why don’t seem to promise much relief from the reality. Kamau was one of the first musicians I worked with when I got here and I shared many bandstands with him, we spent a lot time talking about music, Blackness, politics, and everything else that mattered – Kamau was like that. I can’t remember ever having a trivial conversation with him. Like a lot people who have heard and who will hear about his passing I can’t see through the heartbreak that cuts this deep. Peace to his family, peace to his spirit that was always willing to share itself with grace and music. Ollen Erich Hunt

At 5:35 p.m.

I am so so sorry to read this news about Taiwo’s father. We were honored to include Taiwo as one of Friends of Negro Spirituals Honorees in July of 2009. I recall him playing for Taiwo in her presentation. They were all so happy for her. Our thoughts and concerns are with the family. Lyvonne Chrisman, Friends of Negro Spirituals

Kamau’s Homegoing Celebration will be held on Saturday, Dec. 5, at 2 p.m. It will be held at Wo’se Community Church located at 8924 Holly St., Oakland. In lieu of flowers, the family is accepting monetary donations. Please call Kehinde Kujichagulia-Seitu at (510) 434-6926 for further details.

Bay View Arts Editor Wanda Sabir can be reached at wsab1@aol.com. Visit her website at www.wandaspicks.com for an expanded version of Wanda’s Picks, her blog, photos and Wanda’s Picks Radio. Her shows are streamed live Wednesdays at 6-7 a.m. and Fridays at 8-10 a.m. and archived on the Afrikan Sistahs’ Media Network.

5 thoughts on “Kamau Seitu is playing music with the celestial orchestra

  1. Ayo Obadele

    Kamau and I were neighbors, friends, and fellow musicians. I first met “Shorty” when he lived on Divisadero and Fell and I lived up the street on Divisadero and Grove in SF. We played for Wajumbe and traveled to Festac 77 in Lagos representing the San Francisco Bay Area. I shared the bandstand for many years with this gifted and wise individual and even after I left SF in 1980 stayed in touch. He will be missed.

    Reply
  2. Sista Khemya

    Blessings, I was just sittin hear thinkin as the tears came down my face…This day…I put up my Xmas tree, and then my Kwanzaa table…and the tears come down..knowing that these holidays I will not have my biggggg brotha to call, to go and visit….I just can’t imagine it…my tears fall..like many who knew him. I’m thinkin back in November at Summitt Hospital…His words, “I just want to get out of here” We thought he was gonna come home….not go home..The last words I had with Kamau before they put him in Coma state, I said…..It’s gonna be alright…U comin out of here..Keep yur mind strong. He said, “Believe me…I have a strong mind..I still have my daughters to look after, and help raise my grandchildren.” He said the night before, Grandma Rose (ancestor) came to his bedside..He felt her hand, and she said it’s okay…The next day he went into surgery, and that Thanksgiving (Thursday) Kamau was in a coma, on a respirator..with about 10 IV’s in him, along with all the monitors. It was hard to see him like this, but I couldn’t think of no other place to be. To give thanks to one of the greatest men, I ever knew. Not just a great artist…but an able human being..able to guide a huge ship from the wilderness it had traveled..a ship that had been gone astray, something like Amistad…that which found its way to the shores only to fight for its freedom, rights, justice and true liberty…Brotha Kamau did this not only for himself thru his music and dedication to his family, but for many…He the one at the crossroads, leading many along as he layed down..to create the mightiest bridges to cross….As his brother was here from New Orleans…he went on to say..Grandma Rose..Kamau’s mother was a cross-guard for all the children in school. The apple doesn’t fall far…Kamau’s has lived a legacy of his ancestors, only deeper for us all to realize…Kamau’s life of symbolic spiritual communication, has led us to know things without even speaking. The glyphs of secret wisdom can only share the knowledge our true soul brotha, soldier, warrior, king-ship, mentor tried every second to reveal…….A big empty hole in the atmosphere where his light came thru like a metiorite, and left like a galaxy…Stardust to the many he brushed upon and left the mysteries to…..Ase,,,Htp, Mo Dupe, Alaafia, ….Let us keep his spirit ever-going…moving …atmospheric..just the way we will always know him…..Root man, wisdom man, King-man, A Shango who many tried to desolve, but neva were able…Too Strong, Too Tough….Too much for this world to handle…but he handled us….with Unconditional Love, Knowledge, Sage Wisdom and Priestly spiritual baptisms in all he did……………………did………Alive not dead!

    Reply
  3. JAMIELAH MIKAL

    Hey Kamau, May G’ds peace and blessing be with you. Glad to see you are still doing the music. I finished raising my son, he’s 23 and doing very well. In fact he sent me on my Hajj by Allah’s will. Mecca is awesome and Allah is the Greatest! Now I’m about to do my music again here in Atlanta, but mostly I plan do to it in Louisiana (i.e. Baton Rouge with my brother and New Orleans too). Hey look email me and here’s my number: 678-323-7891. I can’t believe those twins. Stay in touch.

    Peace,
    Hajjah Jamielah Mikal

    Reply
  4. JAMIELAH MIKAL

    I sent an email with reading the information because I was so excited when I saw Kamau’s face. I’m so sorry. Many, many condolences. He will truely be missed. A good father and a great drummer and my home boy. To Allah we belong and to Allah is our return. Surely he’s in the best place for the believer.

    Hajjah Jamielah Mikal

    Reply
  5. j francisco

    I met Kamau in 1972 at CCSF. I've made instant friends with him and was able to record some of his jazz album collections. He played with me when he got his 1st drum trap kit. We've crossed paths a few times later in life. RIP

    James Francisco

    Reply

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