The Gospel of Toshi Reagon


What really stood out for me in the whole evening was Toshi's performance of a song that's been so over done and abused and you'd think worn out (from endless summer camps and parodies of the 1960s--and actual 1960s) that it really takes guts and conviction to perform. At first, thanks to her musical arrangement of it, I didn't even recognize it---but then when she started to sing "Come by here..." I realized, wow, this is completely new and 21st century Toshi Reagon version of Kumbya. And she totally pulled it off. Here I thought earnestness and sincerity were so dead and old school (which means I'm in trouble too!). But, as true of the Rubin art art she was talking about, that also focused--like much in the African-American tradition-- on calling in larger forces to help when you're down and in trouble, this song has real meaning for Toshi. She shared that her mom---Bernice Johnson Reagon (of Sweet Honey and the Rock fame) says that people make fun of this song because they're actually uncomfortable with it and afraid of its power. 



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