Meet The Jazz Audience

Meet The Jazz Audience: Kwesi Camara

In the last few decades, June has become the busiest month for jazz in New York City, home to the biggest jazz scene in the world. But who is actually going to these shows? A small team of Bloggers Supreme has been attending the festivities — primarily, the CareFusion Jazz Festival New York. In between our reports on various goings-on, we spoke to of the people who were actually in the audience. We started off every conversation with the simple question: how did you hear about this show? And be sure to check out more of our Meet The Jazz Audience series. —Ed.


Kwesi Camara, 61
Performer: McCoy Tyner Quartet feat. Ravi Coltrane, Esperanza Spalding, Francisco Mela / Stanley Clarke Trio feat. Hiromi
Venue: Rumsey Playfield, Central Park
Event: CareFusion Jazz Festival New York + Summerstage
Date: Jun. 23, 2010

Kwesi Camera i i

Kwesi Camera of the South Bronx, N.Y. Lara Pellegrinelli hide caption

itoggle caption Lara Pellegrinelli
Kwesi Camera

Kwesi Camera of the South Bronx, N.Y.

Lara Pellegrinelli

You said your name is Quincy? Kwesi. K-W-E-S-I. Camara. It's a Maninka name. The British call them Mandingo, the French call them Malike. We call ourselves Maninke or Mandinka.

From West Africa? Guinea, Gambia, Senegal, Liberia, Mali. But me, this Kwesi is from the South Bronx.

Can I ask how old you are? I'm 61 years old. And I do African dance, Cote-d'Ivoirian dance. I joined a company at 57 and I dance with people half my age. I have to take Viagra to keep me down.

I think I'm speechless. Sorry. What is your question?

What brought you to this concert? I've been listening to jazz from the womb. I've played jazz with African drums, with djembe. Right now, I do more dancing than playing. I'm an avid listener and performer. I love it.

Are you familiar with the performers tonight? McCoy Tyner? Of course. Ravi Coltrane — I listened to his father.

Do you come much to Summerstage? Yes, I go all over the city, mostly to the free stuff. The price is right and it's nice to be outdoors with people of kindred hearts and kindred spirits. Not too much spirits. We've got to keep it straight.

There's certainly a great crowd tonight. It's eclectic. It's wonderful to see people of all different ages, all different nationalities. I guess we're all the same religion — jazz.

I just talked to a guy from Brooklyn via Costa Rica. My people are from Colombia, Panama, St. Kitt's and Barbados. We don't know where in Africa we're from, like a lot of Africans from this part of the world.

What's your take on jazz being labeled "America's classical music"? You can't have an isolated art form. I love jazz. Everything has its beginnings. It's European, it's African, it's indigenous I suppose. Everyone made a contribution to jazz and that's very much of America, the so-called melting pot.

What do you think of the "classical" part? Everything is classical. Like popular Hindi music that's comes from traditional Indian classical music or hip-hop. Everything has its roots.

One foot in the past and one foot in the present? Exactly. Maybe even two feet in the past.

That means you'd have to have three feet — a dancer with three feet. Yeah, you don't want to mess with me.

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