Yacouba Sissoko sat onstage before his exquisite instrument, the kora, as little girls wearing pinafores whirled,boys climbed on hammocks, both reaching out to the farm dog, Pinoc-chio. Waiting for …
Yacouba Sissoko sat onstage before his exquisite instrument, the kora, as little girls wearing pinafores whirled,boys climbed on hammocks, both reaching out to the farm dog, Pinocchio. Waiting for the Timbalooloo session to start under old-growth trees at Mama Farm on Sunday, Sissoko was dressed in a traditional costume worn by djelis, royal families whose traditions span hundreds of years.
A djeli himself from Kita, Mali, in West Africa, Sissoko has taken his place among the 21 gener- ations of griots, orators and musicians who pass down their sacred culture, fables, factual history and music. Not surprisingly, he is a Carnegie Hall Music Explorer and has lived in Manhattan since 1998. He is humble about his gift and feels it’s his destiny to share it, “and as a cultural exchange as well as to exchange experiences with other musi- cians,” he said.
Oran Etkin originated the renowned Timbalooloo series, which introduces instruments to children—instruments from here and those of other cultures, like Sissoko’s 21-string kora (he is a kora master), which can sound like a guitar or harp. It was a good pairing. Sissoko has built a following for educational children’s programs nationwide, played with Harry Belafonte, Paul Simon and Lauryn Hill, and toured with noted African artists. Etkin is a celebrated clarinet, bass clarinet and saxophone play- er whose Timbalooloo program, which started in 2005, is a teaching method that incorporates instruments as characters who talk to each other. Like Clara Net. (Pun intended.)
“It’s a new way kids can conceive of music,” Etkin said.
The international pairing kicked off the Mama Farm Timbalooloo series, a children’s music class that came with brunch by chef Conor Swanson, of Bird & Bao in Patchogue and Momofuku. Later, a full-moon concert would take place; Sissoko would return with Brid- get Kibbey, hailed as the Yo-Yo Ma of the harp by Vogue.
If you missed the first sessions, come on down. There are several more. The Strawberry Full Moon Concert is June 26 with the American Patchwork Quartet; June 27 is a Timbalooloo show; at July 24’s Buck Full Moon, Etkin will play with his Open Arms Project band, and July 25 he’ll host another Timbalo- oloo; Aug. 21’s Sturgeon Full Moon Con- cert will feature Magos Herrera, praised as a riveting singer like Edith Piaf or Billie Holiday; and Aug. 22 closes out the Timbaloolooseries.
A note about Etkin. Not surprisingly, this dude really shares musical love, incorporating different sounds from the countries he tours; his Timbalooloo classes have attracted the attention of parents and grandparents like Naomi Watts, Martha Stewart, Ken Burns and Harvey Keitel.
Elettra Wiedemann is the executive director of 28-acre Mama Farm in Brookhaven and the daughter of its founder Isabella Rossellini, who started her dream in 2013 with turkeys and peeping heritage chicks, raising them, then initiating a coop for their eggs. Farmer Patty Gentry came on board and cultivates crops grown here organically and regeneratively. Not surprisingly, the farm has partnered with CEED next door on a number of environmental pro- grams. This summer, kids can learn and work on a small farming project where they can harvest food.
“When I moved here with my son, I had an educational and professional background in food,” Wiedemann said. “My mother passed the reins to me for the CSA [Community Supported Agri- culture—they had 100 shares this year]. Along with the vegetables, eggs and hon- ey, we’ve added cheese from upstate New York, bread from Blacksmith’s Breads, and weekly chicken products from humane farms, and we have meat packages for holidays like July 4th. Last year, we brought in other people because we found out some of our customers were driving all over looking for differ- ent organic products.”
But Wiedemann was also tasked with creating programs.
“Music and children’s music seemed like a niche,” she said. “We’d like the farm’s legacy to be a place indigenous to all of Long Island and also of diversity.”