Percussionist Thomas Lowery and Poet Melodye Micëre Van Putten
Performing together for two decades, Thomas Lowery and Melodye Micëre Van Putten began working together while teaching African American children in Van Putten’s character education program, Black History Workshops for Children (known in Bermuda as Ashay: Rites of Passage). What began as a captivating way to introduce the best of global African culture and history has grown into extraordinary poetic and rhythmic performance artistry that raises consciousness, educates, inspires, motivates and entertains.
According to The Royal Gazette’s performance reviewer Vejay Steede, “…Mrs. Van Putten delighted a packed house at Chewstick… delivering a splendidly paced performance of her original poetry with style, flair, and attitude to spare… The poetry on offer was thought-provoking, entertaining, emotional, powerful, and inspiring all at once… Childhood friend, Thomas Lowery, dazzled with his beats, employing a wide array of percussive tools, including the billabong, djembe, Congo drum, and traditional bass, snare, and cymbal drum set.”
Their performance credits include:
- An Evening of Rhyme, Rhythm and Resistance N’COBRA, The Church of the Advocate, Philadelphia, October, 2015
- An Evening of Poetic Reflections: Poetry, Rhythm & Consciousness Personified!
FreshVisions Theatre, Philadelphia, July, 2013
- Ashay: Poetry for Empowerment!
Chewstick: Neo-Griot Lounge, Bermuda, August 2012
- Poetry for Love
Delta Sorority Freedom Theater Fundraiser, Freedom Theater, Philadelphia, July 2012
- Poetry & Jazz Brunch
The Classics’ Annual Scholarship Event, Temple University, Philadelphia, May 2010
- Black History Workshops for Children 20th Anniversary Celebration
Zanzibar Blue, Philadelphia, 2006
- Class of 1973: Germantown High School 30-Year Class Reunion Libation
Club Venetian, Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, 2001
- Kwanzaa: A Celebration of History, Culture and Values
Zanibar Blue, Philadelphia, 1992, 1993
Bethlehem Baptist Church, Pennlyn, PA, 1990, 1991
- Selections from Obamatyme and Soul Poems (October, 2009)
- Ashay: Music for Empowerment (August, 2006)
- Healing History: The Documentary – a MiddleWay Film by Kristin Alexander (March, 2015)
What people have said after experiencing a performance of The Percussionist and The Poet. . .
- “We truly enjoyed the messages inspired through your writings. …truly empowering, aspirational and inspiring. Thanking you kindly for a fun-filled, motivational experience.”
- “Amazing and inspiring, you were truly a master teacher for our spirits. It was a breath of fresh air… Awesome percussionist!”
- “This was a great experience; your message was well received. I am looking forward to seeing you again!”
- “Inspiring, Endarkening, and Powerful… Beautiful! Hotep, Amandla, Uhura…”
- “Awesome!! Tonight was truly an experience. Really enjoyed the percussive elements.”
- “Sometimes one word says it all – FABULOUS!!!! Thank you Melodye and Thom for our journey towards preparedness and grounding!”
- “Lest we forget! To Be Conscious! I Love Black People!!! Thank you for the excellent expressions.”
- “It is always a delight to experience a Melodye/Tommy Performance! …such talented, loving, artistic, intelligent, motivated, humanistic, etc., people! Growth and development noted in the lovely musical bridges. Original and fabulous!”
About The Poet:
Melodye Micëre Van Putten is a poet, lecturer and African-centered educator. Van Putten has delivered her poetic reflections nationally and internationally at academic conferences and cultural events in the United States, Bermuda, The Bahamas, South Africa and Tanzania.
Van Putten’s poetry serves to expand and underscore her work as an educator specializing in the lessons of empowerment that emanate from the global history and culture of people of African descent. Notably, her poetry offerings have been favorably reviewed by some of our cultural luminaries including THIRD WORLD PRESS founder Dr. Haki Madhubuti (Soul Poems: Life as Fertile Ground) and Dr. Naomi Tutu, daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Sacred Thoughts: God Is The Light… and The Light Is All There Is). Obamatyme: Election Poetry, won the 2009 NATIONAL BEST BOOKS AWARD FOR URBAN POETRY and was reviewed by cultural critic Dr. Cornell West. He called her “…a talented poet whose love for truth and justice is quite evident in Obamatyme.” Dr. Janice Hale (author of Learning While Black), reviewed Healing History: Reflections on Race and Forgiveness in Prose and Poetry, an offering that continues the mission of pricking consciousness and intellect while touching the soul.
About the Percussionist:
Percussionist Thomas Lowery has performed and recorded with a wide variety of groups. Some of his credits include R&B bands Imperial Knights and the Realistics, jazz groups Peridime and DeNova, and world percussion groups Spoken Hand and Zakir Hussain and Friends.
Lowery also serves as a percussionist/drummer at the Newark Samba School and FreshVisions Children’s Theater. He currently performs with the R&B/world beat groups Just Talk, Alo Brasil, Sonic Liberation and Latin Fiesta.
Collaborating with Supa Lowery Brothers, comprised of his talented sons, Chris and Wesley who are based in Los Angeles, Thomas has also recorded with them on their CD releases. The Lowery’s and poet Melodye Micëre Van Putten have recorded a CD entitled, Ashay: Music for Empowerment for use in the classroom.
PERFORMANCE REVIEW:THE ROYAL GAZETTE NEWSPAPER
Thought-Provoking And Powerful Poetry That Gets Stuck In Your Head
By Vejay Steede
Hamilton, Bermuda. The latest in Chewstick’s excellent Griot Session series featured renowned Africalogist, activist, teacher, author, speaker and poet, Melodye Micëre Van Putten.
Mrs. Van Putten delighted a packed house at Chewstick’s headquarters on the corner of Court and Elliot Streets, delivering a splendidly paced performance of her original poetry with style, flair, and attitude to spare.
The ambiance inside the Neo Griot Lounge on Friday night was cool, laid-back, and sensual. The popular artists’ haven had its usual speakeasy feel enhanced with African print mud cloth, Congo drums, and a healthy dose of conscious vibes. The audience was comprised of mostly mature patrons; the kind of folks who really know and really appreciate good poetry.
The evening’s entertainment started sometime after 8.30pm with American storyteller David O’Shea. He regaled the attentive audience with two of his popular stories from his years as a New York City taxi driver. There was comedy, drama, emotion, and heartache in Mr. O’Shea’s performance; as well as within the fabric of his wonderful stories.
Mr. O’Shea was thoroughly entertaining during his set, keeping the audience hanging on his every word like the griots of yore; in the days before stories were told by talking heads inside electronic boxes. A very nice opening act indeed.
Of course, the headliner was no less impressive. Mrs. Van Putten immediately made the space her own. It was like she was returning to her natural habitat a proud lioness holding court on the bountiful Serengeti. She absorbed the positive vibes the crowd was exuding and reflected them back in abundance.
Childhood friend Thomas Lowery accompanied her on percussion. Mr. Lowery is a master drummer from Philadelphia, and he added considerable weight to the performance, delivering stellar rhythms to accentuate her powerful words.
He dazzled with his beats, employing a wide array of percussive tools, including the billabong, djembe, Congo drum, and traditional bass, snare, and cymbal drum set. He even played a Bermuda Gombey rhythm at the end, to the delight of the receptive crowd.
The poetry on offer was thought-provoking, entertaining, emotional, powerful, and inspiring all at once. Mrs. Van Putten’s performance was well-rehearsed, polished, and brilliant. She sang, scatted, hit all the perfect inflections, added attitude exactly where it was needed, and thoroughly convinced the crowd that her words indeed were words to live by.
There was a healthy dose on African Diaspora history in her work. Pieces like ‘I Can Feel Your Spirit’, ‘Lest We Forget’ and ‘Ashay (Bermuda Libation)’ paid homage to the ancestors, while ‘History’s Challenge’, ‘This Headwrap Ain’t No Bandana’, ‘When Did We Stop Being African?’ and ‘What Are You Watching?’ issued challenges to the new generation of multi-media obsessed African progeny.
After a brief intermission, the material became noticeably more sensual. Apart from the tributes to President Obama and Michelle Obama, the poems in this portion of the show focused on women’s issues (‘Inspired’, ‘Hair’), mature love (‘Love Now’), and other sensual matters (‘Feeling Poetry’). Perhaps the most modern style piece of the evening was the wonderful ‘I Got A Poem Stuck In My Head’, a story about a poem that would not rest until it was out of her head and into the universe.
Mrs. Van Putten closed the set with a tribute to the purpose behind her life’s work; a simple piece which can be summed up by just stating the title, ‘I Love Black People’. The veteran educator appeared entirely absorbed in this piece, singing the words with closed eyes and a soft smile on her face like merely uttering the phrase was actively soothing her soul. Indeed, the piece was intoxicating and quite soothing for the audience, which fell under her spell quite early, and remained captivated throughout.
She read selected pieces from her four poetry volumes during the session. ‘Sacred Thoughts: God Is The Light… and The Light Is All There Is’, ‘Soul Poems: Life as Fertile Ground’, ‘Obamatyme: Election Poetry’ (winner of the 2009 Best Books Award, Urban Poetry, USA), and ‘Ashay: Poetry for Empowerment’ are all available at bookstores throughout the Island, or by contacting Mrs. Van Putten directly.
This was another excellent evening in the fantastic Griot Session series at Chewstick. If you’ve never been to a Griot Session and you love poetry, you might want to look out for upcoming sessions; you won’t be disappointed.
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FOR PERFORMANCE ENGAGEMENTS & INFORMATION CONTACT:
Melodye Micëre Van Putten