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Brooklyn Raga Massive’s Ragini Festival 2024 presents “Acoustic Fulcrums” - a diasporic night representative of Caribbean memory, language and iconic sound culture. Centered around the work of poet, memoirist and translator, Rajiv Mohabir and the arrangements of steel pan artist and bandleader, Josanne Francis, this curated night explores the axis of acoustic memory and palpable story telling, capturing the many rifts, continents and currents expressive of the Caribbean postcolonial experience.
Rajiv Mohabir’s work traverses and emanates out of a long dialogue with collective memory around the migrant experience, around fractured yet continuously sung oral history and the poetics,sonic transference and healing that writing can offer.
Josanne Francis is a maestra of the steelpan instrument, an innovation born out of colonial resistance, repurposing petroleum industry metal containers within the urban tenements of Trinidad’s capital area. Now steelpan has become a large orchestral, ensemble and improvisatory instrument, blooming with the sounds of African-descended percussive innovation.
Rajiv Mohabir was born in London, England to Guyanese parents. He grew up in New York City and in the Greater Orlando Area in Florida.
Selected by Brenda Shaughnessy for the 2014 Intro Prize in Poetry by Four Way Books for his The Taxidermistʻs Cut (Four Way Books 2016), Rajiv Mohabir's first collection is a finalist for the 2017 Lambda Literary Award in Gay Poetry. His second book The Cowherd’s Son won the 2015 Kundiman Prize (Tupelo Press in May 2017). In 2021 Mohabir’s poetry collection Cutlish (Four Way Books, 2021) was longlisted for the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry, received a silver medal from the Northern California Publishers and Authors, was a “must read book” from the Mass Book Awards from the Massachusetts Center for the Book, a finalist for the New England Book Awards, received the Eric Hoffer Medal Provacateur, was a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award, and was a finalist for the 2021 National Book Critics Circle Award.
Mohabir was also awarded the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award from the Academy of American Poets, and a 2015 PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant for his translation of Lalbihari Sharma’s I Even Regret Night: Holi Songs of Demerara (Kaya Press 2019), published originally in 1916.
In 2019 Rajiv Mohabir also received the New Immigrant Writing Award from Restless Books for his memoir Antiman, selected by Terry Hong, Héctor Tobar, and Ilan Stavans ( Restless Books, 2021). His memoir received a Forward Indies Award for LGBTQ+ Adult Nonfiction, and was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in Gay Nonfiction, The Publishing Triangle’s Randy Shilts Award for Gay Nonfiction, and the 2022 PEN Open Book Award.
Winner of the inaugural chapbook prize by Ghostbird Press for Acoustic Trauma, he is the author of three other multilingual chapbooks: Thunder in the Courtyard: Kajari Poems, A Veil You’ll Cast Aside, na mash me bone, and na bad-eye me. In 2021 he collaborated with Aotearoa based poet Rushi Vyas to write Between Us, Not Half a Saint.
In 2022 he was awarded a fellowship by the Massachusetts Cultural Council.
DC-based award-winning artist, composer and educator Josanne Francis began playing steelpan at age 9 in her native Trinidad & Tobago. She delivers unmatched technical mastery and an energetic and emotional complexity that enchants listeners across the world. Josanne approaches steelpan with great reverence for its versatility, a perspective through which she promotes cultural exchange on and off the bandstand.
She has appeared at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, Strathmore Music Center, Times Square and Port-au-Prince International Jazz Festival. She has performed with David Rudder, Etienne Charles, Negah Santos, John Batiste, Kes, Andy Narell, and Liam Teague; appeared with the Michigan Philharmonic and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra; and recorded on projects for Charles, Victor Provost, The Mawasi Experience, and Afro Bop Alliance. In 2022, Josanne received the Vanguard Award presented at Caribbean American Heritage (CARAH) Gala & Awards, and the Rising Leader Award, presented by his excellency Anthony Phillips-Spencer, Trinidad & Tobago Ambassador to the United States. She has garnered grants from U.S. Artists International, Maryland State Arts Council and Prince George’s Arts and Humanities Council; delivered a TEDx presentation; and recently received a commission from the San Jacinto College Central Steelband to complete a multi-movement gesture for steelband.
Josanne received her bachelor of music education from the University of Southern Mississippi, and her master of music in steelpan performance from Northern Illinois University, and is pursuing her doctorate in music education from the University of Maryland. She has taught at venues and institutions across the nation, including the University of Delaware, the University of Maryland and the Cultural Academy for Excellence. She has held artistic residencies at University of Michigan, Strathmore Music Center and Johns Hopkins Peabody Institute, and served on a number of prestigious panels. In 2022, Josanne co-created the thriving performance outfit Elite Pan Consortium and, in 2019, launched Steel on Wheels LLC, an all-inclusive educational program that eliminates barriers for the creation and development of steelbands, and varied percussion ensembles.
To keep up with Josanne’s performance and teaching schedule, visit her website and follow her on social media.
$30 (exclusive of service fee)
For last-minute tickets, please visit our Box Office at 425 Lafayette Street. Web sales and phone sales end when doors open, and tickets may be available for in-person, walk-up sale right before the show begins.
Photo courtesy of the artist.
Photo courtesy of the artist.