Singer, bassist attract crowd at park


Singer, bassist attract crowd at park

The setting was simple: a singer and a bass player.

But the sound they produced was a powerful blend of blues, jazz and African music that entertained a crowd of 45 people at the Wheaton Park gazebo Sunday afternoon.

Singer Imani and bassist Pepe Gonzales were the third performers in the annual summer Wheaton Park concert series sponsored by the Washington County Arts Council, Washington County Gaming Commission, CitiCorp and HotSpots program.

Dressed in a multi-colored, loose, sleeveless gown, Imani stood as she sang while alternately playing the bongos and other acoustical instruments.


Imani's strong, smooth-as-glass voice was complemented by Gonzales's skillful bass playing.

The duo put their own spin on the George Harrison tune, "Here Comes the Sun," giving it a jazzy feel that had people swaying their heads and tapping their feet along with the music.

Imani got the audience to join in by snapping in time with the music when she sang the old favorite, "Old Devil Moon."

"Snap along and help out the bass player," Imani told the crowd.

She spoke briefly to the audience, thanking them for coming out and pointing out one man who stretched out on a bench to relax while listening.

Imani spoke to the children in the audience when performing an African folk song that told of a person taking a journey with a purpose and coming back successful.

She urged the children to set goals and reach them. During the song, Imani incorporated a "call and respond" device in which she sang a line and asked the public to repeat it.

Many joined in repeating her lyrics - which started out easy - but gave up as they became progressively more complicated.

Imani complimented the audience on their participation.

"There's a singer out there, I know," she said referring to one or two particularly talented amateur singers in the audience.

As the concert progressed the crowd grew. Children ran from playgrounds to the gazebo and others abandoned their bikes to listen. Adults driving by pulled over and walked up to the gazebo.

Some residents living near the park opened their front doors to let in the music and others brought chairs outside to enjoy the comfortable weather.

The day's alternately sunny and then cloudy skies and temperatures in the upper 70s made the concert even more pleasurable, said Carolyn Brooks, HotSpots coordinator.

Brooks brought her daughter, Whytne Brooks, 14, along to hear Imani's velvety voice.

"We try to bring in different performers that will appeal to children and adults," she said.

A July 3 concert featured storyteller Namu Lwanga. The Caribbean American International Steel Orchestra kicked off the series on June 25.

Lee Stoner of Hagerstown said he looks forward to the concerts at the park.

"I've been to them all," he said.

Brooks said she feels it's important to expose children in the community to music and different art forms to foster their interest in cultural events.

"I hope some kids in the community will be inspired by what they see," she said.

The concert series finale on Aug. 6 at 3 p.m. will feature Bill Grimmette Griot, who will spin classical and original African folk tales.

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