I’ve been a big fan of the Slyboots movement for years. Slyboots School of Music represents a part of Buffalo’s cultural scene that we should all be proud to support. The all-inclusive music and dance troupe has been entertaining Buffalonians (and the world) for years, though it has not been easy. Living the life of a traveling performer might be gratifying, but it is also extremely tough. When I step back to see what Griffin Brady and his talented troupe have in store for 2017, it’s a wonder how they have the stamina and the perseverance to do what they do.
“2017 will be an exciting year for Sly boots. We will start out the year by launching our 10th international tour with the Saakumu Dance Troupe of Ghana, West Africa,” he told me. “Traveling over 20,000 miles to colleges, schools and clubs all across the US from January until April. We will be hosting our international adventure abroad to Ghana west Africa in the end of May beginning of June for American students that want to visit Africa. End of June, July and August is festival season for the Slyboots Headquarters culminating in a huge celebration at Slyfest 12 at the Great Blue Heron Festival site. And then in September we plan to launch the Buffalo World Music and Dance Academy at the Richmond Ferry Church.
“Then December 2017, just in time for Christmas, I will be releasing a series of children’s books that personify our stilt walking Slyboots character. In these stories that I have compiled over the years… Slyboots has adventures with other musical trickster archetypes from cultures all around the world like the spider – Kwaku Anase in West Africa and Kokapelli in southwestern US. The overarching theme is the resilience of the underdog. The cleverness of the trickster allows the tiny spider to out wit the big powerful lion or elephant in the same way that Slyboots uses sly techniques to battle big powerful issues like racism and sexism. Creating big and powerful change through soft and subtle actions. Promoting positive social change through cultural arts education and performance. Bringing the world together, on the sly.”
Weathering the Storm
When I heard that Slyboots took a heavy financial hit this year at the Great Blue Heron Festival, I was sad for the troupe and I was sad for Buffalo. The amount of work that goes into what they do is staggering. A day-long thunderstorm has the ability to damper one’s spirits, but it also has the ill-effect of putting a cultural organization in a financial hole. But talking with Griffin, you would never know that there was a hint of anguish. The ups and down are to be expected.
“It is impossible to embark on a life journey in the arts without being aware of the drawbacks…,” Griffin told me. “Because everyone in the world is ready to warn you from the get go. To tell you how it isn’t financially feasible. To tell you that music isn’t a real job. To tell you that a career in the arts is just a childish dream. So when I choose to follow my calling and take the path less traveled, I would be lying if I said I didn’t expect setbacks along the way. I don’t always know what shape they will come in but I always try to put a good foot forward and walk the path as it unfolds below my feet. If nothing else, I have the confidence of my conviction. When all else fails, I know that I am devoting my life to a righteous cause – bringing positivity to as many people as I can and inspiring creativity in our youth. Working for the greater good… knowing that in 100 years from now the generations of students whom my work has influenced and inspired, will create a more understanding and compassionate future for humanity.
Things get scary. Things get real. But it’s the music that brings me back to the place I need to be.
“I believe in the power of music and I understand this journey to be lifelong. I look forward to the many people that I will meet and the many things that I will learn along the way. My ideas around the notion of failure have also evolved significantly since this process began. And now as a father, watching my 9 month old little boy attempt (and fail) to walk… over and over and over again. I am learning to trust the process. To have faith in myself. And I am eternally grateful for the support that I have in friends and family. Things get scary. Things get real. But it’s the music that brings me back to the place I need to be.”
Right now, Griffin is asking the community to consider donating to the continued Slyboots efforts that continue to unfold in our community. I feel that 2017 will be The Year of Slyboots for numerous reasons. But in order to get there, to ensure that they are able to reach their immediate goals, the community is asked to donate to the cause. If your life has been influenced by Slyboots, or the Slyboots story resonates with you, please consider pitching in a few bucks by clicking here. Each donation level comes with perks – from a drum lesson to VIP passes and tickets, to a full Djembe package. Every dollar raised counts, and all donations are “passed through the Rosanna Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts 501(c)3- a recently formed organization in memory of Rosanna Heckl*, an artist, art lover, and community advocate.”
If you are not familiar with Slyboots, then you must get this feel-good Buffalo music troupe on your radar. Any other city would clamor to have someone like Griffin Brady in its midst. We are the lucky ones. We have this incredible spirit walking among us at a critical juncture in this city’s history, and a critical time when this country and this world could use some spiritual healing.
*All donations will be The organization was formed specifically to support community-based projects that promote and support the arts and the social benefit derived from the arts, community development, and other related social justice causes. The Rosanna Elizabeth Foundation has partnered with the Slyboots School of Music, Art and Dance in an effort to launch the Buffalo World Music and Dance Academy at the Richmond Ferry Church in Buffalo’s West Side. By supporting SLYFEST- you are simultaneouSLY supporting this incredibly important work in Buffalo!