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Esselen Tribe of Monterey County


On November 20th, 1999, Joan Baez, percussion king Babatunde Olatunji, and other performers put on a concert at The Catalyst in Santa Cruz, California. The show benefited the Esselen Indian tribe.

On September 8, 1999, lightning storms in the Ventana Wilderness in Monterey County, California, started the Tassajara Fire. This fire consumed over 87,000 acres of the aboriginal homeland of the Esselen Tribe of Monterey County. The Esselen Tribe's income comes from pack trips, horseback rides, cattle grazing, and guided trips into the wilderness. The Tribe's livelihood was devastated.

Joan Baez and Baba Olatunji offered to perform a benefit concert to raise money to help the Tribe through the Winter and continue to preserve this ancient culture. Over the years, Joan, Baba and Little Bear have become great friends, and have spent long evenings of storytelling, singing and dancing around campfires in the Esselen homelands.

The concert was sold out in advance, and was a total success. Selected photographs appear below.

Tom Little Bear

Call to Prayer on the Flute

Tom Little Bear is a 7th generation documented descendent of the Esselen Tribe of Monterey County. Little Bear, the Esselen Spiritual Leader, is the carrier of his ancestor's prophecy of Mending the Sacred Hoop--the coming together of the Red, Yellow, Black and White root races of humankind. Little Bear is a wilderness guide, wrangler, storyteller, singer, drummer and flutist.


People of the Land--Ohlone, Rumsen, Ritocsi Dancers

Patrick Orozco brings myths and legends of his culture alive and sings songs from the Ohlone tradition. The dancers wear regalia and play instruments they have made themselves based on authentic descriptions and using traditional materials. Patrick led his band of dancers and singers in this ancient ceremony.

The dancers: Patrick Orozco (Yana-Hea), Benny Reynaga, Gary Orozco (Mu-Mu), Richard Hernandez, Joe Sandoval, Benjamen Marques (Oo-Too-E), Marcus Reynaga (Grey Fox), Terry Reynaga (Tru-La-La-Che-Amk), Anna Estrada (Uyuka Ushi), Summer Reynaga (Ka-Wit), Kathy Parades, and Betty Yonnone (Tea-Noi Ris-Kan). Drummer: Danny Villapondo. Clappers and singers: Sally Alderete, Art Carrilo, Cheryl Gould, Issac Orozco, Dickie Chionio, Arlene Chionio Shake, Maryanne Kline, and Denise Chionio.

They performed the Walk-in Song, Welcome Song, Entrance Song, Spirit Song asking the Creator for Blessing, Acorn Love Song, Bear Song, Bear Dance, Deer Song, Deer Dance, Song of the Coast, Ocean Song, and the Leaving Song.


Kumbengo is a group organized by Gabriel Harris, Joan Baez's son. Kumbengo is a word from the Mandinka language that refers to the tonal center of a piece of music. This eclectic group of musicians and dancers features African musicians from Guinea, Congo, and Senegal and performs traditional and contemporary West African music.

Performers: Karamba Dambakate, drum and balafon; Elseni, dancer; Usneu, singer; Elsenu Kouyate, singer and dancer; Gabriel Harris, drum and balafon; Wade Peterson, drum; Anna Peterson, singer and percussion; Glen Easley, drum; Pamela Jankelow, dancer; Tika, dancer; and Star Lukett, dancer.

Public Service Announcement is a hip-hop group like you've never heard before, featuring Joan Baez's niece, Pearl Bryan. Sometimes improvising from audience participation and always entrancing, they weave a spell of poetry for the 21st century. The performers: Eufone (K. Can), Sagana (M. Ingram), Mr. Gray (J. Gray), D.J. Poisen (S. King), and Pearl Bryan.
"Public Service Announcement"

Joan Baez

Over the past four decades, Joan Baez has given voice to the songs and sentiments of writers both anonymous and celebrated. She began her career as a teenager singing anew the ancient melodies of old Europe and new America; she became an adult singing the songs of her generation. Through the years, as a singer, musician, social activist, and good will ambassador, Joan Baez has kept her pact with the Spirit of her voice.

Joan was accompanied by Josua Segal, guitar; Carol McComb; and Pearl Bryan.

Babatunde Olatunji and "Drums of Passion"

The band performed a set of new Olatunji compositions along with arrangement of his standards from the original "Drums of Passion."
Babatunde Olatunji is "Master of Drums," a virtuoso of West African percussion. Born and raised in Nigeria, Olatunji was educated in America. Since he opened the Olatunji Center for African Culture in Harlem over thirty years ago, Baba has been committed to providing education in traditional African performing arts to adults and young people. Baba has become one of the greatest teachers of all time.

The performers: Baba Olatunji, drums and vocal; Allen Kodjovi, guitar; Sikiru Adepoju, talking drum; David Bass, guitar; Rasaki, talking drum; Brent Sekere; Val JunJun, drum and vocal; Bran, drum set; Sanga, drum and vocal; Danjuma, guitar and vocal.