Antonio Michael Downing grew up in southern Trinidad, Northern Ontario, Brooklyn, and Kitchener. He is a musician, writer, and activist based in Toronto. His 2010 debut novel, Molasses (Blaurock Press), was published to critical acclaim. In 2017 he was named by the RBC Taylor Prize as one of Canada’s top Emerging Authors for nonfiction. He performs and composes music as John Orpheus.
“I’ve been travelling for so very long. Trying to find some place that feels like home. And there are many things that you can take from me. But what you can’t take away, is the love that is found, In our sweet destiny.”
– John Orpheus on Fela Awoke (I Will Miss You)
FELA AWOKE (I WILL MISS YOU) is the first single from my album SAGA KING which is the companion to my memoir SAGA BOY (Penguin Random House). I consider them two parts of one work of art: the book is the journey of the boy, the album is the celebration of the arrival of the man. It celebrates sovereignty over oneself.
Fela Awoke (I Will Miss You) tells the story of the death of Nigerian music legend, Fela Kuti, Jamaican icon Bob Marley and my own Grandmother, who features prominently in the first 100 pages of the memoir. It ends by repeating the Yoruba phrase Madele (which means ‘I will find my way home’), as the theme of a quest for a spiritual home while drawing from hope, history and Black resilience runs through both the book and the album.
This song means everything to me. It’s a deeply personal story and it’s reaching for something more profound than I’ve ever tried to say in a song. My people are Yoruba from West Africa and, when I grew up in Trinidad, we still spoke some words after 150 plus years. So, as a grown musician, I always felt connected to Fela Kuti. In a year where life has been so fragile, this is my response. It is unique to me but feels somehow universal.
Antonio Michael Downing visits Brockton Writers Series via ephemera series on Wednesday, September 8, 2021 starting at 6:30pm alongside Jónína Kirton, Fonda Lee, and C. L. Polk . Our guest speaker Tamara Faith Berger will talk us through, “Messing with the Pipes: Writing Sex with Substance”.
Special note: As we adapt to current social distancing regulations, we’re happy to announce our event will be hosted by the wonderful ephemera series! They have already done their show online multiple times, so we are thrilled to benefit from their technical expertise, while also increasing collaboration within the literary community and growing connections between organizers, authors, and audience. You can attend the event by watching on the ephemera series YouTube channel. Please log in at 6:30.