Roots Grown Deep

Listen to Joel Karabo Elliott's "

The Knife


A musical healer, educator and composer, Joel Karabo Elliott grew up and went to school in Indianapolis, yet this is his first recording project on Indiana soil. He has made South Africa home for over a decade where he stewards the musical ecology movement-school-label Roots Grown Deep. Joel visited Indianapolis in August 2017 and collaborated with the Harrison Center for a 48-hour residency, during which he completed this two-movement musical piece and explored the area of Maple Crossing.

In his own words:

I am really thankful for this opportunity, and to be part of the Harrison Center family. This piece is for...

The people of Maple Crossing, to whom I say, Across your wings no longer hangs the!

William Rasdell, thank you for expanding my Amer-Afrikan imagination.

The beautiful bell hooks, who subconsciously inspired the poetry and message, a truth I realized 

one month later

 after visiting with her in Berea, KY.

From the first movement, "Modimo o re file se bakanyana se" is a Sepedi (Sesotho sa leboa, Northern Sotho, South Africa) proverb meaning, "God has given us this very precious moment". Gratitude and love to "Big Mike" Williams for his spontaneous spoken word contribution. (Brother Mike, keep following spirit inspiration and you will journey deep into and beyond your self.) The second movement "The Knife" speaks directly about the long walk to freedom, which is fundamentally personal and spiritual before it becomes communal or national. My long-time friend Chris Weller spontaneously visited the studio and contributed a nice line on the double bass. I feel that the Sepedi proverb is a beautiful introduction to "The Knife" because I do believe that we will never find freedom until we first enter into simple thankfulness and presence.

The Knife


Who can be so foolish to say they can build a road without some pain?

Only those so deprived of time

And when it's time to go there ain't no road, all the people slowly growing old

Never left the place where there were born

The sun grows a flower in a field, the flower quickly wilts for lack of shield

Cause of life becomes a reason to die

Some people choose a straight and narrow path, they think God will spare them of his wrath

Could fear and wrath be inwardly contrived?

In the open spaces you'll find rest, but only if you learn to transcend loneliness

Know the soul can never be alone

Earth, wind and fire are your food, elemental healing your fine brew

Dust to dust in unity return

See the crowds thirst for creativity, release from comfort in conformity

Are we meant to see the world in black and white?

So let go! Be free of self-made chains!

Across your wings no longer hangs the knife!





#place-based music

#harrison center for the arts