Intern David Visits the Como Mamas
inUncategorizedon June 19, 2014
On my very first day of interning with the Music Maker Relief Foundation I was offered a chance to drive down to Mississippi and meet the Como Mamas. All I knew was they were a female gospel trio from the Delta who have been singing together for decades. I hurriedly agreed without putting much thought to it, what a rare opportunity to experience firsthand one of America’s oldest musical traditions.
A few days later, we set out for Como, Mississippi. After driving and driving we arrived in Memphis, only an hour outside of Como. We checked the next day’s weather, and the forecast wasn’t good – an 80% chance of rain loomed over us. Not great weather for shooting photo and video outside. Discouraged and disheartened we stopped at a local restaurant for real Memphis barbeque. Apparently, smoked spicy chicken wings were all we needed to lift our spirits. After dinner we got back in our van and pressed into Como.
We pulled into a dirt lot in front of Mt. Mariah church, built in 1910 by poor sharecroppers, the home church of The Como Mamas. We took a look around the place as Della gave us contextual backgrounds on the church, Como, and the other members of the trio. Just then, a furious thunderstorm shook the walls and though it did very little to derail Della’s powerful stories it was just enough to remind us of the foreboding weather forecast.
The Como Mamas must have delivered a powerful prayer up to God that night, because the next day I awoke to beautiful Mississippi skies, not a single drop of cloud could be spotted anywhere. We got started in the same church we had arrived at the night before. In no time, the Mamas were shouting and singing; the walls rattled with a mighty ferocity the previous night’s storm couldn’t come near. Their singing was simply spiritual, in the purest sense. I had to make a conscious effort to remind myself I was working, for fear I might float off into another meditative trance.
I heard a heavy pulsing, stepping sound reverberating through the room. I saw three right feet, crashing down perfectly in time, lined up under the church pews like pistons in an engine. In that moment, it became clear why they generally performed without the use of a band. They didn’t need one! They simply sang the same way they always have, the way their mothers and grandparents before them sang, in service to the Lord. When The Como Mamas sing, they testify a heart full of love and gratitude to a God that has given them so much. As proof of this, Esther later remarked, “Child, just do your best, and God will handle the rest” in response to my questions regarding the group’s newfound career path. I’d like to thank Esther, Della, and Angelia for their hospitality and guidance during my time in Como.