‘Home at Last’: Interview in MSHALE MAGAZINE

5 February 2009 at 4:00 pm (Family, Film, Music, News, Press, Releases, Spoken Word, Theatre) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

eg-bailey-on-the-road-b-freshphoto by B Fresh Photography

Liberian-American Spoken-Word Artist is Home at Last
Justin Schell , Contributing Writer

“This is a year of completion for me,” e.g. bailey says in the office of Trú Rúts Endeavors, the multidisciplinary arts organization that he runs with his wife, Shá Cage.

His struggle to fit in America is not unlike that of many African immigrants. He attributes his success as an award-winning multidisciplinary artist and producer to this struggle of finding a home away from home.

bailey, who was born in Saclepea, Liberia, is the son of a white Peace Corps volunteer and a Liberian mother. His father, bailey says, “threw a dart, hit Liberia, and that’s where he got stationed.” His mother gave birth to him near the end of his father’s second term; and his parents lost touch after his father’s return to America.

Even as a child he loved music and theater: two memories stand out in particular from his life in Liberia.

“There was a record store and a movie theater,” he says. “I would spend hours in the record store listening to whatever they were playing.”

The owner of the mud-constructed movie theater, however, wasn’t particularly keen on offering free entertainment to they young movie revelers. “We would either sneak into the movie theater or we would drill holes in the side to watch the movie.” After the owner realized this, he would take blindingly-hot Liberian red peppers, soak them in water, and put the mixture in a spray bottle, and spray into the holes to temporarily prevent onlookers from watching the film without paying. “It would be this constant game of trying to outwit [him], as soon as you saw a shadow coming.”

One day, another Peace Corps volunteer came to his village and, after getting to know him, expressed interest in adopting him. Instead it was his father who ended up adopting the 10-year-old Bailey after she sought out his father through the Peace Corps database.

After landing in Chicago, he was driven to his new home in Crystal Lake, an hour-and-a-half from Chicago. There was a parade the day he arrived, with money thrown from the floats.

“I thought it was a parade for me!” he says with a laugh. “The next day, I wake up, I’m like ‘Ok, when are we going to the parade and when can we get more money?’ That was the start of my life in the US.”

Reality soon set in for bailey as he learned that life in America was not rosy for a new immigrant, “It was a struggle of trying to adapt and trying to fit in. Trying to figure out who I am and not fitting into any place, I always felt like I was running, that I couldn’t stop moving.”

Until he moved to Minneapolis, when he felt, “Ok, I can stop running now.”

bailey’s first connection to Minneapolis came not through the city itself, but through one of its most famous musicians. “I discovered Prince in [Crystal Lake’s] record store. I think it was “Little Red Corvette.” My ears just perked up, trying to find out who this person was, and I proceeded to get everything that he put out.”

After moving to Minneapolis, he started performing solo and with a number of music groups, and worked in the retail division of Prince’s famed Paisley Park complex, gaining crucial experience to navigate the shady mazes of the music industry when he formed Trú Rúts and its record label, Speakeasy Records.

He had a life-changing experience on a trip to the country of his birth after being gone for nearly 20 years. He returned to Liberia in 1999 as part of a four-month trip to Africa, the Middle East and East Asia. The trip, while crucial to his development as an artist as well as a person, was not what he expected.

“I realized that I could go back, but I could never live back home. I’d been away too long to be able to go back home and do what I’m supposed to do.”

An overwhelming and inane sense of homelessness hit him, he says, “going home displaces you. You’re no longer at home in either place. Home is what I had to create.”

Thus homelessness and travel inform all of bailey’s work, which symbolically channels his own experience through the larger histories of the African Diaspora. His album American African, scheduled for release in April, will appropriately feature a host of both American Africans and African Americans, including M.anifest, DJ Stage One, Mankwe Ndosi, IBé, and other international artists, including Germany’s Starskie and Dubai’s Abstrakt Collision.

“It’s a testament to where African Americans and American Africans are,” he says, encompassing the multitude of African, African American, and American African perspectives. “I want to avoid the idea of a monolithic Africa as much as possible.”

The first single off of American African, “America,” is a wide-ranging vision of the post-9/11 America that many immigrants find themselves in.

“America, I miss you,” bailey intones at its opening. He delivers his words atop a bed of rolling drums and cymbals, electric bass, disorienting electronic sounds, and wailing saxophone. From Katrina to Guantanamo, Hollywood to Baghdad, the poem subtly welds together the long histories of racism and murder that stain America’s past, yet without completely destroying the hope of something better. In the end, the music dies away as bailey softly, powerfully, declares “We’re waiting for your resurrection.”

bailey has an ambitious plan to release three more albums in 2009 that have been at various stages of completion throughout his work with Trú Rúts. Yet completion always breeds the start of something new, whether it be the release of new albums from other artists in the Trú Rúts family such as Quilombolas, TruthMaze, or El Guante. Or the birth of his first child with his wife Shá Cage.

Even though e.g. bailey has settled in one place after a long journey, his creative activity and poetic journeys show no signs of slowing down.

e.g bailey has produced “No Longer at Ease” (play), an adaption from the Chinua Achebe’s novel for the Pangea World Theatre in May 2001; “Village Blues” (film); and “Words Will Heal the Wound”, a spoken word radio series celebrating the diverse poetic traditions in Minnesota.

He received the Sarah Lawrence College International Film Festival (2001) Experimental Film award for Village Blues; the NFCB (National Federation of Community Broadcasters) award for Write On RaDio!; and the Worldstaff Houston International Festival (1999) Experimental Film award for Village Blues.

Visit his website for a full listing of productions, performances and awards: www.myspace.com/egbailey or www.egbailey.com.

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‘Art Connects’ commercial premieres on BET Hip Hop Awards

17 October 2007 at 8:00 pm (Film, News, Spoken Word) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

This past summer, e.g. bailey and Sha Cage worked on Target’s ART FOR ALL ad campaign, created by Twin Cities own Catalyst Studios. e.g. and Sha helped to co-write, and perform, ‘Art Connects’, one of the installments for the campaign. The ‘Art Connects’ ad will be featured during the BET Hip Hop Awards on Wednesday, October 17th.

It will also be featured this Fall on the mobile digital billboards at Victory Park in Dallas, Texas; in Stash, a monthly DVD magazine; on outdoor screens in the UK, film festivals, movie theaters and other avenues. In addition it will be featured on cable and television networks including MTV, VH1, MTV2, MTV3, Univision, CW, CBS + others. Special thanks to Babs Casting, Catalyst Studios, Barth Ward, Modern Music and Target.

Target’s Art Connects Ad. Featured on BET Hip Hop Awards. Wednesday, 17 October 2007. 8:00pm (ET/PT).

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Minnesota Short Film/Video Showcase II

19 April 2000 at 9:00 am (Film, News, Press, Spoken Word, Videos) (, , , , , , , , )

Minnesota Short Film/Video Showcase II
Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival
Intermedia Arts, Friday at 8:00 p.m.
Friday, April 21

Co-sponsored by IFP/North and Intermedia Arts, this second of the fest’s three Minnesota shorts packages is highlighted by Matt Ehling’s “Access,” which roughly does for the cable-access artiste what Driver 23 did for the underground metal musician. Using a studiously droll, Errol Morris-like style to examine some of the more ambiguous virtues of freedom of speech, Ehling zooms in on a trio of natural-born hams spreading their gospels through Fridley’s ETC Channel 33: Homer Giles, an amateur evangelist with a steadfast belief in the power of his own negligible celebrity; Richard “A-Bomb” Klatte, a Deadhead performance artist-cum-public-access shock jock who’s running in the 1998 gubernatorial race on the so-called Strong Party platform; and Mark Hanson, a reactionary libertarian and overzealous prairie-dog hunter whom the liberal Klatte eventually recruits as his running mate. (Together, the pair promises to legalize drugs and prostitution while offering free Subway and Pizza Shack coupons to the several-or-so viewers at home.) At 45 minutes, Ehling’s short could use a trim (especially as the current cut has him seeming to lose interest in the preacher). Yet the filmmaker’s underlying respect for these tireless camera cravers–whose passion for broadcasting would put most professionals to shame–makes this one of the smartest and most entertaining local films to come out in a year. Among the other noteworthy works in the second showcase are Benno Nelson’s “Moment One,” Freya Rae’s “Palisade,” and Ayesha Adu and e.g. bailey’s “Village Blues.” The third and final showcase, which includes Paul Moehring’s 40-minute “Welcome to Cosmos,” screens the following night, Saturday, at 8:00 p.m. at Intermedia Arts. Rob Nelson

Originally posted on 19 April 2000 on CityPages.com.

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village blues

23 February 1999 at 7:00 pm (Film, Music, Poems, Shows, Spoken Word, Videos) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Nu Ark Experiements presents:  village blues

an improvisational cinematic collaborative

produced by e.g. bailey and Ayesha Adu
music produced by Jeremy Ylvisaker & Kitundu

“Amma I have lost another child.

Amma my child is gone…”

Intermedia Arts
2822 Lyndale Avenue South
Mpls, MN  55408
612.871.4444
http://www.IntermediaArts.org

7:00pm
Tuesday 23 February

village blues, an experimental improvisational film that deals with the disintegration of interpersonal and social relationships within the Black community.  The nature of the improvisation is centered around three poems written by e.g. bailey, and serves as the common link within the process between the artists involved.  The images are based on the poems, as is the soundtrack.  However, each was done separately.  Ayesha produced and shot the images, while e.g. produced the audio––neither was allowed to see the other’s work.  Both elements of the film would then be brought together at the moment of presentation, hence the improvisational aspect of the film.  Often in improvisation there is a common structure or theme, or a musical line, upon which everyone improvises.  The goal was to bring this method to filmmaking and explore the possibilities.  And further explore the relationship between spoken word and filmmaking.

Artists Include:

Ayesha Adu
e.g. bailey
Rachel Flomo
Kitundu
Mankwe Ndosi
Leah Nelson
J. Otis Powell!
Truthmaze
Jeremy Ylvisaker

evening will begin with 20 minute open mic

a post-film discussion will follow

$3 suggested donation

“even in death,

there is birth”

This series is supported by a grant provided by the MN State Arts Board through an appropriation from the MN State Legislature.  In addition, this activity is supported in part by a grant from the NEA.

Co-sponsored by SASE:  The Write Place, Intermedia Arts, KFAI Fresh Air Radio, KMOJ, the Powderhorn Writers Festival, Da X-Factor Newz and KFAI’s Write On RaDio! (Thursdays @ 11am).

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village blues

23 February 1999 at 7:00 pm (Film, Music, Poems, Spoken Word, Videos) (, , )

village blues

village blues is an improvisational exploration into a discovery between spoken word and film.  Even with the proliferation of music videos, and videos made of poems, which has brought an intense visual element to our interpretation of music and lyrics, or poetry, there is still another, deeper, relationship between spoken word and film.  village blues is an attempt to define this process and relationship.

It is also an attempt to explore the possibilities, and perhaps test the limits, of improvisation within the filmmaking process.  Therefore, we wanted to make  this work an improvisational process, where all artists involved were inspired by a common element from which they were able to create their part of the whole.  All these parts would then be brought together to simulate, or actuate, an improvisation.  We do not know if this has been attempted before, but we were  interested in collaborating with other artists to make this process work.  Often, in improvisation, there is a common structure or theme, or a musical line, upon which artists  improvise.  Therefore, the goal was to bring this method to filmmaking and explore its possibilities.

The subject matter of village blues deals with the disintegration of interpersonal and social relationships within the Black community.  It is based on three poems written by e. g. bailey.  These pieces served as the common elements that unified the work of the artists.

The inspiration of the poems have created two larger elements––the film and the soundtrack.  The poems were given to each individual involved in the process––including the filmmaker, the actors, the musicians, the vocalists and producers.  Each artist then completed their part of the work.  And they were brought together and presented as a whole for the first time on opening night.

the title is a reference to a work by john coltrane of the same name…i take the title literally (and metaphorically).  it speaks to a problem, concern or crisis in the village.  and i take village to mean home, city, state, nation, world, planet.  if we continually reference the proverb that it takes a village to raise a child, then i want to speak to that understanding.  our village is in crisis.  and our children are dying…this story is not linear.  nor is life and living.  so i am not so much concerned that it is linear.  however, it is connected and relates.  it is essentially a movement.  from self to community.  from the relationship of two to the circle of many.  and the links that lie therein.  it is about a crisis within an individual/personal relationship.  to a crisis within an outer/familial (i.e. brother to brother, black man to black man) relationship.  to a crisis within a universal/communal (i.e. village, planetary) relationship. – e.g. bailey

In with working on village blues, I was able to completely free my mind of everyday conventions of filmmaking and concentrate more on evoking emotions strictly with images.  When I edited the piece I had to use a different kind of music to set the pace because as an experimental part of this project the Visual Director––myself––and the Musical Director––e.g. bailey––decided to make a film where neither of us could see or hear what the other was doing.  We were just going to bring the elements together and see what we came up with…I like what happened quite a bit because it gave me a different way to see my job as a director and allowed the kind of freedom artistically that isn’t really passionately present today…My images came from a very personal part of me. a very passionate deeply felt place.  It’s the first time out of everything I’ve ever done that completely encapsulates my emotions of the moment love, freedom and vulnerability. – Ayesha Adu

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Nu Ark Experiments Press Release

21 April 1998 at 9:00 am (Film, Music, Shows, Spoken Word, Theatre, Workshops) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

For Immediate Release
April 21, 1998

“Open Palm Prayers” Melds Music and Poetry
In Jazz-Influenced Show at Intermedia Arts, May 19, 1998
Performance Launches ‘Nu Ark Experiments,’ A 12-part Series
Exploring ‘Force and Energy of the Oral Tradition’

A talented group of improvisational musicians and poets will demonstrate a new, multi-sensory approach to uniting word and music in performance, at an evening-length show called “Open Palm Prayers” on Tuesday, May 19, 1998. The performance takes place at 7:00 p.m. at Intermedia Arts, 2822 Lyndale Avenue South, Minneapolis. Tickets are $6, or $3 for Intermedia Arts Partners. Reservations may be made by calling (612) 871-4444.

The key to the performance concept is a jazz-influenced melding of poetry and music, according to organizer e.g. bailey, a member of the performance collective Arkology. “Our goal is to create a spoken word/music synthesis based in the aesthetic of the jazz ensemble,” bailey said. “The work can originate in a word, a concept, an image, or a sound, and then each ‘instrument,’ including the voice, enters the ensemble on an equal footing and has an opportunity to lead and shape the experience.”

“Open Palm Prayers” marks the first event in a 12-part series of innovative spoken word and musical events called Nu Ark Experiments. The aim, bailey said, is “to experiment with the presentation of spoken word by melding it with other art forms, including music, dance, and film.” The series involves ten performances of set pieces and improvisational works, and two workshops designed to introduce others to improvisational techniques for blending art forms in performance. The performances and workshops will occur at several venues in the Twin Cities over the next ten months, beginning with “Open Palm Prayers” at Intermedia Arts.

At the core of the Nu Ark Experiments is a group of well-known, multi-talented artists, most of whom are members of the improvisational performance collective Arkology. At “Open Palm Prayers,” for example, e.g. bailey will contribute his skills as a “verbalist,” joined by Arkology members Kona (drummer), Dennis Maddix (bass), and writer/vocalists Mankwe Ndosi and Miré Regulus. The collective has also appeared with other Twin Cities musicians such as Kevin Washington, Rene Ford, Sam Favors, Markiss, Michael O’Brien, Doug Reed, and Tom Speath.

“We will explore forms and avenues not normally associated with spoken word, with the hope of bringing new life to poetry, and giving back to it the force and energy inherent in the oral tradition,” said bailey.

The idea for the Nu Ark Experiments series originated with Blues for Nina, a 25-minute spoken-word/music performance about the famed singer Nina Simone that bailey presented for the opening of the 1997 Twin Cities Black Film Festival, in collaboration with five other artists. “The audience response to that piece as well as the music/word interaction in the rehearsal process motivated me to explore how to further develop this performance structure,” bailey said.

Nu Ark Experiments is produced with support from a Cultural Collaborations Grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. Co-sponsors for the series are SASE: The Write Place and Intermedia Arts, and KFAI Fresh Air Radio 90.3 FM Mpls/106.7 St. Paul.

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