Spoken-word work gets right to the point

18 February 2010 at 9:00 am (Music, News, Press, Recordings, Releases, Shows, Spoken Word) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

CD review: Spoken-word work
gets right to the point

By John Ziegler, Duluth News Tribune

He can come on like a freight train. Words are his medium. He will make you laugh. He will make you cry. He will make you think.

His name is E.G. Bailey and his brand-new release “American Afrikan” combines spoken word, poetry and music to explore what it is to be an Afrikan in America today. It doesn’t just skim along the surface in that exploration, it heaves from below like a bulldozer churning up slabs of concrete, tree roots and old asphalt in its quest — Bailey leading the narrative charge.

Using language like John Coltrane used the tenor or soprano saxophone, Bailey — together with friends such as Aimee Bryant, Katrah Quey, Sha Cage, Hipgnosis, D.J.Limbs, plus African poets Ibe Kaba and Sankaradjeki; Dubai jazz ensemble Abstrakt Collision, and Mankwe Ndosi, the singer from Atmosphere — uses bits of pre-recorded sound, field recordings (including Liberian work songs from the Mano Tribe) and jazz. He rails, he whispers, he implores, he exhorts and subtly weaves his spell.

“K Street Blues: The Bailout Plan” sounds like it could have been Sonny Rollins captured on the Williamsburg Bridge in 1952 talking to the skyline with his horn.

“America” is Bailey (with Abstrakt Collision giving an eerie, angular backdrop) holding a mirror up to our own country with all its actions and how they have morphed over time. “America with your varicose veins and Catholic guilt, I fear you and I love you … America, it’s getting harder to defend you.”

Aimee Bryant’s stirring multi-tracked version of “Motherless Child” is a riveting take on this black spiritual.

“Afrikan is the New American” has an almost Prince-like groove smothered in chicken grease.

Bailey is the real deal. He has created spoken word dynamics in film, theater and recordings during his travels through this country as well as England, South Africa, France and Serbia. He is the founder of the MN Spoken Word Association, Tru Ruts Endeavors and the Spoken Word and Hip Hop Institute at the University of Minnesota. He’s been inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in the New York Modern Museum of Art.

“American Afrikan” is not just a journey but an adventure that, during February’s Black History Month, explores identity, history, culture and what it means to be black in America today.

The CD release of this wonderful piece of art takes place Saturday evening at the Bedlam Theatre in Minneapolis and should not be missed.

E.G. Bailey / “American Afrikan”
Genre: Spoken word/Poetry/Jazz/Hip Hop/Electronica
Label: Tru Ruts/Speakeasy Records
Web site: http://www.egbailey.com, myspace.com/egbailey
Produced by: E.G. Bailey and Ben Durant

Upcoming show: Saturday at 9:30 p.m., the CD release party at the Bedlam Theatre, Minneapolis. Cost $5. Ages 18 and older. Includes special guests Guante, Sha Cage, Mankwe Ndosi, Ibe Kaba and more.

John Ziegler has worked in the music industry for the past 35 years as a radio host, interviewer, record producer and professional musician.

Originally posted on Duluth News Tribune blog on 18 February 2010.


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‘American Afrikan’ E.G. Bailey CD Release

16 February 2010 at 9:00 am (Music, News, Press, Recordings, Releases, Shows, Spoken Word) (, , , , , , , , , , )

‘American Afrikan’ E.G. Bailey CD Release

‘American Afrikan’ is not just a CD release party, but also a musical celebration of Black History that brings together some of the leading African and African American performers in the Twin Cities. Spoken Word innovator E.G. Bailey’s CD is a musical exploration of language and blows out of the water traditional concepts of old school ‘spoken word’ featuring M.anifest, Truthmaze, Members of Junkyard Empire, Sha Cage, Guante, Mankwe Ndosi, J. Otis Powell!, Chantz, See More Perspective, Dameun Strange, Andy Shafer, and more.

When: February 20 : 10 p.m.
Price: $5
Event Phone Number: 612-341-1038

Originally posted on Metro Mix Twin Cities on 16 February 2010.

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M.anifest + e.g. bailey School Us On Our ‘Afrikan’ Roots

11 February 2010 at 11:00 am (Music, News, Press, Recordings, Spoken Word) (, , , , )

First Spin
M.anifest + e.g. bailey
School Us On Our ‘Afrikan’ Roots

by ill Mami

Years ago when I was entering my teens, African history was an ever-present force in the music I listened to. Hip Hop was soaked in it, despite what coast you hailed from. It was “in” and everyone from Def Jef to the Jungle Brothers were clad in prints from the Motherland, proclaiming their allegiance to a legacy they were proud of. These days, what is “in” is much, much different, but my jones for good African rhythms set to Hip Hop can still be found if you do a bit of digging. The better-known Wale gave up some heat with his “My Sweetie” recently, but M.anifest–who we’ve already hipped you to–has been serving up his own sweetness for quite some time as well. Spoken word artist e.g. bailey’s “Amerikan African” has been nicely remixed by M.anifest and is sure to get hips swinging. Drop it low after you press play below. [H/T: SV]

Originally posted on SoulBounce.com on 11 February 2010.

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e.g. bailey Debuts “AMERICAN AFRIKAN” on Collective Eye

11 February 2010 at 9:00 am (Music, News, Press, Radio, Releases, Shows) (, , , )

e.g. bailey Debuts “AMERICAN AFRIKAN” on Collective Eye
Janis Lane-Ewart (KFAI)

Collective Eye host, Janis Lane-Ewart, interviews Twin Cities spoken word artist, poet, entrepreneur, e.g. bailey Thursday, February 11th. His new cd, AMERICAN AFRIKAN officially drops on Saturday, February 20th at The Bedlam Theater. Learn about e.g’s work with Tru Ruts/Speakeasy Records, mentorship of young poets, and other scintillating tales from Afrika to America. Tune in and/or call in with your questions at 612.341.0980 at 10:30 p.m.

Listen to interview here.

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E.G. Bailey: American Afrikan Review

9 February 2010 at 12:06 am (Music, News, Press, Recordings, Releases, Spoken Word) (, , , , , , , , , , )

E.G. Bailey: American Afrikan Review
by Jon Behm, Reviler

I am not going to qualify my review of E.G. Bailey’s American Afrikan with a score.  As a white person, I feel like it would be a little disingenuous of me to try and attach a grade to the African American cultural experience.  And that is certainly what American Afrikan is – more so than a musical work, spoken word piece, or political polemic.  It is an examination of what it means to be black in America today, as well as what it used to mean, what it feels like, and what it could be.  That it is made more accessible through rhythms and music makes it no less authentic – music is ingrained in African American history moreso than perhaps any other culture.  And if that all sounds a bit serious for you – know that it is also an enjoyable listen on a purely aesthetic level.

Amerikan begins with “Professor Goodwin’s Preface,” a poignant (and also often hilarious) spoken word piece that pokes playfully at the oftentimes confusing semantics of race.  From there Bailey dives down through history, unearthing slave chants, blues, jazz, hip hop, the sounds of shackles, and more.  Whether he’s singing, reciting poetry, or completely silent, Bailey’s masterful feeling for the power of words (and their absence) is felt throughout.  “America” is a weighty poem set to a jazz score by Middle Eastern ensemble Abstrakt Collision.  Not one to shy away from controversy, “America” is packed full of lines that cut like knives:

America, which of my sins are original / Do I repent before the cross or the dollar / before the ballot or the bullet / America, I can’t take you home to my mother / she’s afraid you might try to molest her / rape her land / leave her suffering, her children desolate.

It isn’t all quite so severe though – where the record is shadowed by the turbulence of history, it also celebrates life and happiness.  The title track is an incredibly long, African rhythm infused, totally danceable banger that features Ibe Kaba and Sankara Djeki (also remixed by local rapper M.anifest as a bonus track).  “Motherless Child” is a heartbreakingly beautiful tune sung by Aimee Bryant.   To finish things off “Afrikan is the New Amerikan” shuts it down with some feverous instrumental funk.

There is so much history, culture, and experience packed into American Afrikan that to summarize would be to attempt to summarize all of African American experience (no easy task).  Just as history means different things to different people, doubtlessly the record will affect listeners in many different ways – and what I tell you about my experience may be worlds away from your own.  You will never know until you find out though, so I highly recommend giving American Afrikan a listen.  If you dig what you hear, Bailey will be playing a CD release party at the Bedlam Theater on Feb. 20th.

Originally posted on Reviler blog on 9 February 2010.

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‘American Afrikan (M.anifestations Remix)’

8 February 2010 at 5:27 pm (Music, News, Press, Releases, Shows, Spoken Word) (, , , , , , , , , , )

‘American Afrikan (M.anifestations Remix)’
by Jon Jon Scott

With a co-sign from none other than Amiri Baraka and The Last Poets’ Umar Bin Hassan, Minneapolis spoken word artist/curator/educator/producer, e.g. bailey, who’s full length debut, American Afrikan, is a sprawling concept record spanning the middle passage and beyond. With glimpses of jazz, hip-hop, soul, electronica and Fela Kuti, bailey’s words soar, without being preachy. A powerful record that deserves your full attention. Now that Gil Scott-Heron has returned in splendid fashion with the engaging, I’m New Here, the timing couldn’t be better.

eg. bailey
El Guante
Sha Cage
Mankwe Ndosi
Ibe Kaba
Feb. 20th
Bedlam Theather

e.g. bailey ft. M.anifest –“American Afrikan (Manifestations Remix)”-mp3

Originally posted on Sound Verité on 8 February 2010.

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‘American Afrikan’ article in African News Journal

8 February 2010 at 9:00 am (Music, News, Press, Recordings, Releases, Spoken Word) (, , , , , )

e g bailey
By Nneka Onyilofor

What does it mean to be an African…an African in America…an American Afrikan? The first solo album by multidisciplinary artist e.g. bailey sheds light on these questions and offers a personal look at a journey that began 400 years ago.

A native of Liberia who has made a life in America, reminds us in his new album titled, “American Afrikan,” that the double consciousness that W. E. B. Du bois discussed many years prior, continues to live on in all of us with hybrid identities. Those from the motherland of Africa who live in America know this challenge all too well.

“This album is a metaphor for the African experience in the U.S. Africans are moving more to the forefront. It’s a different experience than the African American experience. Part of the reason for making the album is to celebrate Africans and African culture in the Twin Cities,” stated e.g.

With tracks like, “American Afrikan” and “Oracles of Equiano,” e.g. deals with multiple perspectives in this project by weaving together an amalgamation of knowledge of “American Afrikan” history.

“I see it as reaching beyond the album. The tracks are woven together to intentionally follow each other. The transitions are important, the title is important…it’s using the vehicle of a recording but it’s intending to be a narrative or a story. It plays with different spaces…it moves fluidly. In some way’s it can be a soundtrack to a film. It’s a development of the African griot tradition. The “Africaness” should not be an after thought,” he stated.

Inspired by the likes of Toni Morrison and Amiri Baraka, e.g. likes to challenge traditional art forms and create something new by merging different genres of art into this project. Whether it’s the sound of a needle hitting a record, or the language of Igbo used in a track, everything in this project has a purpose.

“The album is dealing with, where are we today as Africans? How do you pay tribute to Africa even though you are so far away? You have to be true to the story.” This project is a merging of e.g’s experience as an American Afrikan. It started off simple, but became more complex and deeper as he went on, as historical events such as the election of Obama added value to his story.

As life experience between two continents has showed him, “there are many things that can cause you to forget the beauty of where you’re from…it’s just remembering that we are a strong people and we have survived and will continue to survive in the most difficult of places and circumstances. It’s important not to get too lost in the wilderness here. You have to remember your greatness.”

For more information on e.g. bailey and his album release party on Feb. 20th 2010, at the Bedlam Theater at 10pm go to: http://www.myspace.com/egbailey or http://www.egbailey.com. e.g. will also be one of the upcoming featured artist in a future African Global Roots (AGR) event. For more information about AGR, go to: http://www.agrmn.com.

Originally posted on African News Journal on 8 February 2010.

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Tru Ruts presents Free download of E.G. Bailey’s ‘Oracles of Equiano (Starskie’s Pushing Mix)’

21 January 2010 at 9:00 am (Music, News, Recordings, Releases, Spoken Word) (, , , , , )

More than any other performance art, spoken-word is subject to stereotypes.  Everyone knows that spoken-word is read only in dark clubs, only by beret-wearing neo-beatniks who rant and rave about the revolution with pre-programmed flows and unoriginal deliveries.  Everyone knows that spoken-word can be austere and preachy or screamingly emphatic…but never funky.

Enter e.g. bailey.  Over a fun, stuttering house beat produced by Germany’s Starskie, the Twin Cities poet and educator proves that you can indeed dance to spoken-word.  The piece itself refers to Olaudah Equiano, a former slave whose autobiography became a major piece of the abolitionist struggle, and touches on the continuing struggle for justice, the importance of the arts and what “freedom” means in the age of Obama and beyond, for both African-Americans and Africans.  It’s neither a typical club song nor a typical spoken-word track, but bailey has never been a typical artist.

The free download is available at these links: truruts.bandcamp.com

The original version of ‘Oracles of Equiano’, featuring a group of Igbo nuns, will be released on e.g. bailey’s debut album, AMERICAN AFRIKAN, in 2010 on Tru Ruts/Speakeasy Records.

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Free download of E.G. Bailey’s ‘Blues People’

1 January 2010 at 9:00 am (Music, News, Poems, Releases, Spoken Word) (, , , , , , )

Surprising + Refreshing

blue black and beautiful
are we
many colors
the sun.  god’s breath
whispering through song
through wombs, pregnant
with freedom

‘He makes language live.’ – Amiri Baraka

Tru Ruts/Speakeasy Records presents a free download of  spoken word artist E.G. BAILEY’s ‘Blues People’, from his upcoming album, AMERICAN AFRIKAN. The free download is available at these links:

ZshareDirect Download to Computer

‘Blues People’, a call to peoples across the diaspora, looks towards hope for those still struggling in this new world. Bailey utilizes imagery in a skillful and refreshing way in speaking about the multiplicity of the Black experience in America. Marrying it against a jazz-inspired musical backdrop couldn’t have been a smarter choice. It allows the poetry to have a grandeur and resonance. Recorded live in Minneapolis’ nationally recognized spoken word scene, and performed alongside saxophonist Andy Shaffer, of ‘New Orleans Swamp Pop’ outfit, Skinny Longfeet, there is a raw guttural tonality informing the relationship between the music and words. Evoking a call and response, reminiscent of early gospel and blues, the piece allows each to maintain it’s own identity while carefully courting the space between one another.

Bailey’s astute relationship with the rhythm of language, coupled with his academic background as both a student and teacher of poetry, is prevalent in his musical and metaphorical choices. As Bailey has stated, the poem, winner of the  Hughes Knight Diop Poetry Award from the Gwendolyn Brooks Writers Conference, strives to tell the history of Africans in America through the craft of writing. It provokes you to connect with the pain of that struggle. A well crafted piece of spoken word, it continues to show why e.g. bailey can be found at the forefront of the art form.

Bailey’s spoken word opus, American Afrikan, will be released in early 2010. Recent spotlights on e.g. bailey:

‘Twin Towers’‘Home at Last’‘From Chains to Change’

For more information: Tru RutsE.G. BaileyAndy Shaffer

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‘Twin Towers’ review on 612 to 651

11 September 2009 at 9:00 am (Music, News, Press, Releases, Spoken Word) (, , , , )

E.G. Bailey: “Twin Towers”
by Justin Schell

On this 8th anniversary of the events of 9/11, e.g. bailey has crafted “Twin Towers” an eloquent statement that both captures the emotions and experiences of 9/11 as well as how to respond and remember them.

The piece opens with singer, guitarist and fellow Trú Rúts artist Chastity Brown. She delivers the first part of bailey’s poem, a collage of observations that sound like fragments of a broken news report, the frame through which many saw the events of 9/11.

No death today
No war
No justice come undone
Reports say peace is on the way.

Yet this news report flips the usual broadcasts of death and destruction associated with 9/11, setting the stage for a poem that looks forward to something greater, something better than images of smoking towers. Brown’s dirge-like intonations of “And I watched the buildings crumble,” however, delivered with a voice that itself sounds ash-choked, leads into the body of the poem and takes the listener back to 2001.

bailey does well to navigate the over-loaded and hyper-emotional associations with 9/11, be it jingoistic drum rolls of war, uncritical celebrations and memorializations a la “Patriot Day,” or reactionary conspiracy theories. Instead, he focuses on the bewildering experience of that day, bodies and towers falling from the Manhattan sky. He wonders “whose truth to trust” as the poem’s narrator goes “stumbling through the fog” (one of more than just ash, smoke, and debris), while children and lovers suddenly find themselves alone.

The other theme of “Twin Towers” is how to remember these events, be it 8 or 80 years afterwards. bailey calls for unity, a familiar theme of course in 9/11 responses, but his has a critical edge. The unity he calls for is not for a nation to wage war in hopes of short-sighted revenge, but rather a call to humanity, his words moving swiftly from the individuals itself who died in the events 9/11 and, presumably, in America’s response to it, but rather a unity to stop these events from ever happening again without perpetuating violence, “no matter the politics of color or creed.” It is a tone of remembrance that cannot be captured by commemorative “never forget” anniversaries or lapel pins, but rather a remembrance that is as much about actively and peacefully shaping the future as it is about the past.

There are two versions of “Twin Towers,” one with the poem recorded by Twin Cities spoken word godfather J. Otis Powell, the other by bailey himself. While the words are the same, the difference is palpable. Powell’s delivery is deeper, more measured, adding a gravity and weight to the words simply through his bass intonation alone. bailey’s version, while no less meaningful or emotional, is slightly faster, and reflects more the mental state of someone actual experiencing the events, be it in person or through a screen, while Powell’s sounds much more reflective and pondering. Both versions, however, are a powerful testament not only to the past, present, and future of 9/11, but also of bailey’s skill of mobilizing poetry for contemplation, remembrance, and subtle, but no less insistent calls for action.

Originally posted on 612 to 651 blog on 11 September 2009.

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