blue black and beautiful
the sun. god’s breath
whispering through song
through wombs, pregnant
‘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:
‘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:
Note: Each year, the Echo Chamber presents their annual ‘Word Beat I Powa’ dub poetry special. The special brings together a great collection of dub poetry with ventures into beat poetry and spoken word. It’s consistently one of my favorite shows of the year, and turns me on to new dub poetry and spoken word. I’ve had the privilege of being a guest on the show in the past, and am blessed to be featured on the show. Below is information on this year’s special.
On April 22, 2009 the Echo Chamber presented the annual “Word Beat I Powa” dub poetry, beat poetry, and spoken word special. Of course, it was dub poetry that set the foundation and included the dub poets Oku Onoura, Mutabaruka, Royal African Soldiers, Jean Binta Breeze, Benjamin Zephaniah, Oliver Smith, and of course, the incomparable Linton Kwesi Johnson. Other slices of dub poetry included the new Dub Gabriel track “Spirit Made Flesh” (featuring Karen Gibson Roc); the extremely chilled “No Ordinary Life” from JEN & Chin Chillaz; and the very cool “Dilly Dally” from the Brooklyn Funk Essentials (featuring Everton Sylvester). But there was more than dub poetry. As always, the “Word Beat I Powa” special included some beat poetry (with readings from Jack Kerouac, Gregory Corso, & Allen Ginsberg) and some great Jamaican DJs (including U-Roy, Prince Buster, I-Roy, and Dennis Alcapone). One of the highlighted rhymesayers was KFAI’s own e.g. bailey with his fantastic “America” and 2 other poems (including “Griots”). Finally, we included poems and other spoken word gems from Jah Wobble (feat. Ronnie Drew); the new Heavyweight Dub Champions album (feat. Dr. Israel & Elf Transporter); Cool Hipnoise (feat. Last Poets); The Fire This Time (feat. Assata Shakur); Dr. Echo (feat. Solange St.Croix); Symarip (aka Roy Ellis); Dr. Ring-Ding; and the incomparable Ken Nordine. And, to complete the word-beat chaos, DJ Baby Swiss included the “Green Slime” trailer and soundbytes from the original “Space Ghost” cartoon on top of some heavy taiko beats from Kodo.
The Echo Chamber is 3 hours of the best in dub, reggae, downbeat club, and percussion heavy world music. Hosted by Dr. StrangeDub & DJ Baby Swiss. Find all the Echo Chamber playlists at: http://www.kfai.org/node/68. And check the MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/doctorstrangedub
we are the first invention of god/flung like stars across the universe/our histories etched on the wind/blood and soil commingled
the drum beats at dawn for her sons to rise/we travel beyond the mountains of the moon/spread across continents like masks/invisible villages shaped into questions/awaiting answers from ancestors
birthsongs traced with the blood of tears/dark face of the sun where birthed the light of man/we traverse the dark night of motherless songs/only to suffer in the promise land
mine like gold from Berber coasts/memories swallowed by living ghosts/from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli/the halls of independence to the fields of the Indies/in ships on the horizon rests/our future burdens and dreams
we adorn ourselves with the bluest skies/tears beaded like sacred rope/to noose our bodies before our spirit dies/tributaries we flow into the American Nile
soldiers of the seventh cataract/we grow skyward like the roots of the baobab/rewrite the books burned to bone and ash/we raise fists like obelisks/arrows shot into the sun
Released on Election Day, ‘America’ is featured on Rift Magazine’s site: Through spoken word E.G. Bailey explores a post 9/11 America and the many issues confronting us, while looking towards hope and change. The haunting jazzy backing track was scored by Abstrakt Collision who reside in Dubai (United Arab Emirates). www.myspace.com/truruts
Posted on www.riftmagazine.com
November 4th, 2008 by Riftyrich
In 2007, I was asked by friend and collaborator, Assaad Lakkis, to write a few pieces for an upcoming album by his jazz band, Abstrakt Collision, based in Dubai. The album, titled Polidix, was to be all instrumental except for the pieces I would write. Assaad and I worked on a Miles Davis project back in the 90s, and also worked together on god’s pager. It was always a fruitful collaboration, so there was no question of saying yes. He sent me several recordings and I got to work. The piece was finished in June 2007 and recorded shortly there after by one of my favorite collaborators, Ben Durrant. The sessions also produced, The Last Poet, which featured Madame Mimi. After finishing the tracks I wasn’t sure what I would do with it. Assaad and I had agreed that he would release it on their album and I would release it on my end through Tru Ruts. I continued to perform the piece over the next year, and as the election drew closer I decided I would release it on Election Day as a single. I also decide to do my part with the getting out the vote, and created the postcard below. The design of the poem was created by Meleck Davis and the Vote image was created by Karin Odell, from a photo by Julian Murray. You can hear the recordings of both America and The Last Poet here.
On the heels of a collaborative retreat for black writers, supported by the Givens Foundation for African American Literature, local writers belonging to the Nu Griots collective took the stage at Penumbra Theatre earlier this week to read poems, essays and excerpts of plays and screenplays.
one of my Spoken Word pieces by way of an introduction. it’s one of my favorite pieces and one of the first that started to capture the essence of what i define as spoken word. the definition of spoken word i developed from studying the art form over the years is this:
“Spoken Word is an art form which accentuates the rhythmic elements inherent in a poem––thereby expanding the texture, the context, and possibly the meaning of the work. You can accentuate these rhythms either through your verbal delivery or you can add music, or both. The work can be created by the individual poet or with a group of poets, and musicians, either improvisationally or through conscious arrangement.”
that’s the longer definition. the shorter one is basically,
“Spoken Word is accentuating the rhythmic elements inherent within a poem, whether through instrumentation or your own vocal delivery.”
the piece is a tribute to Black Arts Movement writers and their freedom from syntax and standard rules of poetry, fused with the history of Africans in America. the freedom they exhibited on the page, i wanted to figure out how to express that in the oralization, the performance, of the piece.
but at the time i didn’t know that what i was doing was called spoken word. i considered it jazz poetry. this is why on page it’s structured like a jazz poem, which i had been writing for a couple years. but in performance, it’s developed into a spoken word piece, and my development of it paralleled and guided my development as a spoken word artist. once i completed this piece, which i edited over the course of a couple years, i felt like i understood the essence of spoken word and what it aims for. it went on to win the Hughes Diop Poetry Award at the Gwendolyn Brooks Writers Conference, along with another poem, ‘letter to lisa’.
Note: Below is a live performance of ‘without punctuation’. It is fused with another piece, ‘diaspora’, and is now called, ‘Blues People’, in reference to the classic book on African American music by Amiri Baraka.
This broadside of my poem, Afrika, was created for the Family Housing Project’s Home Sweet Home Again: An Exhibition of Art and Poetry, a project created to kick off the Family Housing Fund’s 25th Anniversary Year, with a goal to communicate the need for affordable housing in the Twin Cities. The exhibit featured over 100 artworks and poems by Twin Cities artists dealing with issues of homelessness, affordable housing, or the meaning of home. The exhibit was first presented at Intermedia Arts in 2005, and continues to be exhibited throughout the Twin Cities. A calendar, combining the artwork and poems, was also created, of which the broadside above was included. There was an accompanying chapbook which also featured the poems. Other artists featured in the exhibit included Sha Cage, Ta-coumba Aiken, Del Bey, Maya Washington, Frank J. Brown, Bill Cottman and others.
Afrika was written upon my return from a four and a half month journey back home to Afrika, in 1999, which included travels to Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Tanzania, Dubai, Amsterdam and Hong Kong. The poem deals with the displacement, the longing and the responsibilities that one often feels as an Afrikan in the Diaspora. The photograph used in the broadside is by Del Bey, a photographer in the Twin Cities, who captured the image on her journey to Afrika.
For more information on the exhibit, you can link here: http://www.fhfund.org/sshh/default.htm
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…”
2822 Lyndale Avenue South
Mpls, MN 55408
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.
J. Otis Powell!
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).
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