Interview with On Deck Magazine

1 July 2010 at 9:00 am (Music, News, Press, Releases, Spoken Word) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Interview: E.G. Bailey
by On Deck Magazine, July 2010

We would like to introduce you to spoken word artist, E.G. Bailey. He is a dynamic performer and an icon of spoken word in Minnesota as an innovator and founder of numerous organizations and projects that have helped to bring the spoken word community in Minnesota to the forefront. Reporter Dwight Hobbes states, ‘The scene has not been host to a stronger performing poet,’ and Amiri Baraka says, ‘He makes language live.’ He has received a number of awards including the Urban Griots Award for ‘Outstanding Contributions’ to the spoken word art form.

ODM: You speak heavily on the “American African” and the struggle of identifying with African roots while growing up as an American. Why do you think it is a challenge for members of the African Diaspora and Africans who are raised in America to identify with they’re African roots?

E.G. Bailey: Part of the reason that I made the album was to show that there are two communities and two realities for Afrikans in America. The typical understanding has been that Black people, regardless of whether they were from Afrika, or Haiti, or the United States, were generalized as African American. There was a time when the number of Afrikans were not significant enough to be thought of as a ‘separate’ community. The general belief was that they were just here temporarily, for school, for asylum or just visiting, and they would be returning to their country soon. However, events in the 80s and 90s have caused large migrations of Afrikans into the States. These young Afrikans, and the children of Afrikans, that came to the U.S. during that time, are coming of age and coming into their own. They are part of a much larger community now. So it is not so much that it is a challenge identifying with their roots, but it has been a challenge to be accepted. This generation of Afrikans, we love our roots; we celebrate it as much as possible. We know we are as brilliant, as beautiful and as strong as anybody else. What’s troubling is that those around us don’t always see that beauty. What’s troubling is the persistent negative images in the media. It still seems that no matter far we have come as Afrikans, the litany of suffering still burdens Afrika. Because of this, what is most pervasive in the minds of Americans, towards Afrika and Afrikans, is civil wars and famine and poverty and aids. It’s not to deny these exist on the continent but if those are the only images you see, that is all you know. I try to tell people how cosmopolitan, how advance, Afrika is. The first time I drove into Abidjan, I was struck by how much it reminded me of driving into Chicago. Johannesburg is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen, and the lushness of parts of Dar es Salaam would shock you. This all has to be balanced with the poverty and struggle of many living in these areas, but what population doesn’t. Look at the U.S. today. Look at Europe. The more positive images of Afrika that we can put out in the world the better. That is why it’s great to see the recent resurgence, and success, of Afrikan artists, such as K’Naan, Akon, Nneka and others; the revival of Fela; or to see the World Cup in South Africa. Hopefully some of this will contribute to burying the image of the ‘dark continent’ forever.

ODM: Amongst many other things you are a poet and a musician, what inspired you to transform your poetry into a form of music and which musicians are you most inspired by?

E.G.: As a child in Liberia, I hung out in the one record store in our village. They played all kinds of African artists but the most popular was Prince Nico Mbarga. His biggest hit was ‘Sweet Mother’, which still gives me chills to this day. When I came to the States, I fell in love with my father’s record collection. I listened to everything I could, from Mississippi John Hurt to the Persuasions to the Beatles to his compilations of early rock and roll songs, with Buddy Holly, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Ritchie Valens, you name it. My parents also listened heavily to folk, country, and bluegrass–Emmylou Harris, Claudia Schmitt, Hoyt Axton, Dolly Parton, Charlie Daniels, John Prine, Steve Goodman. I would spend hours making mixtapes, on cassettes. We would travel during the summers, going to different festivals, even going to the Grand Ole Opry, and Dollyworld. My father and I would pool our money and buy albums together, like Dylan’s Biograph box set or Beatle’s White Album. I think he did it more to support my interest than his interest in the music. And of course, there was 80s radio. I was also heavy into new wave–New Order, Erasure, Echo and the Bunnymen, Public Image Limited, Sugarcubes (with Bjork)–also U2, Ministry, The Police, Talking Heads, early Nine Inch Nails. When CDs first came out, my first purchase was Boomtown Rats and New Edition. My family would also send me cassettes of African music from back home. So I was exposed to everything.

I’ve had a few musical life changing experiences. One would be the first time I heard Prince. This was the 1999 album. I had to have everything he released, all the albums, the singles, the b-sides, everything. And then there was Purple Rain. But Prince didn’t inspire me to create poetry with music. I just thought that he was incredibly talented, and he helped me through my first major breakup. Most likely what first inspired me to set poetry to music was Jim Morrison. I happened upon a copy of Jim Morrison’s biography, No One Gets Out of Here Alive, and read it in one night. I then proceeded to get everything that Morrison, and the Doors, put out. This is when I first discovered Morrison’s poetic escapades. I had never heard of spoken word; I didn’t know such a thing existed. I didn’t even know that you could set poetry to music as a different concept than just lyrics to a song. When I heard ‘Celebration of the Lizard’ or ‘Horse Latitudes’ or ‘Texas Radio & the Big Beat’, I remember thinking I’d like to do that one day, combine my poems with music. It’s interesting, it wasn’t about writing songs, having a band, so on. It was very specifically combining my ‘poems’ with music. I wasn’t sure how this was going to happen, since I wasn’t brave enough to perform my poems at the time. The next significant event was college, more specifically, discovering jazz, The Last Poets, Nina Simone and hip hop at college. I had listened to jazz and hip hop in high school. Run DMC came out when I was still in high school and you couldn’t escape ‘Walk This Way’. There was early Kurtis Blow, LL and Fresh Prince, also MTV had just started. But it was mostly just casual listening. College was when I started to really immerse myself in jazz and hip hop, with Coltrane being my favorite, along with Eric B + Rakim, Tribe, Public Enemy and most of all De La. A teacher played a Nina track in class and I instantly feel in love. But what sealed the deal was a compilation tape a friend had made of the Last Poets. I listened to it constantly for the better part of a year. I still wasn’t performing at the time, but it heavily influenced and inspired me, and made the idea of performance poetry more real.

ODM: You left your home country of Liberia at age 10. What would you say is the biggest difference between the two countries?

E.G.: The most obvious answer is opportunity. I grew up in Saclepea, a village in the northern region of Liberia. We had unpaved roads, no running water, and those that could afford it used generators for electricity, otherwise it was kerosene lamps. But it’s like Nikki Giovanni says in her poem, ‘Nikki-rosa’, ‘though you’re poor it isn’t poverty that concerns you…only that everybody is together’ and ‘all the while I was quite happy’. To this day I still have a certain nostalgia for kerosene lamps, and I find rain falling on zinc roofs to be one of the most beautiful and soothing sounds in the world. But I was looking for my father, and I knew my father was American, and that I wanted to come to America to find him. At that time, we saw America as the Promise Land. If we could only reach it, all our problems would be solved; we would never want for money or food, whatever we desired. My first day in the States, my family attended a parade. In my naiveté, I thought the parade was for me; and when they started throwing money and candy from the floats, the prophecy of the Promise Land seemed to have come true. But eventually reality sets in and you learn that people throwing money at you from parade floats is as much of a fantasy for Americans as it is for Afrikans.

I was fortunate because after coming to the U.S., I grew up in a middle class environment, and came from a family of teachers. I benefited from a strong educational background, and was able to attend one of the best colleges in the country. This was a sharp contrast to what my family was enduring back home because shortly after I arrived in the States, there was a coup in Liberia, followed by a civil war. I helped as I could, especially after graduating from college, sending as much money as I could to help support my family. I often had difficulty fully enjoying life in America. It’s jarring to be speaking with your mother on the phone, while hearing bombing in the background; or to learn that you have to bail her out of an Ivorian jail; or rescue your brother who has been abducted to be a child soldier. It’s almost impossible to feel that you’re doing enough. Even though I don’t have a lot, I’ve carried my share of guilt for what do I have and the opportunities I have had here. In light of all this though, what has struck me, when I have been able to return home, is the open-hearted love of life. There is also an abiding faith to persevere. They may not have much and the years have been difficult but there is still so much love and laughter, a willingness to soak in life, to celebrate and welcome you in. The pace of life helps you to appreciate this. In comparison, America looks like a colony of ants.

ODM: You begin one of your poems with the words “blue black beautiful are we.” Today in the media sphere being dark and having African features aren’t typically connected with being beautiful. Why do you think the standards of beauty in the media are based on more European features?

E.G.: If you control the media you have the power to control the message and to set the rules. The politics of power and propaganda are intertwined. To maintain a hierarchy, even if the truth of that hierarchy is a facade, it’s important that your standards become the norm or the celebrated. So that is what’s perpetuated, even though we know that beauty is a highly subjective, and perhaps an unclassifiable thing.

We as a people, as individuals, have to move beyond this. We have let this be used against us too long. First you have to realize that your standard of beauty does not rest in anyone’s hands but your own. You must know that YOU are beautiful, and exude that beauty in every way possible. That’s not always easy when you are constantly bombarded with images that counter that. But that’s why we also have to control what medium we can. It’s now cliched to say that you have to ‘become the media’, but there’s a lot of power in that. That’s one of the things I like about social networking and how the internet has opened up avenues for everyone. With Myspace, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, etc., you have the ability, if you want, to become your own media. You can become the medium for what you want to broadcast to the world. You may only touch and influence a few hundred to a few thousand people, but you are still affecting them, for better or worse.

That line, ‘blue black and beautiful are we’, relates to the Diaspora, and Afrikans of all shades and backgrounds all over the planet but it also relates to the energy of the Black Power movement of the 60s when we took pride in our blackness and our beauty. I loved getting darker in the summer. I loved letting my hair grow into an afro, or shaving it and wearing a porkpie hat. That’s what we have to do, love all versions of ourselves. I once wrote, ‘i have learned to love/my self/my own nakedness/looking for the history/in my hands/the stories my scars will tell/real & imagined//i love the color/of my soul/which i call dusk/and long to paint it/on your body/with my tongue.’

ODM: What do you want people to take from work? What message do you want them to receive?

E.G.: First I would like them to enjoy the work. Too often people stay away from spoken word because they think it’s too serious, too boring, too depressing, or it has no music, or the music is outdated. This album is not like that. It’s not pop commercial mainstream music but it’s not dry or boring or outdated. It has great music that fuses all kinds of different styles and genres, and pays tribute to our amazing musical tradition, including the different styles of spoken word throughout history. I wanted to create something that hip hop heads, funksters, jazz cats, Afrikan musicologists, techno lovers and those that appreciate a cappella spoken word could all enjoy. And to have a greater appreciation for spoken word. In addition, I wanted them to walk away with a better understanding of where Afrikans living in America are today, their legacy and aspirations. Also that it is possible to live in America and still hold Afrika in your soul, your heart, your everyday thinking and living.

ODM: You have managed to transform your poetry into several different forms, not only music but also film, theatre, and radio. Of all these genres which is your favorite to work with?

E.G.: I don’t have one favorite form; I love certain aspects of the different forms. I love directing films, and the rehearsal process of theatre, as an actor and a director. I love screenwriting more than playwriting, but with both of these I prefer to do adaptations. I could spend all day in the recording studio, whether I’m recording or someone else is. Conceptualizing and creating music is a big high. I enjoy doing radio but mostly because I love sharing music with people. I also enjoy creating radio pieces or documentaries but don’t do it often. I’ve worked through my nerves enough to get to the place of liking live performance, especially if it’s with a band. But I’ve always said that film is my final destination. One of my favorite filmmakers is Orson Welles. He took his experiences from all these different mediums and brought them to film. That is what I like to be able to do, draw on all these experiences and bring it to film.

ODM: You have received recognition for your phenomenal work in the form of awards and recognition from other artist in your field. How did you react when the famous poet Nikki Giovanni praised your work?

E.G.: I couldn’t believe it actually. It was a feeling of accomplishment. Not accomplishment in the sense of achieving anything. But there are writers that have inspired you and sustained you since you were young. You learned not only how to write from them, but how to live, how to love your history and yourself, how to more clearly see the world. There a few writers like this for me, and Nikki was one of them. Another was Amiri Baraka, who I call the Godfather of Spoken Word. Studying Nikki, Sonia, Amiri, Larry Neal, Haki and others in college opened my eyes to new ways of writing. Actually it taught me not to be afraid to write in my own way, whatever that is. Because I couldn’t speak English when I first came to the States, I carried a lot of insecurities as a writer, and always felt like I had a late start compared to my peers. Learning how they took ownership of their own voice and their own language, and freed themselves from what was considered proper English and proper poetry, gave me faith and freedom to continue my own path with my writing. The track on the album, ‘Blues People’ is actually dedicated to ‘amiri, nikki, sonia and dem’, and is a tribute to their efforts to reclaim Black poetry and celebrate the Black Vernacular. I’ve had a copy of ‘Black Feeling, Black Talk/Black Judgment‘, and also of ‘Gemini‘, for as long as I can remember. ‘Truth Is On Its Way‘ is one of the best spoken word albums ever recorded. We used to perform her poems ‘Ego Tripping’ and ‘Genie in a Jar’ as part of the spoken word band, Arkology. So for her to find value in my work, and to take the time to send a postcard, it was truly an honor.

ODM: Some may argue that poetry combined with music is simply the creation of rap music. Do you agree or disagree with this statement?

E.G.: This is a misunderstanding we have to correct all the time. I tell my students that even though most people assume that spoken word came about because of hip hop, and that spoken word is just hip hop without a beat, the truth is that spoken word helped to give birth to hip hop. I try to teach them that the Last Poets had already laid the foundation and released the blueprint well before the release of what’s considered the first hip hop track in 1979. One listen to ‘E Pluribus Unum’, which was released in 1972, and you can hear that the form is already in place. If it was recorded in 1972, it was created sometime before then. This would be before what is considered the birth of hip hop–summer of ’73 at the Kool Herc party at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue. I try to explain it this way. The Last Poets had the highest selling poetry based album of all time with their first album, over one million copies. A spoken word album, selling over one million copies; so you can understand its significance and impact. This means that it’s in households all over the country. Gil Scott Heron also releases ‘Small Talk at 125th and Lenox‘ the same year. So, ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ is also playing in households across the country. That means that the young people, that would later come into their own and help to create hip hop, are hearing all this. Every generation takes what they receive from the previous generation and transform it into their own. They would take these influences, and add them to the numerous other influences and elements, to eventually create what became known as hip hop. That’s why the Last Poets can legitimately be called the ‘the godfathers of rap’.

For me, hip hop is the lyrical evolution of spoken word. However, spoken word had been in existence long before, and was often married with music. It was married with jazz in the 40s and 50s; it was married with funk in the 70s; Nikki married it with gospel for ‘Truth Is On Its Way‘; I’ve combined it with folk music. Spoken word with music goes beyond simply being the creation of a bastardized form of rap music. Which is part of why I love it. The freedom of it allows it to be almost anything; it’s not trapped in a single form or genre.

ODM: How did you start writing poetry?  Did you always know that this was the path you wanted your life to take?

E.G.: I first started writing poetry out of isolation. I was a fly in the buttermilk where I grew up. I didn’t speak the language. When I started school, I was years behind my peers. Making friends was a challenge. There were many days I felt like an outcast. One day I wrote a short poem on friendship, and it released all the pain and frustration that I was feeling. From then on, poetry became a refuge. I had no plans for it become my vocation. It was just a place I felt free and safe, without judgment. My plans were actually to study photography, as a means to becoming a filmmaker. Most of my time in college was spent as a photographer, and working as a photo editor for the student newspaper. Once I graduated, I decided I wanted to be an artist rather than work in a corporate job, so I ran a house painting business for the summer, took the money I earned and moved to Fargo with a girlfriend. I put a desk in the laundry room of the apartment and started writing, and acting in the local theatre. I had no specific goals of becoming a poet or a writer, but I knew I wanted to be an artist, however that came to be.

ODM: Which track on your album “American Afrikan” is your favorite and why?

E.G.: This is difficult because I like all of them for different reasons. But if I had to choose I would highlight two of them. One is ‘American Afrikan’ because it was one of the genesis of the album, it inspired the concept of creating an Afrobeat style spoken word track. There was a time I worked in Madison while living in Minneapolis, which is a 4-5 hour drive. I would have to travel back and forth several times a month. On these trips I would listen to Fela continuously, and practice my spoken word over his long instrumental breaks. It surprised me that no one had made any Afrobeat spoken word tracks because it seemed to be such a great fit. As I drove I would think of who I would love to collaborate with in the group, what kind of pieces we’d create, so on. The Afrika 7 version of ‘American Afrikan’ is that group come to life. I’m very happy that the track, and the remix, represents Afrikan artists in the Twin Cities. The second would be the ‘Oracles of Equiano’ remix by Starskie. I knew I wanted him to do a remix but what he sent, and how he changed it from what I sent him was so unexpected and brilliant at the same time. You don’t hear very many spoken word house tracks, so I was glad to be able to include it on the album. I like to push the boundaries of what people expect spoken word to be, that way we can widen the field of what can be created in the art form.

ODM: Tell me about your poem titled “America” what message were you trying to send with it?

E.G.: I was asked by a friend to write a few pieces for a jazz album he was creating called ‘Polidix’, and ‘America’ came out of that collaboration. There is a tradition of ‘America’ poems, from Walt Whitman to Allen Ginsberg to Claude McKay. I wanted to challenge myself and see if I could write something worthy of that tradition. I’ve always love Ginsberg’s ‘America’ poem so it was somewhat of a tribute to that poem. At the time, Ginsberg was addressing the Cold War, anarchist movements, labor struggles, nuclear war, among other issues. I wanted to look at where we were in post-9/11 America, which seemed to be dealing with a lot of the same issues but under different guises. Since 9/11 everything seems to have gone into a deeper tailspin than it normally is, with the war on terror, the Iraq war, Guantanamo, Katrina, the economic crisis, the health care debate, you name it. I wanted to address all of this but also the history of the country, what it was supposed to stand for and whether it was living up to these ideals it continues to espouse. The world had changed so much since 9/11 that even the 80s felt quaint and nostalgic.

This was written a few years after the deflating loss of the 2004 elections, so it was written with some hope looking towards the 2008 elections. That is why leading up to the elections, I made postcards of the poem with a placard on the back encouraging people to vote. We needed and still need a change. The ‘resurrection’ has not happened yet, and we have to continue to work and fight for that change.

ODM: History is a trending topic on the “American Afrikan” album what is the significance and importance of history in the message you are trying to send?”

History is vital to all people, but perhaps most vital to our people because so often that history has been lost, stolen, erased or buried. So we are in constant search to reclaim our story and place it in the proper context. My goal with the album was to trace the arch, the journey, of Afrikans in America, so it had to have a historical impetus. I wanted to cover various landmarks and signposts in our history, even if only symbolically. So that the listener could see how far we have come, how we have persevered and how much we have created in the process. This has been, in many ways, the case with my own journey. I knew about Afrika experientially as a child, but I didn’t know the history, same with America. I came to a new and strange land; I had to study, to learn about where I found myself, how it functioned, how my people survived, so that I could learn how to survive because I needed to survive. I also made the album with my son in mind. I wanted him to be able to listen to it one day and understand where he comes from, both Afrika and America, with all its beauty and flaws, and to be stronger for it. However, a quote from John Henrik Clarke probably says it best, ‘History is a clock people use to tell their historical culture and political time of the day. It’s a compass that people use to find themselves on the map of human geography. The history tells them where they have been, where they are and what they are. But most importantly history tells a people where they still must go and what they still must be.’ This articulates the essence of why I needed to create the album, both for myself and for my community.

ODM: How have you used your success to give back to your home country?

I think the best way that I can give back to my home at this time is to tell our story. Even though people may know about Liberia, it is a very narrow understanding. There is very little known about the native Liberians. They may know that Liberia was settled by freed slaves from America, or about the civil wars or Charles Taylor. Most people don’t understand the complexity of these facts; what it meant for the native Liberians to have the freed slaves return home, and how it shifted the course of their history. What were the aspirations of the freed slaves, what did they hope to accomplish? How did all this play into the conflicts that would later arise? That’s what I like about the ‘Liberia’ track because it tells the history from different perspectives, from the native Liberian perspective, the Americo-Liberian perspective and a personal perspective.

In addition, I want to encourage Liberian youth, whether in the Twin Cities or other parts of the U.S., even back home, to become artists. I want them to articulate, and expand our story and our history. Liberia has been overlooked artistically for too long, in music, literature, film, theatre, etc. I would love nothing more than an artistic renaissance of Liberian artists. That’s why I get excited when I learn about artists like Liberian filmmaker Gerald Barclay (Gee-Bee), or playwright Cori Thomas, or writer Helene Cooper, that are not only at the forefront of Liberian art, but also breaking ground in the American artistic arena. That is also why I am creating a Liberian youth showcase, called L.Y.F.E. (Liberian Youth Finding Empowerment) Showcase, so they have opportunities to express their talents and their stories, and foster a new generation of Liberian artists.

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e.g. bailey: Behind the scenes with the spoken word innovator

24 February 2010 at 12:15 pm (Music, News, Press, Releases, Spoken Word, Theatre) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

e.g. bailey: Behind the scenes with the spoken word innovator
By Rebecca McDonald (B Fresh), City Pages

The Twin Cities would not be the same without e.g. bailey. Even if you’ve never met him, you’ve most likely heard his voice on the radio, experienced one of his many theatrical productions or concerts and albums he has produced through Tru Ruts Endeavors/Speakeasy Records. He is co-owner of these organizations with his wife, Sha Cage, another staple poet in the community. There is never a lack of excitement in e.g.’s life, so Gimme Noise went behind the scenes to share in his journey to the release of his debut full-length album American Afrikan this past Saturday (pics here).

Gimme Noise: What has your journey in the Twin Cities poet’s scene been like since you moved here many years ago?

e.g. bailey: You end up in a place by circumstance and sometimes you realize that it was where you were meant to be. I had been here once as a kid but only remembered that after I had moved here. Like any good romantic, I was following my heart across the Midwest, and ended up in Fargo then Minneapolis. I dove into acting classes, worked in a warehouse and debated the eternal question of ‘L.A. or not L.A.’ and a job working for Prince sealed the deal. Prince had just released a book of poetry, so I used it as an excuse to start an open mic at the New Power Generation store. It was my first connection with the poetry scene here. All kinds of folks used to come through. It was a Prince store so there were some wild moments, but I met some folks I’d later work with in the spoken word community, like Anika and Yolanda ‘Right On’ Jackson.

Finally, I had to make a decision. I could keep making Prince the best artist he could be (which obviously he didn’t need much help with) or be the artist I needed to be. So I resigned, paid two months rent, and by a stroke of luck ended up with Sirius B. It’s a long story since then but that connection with Sirius B has made all the difference in doing what I do now. I connected with with folks like J. Otis Powell!, Ani Sabare, Rene Ford, Carolyn Holbrook (S.A.S.E.), Patrick Scully, and organizations like the Walker Art Center, Pillsbury, and Intermedia Arts. I couldn’t have found a better community to be doing art. I was embraced beyond what I could have imagined. Without it I probably would have L.A. or busted. And I’m not sure I would being doing spoken word.

GN: Describe your new project, “American Afrikan,” which you celebrated the release of on Saturday?

eg: ‘American Afrikan’ is a historical and symbolic experience of being an Afrikan in America, using the medium of spoken word. Sometimes I use spoken word to create non-linear narratives, like I did with ‘Blues for Nina,’ a spoken word theatre piece about Nina Simone; or the 20 minute short film ‘village blues’ about returning to Afrika; or ‘Patriot Acts,’ merging the different disciplines of theatre, dance and film with spoken word to present post-9/11 views of America. I am always looking at ways to push the boundaries of spoken word, and trying to innovate the art form. With this project, I wanted to see if it was possible to create a spoken word album that would present the many different forms of spoken word, and ways of experiencing spoken word, but still be able to engage the audience in some kind of a story.

GN: Why is this project special to you and others who performed with you on Saturday?

eg: I’ve fallen in love with this project the way you fall in love with your first child. You’re just amazed at how it has grown from a little seed of an idea. It’s so much a part of you but at the same time it becomes something larger than you. It’s a tribute not only to this amazing tradition of spoken word and the artists that laid the foundation, like Baraka, the Last Poets, Ginsberg, but also a tribute to my family and my history. That’s why you see images of my family throughout, and hear their voices on the album. And why it’s dedicated to my brother who died while I was making the album. I also wanted to celebrate the abundance of Afrikan talent in the community, and tell our story through this medium which is part of our griot tradition. I received a call yesterday from one of the artists, and after hearing the album, thanked me for creating it. You can’t ask for anything more special than that.

GN: You are very well known nationally and travel frequently with your poetry. In comparison to other cities, what have you seen as a unique element of the Twin Cities scene?

eg: I’ve said for years that the spoken word community in Minnesota is one of the top five in the nation. Though we’re relatively small and haven’t received the kind of attention other communities have, it is one of richest, most diverse and innovative spoken word communities in the country. I’ve also always felt that we’re one of the most musical spoken word communities because of our close relationship with the music scene here. A number of artists have explored and are exploring spoken word with music, but we have a long history of spoken word bands and collectives here from Ancestor Energy to NOW! to Arkology to Poet Tree to Trektah Beam Express to FIRE. We’ve also frequently merged it with performance art and theatre. That’s why it’s possible to make an album like this. Without all those experiences working with musicians, and experiments with different disciplines it wouldn’t be possible to synthesize all of it. I think that Minnesota is finally starting to get the respect it deserves in spoken word, especially with how well the Slam community is doing and winning the National Poetry Slam [this past year]. It shows that we haven’t just been paying lip service to the talent here.

GN: What advice do you have for artists who want to be career artists, to pursue their dreams in music/poetry?

eg: Create your art and don’t be deterred, even if you don’t get the response or support at first. But make sure you love what you do. The career will come, for better or for worse. Sometimes it’s not what we dream it to be. I thought I would be more of an actor or a writer. I never expected to be a spoken word artist. It’s just something I always loved, poetry with music, even when I was in high school listening to Jim Morrison, then discovering the Last Poets, then the Beats, then Amiri and so on. I didn’t know it was actually still being done, that you could do it as a career, or even that it was called spoken word. That was much later, after I had already fallen in love with it. Stick with what you do, if it’s meant to be your work, it will happen. If it’s not, you’ll still be rewarded by doing it.

Originally posted on City Pages on 24 February 2010.

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Tru Ruts/Speakeasy Records feature by Rift Magazine

26 October 2008 at 9:00 am (Music, News, Press, Releases, Spoken Word) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

tru-ruts-rift-logoWhen artists work collectively to achieve a creative goal, it makes it easier for that group to move forward and to apply that leverage to push their art. While spoken word in the Twin Cities has taken a backseat to the burgeoning hip-hop scene, Trú Rúts Endeavors and Speakeasy Records has been working the connection to help create a larger scene.

If you have seen spoken word performance, you know how powerful and soul bearing it can be. It takes poetry reading and storytelling to a higher level. Trú Rúts Endeavors and Speakeasy Records are trying to spread that message through Hip-Hop, World Music and different forms of media. It hasn’t been an easy road, but as they find their way they hope to find the local audience and local media attention they are looking for and make the Twin Cities a place where spoken word artists can thrive.

Rift: What is the Difference between Trú Rúts Endeavors and Speakeasy Records?

Trú Rúts/Speakeasy Records: Trú Rúts Endeavors is structured as an artistic enterprise within which are various entities that cover various disciplines, including music, film, theatre, visual art, etc. Speakeasy Records is the record label under Trú Rúts. We also do artist management, booking, producing, promotions, and a variety of other things. Speakeasy Records is an artist centered independent label that strives to bring innovative, unique and conscious work, and artists, to the forefront. Unlike many labels in the Cities, it is a multi-genre label that includes not only hip hop and spoken word, but also world music and jazz. It will continue to expand into other genres as it grows. However, it is grounded in spoken word and hip hop because that is where its roots were first planted, and it is the community from which it grew. It was one of the first independent, and now one of the strongest, spoken word labels.

Rift: Who started the labels and who is involved?

TR/SR: Trú Rúts was founded by innovative artist and visionary, e.g. bailey. A multi-disciplinary artist working in spoken word, film, theatre, radio and music, he developed Trú Rúts and Speakeasy Records, while working in the groundbreaking spoken word and music collective, Arkology. Upon returning from a four month pilgrimage to his home in Liberia, and other parts of the world, including Dubai, Amsterdam, Cote d’Ivoire, Tanzania, Ghana, and Hong Kong, he re-conceptualized and re-energized the enterprise and the label, releasing the first official release, Words Will Heal the Wound, the first spoken word compilation in Minnesota, in 2001. Currently Trú Rúts is managed by e.g. bailey and his partner and fellow labelmate, Shá Cage aka Lady Sha. The current roster of artists include Truthmaze, El Guante, Quilombolas, See More Perspective, along with e.g. bailey and Shá Cage. However, other projects, which consist of collaborations within the label, include god’s pager, Madiba and Afrika 7. The label has also released albums by Zell Miller III, and Nazirah P. Mickey. In addition to this it continues to release cutting edge compilations including the first compilation to highlight the reggaeton movement in Minnesota, Highstylekyle + Tru Ruts present Lightning + Thunder (Volume One). It also has several UK/US co-releases in the works, including a number of upcoming singles and albums by its roster of artists.

Rift: With the very hot Hip-Hop scene in town, has that help make Spoken Word more popular?

TR/SR: The hip hop scene here has certainly influenced the spoken word scene, and there have been a number of collaborations, along a number of artists that work in and move fluidly between each of the genres. However, the popularity of the spoken word art form in Minnesota is attributed to the very hard and consistent work of artists such as e.g. bailey, Shá Cage, J. Otis Powell!, Truthmaze, Bao Phi, Frank Sentwali and a number of others too numerous to list completely. The dedicated work by these artists, including the commitment of such organizations as the MN Spoken Word Association, S.A.S.E., Edupoetic Enterbrainment, Walker Art Center, The Loft and others, have taken spoken word from “people reading from their journals” to a legitimized art form. In addition, the spoken word community here has been dedicated to not only getting spoken word recognized as an art from but also as an educational tool to inspire literacy and creativity in youth, along with documenting and spreading knowledge about the legacy and tradition of the art form. The community here has also developed the first spoken word grant, the first spoken word conference, and one of the first spoken word radio show and formats. All this has contributed to making the Twin Cities one of the most innovative scenes in the field.

However, the scene has still had a difficult time garnering support from media, and even audiences. The kind of support that has thrust the hip hop scene in the national spotlight. Or the New York, Chicago, Seattle, Atlanta, San Francisco scenes into the national spotlight. In someways it is due to the popularity and focus on the hip hop scene. In the wake, a number of other disciplines and artists get overshadowed. Therefore there has not been the emergence of an artist such as Saul Williams or Jessica Care Moore, Mark Bamuthi or Talaam Acey, Beau Sia, Ishle Park, 2Tongues, Regie Gibson, Ursula Rucker, Sekou Sundiata, Carl Hancock Rux and numerous others. Without the support, the Minnesota scene will continue to be innovative and cutting edge but largely overlooked.

Due to these kinds of obstacles, a number of spoken word artists in the Cities have ’stepped away’, or have moved primarily, or exclusively, into hip hop, sometimes disavowing spoken word and their connection to it. This often gives the art form a sense of being a stepchild, when in fact it’s the most native of art forms, the most native of sons, without which hip hop would not exist, or exist as we know it today. Part of the work of Speakeasy Records, and it’s commitment to spoken word, is to surmount some of these hurdles, and continue to push spoken word in Minnesota into the national consciousness, while at the same time continuing to evolve into the complete and multi-genre it strives to be.

Rift: Since Minneapolis has a pretty diverse music scene, have you found it easy to fit in our have there been some barriers?

TR/SR: Fitting in has never been our goal, and often when you are part of the advance guard, working at the cutting edge, it can be a difficult and lonely road. So there has been barriers, often those that come with the stereotyping of what you do, whether it’s spoken word or hip hop, world music or jazz, being an independent label or even being from Minnesota. However, you persevere, and you find your niche and your audience, which we are starting to do. If there is anything that defines labels and artists like us, it’s making something out of nothing. Whether it is making a dollar out of fifteen cents, or as Atmosphere puts it, gold out of lemons. The struggle defines and divines you.

Rift: What are your upcoming releases or events?

TR/SR: We are currently working on a number of releases slated for late summer through the winter, including singles by Quilombolas, See More Perspective and Truthmaze. A mixtape by El Guante, called ‘Conscious is Not Enough’ that will debut during the RNC. After years of bring other endeavors to fruition, e.g. bailey will release the EP, ‘American African African American’. Also forthcoming is a remix of Shá Cage’s debut album, Amber People; a US/UK hip hop compilation, which will feature artists from around the globe, including several noted special guest artists; and a Speakeasy Records label compilation. www.truruts.com

Posted on www.riftmagazine.com
October 26th, 2008 by Riftyrich

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Spoken Word takes root in MN

26 November 2003 at 9:00 am (News, Press, Spoken Word) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

spokesman recorder article - eg + sha - cover 1 (700pxl)

Spoken Word takes root in MN
By: Shannon Gibney
Managing Editor

Local ‘master plan’ helps new art form flourish

Spoken Word: An artistic form that accentuates the rhythmic (musical, percussive, vocal) elements inherent in a poem. (Definition of spoken word created by e.g. bailey.)

Perhaps the primary paradox of being an artist is constantly pushing the envelope of existing expression without having a space or an audience to receive it (think Kahlo, Hurston, Van Gogh). Most of the time, artistic genres have to evolve over a long period of time, and artists even have to die, before many of us realize their value.

Thank goodness we didn’t have to wait a whole lifetime for spoken word to come of age in the Twin Cities; the efforts of interdisciplinary artists and spoken word advocates Sha Cage and e.g. bailey have ensured that the relatively new genre has firmly taken root in Minnesota in just three years.

The duo credits mentors such as J. Otis Powell!, Alexs Pate, Laurie Carolos, Louis Alemayou, and Ancestor Energy with laying the groundwork for the form.

“What defines an artist?” asks bailey. “An artist is somebody who makes choices about what they’re going to do. Somebody can wave their hand, and that’s not really art. But when you make choices, when you have intention, and you have a philosophy and a foundation behind what you’re doing, then you’re moving into the realm of articulating an art, an artistic work.”

And intention is something that bailey and Cage have in abundance.

In July 2000, the duo sat down and created a “master plan” for the next five years of spoken word in the Cities. The plan included everything from the formation of the Singers of Daybreak spoken word conference [which led to the now-flourishing Minnesota Spoken Word Association (MNSWA)] to various tentacles of Trú Rúts Endeavors — a film, visual arts, spoken word, and theater production entity.

Says Cage, “We mapped out everything — all the tentacles and everything that’s in place — which is just kind of wild. We’re on track for the five years.”

Cage and bailey were spurred to create the plan because of the disorganization of spoken word artists at the time, and the widespread lack of understanding many encountered from other artists, club owners, funders and the community at-large.

“The concept of spoken word artists at the time was, ‘Well, they’re just getting up and reading their journals. They’re just getting up and reading poems — what’s the art?,’” says bailey. “But there’s certain decisions that go into [spoken word]. It’s not just reading the words on a paper; you have to take it to the performative level.”

One of MNSWA’s main goals is to inspire dialogue about and between practitioners of the art form. A key question that had to be hammered out was, “What is spoken word?”

“There was confusion [among artists] — am I a poet or am I a spoken word artist? What makes me which one?” says Cage. Through discussion, the group was eventually able to agree on a definition they could all live with.

“Spoken word is accentuating the rhythmic elements inherent in a poem. That rhythm can be music, it can be percussion, it can be your own voice,” says bailey.

“There’s all these decisions that have to go into how you best exemplify that poem — to take it beyond just the reading of it, so you understand the meaning of the poem. Because meaning can come through other ways — it can come through a jazz rhythm that you use. [Amiri] Baraka will use a minute and a half rhythm from a Thelonius Monk piece, and then read a piece about Thelonius Monk. Where, if you were just reading the poem, you wouldn’t get that. And you get a deeper understanding because you’re actually hearing Monk’s music,” he continues.

Although bailey has been searching for spoken word’s roots for some time, he says he has not been able to pin them down. However, he sees a clear lineage from the African griot tradition.

Says bailey, “It’s not to say that that’s the only thing that makes up spoken word, because it’s not. I call spoken word the American prodigy of the oral tradition, because it’s a distinct art form and it’s an American-originated form. Out of it evolves the verbal dexterity of hip hop.”

bailey and Cage look towards Generation Y to take the art form to the next level.

The duo helped organize and judge the Walker Art Center and MNSWA’s “Below the Belt: Battle of the Underage Finals” hip hop and spoken word competition this summer, and were stunned by the work they heard.

“A lot of the youth that were practicing we’d been mentors to,” says Cage. “But also, some of the references that they were making showed that they were knowledgeable not about just what’s happening nationally, but just locally. They were grabbing words that Truthmaze would use in his poetry, or Arkology or Edupo, and it was like, ‘Wow, they’re making the connection, and they understand.’”

She adds, “They were like, ‘We realize that this is the platform to talk about our lives and what’s going on with us.’ That was the consciousness that many of them that we were talking to were coming with, and they feel like spoken word is really a forum that allows them to have voice.”

For more information on MNSWA, or to find out about upcoming spoken word events, visit [www.mnspokenword.wordpress.com] or call [612-288-9491]. For more information on Tru Ruts, visit http://www.truruts.com, write info@truruts.com or call 612-288-9491.

Catch the duo’s radio show Tehuti Sundays on KFAI from 11 pm to midnight, or tune into MNSWA’s spoken word show on KMOJ every [Saturday at 10:00pm].

Shannon Gibney welcomes reader responses to sgibney@spokesman-recorder.com.

Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder
Originally posted 11/26/2003

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Words Will Heal the Wound (Volume One)

3 July 2001 at 9:00 am (Music, Releases, Spoken Word) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Words Will Heal the Wound, the first spoken word compilation in Minnesota, is released. The album features: Bao Phi, Truthmaze, Slug, Sha Cage, Arkology, Desdamona, J. Otis Powell!, Sister Mimi, Anika, Wookiefoot, Signe Harriday, Prof. John Wright and the University of Minnesota Faculty Jazz Quartet, Isabell Monk, The Dylan Wahl Experiment, Said Salah Ahmed, Rohan Preston, Meena Natarajan + Nirmala Rajasekar, Liliana Espondaburu + Renato Lombardi, Bach Hac and Amiee K. Bryant. Executive produced by e.g. bailey + Sha Cage. Produced by Andrew Baschyn, and jeremy c. Mastered by Tom Garneau. Released by Tru Ruts/Speakeasy Records.

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Arkology

22 July 1999 at 9:00 am (Music, Recordings, Spoken Word) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

@rkology is a spoken work collective, which melds poetry with music. Our goal is to create a spoken word/music synthesis based in the aesthetic of the jazz ensemble where each instrument, including the voice, enters the ensemble on an equal footing and has an opportunity to lead and shape the resulting sound, creating a multi-sensory experience.  The work originates, variously in concept, work, image and/or sound.  We perform original work, and the work of other writers and musicians, including Nikki Giovanni, Nina Simone and Larry Neal.

The collective was co-founded by members: e.g.bailey (verbalist) Miré Regulus (writer/vocalist), KONA (drums), Dennis Maddix (bass), Mankwe Ndosi (vocalist), ANIKA (vocalist), and Malo Adams (guitar).  Currently performing with the collective are e.g. bailey, Miré Regulus, KONA, Dennis Maddix, Mankwe Ndosi and Tommy Speath.

@rkology was chosen for the City Pages’ Picked to Click Best Local Bands Poll in both 1998 and 1999.

@rkology has performed at Groove Garden Sundays (Cabooze and the 400 bar), Freeloaded Wednesdays the Front, Kieran’s Irish Pub, the Minneapolis Institute for the Arts, Intermedia Arts, Powderhorn Park Neighborhood School, and at First Friday’s—at the Minnesota History Center.  @rkology also recently opened for Roy Ayers. The  group will have upcoming performances at Intermedia Arts  and local venues around town.

‘That said, the five groups listed above each offer intelligent twists on their genres and, most important, share a commitment to simplicity and clarity of vision–be that the elegant authority of Mason Jennings, the poetic abstraction of the spoken-word/jazz collective Arkology, or the unironic teen-rebellion anthems of Selby Tigers.’ – Kate Sullivan (St. Paul Pioneer Press)

‘Arkology, a jazz/soul/spoken-word collective, has really come into its own over the last year…the group’s Nikki Giovanni-meets-Brand New Heavies vibe has attracted more people each time I see them…’ – Rachel Joyce (Walker Art Center)

‘ARKOLOGY is spoken word and a hell of a rhythm section.’ – Jen Downham (KFAI and Groove Garden Records)

e.g. bailey (poet/vocalist) is an actor writer poet and expressionist in many different forms of art.  born in saclepea, liberia, he has lived in the united states since 1979.  he discovered the freedom and power of writing in high school and it has served as a foundation since.  arriving in the twin cities in 1993, he has actively pursued acting and performance, and is a founding member of sirius b, a black male performance collective, with whom he performed in punic wars, at the walker art center, and in monday morning body count, concerning the high rate of homicide among black men, which he created and co-wrote. he is also an original member of spine:, a writer’s collective developed by the loft and the walker art center. spine: produced spoken work performances at several local venues and created a performance at the walker art center titled, spine: stripped bare. in addition , mr. bailey is a spoken word artist who has performed, in solo performances, with musicians, or with the cacophony chorus at many different venues including first avenue, biscuits and blues, bryant lake bowl (for patrick’s cabaret), the walker art center, the fine line music cafe, penumbra, and kfai fresh air radio.  in 1995 mr. bailey was the winner of the hughes knight diop poetry award at the 5th annual black writers conference conducted by the gwendolyn brooks center for creative writing. his poems were published in warpland, a publication by the gwendolyn brooks center.  he recently co-wrote blues for nina, a poetic exploration of the life of nina simone, with miré regulus, and is working on a film residency for the walker art center, coordinated by artist-in-residence, susan robeson.

KONA (percussionist) is a self-taught musician.  He has taught himself different aspects of rhythm through listening.  He currently performs with local psychedelic surf-pop sensation TV Baby and is also working on a project, Locust Solace, with Chris Lynch and Doug Reed, at Gark Recording Studio, as well as being a contributing component of Arkology.  KONA carries the sense that music is a never-ending learning process and envisions himself continuing on the music path that will let listeners move their hips when they hear his music.  He is also learning other instruments.  KONA would like to give thanks and praises to the Most High. Peace.

Dennis James Maddix (bassist) is a native of St. Paul and has been a journeyman bassist since 1980. He has played primarily Jazz, though he has branched out into Blues, Orchestral, Reggae, Pop and Rock musics.  Dennis has worked with the Chimera, Park Square,  Mixed Blood, and Penumbra Theaters as a musician, a tech, and as music director  for “Revisions for the Maid” in Park Square’s 1982 season. Dennis is currently active in the spoken word and music collective ARKOLOGY and in the local band TV BABY.

Mankwe Monika Nkatuati Ndosi (vocalist) is a Minnesota born, Tanzanian spirited performing artist.  Ever aware of inspiration and possibility she is jumping into all kinds of art around the Twin Cities with friends and colleagues @rkology, the Circle of Choice Ensemble, Kirk Washington Jr., René Ford, Derrik Phillips, friends at the double G spot (struggle space), Aarawak Productions, and others who have blessed her footsteps.  She is revisioning and reworking Cornbread, a monthly potluck and improvisational performance/dialogue at Intermedia Arts.  She is currently collecting hubcaps and painting mirrors, saving to return to Tanzania, worshipping the shortwave radio, her cat, and her car, and celebrating the families she has been born into and has become a part of since returning to the town of her birth.  Deepest praise and respect to the ancestors and elders who have brought us here. Sema Yote y Upendo.

Miré Regulus (poet/vocalist) is a writer, dancer, performer and roving arts administrator. She writes, performs, dances with her mind, and takes care of business.  Life, necessity and her heart has led her journey from Illinois to Andover to Brown to the little cities that could.  She has been sited at the Playwright Center, Penumbra, Walker Art Center, Patrick’s Cabaret and the Red Eye in her various adventures. Her works include:  a woman alone with others, performed as a solo piece at Patrick’s and expanded for Red Eye’s Works-in-Progress ’95 series; can you see me clearly, a slipstream into discovery—performed for Patrick’s 11th Anniversary show; jambo through my toes, three bits and pieces performed in Penumbra’s Audre Lorde Sighs Late Nite Series.  She is a member of the Circle of Choice Ensemble, which recently revived June Wilson’s Choice…like ripe fruit in March ’98.  Her most recent works include blues for nina, a poetic exploration of the life of Nina Simone, co-written with e.g. bailey, and jibber jabber headnoise, a work-in-progress.

–to speak is to make it real/to write is to let it live/to enact is to let it go/   /to change it is to choose again

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Scene Not Heard: City Pages Picked To Click IX

21 April 1999 at 9:00 am (Press, Spoken Word) (, , , , )

Scene Not Heard
by City Pages Staff

Computer wizards leave their bedrooms, rappers reach the stage, and the Mason Jennings Band creates the bar buzz of the decade. In the ninth annual City Pages New Music Poll, 60 local music fans pick the bands that made the biggest noise.

Kate Sullivan, St. Paul Pioneer Press

1. Arkology

2. Bellwether

3. Indigenous

4. The Mason Jennings Band

5. Selby Tigers

A generalized rant directed at no one in particular: The local scene is sophisticated, mature, and perennially poised to generate one or two breakout artists a year for the major labels to sign and the radio conglomerates to push. We’ve got a safety-first aesthetic, producing safe music for safe machinery. No one good is going out of his head, and I’m getting bored out of my skull. In terms of crucial contributions to the evolution of rock, the Twin Cities don’t matter anymore. Prove me wrong. I dare you. That said, the five groups listed above each offer intelligent twists on their genres and, most important, share a commitment to simplicity and clarity of vision–be that the elegant authority of Mason Jennings, the poetic abstraction of the spoken-word/jazz collective Arkology, or the unironic teen-rebellion anthems of Selby Tigers.

Rachel J. Joyce, Walker Art Center

1. Arkology

2. The Short Fuses

3. All the Pretty Horses

4. Bobby Llama

5. Annie Enneking

My list this year is somewhere between “Ladies First” and Lilith Fair–a result of my efforts to wrest myself from my consuming passion for all things global and funkified. In developing an appreciation for what the Twin Cities have to offer beyond the ever-shriveling world-beat scene, I have been very impressed by the gals this year. Arkology, a jazz/soul/spoken-word collective, has really come into its own over the last year. Although the group’s Nikki Giovanni-meets-Brand New Heavies vibe has attracted more people each time I see them, they are holding back (either by choice or oversight) on the one thing guaranteed to make them scene darlings: singer/poet/diva Mankwe. This woman could wail the wrap off Ms. Badu’s head. I’ve heard her read a chicken curry recipe that made me tremble; pass her the mic, please. The Short Fuses are a sure sign that bad-ass mama Ms. Georgia Peach is on her way up; she does not return my calls anymore. All the Pretty Horses–glam rock served raw in the half shell–slips down the throat like butter. A lesson to be learned by some local rock boys: If women ever had a fantasy involving dirty-haired, flannel-wearin’ boys with marginal hygiene, it passed when Cobain did. The cool kids are showering this year. The really cool ones are slipping into fishnets and spiked heels. Deal with it. Bobby Llama plays catchy global pop, and that frontgal Ellis is feisty. Finally, ordinarily I would rather watch a Tae-Bo infomercial marathon than listen to acoustic music for the coffeehouse set, so I’m hardly an expert. Ms. Annie’s lyrics, however, have the same macabre twist on the human condition that makes me swoon for Morrissey and Tricky. But just like a spoonful of sugar, her off-handed phrasing makes the medicine go down.

[Arkology featuring e.g. bailey, Mire Regulus, Kona, Dennis Maddix, Mankwe Ndosi and Tom Speath.]

Originally posted on City Pages on 21 April 1999.

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Nu Ark Experiments: In Conversation

1 September 1998 at 9:00 am (News, Press, Spoken Word, Theatre, Work Notes) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Nu Ark Experiments : In Conversation
September 1998

The Nu Ark Experiments, a series of experimental spoken word performances produced by e. g. bailey for the Minnesota State Arts Board in collaboration with S. A. S. E:  The Write Place and Intermedia Arts, began in May of 1998 and will continue through April of ’99.  To help explain the Nu Ark concept, an excerpt of a conversation with e. g. bailey and Genesis, bassist of Arkology, follows:

E.G.:  The Nu Ark Experiments is a series of spoken word performances to showcase the different ways that spoken word can be presented.  We have a strong and lively spoken word community but most of the time they tend to be poetry readings.

Genesis:  At small venues.  I’ve noticed that the Nu Arks, they’re all different places.  They’re not places that ordinarily have spoken word.

E.G.:  But (again) most of the time with spoken word events, it’s usually just a straight ahead reading.  It’s usually with a poet reading their work.  But one of the things I’m trying to do with the Nu Ark Experiments is expose the different ways that it can be done.  Not just with poets and musician, but stretching that too.  Starting with that foundation and that mix of bringing poets and musicians together but then looking at presenting it in a performance art vein.  Looking at presenting it in a film vein.  And focusing on various themes like community.  Focusing on concepts, like with Soft Red Read that we did at Nautilus Music-Theater, where it was focused on non-linear music, non structured music, non melodic types of things, and looking at working with the concept of space and with some of the ideas that Sun Ra talks about.  And creating a soundscape and a landscape of sounds and music for the words to be a part of.

Genesis:  And work with movement.  That was important.

E.G.:  Part of the Nu Ark Experiments is to also give others in the community an opportunity to perform.  Give other artists in the community an opportunity to work with spoken word.

Genesis:  Recognize the new format.  And they might work better in the new format than the traditional format.

E.G.:  Looking at collaborating with Truth Maze (Brother Heru), who also organizes and facilitates readings.  Working with Siddiq of the Rhyme Sayers Collective and giving him an opportunity to work in another vein other than just as a DJ mixing hip hop and able to find other things musically that he wouldn’t normally be able to find.

Genesis:  And he could bring that back to the Rhyme Sayers.

E.G.:  And hoping to complete the collaboration with Ayesha Adu (on Village Blues), who is a filmmaker, who has worked on just about every major film that came through here in the last couple years and a couple independents, and written a couple screenplays.  But again working with other artists.  Not only allow them another opportunity to present their work, another vein to present their work through but to also showcase them and bring them to the attention of the spoken word community.  And say this spoken word is not a monolithic thing.  Poetry readings and poetry itself doesn’t just have to be isolated to just reading your poems in front of a microphone in front of an audience.  That it can involve music.  It can involve movement.  It can involve film.  It can involve just about anything that you want it to involve.  It doesn’t just have to be read.  Spoken word gives poetry the freedom of being.  Being sung.  Being musical.  Being a straight forward reading.  Being just music even.

Genesis:  We have started things where the rhythmic part of what’s being said turns into the rhythmic basis for the music so that it’s still there (and) echoes that line and whoever’s hearing they’re still aware of what made that line that made that rhythm and everything else that’s said on top of it carries a different weight because of it.  So it’s not just like the band is playing some rhythm.  No they’re keeping a chant behind.

E.G.:  And what comes through, in having seen Trekteh Beam Express and working with Arkology doing the work that we do, it really opens up spoken word away from this idea that it’s just about reading poems.

Genesis:  Bitter poets in coffee shop.  That old idea.

E.G.:  It says spoken word can be anything.  It can be more than this.  That’s not to devalue that, it’s to give it another path that poetry can take.  And that’s the essence of it right there.  The Nu Ark Experiments developed out of the concept  of arkology.  Of ways of travel.  Of means of travel.  Whether that travel is musical.  Whether that travel is words.  Here is a new ark.  Here’s a new…

Genesis:  A new beginning?

E.G.:  A new beginning.  And again with just the word ark.

Genesis:  All those associations right off the bat.

E.G.:  The Ark of the Covenant, which aligns with a new beginning.  The arc.  The shape of something.  The Ark.  Noah’s Ark.  And taking that and working in the concept of experimentation.  Of it allowing it to be different.  Allowing yourself freedom for it to be other things.  To develop into other things.  And most of the time we are not sure exactly what the outcome of it will be.  But it’s matter of putting the experiment into place.

Genesis:  It makes it more of that journey.  We know we’re gonna start here.  We don’t know where home is, if it’s gonna be home.  What the end’s gonna be.  It’s the joy of discovery.

E.G.:  And really working within that idea of traveling.  Allow yourself the freedom to travel.  Allow yourself to find other spaces.  Allow yourself to become other things.  Allow yourself the freedom to express yourself.

The next Nu Ark Experiment will be September 15th is titled Open House Under Sky and will explore the sense of community.  See the listing on page ____ for dates of other experiments and workshops and/or call xxx-xxxx for more information.

This series is co-sponsored by SASE:  The Write Place, Intermedia Arts, KFAI Fresh Air Radio, Da X Factor Newz, Powderhorn Writers Festival, Write On RaDio! and KMOJ Radio.  It is supported by a grant by the Minnesota State Arts Board through an appropriation from the Minnesota State Legislature.  In addition, this activity is supported in part by a grant from the NEA.

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Picked to Click VIII

22 April 1998 at 9:00 am (Music, Press, Spoken Word) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Picked to Click VIII
By Simon Peter Groebner

It’s an odd, autonomous, anomalous year for the 1998 City Pages New Music Poll.

Jen Downham, KFAI-FM and Groove Garden Records:
1. Autonomous 2. ARKOLOGY 3. Heirospecs 4. Vintage 5. Anomaly.
Autonomous’s airy beats and strings, a little bit of guitar, and the mesmerizing female vocals make this moving mood music. ARKOLOGY is spoken word and a hell of a rhythm section. Heirospecs is hip hop and spoken word with an all-live band, horns, and more. Vintage is old-school funk played by old-schoolers who lived through it, with it, in it, and–thank God–are still doin’ it! Anomaly do a cinematic hip hop.

J. G. Everest, The Sensational Joint Chiefs:
1. Native Ones 2. ARKOLOGY 3. Sixth Sense 4. Autonomous 5. Mokoto Brasil.

[Arkology featuring e.g. bailey, Mire Regulus, Kona, Dennis Maddix, Mankwe Ndosi and Tom Speath.]

Originally posted on City Pages on 22 April 1998.

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Nu Ark Experiment: Wordshop: Shouting into the Storm

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

Poets! have you ever wanted your words bathed in music, floating on a quarter note.  Instrumentalists! have you ever conjured a melody while listening to a poet read.  Then Space is the Place.  Become a part of Wordshop: Shouting into the Storm, a workshop for musicians and word masters.  Discover the joy and beauty of spoken word.  e. g. bailey and members of Arkology will conduct a workshop seeking to explore ways of uniting words (spoken, sung, written or shouted) and music of all kinds.  Participants will learn the process of creating spoken word pieces and explore with other musicians and poets how to find spaces of their words and sounds.  The workshop will also include exercises in improvisation.

The workshop will take place on October 10th from 1-4pm at the West Bank School of Music located at 1813 South 6th Street Mpls.  Call 822-2500 to register or for more information.

Workshop participants will have the opportunity to share their discoveries at the Nu Ark Experiments performance (Postmodern) Work Songs on Oct. 20th at Gingko’s Coffeehouse.

This workshop emerges out of the Nu Ark Experiments a series of spoken word performances aimed at showcasing the different ways spoken word can be presented.  The series includes experiments with performance art, with improvisation, with film, with non-structural music and with visual arts.

Future performances include (Postmodern) Work Songs on Oct. 20th at Gingko’s Coffeehouse.  And Side B, a collaboration with sound sculptor and visual artist Kitundu at Intermedia Arts on Nov. 17th.

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.

And is 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). Call 288-9491 for more information.

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