E.G. Bailey: American Afrikan

31 March 2010 at 9:00 am (Music, Press, Recordings, Releases, Spoken Word) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

E.G. Bailey: American Afrikan
By Peter S. Scholtes, City Pages

With all respect to Alexs Pate’s inspired arguments to the contrary, rap is not poetry, and poetry is not rap. Lyrics function differently when isolated from music, which is why “Surfin’ Bird” is a great lyric and not great poetry. Yet poetry-with-music is an honorable if maligned musical tradition that connects Dada, Langston Hughes (backed by Charles Mingus), the Beats, Amiri Baraka, Gil Scott-Heron’s timeless “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” punk rock (Minutemen more than Patti Smith), slam poetry, and inevitably hip hop, wherever beats and rhymes are disconnected in a spoken way. Nobody has more persuasively claimed this vein for an African American oral and protest tradition than E.G. Bailey and his collaborators on 89.9 KMOJ-FM’s Saturday-night staple Urban Griots.

So what’s surprising about Bailey’s debut album isn’t its aural cinema—linking what sounds like a slave ship hull to the voice of Martin Luther King Jr. to field recordings of rapper Idris Goodwin (talking about blackness) and Liberian folk songs—but how great it is as music. Bailey is a reminder that Public Enemy started as radio guys, too: The Liberian-born spoken-word performer makes blindsiding funk his space for meaning, and vice versa. Working with producer Ben Durrant and M.anifest beatsmith Katrah Quey, along with a host of other gifted Twin Cities musicians and singers, Bailey crafts one dope riff after another. He makes his crisply voiced musings (“Black voices save the African man”) and those of guest Ibé Kaba (“a slave is a slave is a slave”) seem at home in the James Brown-like shimmy of the title track—well before M.anifest takes over rapping on the bonus “M.ANIFESTations Mix” (though I actually prefer the full 11-minute poetry version).

In total, Bailey spreads out only seven poems among 16 tracks (plus four alternate mixes), amid sample collage, gospel, and found audio. The results are more like Brian Eno and David Byrne’s My Life in the Bush of Ghosts reinvented to signify African-ness explicitly, personally, and profoundly than like poetry set to music. But don’t sell the words short. Addressing “Afrika” and America as urgently as any African American before him, Bailey is uncommonly tender: “America, your friends are worried,” he says of the wars he can’t defend. “Am I strong enough to love you with the love you deserve?” he asks an Africa he can only visit. This album is strong enough to give that sentiment the music it deserves.

Originally posted on City Pages on 31 March 2010.

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‘The Unknown Soldier’

23 February 2010 at 9:00 am (Music, Recordings, Releases, Spoken Word, Work Notes) (, , , )

The Unknown Soldier
Produced by e.g. bailey + Ben Durrant
Music by DJ Limbs
Written by e.g. bailey
Additional voice by Sha Cage
(E. Bailey, V. Carreon, S. Cage)

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‘American Afrikan (M.anifestations Mix)’

23 February 2010 at 9:00 am (Music, Recordings, Releases, Spoken Word, Work Notes) (, , , )

American Afrikan (M.ANIFESTations Mix) (featuring M.anifest)
Produced by e.g. bailey + Ben Durrant
Music by Katrah Quey
Written by e.g. bailey + M.anifest
(E. Bailey, K. Tsikata, D. Hollins)

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‘American Afrikan’

23 February 2010 at 9:00 am (Music, Recordings, Releases, Spoken Word, Work Notes) (, , , , , )

American Afrikan (featuring Afrika 7 <e.g. bailey + Ibé Kaba + Sankaradjeki>)
Produced by e.g. bailey + Ben Durrant
Music by Katrah Quey
Written by e.g. bailey + Ibe Kaba + Sankaradjeki
Background vocals by Mankwe Ndosi
(E. Bailey, I. Kaba, J.E. Joss, M. Ndois, D. Hollins)

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‘America’

23 February 2010 at 9:00 am (Music, Recordings, Releases, Spoken Word, Work Notes) (, , )

America (featuring Abstrakt Collision)
Produced by e.g. bailey + Ben Durrant
Music by Abstrakt Collision:
Guitar, Sounds: Assaad Lakkis ‘Abstrakt’
Drums: Rony Afif
Horns: Julien Mathonnet
Bass: Andre Segone
Written by e.g. bailey
(E. Bailey, A. Lakkis, R. Afif, J. Mathonnet, A. Segone)

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‘Motherless Child’

23 February 2010 at 9:00 am (Music, Recordings, Releases, Spoken Word, Work Notes) (, , , )

Motherless Child
Produced by e.g. bailey + Ben Durrant
Reinterpretation of an Afrikan American spiritual.
All voices performed by Aimee Bryant.
(A. Bryant)

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‘American Afrikan (Space Station One Mix)’

23 February 2010 at 9:00 am (Music, Recordings, Releases, Spoken Word, Work Notes) (, , )

American Afrikan (Space Station One Mix)
Produced by e.g. bailey + Ben Durrant
Music by Katrah Quey
Written by e.g. bailey
(E. Bailey, D. Hollins)

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‘Afrika’

23 February 2010 at 9:00 am (Music, Recordings, Releases, Spoken Word, Work Notes) (, , )

Afrika
Produced by e.g. bailey + Ben Durrant
Music by Katrah Quey
Written by e.g. bailey
(E. Bailey, D. Hollins)

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‘Blues People’

23 February 2010 at 9:00 am (Music, Recordings, Releases, Spoken Word, Work Notes) (, , , , , , )

Blues People
Produced by e.g. bailey + Ben Durrant
Recorded live at Tru Ruts’ Urban Revival Series, Trocaderos Nightclub, MN
Music by Andy Shaffer
Written by e.g. bailey
(E. Bailey, A. Shaffer)

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‘Oracles of Equiano’

23 February 2010 at 9:00 am (Music, Recordings, Releases, Spoken Word, Work Notes) (, , , , , , )

Oracles of Equiano
Produced by e.g. bailey + Ben Durrant
Music by Katrah Quey
Written by e.g. bailey
Background vocals by Sister Xavier Mariet
English translation of Igbo folk song at the end of the track performed by Sister Maureen Pieta.
Translated by Festus A. Ejiofor + Sister Xavier Mariet + Sister Mary Ezeanya.
Special thanks to Paschal Nwokocha + Sister Mary Ezeanya and the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (www.ihmmc.org) for helping to bring this recording to fruition.
(E. Bailey, D. Hollins, X. Mariet, M. Pieta)

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