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.

Advertisements

Permalink Leave a Comment

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

Permalink Leave a Comment

Nu Ark Experiments Press Release

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

For Immediate Release
April 21, 1998

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

###

Permalink Leave a Comment