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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village blues

23 February 1999 at 7:00 pm (Film, Music, Poems, Shows, Spoken Word, Videos) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Nu Ark Experiements presents:  village blues

an improvisational cinematic collaborative

produced by e.g. bailey and Ayesha Adu
music produced by Jeremy Ylvisaker & Kitundu

“Amma I have lost another child.

Amma my child is gone…”

Intermedia Arts
2822 Lyndale Avenue South
Mpls, MN  55408
612.871.4444
http://www.IntermediaArts.org

7:00pm
Tuesday 23 February

village blues, an experimental improvisational film that deals with the disintegration of interpersonal and social relationships within the Black community.  The nature of the improvisation is centered around three poems written by e.g. bailey, and serves as the common link within the process between the artists involved.  The images are based on the poems, as is the soundtrack.  However, each was done separately.  Ayesha produced and shot the images, while e.g. produced the audio––neither was allowed to see the other’s work.  Both elements of the film would then be brought together at the moment of presentation, hence the improvisational aspect of the film.  Often in improvisation there is a common structure or theme, or a musical line, upon which everyone improvises.  The goal was to bring this method to filmmaking and explore the possibilities.  And further explore the relationship between spoken word and filmmaking.

Artists Include:

Ayesha Adu
e.g. bailey
Rachel Flomo
Kitundu
Mankwe Ndosi
Leah Nelson
J. Otis Powell!
Truthmaze
Jeremy Ylvisaker

evening will begin with 20 minute open mic

a post-film discussion will follow

$3 suggested donation

“even in death,

there is birth”

This series is supported by a grant provided by the MN State Arts Board through an appropriation from the MN State Legislature.  In addition, this activity is supported in part by a grant from the NEA.

Co-sponsored by SASE:  The Write Place, Intermedia Arts, KFAI Fresh Air Radio, KMOJ, the Powderhorn Writers Festival, Da X-Factor Newz and KFAI’s Write On RaDio! (Thursdays @ 11am).

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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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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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Nu Ark Experiment: Under Sky Open House

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

Come experience the Nu Ark Experiments.  Join e. g. bailey and members of Arkology for the fourth installment of the Nu Ark Experiments: Under Sky Open House on September 15th at the Powderhorn Park at 7:00pm.  The performance will focus on the concept of community and will include poets from the Powderhorn Writers Festival, Roy McBride and Amy Ballestad, and guest musician Yolanda Jackson.

Powderhorn Park is located at E 34th Street and 15th Avenue South in South Minneapolis.

The Nu Ark Experiments is 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 Wordshop: Shouting into the Storm, a workshop for poets and musicians, at the West Bank School of Music on Oct. 10th.  (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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Nu Ark Experiment: (Postmodern) Work Songs

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

(Postmodern) Work Songs, a celebration of experimentation uniting song, poetry and music.  e. g. bailey and members of Arkology along with community poets and musicians will share work developed at the Wordshop: Shouting into the Storm, a spoken word workshop for poets and musicians, at the West Bank School of Music.  The performance emerges from the Nu Ark Experiments, a series of spoken word performances seeking to explore the ways of uniting words (spoken, sung, written or shouted) and music of all kinds in live, sometimes improvisational performance.

The performance will take place on October 20th at 7:30pm at Gingko’s Coffeehouse located at 721 Snelling Avenue in St. Paul.  It will include guest poets and musicians from the Wordshop spoken word workshop.

The Nu Ark Experiments is 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 Side B, a collaboration with sound sculptor and visual artist Kitundu, finding the spaces between spoken word and visual arts, 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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