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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‘Professor Goodwin’s Preface’

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

Professor Goodwin’s Preface (featuring Idris Goodwin)
Recorded live at the Late Nite Series, Pillsbury House Theatre, MN
Written + performed by Idris Goodwin
(I. Goodwin)

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City Pages’ Artist of the Year: Sirius B

27 December 1995 at 9:00 am (Press, Theatre) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

sirius b photo 1 (600pxl)Note: Sirius B was not my first artistic endeavor in the Twin Cities, but it was my first entrée into the artistic community that would later become my home. This ensemble of Black men, all under 25 at the time, mentored by an even stronger group of Black men, included Bro’Sun (Kirk Washington), Baraka de Soleil, Marcus Bracey (Messiah), Jeff Bailey, Meyer Warren (St. Paul Slim), Ahanti Young, Billy X and myself. Our mentors included Ani Sabare (James Bradley), J. Otis Powell!, Rene Ford, Juan Jackson and others. The project, of which we were a part, was produced by Pillsbury House Theatre, Intermedia Arts and the Walker Art Center, and was facilitated by Keith Antar Mason and the Hittite Empire. Many of the artists from Sirius B have gone on to become powerful artists in the Twin Cities and beyond. St. Paul Slim is a stalworth in the Twin Cities hip hop scene; Jeff Bailey, was touring as a jazz musician even back then, continues to expand his horizons; Baraka is in NY making waves in the dance scene there; Messiah is a music producer; Ahanti is one of the most respected young actors in the community; Bro’Sun traveled several times to the Europe with the Hittites, recorded a project with rising jazz vocalist Jose James, and recently created the controversial art project on the North Side with Ernest Bryant; and me, still here, doing my thing.

SIRIUS B
by Caroline Palmer

Representing a panorama of dance, music, theater, poetry, visual artistry and philosophy, the members of Sirius B have pooled their considerable talents to achieve empowerment through collaborative action. In creating a venue to respond to a country which judges by demographic, the group has found one way to give voice to African American men. While October’s Million Man March brought this issue to the national table, collectives like Sirius B hope to inspire a continuing awareness–and change–in their own communities and beyond.

Organized by Keith Antar Mason, cofounder of Los Angeles’s Hittite Empire performance group, Sirius B sprang to life this year through a residency sponsored by Intermedia Arts, Walker Art Center, and Pillsbury House. Its namesake is the companion star to the brilliant Sirius, a celestial body whose appearance every 50 years is celebrated in several African cultures. Sirius B took this reverence for ritual as a starting point in constructing a context for the past, present and future of the African American community. They found profound encouragement not only from Mason and the Hittites, but also local elders who continue to lend their help to this day.

Out of these efforts came a gripping saga performed on the Walker stage. The Punic Wars evoked the rites of passage both endured and engendered by African American men, from the opening montage in the bowels of a slave ship, through the racially biased court system presided over by “Judge Remus Turnus Thomas,” to the climactic chants of “We have to stop killing ourselves” and “No Justice. No Peace. Freedom.”

Mason returned home, but the process he began continues. Sirius B is currently headquartered at Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis, and finished out the year with a residency in Northfield. To quote GambaHondo’s parting words from The Punic Wars, “Rise up Black Man and make what is wrong in this world right…” Sirius B’s work has only just begun.

Caroline Palmer is a Minneapolis writer.

Link to original article: http://www.citypages.com/1995-12-27/news/artists-of-the-year/3

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