New Beginnings: The Story of Liberians in Minnesota

16 February 2011 at 9:00 am (News, Radio) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

New Beginnings: The Story of  Liberians in Minnesota

For some time now, Minnesota has been a refuge for immigrant communities displaced from their homes due to a variety of circumstances. One of these communities is the Liberian community, which grew rapidly in the aftermath of a series of civil wars that ravished their country. However the story of Liberians in Minnesota does not begin with these civil wars but stretches back more than 50 years.

In this radio documentary, we look at this history, along with the growth and development of the community. In a series of conversations with a wide-range of Liberians in Minnesota including Wynfred Russell, Abdullai Kiatamba, Piso Tarr, Yeamah Brewer, Mameneh George, Charles Dennis and others, in addition to other prominent figures in the community including State Representative Keith Ellison, professor of history Peter Rachleff and theatre director Wendy Knox, this programs provides an overview of where the Liberian community in Minnesota stands today, the contributions it has made to the state and what the future holds.

The documentary is produced by Liberian-American artist e.g. bailey, and his partner Sha Cage. The three-part documentary will air on KFAI Fresh Air Radio (90.3fm Minneapolis/106.7fm St. Paul) on February 16th, 21st and 23rd at 7:30pm. It can also be streamed online at wwww.kfai.org.

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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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Show us your best poet face!

24 February 2010 at 9:00 am (Music, Press, Releases, Shows, Spoken Word) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

e.g. bailey at The Bedlam: Show us your best poet face!

e.g. bailey celebrated the release of his debut spoken word album “American Afrikan” with an innovative, multi-media performance Saturday night at the Bedlam Theater with fellow poets, musicians and supporters. The evening featured the following: Bryan Berry, Kahlil Brewington, Aimee Bryant, Sha Cage, Chris Cox, Chantz, Guante, Ibe Kaba, M.anifest, Mankwe Ndosi, J. Otis Powell!, Sankaradjeki, See More Perspective, Andy Shaffer, DJ Stage One, Dameun Strange, Truthmaze + more. PHOTOS BY B FRESH PHOTOGRAPHY

Originally posted on City Pages on 24 February 2010.

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‘American Afrikan’ on 3 Minute Egg

23 February 2010 at 9:00 am (Music, News, Press, Releases, Shows, Spoken Word, Videos) (, , )

[blip.tv ?posts_id=3274523&dest=-1]

At a time when bombast and personal invective rule the spoken word arena, E.G. Bailey is a poetic voice of traditional and global perspective. His debut CD, American Afrikan, is a concept album fueled by Bailey’s trip nearly a decade ago to visit family and get in touch with his roots in his native Liberia. 3-Minute Egg went to the album’s release party last Saturday at the Bedlam Theater, where Bailey melded sampled video and audio with live music and spoken word.

Originally posted on 3-Minute Egg on 23 February 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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‘Gemini Cities’

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

Gemini Cities
Produced by Jerry Stearns
Written by e.g. bailey
Voiceover by Simon Husbands
Introduction written + performed by Sha Cage
Sample of ‘Street Cinema (Volume 10)’ + ‘Street Cinema (Volume 11)’ by DJ Stage One. Used by permission.
(E. Bailey, S. Husbands, S. Cage, J. Stearns)

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‘American Afrikan’ CD Release on Secrets of the City

20 February 2010 at 9:00 am (Music, News, Press, Releases, Shows, Spoken Word) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

E.G. Bailey ‘American Afrikan’ CD Release

The Twin Cities is a community known for its sick spoken word, and it’s no surprise to us when descriptors like “innovator” and “progressive” get thrown around in reference to our powerhouse word slingers. Another one for the vaults: Tonight, Twin Cities’ wordsmith, musician and educator, E. G. Bailey, celebrates the release of his first full-length album, American Afrikan, a proverbial spoken word and musical journey that begins in Africa, explores America and ends beyond conventions. Early previews have revered it as a prolific sonic palette – part musical theater, part audio chapbook – with blends of hip-hop, funk, jazz and electronica. Join the artist as hosts Tru Ruts and Speakeasy Records present the debut album’s CD release party. Emcee J. Otis Powell heads with performances from Guante, Mankwe Ndosi, Truthmaze, Sha Cage, See More Perspective, Chantz Erolin, Aimee Bryant, Ibé Kaba, Sankaradjeki, Dameun Strange, members of Junkyard Empire (Chris Cox + Bryan Berry), Kahlil Brewington, DJ Stage One and of course, E.G. Bailey himself. The show starts at 9:30pm is 18+ with a $5 admission. (Feb. 20th) For more info visit http://www.bedlamtheatre.org. – Juleana Enright (Secrets of the City)

Originally posted on Secrets of the City on 20 Feb 2010.

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Bailey comes home

18 February 2010 at 2:44 pm (Music, News, Press, Recordings, Releases, Shows, Spoken Word) (, , , , )

Bailey comes home
By CHRIS RIEMENSCHNEIDER, Star Tribune

Spoken-word artist and Tru Ruts label proprietor E.G. Bailey might have what you’re looking for in the form of his first full-length CD, “American Afrikan.”

Looking to celebrate Black History Month to the tune of something besides “We Shall Overcome?” Spoken-word artist and Tru Ruts label proprietor E.G. Bailey might have what you’re looking for in the form of his first full-length CD, “American Afrikan,” a thought-provoking collection that also provokes some cool grooves out of Bailey’s flowing poetry.

Inspired by Bailey’s trips to Africa, the disc laces field recordings and traditional African verses with modern digital beats and live drums. In “Liberia,” for instance, he expounds on a “nation waiting to be reborn” over the rhythmic clanging of hammers from field workers. In the title track, he trades verses with African poets over a steady treadmill-like beat and soulful backup vocals by Atmosphere touring member Mankwe Ndosi. Themes of identity, reclamation and rebirth permeate the album and should make for an equally evocative stage show. The release party is Saturday at the West Bank’s Bedlam Theatre with guests Guante, Sha Cage and more (9:30 p.m., $5).

Originally posted on Star Tribune on 18 February 2010.

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E.G. Bailey + Sha Cage on Write On RaDio!

18 February 2010 at 11:00 am (Music, News, Press, Radio, Releases, Shows, Spoken Word) (, , , , , )

e.g. bailey and Sha Cage join us to talk about the CD release party for e.g.’s new album, “American Afrikan,” an encyclopedic mix of spoken word, hip hop, funk, jazz, and more. The release party is Saturday, Feb. 20th starting at 9:30 p.m. at Bedlam Theatre in Minneapolis and will feature performances by Guante, Sha Cage, Mankwe Ndosi, J. Otis Powell, Truthmaze, and more.

Also on this show, we talk with Marisha Chamberlain about her new novel The Rose Variations, the story of Rose McGregor, a talented composer navigating academia in the early days of feminism. Marisha Chamberlain is also a playwright, poet, and librettist.

Listen to interview here.

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Spoken-word work gets right to the point

18 February 2010 at 9:00 am (Music, News, Press, Recordings, Releases, Shows, Spoken Word) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

CD review: Spoken-word work
gets right to the point

By John Ziegler, Duluth News Tribune

He can come on like a freight train. Words are his medium. He will make you laugh. He will make you cry. He will make you think.

His name is E.G. Bailey and his brand-new release “American Afrikan” combines spoken word, poetry and music to explore what it is to be an Afrikan in America today. It doesn’t just skim along the surface in that exploration, it heaves from below like a bulldozer churning up slabs of concrete, tree roots and old asphalt in its quest — Bailey leading the narrative charge.

Using language like John Coltrane used the tenor or soprano saxophone, Bailey — together with friends such as Aimee Bryant, Katrah Quey, Sha Cage, Hipgnosis, D.J.Limbs, plus African poets Ibe Kaba and Sankaradjeki; Dubai jazz ensemble Abstrakt Collision, and Mankwe Ndosi, the singer from Atmosphere — uses bits of pre-recorded sound, field recordings (including Liberian work songs from the Mano Tribe) and jazz. He rails, he whispers, he implores, he exhorts and subtly weaves his spell.

“K Street Blues: The Bailout Plan” sounds like it could have been Sonny Rollins captured on the Williamsburg Bridge in 1952 talking to the skyline with his horn.

“America” is Bailey (with Abstrakt Collision giving an eerie, angular backdrop) holding a mirror up to our own country with all its actions and how they have morphed over time. “America with your varicose veins and Catholic guilt, I fear you and I love you … America, it’s getting harder to defend you.”

Aimee Bryant’s stirring multi-tracked version of “Motherless Child” is a riveting take on this black spiritual.

“Afrikan is the New American” has an almost Prince-like groove smothered in chicken grease.

Bailey is the real deal. He has created spoken word dynamics in film, theater and recordings during his travels through this country as well as England, South Africa, France and Serbia. He is the founder of the MN Spoken Word Association, Tru Ruts Endeavors and the Spoken Word and Hip Hop Institute at the University of Minnesota. He’s been inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in the New York Modern Museum of Art.

“American Afrikan” is not just a journey but an adventure that, during February’s Black History Month, explores identity, history, culture and what it means to be black in America today.

The CD release of this wonderful piece of art takes place Saturday evening at the Bedlam Theatre in Minneapolis and should not be missed.

E.G. Bailey / “American Afrikan”
Genre: Spoken word/Poetry/Jazz/Hip Hop/Electronica
Label: Tru Ruts/Speakeasy Records
Web site: http://www.egbailey.com, myspace.com/egbailey
Produced by: E.G. Bailey and Ben Durant

Upcoming show: Saturday at 9:30 p.m., the CD release party at the Bedlam Theatre, Minneapolis. Cost $5. Ages 18 and older. Includes special guests Guante, Sha Cage, Mankwe Ndosi, Ibe Kaba and more.

John Ziegler has worked in the music industry for the past 35 years as a radio host, interviewer, record producer and professional musician.

Originally posted on Duluth News Tribune blog on 18 February 2010.

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