“Words, language, communication – these are power…
The power to define yourself, the power to give voice, to tell your own story and not have your story told for you or to you. Words can also mobilize – a whole movement, can be bought together under the banner of a phrase – the words we memorize, and quote, and pass down. How we use words can be forms of resistance; how we create new language and new codes. Spoken wordists, poets, speechifiers put our experiences into context, flip around perspectives, make connections, act as trumpets to blow down walls and light fires to put us into action…” Read more… on www.HOCTOK.com
South North Griots Summit Team: Dwayne Morgan, Motion, Nth Dgri, Eddy DaOriginalone.
Saada STYLO reflects on a personal journey into the art and heart of Spoken Word in this exclusive blog post for the Canada Council of the Arts.
More than 20 years ago, youthful and thrilled by just about every experience, I lost in love. The pain of the heartbreak had me reflective, so I sought comfort in the writings of black poets, authors and folk singers. It wasn’t long before my pensive moods gave way to indignation and I put pen to paper to write my first poem, “Bittersweet Departure.” I was green, as was my technique. My words seemed tightly tangled and the sentiment flat. The poem remained inconspicuous within the pages of my closed notebook.
Then I watched Maya Angelou’s apostles describe how the span of their hips and the curl of their lips made them phenomenal and I, with a growing audience, was captivated by the poetic prowess of the spoken word artist.
To understand spoken word is to appreciate how it is poetry constructed for flight. There is movement in its meaning and a lifting of its phrasing; so much so, members in the audience catch the cadence, sway to the melody, rise to the call, raise fists in solidarity and bow their heads in mourning. In a manner so quintessential to the concept of an artist’s call and response, we lend our ears and much more to spoken word artists. Theirs is a full-bodied, poetic expression that frees us from technique and formula and rigidity and rules and instead captures us in flowetry.
A gathering of Griots
Most artists and art lovers have access to a galaxy of cyber spaces formed to share what we think and how we feel. One useful tool for connecting is subjective thought, and how we express it can present an opportunity to expand and then elevate the discussion. I’m expecting that consciousness raising at the South-North Griots Summit on May 28-31 at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre.
The 4-day gathering of wordsmiths from North America, the Caribbean and Africa at this city’s cultural hub is noteworthy. The artists who will perform and participate in panels have sparked a trail of personal and professional achievements. Their arrival at the Harbourfront raises Toronto’s profile as being a welcoming host to a movement of heroic writers performing poetry as they feel it.
Canada has a history of spoken word artistry; one that encapsulates slam contests and freestyling. But first there was dub poetry. There, as I imagine in the spirit of Trinidad & Tobago parang, words are gripped differently and restructured like instruments of sound connecting with audiences through utterances, beats, riddim, a snap, a stomp and a verbal massaging of Caribbean dialect passed on from Ancestral tellings. The delivery of dub’s mellifluous soundings intertwine with stories about hardship, integration, exclusion, actualization, celebration, growth, self-love and, yes, heartbreak experienced by everyday Caribbean women and men. Authors Karen Flynn and Evelyn Marrast describe dub poetry in a 2008 journal article, citing Jamaica as the birthplace for this movement of the working class and non-elites:
“With its emphasis on what Edward Kamau Brathwaite (1982) calls ‘Nation Language,’ dub poetry by its very existence challenges the hegemony standard English and the literary establishment; articulating the anger and despair of ordinary Jamaicans, it is necessarily protest poetry …”1
That protest caught and grew then migrated. Today, the tales are passed on and shared by a Canadian generation that honours its trail forgers George Elliott Clarke, Lillian Allen and the incomparable Louise Bennett; a cross-section of spoken word artists that birthed the new voices. They in turn use varying art styles to sound off about marginalization and the way it morphs into something else, posing challenges in the application of their craft.
A meeting of minds
Why a summit? I’m learning that the seeds for this type of artist discourse were planted by the Northern Griots Network (NGN), a collective of African-Canadian spoken words artists in collaboration with the Nia Centre for the Arts and the Harbourfront Centre. Back in 2003, the NGN organized a series of poetry performances throughout Canadian cities. The initiative ran for six months with support from the Canada Council for the Arts. At that time, the network had just formed. Years later, this South-North Griot summit can be considered another part of a long-running dialogue. Included can be conversations about the role of spoken word in our time where protests for social justice overlap. With its ability to capture attention in ways that encourage reaction and response, spoken word is and has always been an empowering method for many performing poets—storytellers whose illuminating editorials offer proof that all lives matter. That affirmation will hopefully extend to the artists’ messages and to the business of their craft. And hopefully arts councils will develop artist-oriented programs of support in response.
I did end up performing “Bittersweet Departure” on a stage as part of a Montréal-based, spoken word collective. Our ambition brought me back to living and my exit, stage left, brought me back to feeling. Best part: I was welcomed into a fold that accepted me and my personal mission to heal. It was a thrilling experience to share with artists and audience a passion for the power of spoken words, together looking deeply into what formed from the impact.
About the Author: Saada Branker
Saada Branker is a writer living in Toronto. She works with emerging writers through Saada STYLO, her copyediting business, and is currently the Fresh Milk Arts Platform Artist-in-Residence in Barbados.
HEADSPACE 5th Year Anniversary
RETURN OF THE GEMINI!
Hosted by Wan Luv & MOTION
L’Oqenz – https://soundcloud.com/loqenz Charlie. – https://soundcloud.com/northandnext
Sean Roman – https://soundcloud.com/seanroman
Hip Hop, House, Nu Disco, Funk, Reggae & Old School
Date: June 12, 2015 Location: 237 Sackville St. – The Church Hall
$10 B4 11:30PM | $15 After 11:30PM
19+ with valid photo ID
**Funds collected at Vivacity & Headspace will be invested in free community programming for Youth Artists entering cycle 11 at UforChange, in September.
MotionLIVE presents award-winning U.K. Poet & Playwright KAT FRANCOIS starring in her riveting one-woman play RAISING LAZARUS.
From the streets of urban London, to the Caribbean island of Grenada, RAISING LAZARUS uncovers the secrets of a hidden lineage that leads to the frontlines of a brutal war, where young West Indian men are thrown into a futile fight for a country that doesn’t love them. A rivetting story of heartbreak, adversity and the ultimate sacrifice.
Hot on the heels of her crowd-raising performance at the South North Griots Summit of Spoken Word in Toronto, U.K.-born KAT FRANCOIS is an award-winning performance poet and playwright. From World Poetry Slam Champion to published author of RYHME AND REASON, Kat Francois has toured her celebrated plays internationally, including Australia, Ireland, Norway and the renowned Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Kat Francois is the producer of WORD4WORD, the long-running poetry presentation in residence at Theatre Royal Stratford East.
The Toronto presentation of RAISING LAZARUS is sponsored by OBSIDIAN THEATRE COMPANY
from London U.K
Written & Performed by Award-winning Poet & Playwright
Friday June 5th, 2015 8PM
The DISTILLERY DISTRICT
15 CASE GOODS LANE, STUDIO 301
TIX: $10 RSVP GUESTLIST: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sponsored by OBSIDIAN THEATRE COMPANY
MotionLIVE in association w/ ift theatre, Zupakat Prod., RwD, SunStar Worldwide
01. SUN RA – CALLING PLANET EARTH
02. GUINESS – SPOKEN WORD
03. KENDRICK LAMAR – ALRIGHT
04. ESPERANZA SPALDING – REALLY VERY SMALL
05. KAT FRANCOIS – DOES MY ANGER SCARE YOU
06. MAD ZACK – NIGHT ANIMALS
07. MOTION – GRAF
08. HIATUS KAIYOTE – LAPUTA
09. TAQRALIK PATRIDGE
10. YUNA – LIVE YOUR LIFE (MELO-X MOTHERLAND GOD MIX)
11. GIGZ FT. AFRAKAREN – LOVE INSIDE
12. DUKE ELLINGTON & JOHN COLTRANE – IN A SENTIMENTAL MOOD
13. DENONTE OSAYANDE – MASKS
14. FREEDOM WRITERS FT. IAN KAMAU – I’LL BE WAITING WHEN FREEDOM COMES
15. FLYING LOTUS – EYES ABOVE
16. ROCHELLE CHRISTIE – DISCRIMINATION
17. PUBLIC ENEMY – PUBLIC ENEMY NO. 1
18. YOUNG FATHERS – MMMH MMMH
19. MYA ANGELO – EVIL
20. HALEEK MAUL – FRAULEIN (PROD. KING BRITT)
21. NON – UNTITLED
22. JESSICA CARR MOORE – I’M A HIP HOP CHEERLEADER
23. TUGGS.T.A.R – SEASON OF LOST LOVE
24. MUSTAFA THE POET – SPECTRUM OF HOPE ***
26. LOST POETS – WHEN THE REVOLUTION COMES
27. SONAR SENGHOR – SICCO
South x North Griots Summit, May 28th – 31st, Toronto
I’m so excited about working with an amazing team of artists, curators and cultural presenters to bring to you the South x North Griots Summit, taking place in Toronto this spring! This manifestation of over a decade and a half of visionary work initiated by the Northern Griots Network promises to animate this Megacity with the power of Word and Sound.
Canada’s spoken word scene is recognized as world class, cutting edge and groundbreaking. In celebration of our vibrant and innovative legacy of poets and wordsmiths, the Northern Griots Network and Harbourfront Centre have collaborated to invite spoken word artists from around the world to share their powerful oral and performance traditions, and what’s new and next in the lineage of spoken word. The Griots reminds us that the world is old but the future springs from the past.
Hope to see you there!
Thu. May 28 | 08:00 pm – 11:00 pm
In The Beginning… **
Lula Lounge | 1585 Dundas St W. / Dufferin For TIX: www.dwaynemorgan.ca/events
Fri. May 29 | 06:00 pm – 07:00 pm
ACTION! Stage to Screen: Spoken Word in Film & Video
Harbourfront Centre | Studio Theatre | 235 Queens Quay W. FREE
Fri. May 29 | 08:00 pm – 11:00 pm
The Griots Lounge**
Harbourfront Centre | Brigantine Room | 235 Queens Quay W. For TIX: www.tickets.harbourfrontcentre.com/calendar
Sat. May 30 | 09:00 am – 10:00 am
Harbourfront Centre | Studio Theatre | 235 Queens Quay W.
Featuring: George Elliott Clarke FREE
Sat. May 30 | 08:00 pm – 11:00 pm Spoken World: Features Harbourfront Centre | Brigantine Room | 235 Queens Quay W. For TIX: www.tickets.harbourfrontcentre.com/calendar
Sat. May 30 – Sun. May 31 | 10:00 am – 6 pm | FREE
Interactive Workshops, Panels & Sessions – including Learn Out Loud: Spoken Word & Education, The Word on Community Engagement , Career Development: Taking Care of Business, Word Life: Youth InterAction Co-creation Workshop, Speak the Change! Spoken Word & Political Activism, The Griot Impact on Contemporary Diaspora, and more…
For Full Schedule, connect: www.northerngriotsnetwork.com/schedule.html For Info: GriotsSummit@gmail.com
The debut of a new work of words by MOTION – BOOM for REAL : A riff on SAMO – accompanies a significant, just-dropped, musical release. Inspired by L’OQENZ aka NiteOwlNaps’ new sonic mix “DOWNTOWN 81” – premiered by OKAYPLAYER – and Motion’s own live eye experience with BASQUIAT’s visuals, this rhythmic riff evokes the exhibited works (AGO in Toronto) and Unknown Notebooks ( New York’s Brooklyn Museum) of this evocative artist.
Listen | Read | Experience!
BOOM For Real : a riff on SAMO by MOTIONlive | MMXV
JB scrawls across a wall
as Martin speaks
in black tags against the
It is Poetry
Now is the Time
Bebop Bird lives in acrylic and wood
the inanimate tremble
of shivering disc
like his notes
JB’s materials are found
captures the living
Basquiat lives there
Graf and glitterati
Ire and dread
bricks to canvas
Street is studio
here is born the Noise
transcribes planes and trains
vets and pains
and legless men
gouged by the pursuit of democracy
Crowns hover the tracks
and traffic rumbles down
the surface of thin paper
the built up
the time travel
The regression to 7
The succession of
the collage of colors
trapped in a human skull
traced by stitches
held together by scars
The Black man
is a victor in the blood-filled ring
The cosmos hail the champion
the warrior returns
Locked in a frame of wood
a house of glass
by lips barred
in shards of crayon
The ghosts live here
the echoes of heroes
crying on stone mountain tops
Burden stiffens his wings
fingers claw the dark expanse
and Jesse runs
over nazi hate
While the negro popo – blue-clad
stands static in a pale space
Samson is sheared of his locks
imprisoned by his own fascination
The poisoned portrait
Defeated v.s. the destroyed
Black slashes scream in the silence
and resonate noise
Blast of the beatbox
and spray can trumpets
wakes the worshippers
The cowboy collectors
the copyright creators©
Gun-wielders who ransom
lifeblood for coins
The mind machine spins
powered by history
here hangs the anonymous
the self reflected in oil and stick
the tortured anatomies
the lonely black shadow
with white eyes slit
The artist in black shroud
hangmen with pink fists
it could have been me
The young who lived old
but never got to be
under the peering eyes of the peeping toms
darkness torn by boars with horns
and venus boxes madonna
as the fighter tussles with wolves
colored men and halos
float over the city
the games of life
the circus sideshow
of fire spitters
and a falling metropolis
rise from the rubble
as the serpent waits
And Exu on his altar
stands at the gate
Waits for the Soul to come
Here lies the re:Mix
galaxy of collage
echoes of immortality
crux of death and rebirth
the beat bop
the back spin
the freestyle polyphony
Downtown to uptown
and oceans of memory