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This month's Groovalizacion dance takes us into the heart of mother Africa. Voices beating the skin of the drum, calling it jazz, hip hop and afrobeat rhythms, poets calling from the heart of the heart.
Poets, hip hop artists and musicians from South Africa, Cape Town, Senegal, Burundi, Cameroon, Uganda, Nigeria, The Congo, via Canada, the US and the UK. Plus this month a special recording made for us, of Congo poet philosopher Idriss Okenge. Recorded by Groovalizacion brother Joaldo Dominguez (of RAMULA - the Rebel Latin American Music Academy podcast). Idriss Okenge is turning his poetry into a novel, about a child soldier and his vision of war. Joaldo has been in Kinshasa researching culture through music, visual arts, theatre, dance and poetry, and he sent this recording last month for La Danza Poetica. So many thanks to Joaldo for the beautiful recording.
Taalam Acey - California (Drum) Roll
Titilope Sonuga - From a Place
Langston Hughes - The Negro Speaks of Rivers
Native Sun - Indigenous SoundWaves feat. Amen Noir
The Fridge - Peace and Lovely Things
Gil Scott-Heron - I've Been Me
Anta Cheik Band - Sun shining
Gaël Faye - Métis
Taalam Acey - Who Made This World
Mutombo Da Poet - I For Talk ft M3NSA
Faithfull - De-àtl' Infini
Zara Moussa - Femme objet
Tshila - Interlude (Sipping From the Nile)
Idriss Okenge - poem
Tosin - Odinjo - D Dance of D Deaf
Tshila - Sipping From the Nile
Mohammed Yahya - Food Clothe & Shelter (Unofficial Osibisa Remix)
Tosin - Nosia for Kings & Clans
Melisizwe - A Moment of Silence
Notes on the show
First up if you don't know her already, let me introduce you to the beautiful Titilope Sonuga. "You can never really understand who I am, until you know exactly where it is that I come from" - and here's where we start, on this journey to the heart. Your motherland, your heart's home, the birthplace of your own story, and how you travel with it, wherever you go. Mother Africa, the birthplace of us all, the griots' hearth, the heart of our connection with the speaking voice. This is what I was meditating on as I put together this collection, and Titilope speaks it clear in the track From A Place, from her debut album Mother Tongue (released January 2013).
Born in Nigeria, raised in Edmonton, Canada, Titilope is a powerful voice and also a powerful energy for poetry in Edmonton, creator of the Rouge Poetry weekly spoken word nights, and the Breath in Poetry Collective working to promote spoken word through performance, school workshops and community outreach. Her album is fiercely personal, journeying into the heart of her own stories. She spent a year in Cape Town South Africa under the mentorship of great dub poet D'bi Young, writing about her homeland continent, the results you can hear in this work. Go get it at CDBaby: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/titilopesonuga
A video of another poem by Titilope, commissioned for the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton as part of the annual Take Back the Night event in Edmonton: video by Bradlee Clouston, it features Titilope alongside Osase Emokpae, Medgine Mathurin, Mary Pinkoski, Sarah Devlin and Kemi KB:
Taalam Acey picks up the baton from great poets like Gil Scott-Heron, running with the jazz syncopation of speech, the quick-fire certainty. Who Made This World is taken from his 2009 album California Suite, described as a 'spoken word novella' taking place on election night, stuck in LA after a cancelled flight.
To Cameroon, and the eloquent MC, modern griot, Faithfull Baana Enono Arnaud. From his album De-àtl' Infini. This track citing the great Martin Luther King - April is the anniversary of this great man's assassination - just marking a moment.
Mutombo da Poet working with M3NSA features with a recent track from the Ghana collaborators, I For Talk - more about that collaboration here.
Tshila is another great female voice, another great voice of social change and empowerment, from Uganda. After spending some time in the US, Tshila was inspired to make music. Sipping From the Nile is her album from 2007, a mix of traditional African sounds, RnB and soul with poetry and hip hop.
Wrapping the show, a track which pulls us out of our daydreaming, to face some realities. From a poet out of Cape Town, Melisizwe, member of hip hop group 5th Floor. This poem is a powerful example of what poetry can be, a teaching about our often brutal world, a facing of the brutalities of political Africa, a call to prayer for those lost within it, a moment of silence. Taken from the Runway Music album Verses (2007) - a compilation of young South African spoken word artists.
Musically ... some deep and thoughtful rhythms in this hour. Native Sun, a London-based duo of bilingual rapper Mohammed Yahya (born in Mozambique) and Sarin Leah (singer songwriter with Caribbean roots). Joining forces in 2010 Native Sun was born fusing Hip Hop and African rhythms with the aim of promoting a positive message of Universal Peace, Equality, Social Justice and Environmental Change. Indigenous Soundwaves also features Amen Noir, Released in 2012.
A gorgeous tune in here from The Fridge, an urban jazz, soul trio born in Johannesburg, South Africa, made up of Soweto-born singer Sam Mdlolmba, guitarist Mothusi Thusi and Nigerian-born Adebayo Omotade. The track, Peace and Lovely Things is from their debut EP Bass, Drums and Sam. I honestly can't get onto any 'official' EP link but you can download the EP free from a link provided by Zimbabwe music culture site Mahala ... I'd rather find a way we can pay the band for their loveliness, but that's the only link I've got right now.
And the Anta Cheik Band, a group from Senegal. The track Sun Shining is hot off the press, from an album due very soon. This track is a call for respect for the Gorée Island, off the coast of Dakar. A world heritage site (according to UNESCO, it is a “memory island” – the fortresses, buildings, streets and squares standing as witness to the history of Gorée which, from the 15th to the 19th century, was the largest slave-trading centre of the African coast) the island is a tourist attraction which makes for problems with waste, as the visitors leave plastic, bottles and other waste behind. A group of young people on the island are working to clean it up, and the Anta Cheikh Band after witnessing this, wrote this track as a call for recycling, both of waste and of energy, and respect and love for our beautiful planet. When Babacar, of the band, sent me this track, it was very resonant for me, as I'd been reading about another island struggling with the consequence of the tourism that keeps it alive - Easter Island. Really, it seems such a simple thing, not trashing the house of your hosts. Not trashing our home planet, in fact. But humans are nothing if not complicated. Here's a video of their track Paréna:
Gaël Faye, Franco-Rwandais MC, was born in the Burundi capital Bujumburu, and moved to Paris aged 13. He returns in spirit to his homeland, as well as capturing the spirit of his adopted country of France, in his debut album Pili Pili sur un croissant au beurre, released this year. The track Métis speaks to this dual belonging. Follow Gael via Nico Bozino's video logs at his site -
Nigerian drummer and composer Tosin Aribisala gives us 'Odinjo - D Dance of D Deaf from Mean What U Say - Da Drum Monologue Project Vol. 1, Tosin's explorations into polyrhythmic, groovy, and poetic ideas on the drum set. Formerly drummer for Fela Kuti, Tosin now leads the African Rhapsody band and Elikeh, a roots-afropop band merging the traditional rhythms from Togo with the sounds of 70′s afrofunk - from jazz to afrobeat and back. Check this official music video of Heavenly from Tosin's upcoming album, Life Begins, with vocal from Bumie Dada:
Our honoured ghosts for La Danza #7: Langston Hughes, great man of African American poetry, early innovator of jazz poetry. Hughes wrote The Negro Speaks of Rivers at the age of eighteen, on a train to Mexico, crossing the Mississippi River and thinking of the role of that river in sustaining the slavery trade. The year was 1920 and the wounds were raw. In the poem, Hughes connects the soul of African American people with their homelands, the current of heritage flowing through the veins of people as the water flows through the great rivers: the Euphrates, the Nile, the Mississippi. A pretty amazing poem for an eighteen year old, a wise soul already, who would become a great force for change.
Another honoured ghost in this dance is my own poetic soul father, Gil Scott-Heron. April is the man's birthday. I wanted to feature the poem that started it all for me - Message to the Messengers - when I first heard it in the early 90s as I first started making radio shows, it switched on a light which has been shining brightly ever since. But! I ran out of time to feature that poem so what we have is a snippet from his 2010 encore album I'm New Here. Still, this interlude is perfect in its way, to honour the man. If Gil hadn't been the man he was, I wouldn't be the Lapkat I am!! Of course I've talked more about Gil here before ... check back if interested.
And, I must roll-call the voice of the great Fela Kuti, who we might call our honoured ghost for the rhythms of this dance through Africa. Perhaps all these beats owe him a debt of gratitude.
With love and respect to all griots and all voices listening to the drums of the heart.