Hello Amazing People!
Ok… before you get your dander up, the definition of the word Gospel is Truth. The unaltered, undisputed fact or facts about a thought, situation, person. You good? ok. I call this the Gospel, because poets are truth armorbearers. Or so they should be.
I have an absolute love affair with words. And not because I am a Spoken Word artist. It’s because of their power. They can make you happy, sad, angry, wounded, healed. Encouraged. Putting them together in a rhythmic prose is an art form that is greatly overlooked. This past Tuesday, some of the best that spoken word has to offer gathered together for one night of spoken word at the 595 North club in Atlanta GA, hosted by Jill Scott.
That’s right. Jill hosted. And while she did share thought provoking prose herself, there , her focus was truly Host; introducing and helping to celebrate those who have excelled in this craft. There was not a diminishing of their talents in her presence, as larger-than-life as it is. I observed her laughing, clapping, standing, cheering, and waving her fan at the profound points; totally engaged in their performances. She was Jilly from Philly, an artist celebrating other artists: Queen Sheba. Dichotomy. Tommy Bottoms. Focus. Higher Reality. Hank. M’reld. Abyss. Georgia Me. And Red Storm.
In that room, on that stage were Grammy, Emmy, Tony, Peabody, American Music, and Soul Train award recipients. Authors. Actors/Actresses. Singers and Activists who have performed before Presidents from Jimmy Carter to Barack Obama; worked in film with Tyler Perry, starred in pilots for shows on cable, shared stages with Gil Scott-Herron, have official days declared in their honor by their city, collaborated with musicians from the camp of Prince, and so much more. But there was no pretense or arrogance in their achievements or status. No self aggrandizing behaviors which have saturated the open mic spots by those with lesser credentials. There was only respect. For those before and after. And for the craft of spoken word. Wildly charismatic and highly energetic, we were treated to a solid hour of Art. You could not help but walk away from it feeling a lot lighter and a little more empowered.
Unafraid to be multi-talented and imaginative, there were collaborations of the beautiful sound of the Kalimba with Focus; a powerhouse singer and DJ with Tommy Bottoms; soaring vocals from a 3 man wall of sound with Abyss; a smooth saxophone with Dichotomy, and a trumpet unlike no other with Hank. As if the opening was not hilarious enough with a walk down memory lane musically ft. DJ Kemit interspersed with ribs at audience members by Ed Lover, these 11 artists spoke, sang, danced and pontificated on everything from the Strength of a Woman, Falling in Love with a poet, Dark Chocolate, HIV, the Corruption of America, Freedom, Politics, and Redemption. As both artist and audience member, I fell in love with Spoken Word and the open mic scene all over again.
What has happened to the love of the art? The open mic has become infiltrated with mindless rants and aimless meanderings. Not that venting is a bad thing; but when one wields the power of Life and Death from their tongue, it’s quite disheartening to go seeking a little uplifting and education, only to leave with an ear full of dissatisfaction, disgruntlement, disrespect, and overall unhappiness with life and living. On this night, even in a piece filled with a venomous hatred towards the subject, as in Jill Scott’s last piece, there was a focus and intent.
I’m hopeful that the mic is purified once more and the coffee houses, night clubs, arenas, theatres and televisions are once again filled with the Gospel of life according to the poets.