Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Music and verse at Word Slam III

By Obidike Okafor
March 2, 2009

The Atlantic Ocean served as the perfect backdrop for Word Slam III, held on February 21 at the Goethe Institut, Victoria Island, Lagos. The event titled, the "Third incarnation of the Poetry Slam," was to consolidate the gains of the last two editions, held in July and September last year.

This third edition featured, for the first time, a two-day workshop at Studio 868 on Victoria Island, led by poet Lari Williams and Germany-based musician, Ade Bantu. A first-time participant at Word Slam, Bantu also anchored the programme, which featured many performers, including: Sage Hasson, Jumoke Verissimo, Awoko, Uche Nwadinachi, Iquo Eke, Segun Eluyemi, Dagga Tolar, Cornerstone and Edaoto.

The opening performance was by a brother and sister, the sister giving a rendition in Yoruba while her brother accompanied on the talking drum. The next performer, Francesca, was also a first timer. She recited a poem titled, "Do You Know My Mother?" It was powerful, but the audience seemed more drawn to her pronunciation of Mother (which sounded like "mada").

Next, Kelechi performed "Colourless," though the poem had little by way of meaning, with phrases like "Colourless yearns for an identity." His performance detracted from whatever he was trying to say somewhat, as he kept taking nervous glances at his paper. Brainstorm was next to step up, with a smooth transition from rap to poetry and back again.

Then the experienced performance poets took over. Uche Nwadinachi, 2006 ANA poetry winner, recited "Ebony Goddess," directed at a beautiful female from the audience. "Even if Satan falls for you/ I will go to hell just to date you." He followed with "Teach Me"--a poem name-checking the slain Dele Giwa and Bola Ige.

Iquo Eke, a performance poet who has participated in events like Poetry Potter, held the audience spellbound with her sensuous poem, "Earth, Wind and Fire." It comes with lines like "In you, with you/ I catch fire, I burn/ You are the wind that fans my passion to a raging inferno." Her second piece, "I am" talked about her roles as a poet, child, friend, wife and mother.

Ayodeji who came on after Eke, was introduced by Ade Bantu as the rapper who wears agbada. He started with rap and then switched to poetry, talking about leaving a legacy that will outlive him. Segun Eluyemi thrilled guests with his ‘nose job'-a unique ability to play the harmonica and flute through his nose.

After an interlude provided by the Crown Troupe of Africa, Word Slam opened to unscheduled performers in the Open Mic. Many of the aspiring poets that rose to the Open Mic challenge were students of the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Nnamdi Azikiwe University and the University of Lagos.

One of the highlights of the event was a segment featuring Jumoke Verissimo, performance poet and author of "I Am Memory", rendering snippets from "Ajani."

Then it was a rain of mostly reggae-inclined performers who used the power of the spoken word not only in their poetry but music too. From Dagga Tolar, to Papa English and Cornerstone, the Rastafarian spirit was well represented. The recurrent themes in the songs were issues of society, poverty and politics. Awoko, who is now a regular (he featured in Word Slam II), gave a powerful performance with his flute and song in Yoruba and English.

The strong hinge on Africaness gave his work a strong bite that made an impact on the audience. Lari Williams was also on hand to give an offering of a short poem. Sage Has.son got the audience on its feet with words that were interesting, funny, and in one case, leaning towards the explicit. Edaoto brought the house down with Afrobeat sounds, his electric display on stage got people dancing till it was time to go home.

Ade Bantu said he was pleasantly surprised by the creativity and originality on display at Word Slam III. "At first I was sceptical, but now, I feel honoured to have been the presenter of this programme," he said. The outstanding poets will help spread the art of live poetry performances in schools.

Writers Toni Kan and Jude Dibia also graced the event, as did Afrobeat musician Seyi Solagade who said, "Poetry is a way of expressing the beauty of life."

Culled from http://www.234next.com/csp/cms/sites/Next/Home/5304266-146/Music_and_verse_at_Word_Slam.csp