Spoken-word work gets right to the point

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, Hipgrosis, D.J.Limbs, plus African poets Ibe Kaba and Sankaradjeki; Dubai jazz ensemble Abstract Collision, and Mankwe Mdosi, 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 Abstract 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: 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.

Tru Ruts/Speakeasy Records presents E.G. Bailey’s AMERICAN AFRIKAN

Tru Ruts/Speakeasy Records presents AMERICAN AFRIKAN
e.g. bailey’s debut mixes poetry, jazz, electronica, hip hop + more.

“He makes language live!” – Amiri Baraka

“There is so much history, culture, and experience packed into American Afrikan that to summarize would be to attempt to summarize all of African American experience.” – Jon Behm (Reviler)

“A powerful testament of bailey’s skill of mobilizing poetry for contemplation, remembrance, and a subtle, but no less insistent, call to action.” –Justin Schell

“No matter how long it takes for bailey to drop ‘da proverbial bomb’, it will have been well worth the wait.” – Dwight Hobbes

With co-signs from Umar Bin Hassan of the Last Poets and the legendary Amiri Baraka, Twin Cities spoken word artist, poet, musician, organizer and educator, e.g. bailey, presents his first full-length album, AMERICAN AFRIKAN, a spoken word concept album that begins in Africa, crosses the Middle Passage, explores America and ends up somewhere that defies easy definition.

Part musical theater piece, part audio chapbook and part performance art experiment, AMERICAN AFRIKAN mixes the beat-influenced poetry of bailey with music that blends hip hop, funk, jazz, electronica and more, creating a sound that is at once progressive and challenging yet smooth and listenable.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that an hour-long spoken word album wouldn’t be much fun to listen to; many aren’t. But as Umar Bin Hassan says in the album’s liner notes, “The sounds on this album are just as important as the words.” Through bailey’s voice, through the Igbo nuns on ‘Oracles of Equiano’, through Aimee Bryant’s rendition of ‘Motherless Child’ and through the album’s diverse sonic palette, AMERICAN AFRIKAN succeeds not just as a piece of literature or poetry, but as a cohesive musical journey.

Producer Katrah Quey, perhaps best known for his work with TC wordsmith M.anifest (who shows up to drop a verse on the ‘American Afrikan’ remix), handles a majority of that music, though Hipgnosis and DJ Limbs shine on a couple of early tracks. The beats compliment the words; sometimes fun and funky, sometimes dark and meditative––but always engaging. The album also features appearances by Twin Cities-based African poets, Ibé Kaba and Sankaradjeki; Mankwe Ndosi, singer for Atmosphere; Dubai jazz ensemble Abstrakt Collision; Midwest emcee Idris Goodwin and others.

Though the music might be what draws people into this album, it’s bailey himself that will keep them there. Crafting a masterful narrative from the first track to the last, he explores identity, history, culture and all the places they intertwine in a way that is always meaningful but never preachy; always heart-felt but never melodramatic. As he says himself: “The project attempts to explore what it means to be an Afrikan today, an Afrikan in America, an American Afrikan. What is this journey historically, metaphorically, poetically? However, you can’t answer that question unless you explore what it means to be American, in post-9/11 America. And because America affects and infects us all, it is also about all of us.”

Deemed a true innovator of the spoken word art form, his charismatic yet rhythmic style dances words with sound in and out of synch with verbal play. One of the most prolific voices and talents in the Twin Cities, Bailey’s work has taken him on travels through the U.S., England, South Africa, France, Serbia and more. He has created spoken word work in film, theater, music and radio. Born in Saclepea, Liberia, and now based in the U.S., he is a founder of several foundational entitles in the local and national community including: MN Spoken Word Association, Tru Ruts Endeavors, the Urban Griots Spoken Word Awards, The Spoken Word and Hip Hop Institute at the University of MN. He has appeared in spoken word commercials including ‘Art Connects’, which premiered during the 2008 B.E.T. Hip Hop Awards, and was featured on the MTV, VH1, MTV Europe, CBS, NBC and other networks, in addition to being inducted into the Television Hall of Fame archived at the Modern Museum of Arts in New York. As he moves effortless between radio, film, theater, and producing, his live performances are always a treat.

Tru Ruts/Speakeasy Records presents: AMERICAN AFRIKAN
The debut album from spoken word artist E.G. BAILEY
CD RELEASE PARTY: SAT FEB 20TH
@ THE BEDLAM THEATRE  (1501 6th St S., Minneapolis, MN 55454)
Hosted by J. Otis Powell!. Featuring 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 + more.
10pm  18+  $5 advance