Review: THE LAST POETS Supported by Poetic Pilgrimage (@PoeticPilgrim)

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THE LAST POETS

Sup­por­ted by Poet­ic Pil­grim­age

Jazz Café Cam­den

Sunday 20th August 2017

“First of all, when you start let­ting oth­er people get inside your head that’s when you become f****d up…this (points to head) is yours y’all …”

                                -Umar Bin Has­san (The Last Poets at the Jazz Café Cam­den)

I remem­ber being in Sec­ond­ary School and hear­ing ‘The Corner’ by Com­mon ft. The Last Poets. I remem­ber this was the first time my ears perked up to the name: ‘The Last Poets’. I was already obsessed with Com­mon but being a young poet and hear­ing this pro­li­fic group was man­na to my inspir­a­tion.

Listen­ing to their records, I could hear how they had sown seeds into mod­ern Hip Hop for groups such as A Tribe Called Quest (moment of silence for Phife Dawg) and indi­vidu­als such as Nas and as men­tioned before Com­mon.

They were mes­sen­gers from a time where expres­sion could do more than get you black­lis­ted by Twit­ter or a get a meme cre­ated. They were from a time where being polit­ic­ally out­spoken could get you killed. Still they con­tin­ued on spread­ing the unadul­ter­ated, raw and uncut truth to broth­ers, sis­ters, moth­ers, fath­ers, chil­dren, grand­chil­dren, the gov­ern­ment, the police and to any­one who could tune in con­sciously or sub­con­sciously.

To those who sought real and human voices on the real­ity of black struggle, black achieve­ment and the agenda of those who opposed freedom, their music and poetry was a do-it-your­self guide to non-con­form­ity and fresh think­ing.

So, in say­ing all of this, you can ima­gine my excite­ment when I found out I was going to their show at the Jazz Café and I was to review it too?!

The only way to describe it is the feel­ing you get when you see fresh, fried plantain…yeah…that feel­ing!

Fast for­ward to Sunday 20th August 2017 and I was inside the Jazz Café with my bestie vibing to tun­es spun by the DJ of the night, I loved the fact that he wet our appet­ites by includ­ing songs from The Last Poets in the playl­ist.

The crowd was very eclectic and the energy in the room was pos­it­ive.

Ty (TyMusic) was our host on the night, bring­ing his great energy and gave the right hype to get every­one amped for both acts.

The sup­port­ing act on the night and to be hon­est after watch­ing them that night, they did more than just ‘sup­port’ was the Brit­ish Muslim duo Poet­ic Pil­grim­age con­sist­ing of Mun­eera Rashida and Suk­ina Abdul Noor. I had nev­er seen them live, but I remem­ber my love for this group came from see­ing a video of them and listen­ing to their music.

Here are two dynam­ic, enlightened, cul­tured, lyr­ic­al and may I add beau­ti­ful sis­ters who with their lyr­i­cism, sin­cer­ity and humour (they had us rolling too!) united the whole audi­ence and upgraded every­one from ‘shy and unsure’ to ‘we are the world’ after just one song!

Mun­eera star­ted off their set with an enter­tain­ing and punchy spoken word piece about the state of cur­rent affairs that evoked laughs, clicks (no cliché ser­i­ously there were clicks!) and mur­murs of agree­ment.

Their open­ing track ‘Unlikely Emcees’ pretty much acted as a Q&A for people who were not famil­i­ar with the group and their dynam­ics. Mun­eera and Suk­ina com­pli­men­ted each oth­er well in their deliv­ery song after song and you could see more of a sis­ter­hood and artist­ic con­nec­tion between them rather than ‘hype woman’ the­at­rics.

They flaw­lessly used their Islam­ic and Afro-Carib­bean roots to keep us hooked; Oh, you know my hand was in the air when I heard that reg­gae com­ing through dur­ing their song ‘Rise Up’.

What I found inter­est­ing was that all of these themes like non-con­form­ity, fresh think­ing, self-love and real­iz­ing the power we have as people, ran through their music but also ran through The Last Poets rep­er­toire. Here were two dif­fer­ent gen­er­a­tions spread­ing the same mes­sage. The truth remain­ing the same through­out the ages.

Sukina’s ‘Black Girl Twirl’ just had to get a men­tion. This spoken word piece should be part of every little black girl’s child­hood. Self-love, strength and appre­ci­ation of the black girl who was being encour­aged to ‘Twirl’ no mat­ter what chal­lenges got thrown at her.

I think it is safe to say that I over­used the terms ‘Fam’, ‘Cheez’, ‘Preach’ a little too much dur­ing this piece.

Their elec­tri­fy­ing per­form­ance was met with a roar of applause and an encore which was more than deserved.

I must add that the sound engin­eer on the night was amaz­ing. I know this is sup­posed to be a review of The Last Poets BUT not a lot of people give the sound engin­eer a shout unless the sound sounds like heavy stat­ic on a 1994 mod­el TV, I’m just say­ing!

Chronixx ‘Likes’ came through the speak­ers in the run up to The Last Poets gra­cing the stage and all I kept think­ing (minus the fact that the tune needed to be on max­im­um volume because it’s too much!) is that this whole show was a pre­par­a­tion for all of us to let go of our con­crete think­ing and open up to new ideas. NON-CON­FORM­ITY (I know I have said that word a mil­lion times already, there’s a prize in it for who­ever can tell me how many times I said it! Okay there isn’t but it would be inter­est­ing to know!) is the main theme of the night and the encour­age­ment to believe in your­self and thoughts that oppose the norm.

The house lights dimmed blue and in enters the cool-look­ing Baba­tun­de. Tak­ing a seat behind his bon­gos he star­ted play­ing effort­lessly his pres­ence almost hushed the crowd imme­di­ately. He even got the audi­ence involved with timed claps and whoops of appre­ci­ation. He then star­ted chant­ing beau­ti­fully, I’m unsure about what lan­guage it was but it soun­ded of Afric­an ori­gin. This cre­ated such a beau­ti­ful atmo­sphere. The Last Poets are often looked at as story tell­ers and this reminded me of the drum­ming that I was told about as a kid when eld­ers wish to start telling a story to the vil­lage around an open fire.

In this case we were the vil­lage and they were our ever-wise eld­ers.

With a calm tone Baba­tun­de then – without miss­ing a beat – intro­duced the remain­ing mem­bers of The Last Poets Abiodun Oye­wale and Umar Bin Has­san yet to join him on the stage.

The Last Poets were stood in front of us like, fath­ers, grand­fath­ers, fore­fath­ers, broth­ers you name it. You could feel the rev­er­ence for these amaz­ing fig­ures in the room.

Abiodun and Umar began intro­du­cing them­selves as well as pay­ing homage to their begin­nings on Mal­colm X’s birth­day on 19th May 1968 and their found­ing mem­bers and mem­bers who had passed on (Rest in Peace).

They were so humble, these were men who had seen and spoken about things that we could only ima­gine. Yet they found it fit­ting to remind us that there was no them without us. We all in that instance became Last Poets.

Abiodun Oye­wale then jump star­ted their set with a power­ful pledge that we all took part in that I’m sure that any per­son in the room who was feel­ing any­way except for good was revived after that pledge. It was a pledge that had the words “Free, Grow, Misery, Down, True, Sad, A Lift, Here”. We all were fin­ish­ing off his sen­tences with a shout of pos­it­ive affirm­a­tion which ended with all of us say­ing “We are blessed to be here”.

I sure was feel­ing blessed at this point.

Umar Bin Has­san then held the torch and star­ted per­form­ing the piece ‘Per­son­al Things’.

As the name sug­gests it was a per­son­al log of all the eye had seen in soci­ety and then some, at first it had an almost indi­vidu­al­ist­ic view.

How­ever, all of us in the room seemed to find ourselves nod­ding to everything he was say­ing.

Every piece was rel­ev­ant and cur­rent, although some pieces were writ­ten long before any of us had taken our first breath. Everything was rel­ev­ant, the only dif­fer­ence was that it is cur­rently 2017.

No mat­ter who was hold­ing the torch, includ­ing Baba­tun­de on the bon­gos. They all held indi­vidu­al power that when put togeth­er almost didn’t fit on the stage.

Their piece ‘Rain of Ter­ror’ res­on­ated with me. Abiodun delivered this power­ful piece unapo­lo­get­ic­ally with the back­ing of Umar and Baba­tun­de haunt­ingly men­tion­ing the word ‘ter­ror­ist’ while he spoke. Listen­ing to this now it seems like it was taken out of the book of Rev­el­a­tions. What is going on now in our world and who is at the mantle of almost total world con­trol is an unnerv­ing thought. Although I could hear hangings and shoot­ings in his piece and the injustices of his time and his explan­a­tion at why the very coun­try who accused every­one else of ter­ror­ism was indeed the very evil they spoke of.

I could also hear “I can’t breathe”, “Don’t Shoot” and I could see the Black Lives Mat­ter Movement’s birth among­st his words. The past and present were run­ning con­cur­rently here. It reminded me that the abil­ity to be out­spoken and unapo­lo­get­ic in writ­ing and in expres­sion were weapons in them­selves.

Umar then took a moment to pay homage to Prince, which was received read­ily by we the vil­lage. Everything he stood for, how his inter­ac­tions with people made him a bet­ter per­son.

How it mol­ded him into being an indi­vidu­al that didn’t rely on singing from the same hymn sheet as soci­ety and this sub­sequently made him an icon.

He fin­ished this piece by say­ing, “…no purple rain will get stuck in the clouds…” which was a heart­warm­ing touch to remem­ber­ing one of the kings of (you guessed it) non-con­form­ity.

Listen­ing to piece after piece from The Last Poets was empower­ing, uplift­ing and invoked a sense of relief. I say relief because it can often feel like you are alone in your true views of the world but hear­ing these wise men speak life into old and new works gave a sense of unity in our com­munity.

‘This is Mad­ness!’ was a per­fect way to sum up how every­one felt about the cur­rent state of the world, Don­ald Trump or Brex­it any­one? This was writ­ten long ago but its ripples were still very much needed on our shores in this present day.

The trio brought every word to life, using the heart­beat of the bon­gos and the can­did, no B.S humour that each mem­ber pos­sessed made sure to cap­ture and keep the atten­tion of we the vil­lage sit­ting cross-legged (meta­phor­ic­ally speak­ing) in front of them.

One of my favour­ite pieces of this whole show was ‘Nig­gers are Scared of Revolu­tion’. The word nig­ger as we all know has become a select­ively offens­ive word. How­ever, in this piece its sole pur­pose was not to label all black people ‘Nig­gers’, it was in essence describ­ing those who are using their energy to do everything except rise up and take respons­ib­il­ity for effect­ive change.

We can apply this to today, we have people from all walks of life who worry about what fil­ter to use on a post but when it comes to the time to spread aware­ness about things that mat­ter they dis­ap­pear like wis­dom teeth at the dent­ist.

Towards the end of the show I was hop­ing time would just stop and they would go on forever.

The Last Poets were not going to leave without telling us the import­ance of caring about ourselves as indi­vidu­als and the true power that lies in all of us. Through their pieces they empowered us with what empowered them dur­ing times of great struggle. The fact they are still around to tell us all of this means that there is great strength in truth and expres­sion.

The import­ance of not get­ting brought down by the arti­fi­cial truths of the world and for me spe­cific­ally the power in poetry.

The Last Poets at a glance and listen­ing to their music would appear to be a blacks only club. Although they heav­ily speak about the black struggle and the prob­lems faced by an oppos­ing gov­ern­ment. Their views and words res­on­ated with every­one in the audi­ence who was by the way of mixed race and gender.

The mes­sage that night was sim­ple no mat­ter who you are, where you are or what you are. We are all ONE people, who by exer­cising our freedom of expres­sion and self-love can influ­ence change and develop self-aware­ness.

We need not be afraid of the world and its lies but rather believe in ourselves and our truths.

Irre­spect­ive of race, gender, reli­gion and sexu­al­ity we are ONE people.

We the vil­lage want to say THANK YOU and that WE LOVE YOU to you The Last Poets.

There aren’t enough stars to rate this to be hon­est, I would recom­mend to any­one read­ing this to see them per­form live. It is an exper­i­ence NOT a show.

Spe­cial thank you to I Am Hip Hop Magazine!

 

 

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Efé

Efé

Efé is a Poet/Writer and Spoken Word Artist. Her work is influ­enced by a col­li­sion of her Afric­an ances­try and upbring­ing coupled with her Brit­ish-born life exper­i­ences often told in a humor­ous and relat­able way.

About Efé

Efé
Efé is a Poet/Writer and Spoken Word Artist. Her work is influenced by a collision of her African ancestry and upbringing coupled with her British-born life experiences often told in a humorous and relatable way.