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Poetry 'Rains' at Yo! Yaddo! Word!
The pouring rains that showered down on Kingston on Wednesday, did little to dampen the a Yo! Yaddo! Word! fundraising event staged by A-dZiko Simba at Redbones the Blues Cafe, New Kingston. With words from Kei Miller, M’bala, Damali, Mel Cooke and Simba, it was poetry that rained.
Yo! Yaddo! Word! was created to raise funds to Simba to assist Simba on her journey to Saratogo Springs New York to attend the prestigious Yaddo Corporation Artists’ Retreat. Due to the rain there was a slight shift in venue from the Restaurant’s courtyard to the terrace which, along with covering, provided a more intimate setting for the event.
Nicloa Phillips took on the double role of host and gateman, providing the welcome for the evening. She explained that while online crowd funding are now popular, events such as Yo! Yaddo! Word! are original crowd funding initiatives as they turn to communities to support these ventures. Phillips’ host duties were short however, as the Yo! Yaddo! Word! progressed by having each poet introduce the next.
The youngest poet of the night, Damali, opened the performances delivering words punctuated by the drum (Phillip Supersad, Calvin Mitchell and M'Bala) and accompanied by singer Kristine Alicia, who despite falling off a few notes, has a strong voice.
Damali, who rests easily in the protest poetry vein, delivered an engaging performance though her movement and energy had more strength than her poetry. She delivered World Record (Interlude), Free Now, 'Read Me' and 'Love Again'.
Mel Cooke, promising a more quiet set than he usually gives then took over. He opened with ‘Creation’ a poignant piece celebrating Reggae, despite Cookes’ rushed reading that robbed it of some of its nuance.
Much of Cooke’s reading focused on the women in his life as he also delivered the Hair poems written for his late mother and sister as well as ‘Insomnia’ for his wife, and ‘Primary Colours’ for his daughters. The result was a showcasing of his “softer” side. Even so, despite his earlier promise of being quiet, he also delivered a touch of his social commentary with ‘Word Terrorist’ and ‘Revolutionary Poet’.
The night was not completely owned by the poetry, however, as Supersad, Mitchell and M’Bala played their homage to Simba thrugh the Kumina piece 'Hail the Queen'. Although they had no Kumina drums on hand, they more than made do.
It was not yet time for the drums to go quiet as M’Bala, who seamlessly blends his percussions and his poetry then took over. He advised the audience that in honour of the evening he would be doing poems with 'S' in the title.
"If you don't hear the 's' in the title it silent,” he told the amused audience.
M’Bala began with three Skin poems’: 'Skin Song - Sound Check', 'Skin Song' which was momentarily interrupted by a broken guitar string, and 'Skin Sketch'.
M’Bala’s eclectic sound artistry is one of his most engaging traits. This was displayed through 'My Space' which was equal parts poem and equal parts performance. He closed with 'Wud Bum' a striking metapoem which interrogates how words we intend to use to inflict harm can harm the speaker leaving him with a tongue bloody and jagged from “premature, exploding wud”.
Simba presented a blend of music and poetry. While Mbala set a rhythmic bed she spoke, chanted, sang and crooned. She opened with a Yoruban praise song before delving into 'At Least' followed by the lengthy 'This poem is Called', a three part poem which talks about the ways we allow mass culture to define us and leave us misshapen. Simba also delivered ‘Le Urve' and closed with ‘We are the artists’ followed by ‘Yo! Yaddo! Word!’ fitting pieces for the night.
The night ended with a performance by Kei Miller. Miller was not on the advertised roster of poets and as such came as a bit of a surprise performance, a welcome boon, especially in light of the absence of Cherry Natural, who had been slated to perform.
“I was supposed to be away but Adziko guzzo mi flight,” Miller told the audience. Miller focused his reading from his upcoming collection The Cartographer Tries to Map the Way to Zion. Miller describes the work as a strange collection where a man tries to create a physical map to a metaphysical place
He began with 'Unsettled' then turned to a series of poems which act as a poetic dialogue between the cartographer and the Rastaman. He closed with three named pieces. The first, ‘Place Names’ explores naming as history, representation and power looking at the names that have dotted Jamaica which bear out much of the island’s story. ‘The Flag Man’ a praise song to the reggae flag bearer followed.
And with his final piece ‘The Blood Cloth' Miller further bolsetered his position as one of the strongest voices the Caribbean has to offer, with a potent piece whose strength leaves you echoing the title over and over, "Oh blood cloth, Oh blood cloth, Oh blood cloth'.