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Poets Play Word Cup at Redbones
There was no football in sight, and so, being poets they played with words instead. The event was Word Cup an evening of word play. But poetry, was not the only art form to take over the field of play, as singers and musicians also had their time at the microphone.
Indeed, for a moment, it seemed that Word Cup was really a mini Rising Stars event, with two of this year’s contestants, Thadesia Clarke and Garnett Ferguson, lending their voices to the evening. Clarke delivered a soulful rendition of Sizzla’s ‘Give Me a Try’, while Ferguson went much further back for Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change Gonna Come’.
The Rising Stars element did not culminate there, as 2013 winner saxophonist Verlando Small was also one of Word Cup’s featured guests. There may have been no words in his performance, but his moving delivery culminating with John Legend’s ‘All of Me’, delivered on alto sax, was eloquent enough.
The evening's roster of musicians also included Venezuelean guitarist Luis Felipe Bellorin, who brought a touch of traditional and contemporary music from Venezuela to the evening. He also came armed with a bit of humour.
"You speak Spanish?" he asked the audience when he got to the stage. "Then we have a problem because I no speak English." But fortunately, his music spoken well enough, and what would have been lost in translation, was easily missed.
What passed for open mic, featured a sole poet, Dalton Spence. Spence confessed that he too had attempted to make it to Rising Stars fame but had been felled by Anthony Miller’s sardonic tongue. Spence revealed that a few lines into his audition, Miller stopped him and cautioned that although it was evident that music ran in his blood, it went elsewhere before it got to his throat. Since then Spence says has turned to poetry. Alas, his skills are no better, though we did not have Anthony to save us from his bad verses.
The first featured poet of the night was Mel Cooke, who came to the stage laden with poems heavy with word play and talk about language. He teed off his set with ‘Cricket’ a double entendre between the sport and sex. From punning on cricket he turned to the linguistic battlefield, exploring issues of language, class and identity in JamaIca.
Cooke also delivered ‘Word Terrorist’, and the hilarious ‘Badwud Poem’ which includes ‘bad words’ like ‘politician’ but only homophones for curse words. He also delivered ‘Malapropism’ a look at the linguistic challenge to ‘pronounce’ the fallen of the inner-city as ‘human’, against the need for television sound bytes and template press releases filled with criminals running off into near by bushes. His set ended with the far less potent ‘A Hate Poem’.
Vlogger Dutty Berry also made his somewhat poetic debut, though his humour was far less engaging than the videos of Tessanne Chin’s journey on The Voice that brought him to national fame. Accompanied by actor and director Craig McNally, he delivered a set comprising changing dancehall lyrics to standard English. It was reasonably funny, but Berry was clearly unprepared and kept laughing through his delivery.
Mutabaruka brought a good closing set to the night. He opened with ‘Nursery Rhyme Lament’ turning the seemingly harmless nursery rhymes on their heads to return them to their genesis as scathing criticisms of society, masked as child’s play.
Mutabaruka then unleashed ‘Thieving Legacy’ followed by the intriguing, and unusually short ‘Prisoner’. Leaving little space for banter between poems, he also deliverd ‘I Am the Man’ followed by ‘Johnny Drughead’. Tackling the rise of fast food as a sign of social decay, his penultimate piece was ‘Junk Food’. He closed with the iconic ‘Dis Poem’.
The evening was interspersed with performances by McLaren who also acted as the host for the evening. His performances included his seminal piece ‘Armadale: Children on Fire’ which segued into the launch of Articulet Survivor Fund which is aimed at supporting the survivors of the Armadale home for juveniles.
McLaren, displaying his usual levels of high energy closed the evening with ‘Mi Love Mi Breadfruit’.