Friday, 10 October 2014

WORD, SOUND, POWER: Mel Cooke, Yashika Graham, and Dingo seize the spotlight at Redbones

THE VOICES: (From left), Pollard, Dingo, Jah 9, Cooke, and Graham.

A name like Colonization in Re-verse evokes a very strong sense of place, so it came as no surprise Monday evening that the poets who graced the stage at the Redbones-hosted spoken-word bash charted lyrical odysseys that stirringly transported the sizeable crowd to locales both eerily nostalgic and disparate. The event was put on as a spirited send-off for Bristol-bound lyricists Yasheka Graham, Dingo and Mel Cooke, and in the end 'twas an evening well spent.

During her stint, laced with priceless imagery and emotional heft, Graham took us "through the cashew fields" of rural Jamaica as she delved into "My Old Bush Poems", reflecting her country-girl roots. (She hails originally from Westmoreland.) But Graham, a natural talent whose voice can deliver flair and drama in almost equal substantive measure, hit closest to home with pieces like "Straight Fatherlessness," a piercing paean on broken families and the damaged children they often produce. "Claat," another eye-opener went over well with the crowd, buoyed by beautifully crafted phrases and such impossible lines "We are Maroon pickney, even if yuh nuh know Nanny" and "Magic doesn't grow on trees."

Just like guest performer Jah 9, Dingo drew on live musical accompaniment (and a pair of backing vocalists) to offer a rich fusion of rhythm and rhyme that proved most memorable (and interactive) when he got everyone in on his nostalgic community-set piece "Shopkeeper." Mel Cooke revisited Tivoli Gardens (circa the 2010 incursion) to address ideas of malapropism and that correlation between language and livity. A supermarket encounter provided the humorous premise for "Talking Good".

The equally delightful "Housecleaning," Cooke went on to explain, was inspired by a chat with Mervyn Morris who encouraged the younger scribe to write more personal poems. On this particular night, Cooke couldn't get any more personal than when he subsequently confided: "The physical act of making love is something you have to learn like writing poetry." Preach.

Another guest performer of note Dr. Michael Abrahams, who also acted as the night's emcee, also had relationships on the mind, rendering robust dub-style pieces centred on domestic violence, family dynamics and topical issues of the day. Dr. Velma Pollard, meanwhile, took a more introspective/reflective tone as the night's opening act, referencing everything and everyone in her readings from London's Heathrow to the trouble with Sir Francis Drake to Lorna Goodison's ever reliably soothing "Heartease."

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