BLACK POETRY: REVOLUTION WITH WORDS
PERFORMANCE TO TEACH LITERACY, POETRY, HISTORY AND CULTURE
Thousands of years ago African storytellers memorized the history of their tribes and put it to words and song. These storytellers called themselves Jollees.
Kings would provide housing, food and shelter for these special storytellers, who were also called upon to settle disputes and give advice to the rulers.
When Africans were brought to this hemisphere as slaves in the 1500s, they brought with them an ancient tradition of talking to the beat: what we would call rapping today.
Slaves in the United States, influenced by the rap of their African heritage, sent coded messages in the form of songs and drumbeats. Using words in rhythm to deliver messages (either secret or public) is a very effective use of language.
Even today people use chanting and slogans when they demonstrate politically. Advertisers harness the power of that technique in commercial jingles.
Rap music is often controversial and hard hitting, making full use of the power of words and rhythm honed by centuries of use.
The Ashantes of Africa call their version Opo verses; in Jamaica it’s called chatting and in Trinidad it’s dubbing or Mamaguy. In Western Europe it is called poetry.
AFRICAN GRIOTS LIVE
Yet rap is an African-American invention. Just as African-American culture developed its own recognizable musical heritage in jazz music, rap too has become a signature not only of African-American culture but the culture of modern youth as they express opinions and look for answers. Stretching boundaries and blurring the lines of art, culture, politics, and society, rap goes beyond music, lyrics and poetry with performances that inspire young audiences to look beyond the surface of all that they experience to find their own voice. .
Following our look at the records of the Beat generation, we turn our attention to the emancipatory spoken word of black poets recording in the ’60s and ’70s, whose outspoken activism changed the conversation around Civil Rights in the USA and helped lay the foundations for hip hop in the process.
The late 1960s and 1970s also produced an unprecedented amount of powerful, politically-driven poetry. Much of this revolutionary verse was written for live performance and this, together with the poets’ near-universal use of instrumental accompaniment, sometimes by a single conga drum, sometimes by a larger group, meant their work transferred well to disc. The demotic language the poets favoured also helped them reach a broader audience than poetry traditionally enjoyed. On the timeline of emancipatory expression, the revolutionary poets and their musicians are the precursors of hip hop and modern rap
THE BLACK VOICES: ON THE STREET IN WATTS™ 1960's
Probably the best-known album of revolutionary black poetry of its period, The Last Poets – recorded by Abiodun Oyewole, Alafia Pudim (later known as Jalal Nuriddin) and Omar Ben Hassen, accompanied by conga drummer Nilaja – spends as much time berating African Americans for not resisting white racism more effectively, as it does on attacking white racism itself.
THE LAST POETS – FOR THE MILLIONS
YOU MUST LEARN-KRS 1
MUTABARUKA - MELANIN MAN