Singers of Daybreak + Carl Hancock Rux: Spoken Word Comes of Age
by Lydia Howell

Through hip-hop, poetry and the many strands of oral traditions, have permeated pop culture. Minneapolis is ground zero for the first national symposium of spoken word performance, SINGERS OF DAYBREAK. The two-day conference is a whirlwind of dialogue, jams, workshops, video, and film showings, capped by an exhilarating evening of performances.

“Spoken Word is a long-practiced form, most recognized in the griot tradition of Africa, the bardic tradition of Europe and the Middle East, Tamil poets of India, and the cantos singers of South America,” says e.g. bailey, co-founder of the Minnesota Spoken Word Association, initiating the historical weekend of events. “Spoken Word today grows out of these traditions, an American prodigy: from the Harlem Renaissance and Blues singers, the Beat Generation poets of the 50s rebelling against conformity to poets of the Black Artist Movement of the 60s. The art from married Jazz in the 50s and gave birth to hip-hop, continuing to evolve in the 80s and 90s.”

bailey knows his stuff, as former co-producer of KFAI’s Write On RaDio! program and various performance groups including Arkology. SINGERS OF DAYBREAK continues his mission to create opportunities for emerging and established artists to explore and express themselves in a fully empowered way. The conference features a myriad of workshops for developing skills, taught by local artists with a body of work. SINGERS OF DAYBREAK is the outgrowth of the Spoken Word community over the last five years.

The artists leading dialogues and teaching workshops will also perform at First Avenue, Sunday August 19, at First Avenue. Truthmaze gives an Introduction to Spoken Word, with bailey; novelist Alexs Pate explores Writing and Publishing; J. Otis Powell! (who premiered his poetic-performance piece STIGMATISM at Intermedia Arts last month) explores Spoken Word and Music. Sha Cage, Minnesota Spoken Word Association co-founder, and co-creator of Mama Mosaic theatre group, teaches career development with the astounding Desdamona and Frank Sentwali.

You can get in the groove at an open-mic performance Saturday evening at 7pm at Sabathani Community Center. Closing out day-one of the event is an outdoor dusk showing of the feature film SLAM, which follows the open mic.

“We’re looking for participation from youth to long-time performers,” said Sha Cage. “This is a community-building event.” (Scholarships are available).

Leading a master class workshop and headlining the Sunday, First Avenue concert (backed by the local jazz group Moveable Feast) will be NYC luminary Carl Hancock Rux. This Bronx-born performer has toured from Paris to Africa, blowing minds along the way. His debut CD, RUX REVUE, included Rux jamming with singer-songwriter Toshi Reagon, and shatters boundaries: Delta blues meets hip-hop and the frontiers of Jazz as does his live performance.

Spin Magazine observed that Rux’s “baritone bends like a willow switch.” The NY Times called him a “secular preacher and hip-hop provocateur.” To this writer’s ears, he is an urgent whisper, an authentic shout of the unbound spirit. He expresses a tender lyricism with gritty truths. His performance is a don’t miss event. Slam champion, local poet Bao Phi, will perform pieces from his new fiery CD, FLARES. Congo transplant, Sister Mimi; dancer Leah Nelson; singer and founder of Java Noire Café, Anika, and spoken word collectives Edupoetic Enterbrainment and The Poet Tree, among others, join Rux for a spellbinding night.

For complete schedule: 612-288-9491. Sat. Aug. 18: 10am-4pm Opening Ceremony & Panel Discussion, Workshops; 7pm Open Mic, Screening of SLAM at dusk. Sun. Aug. 19: Noon-4pm Master Class, Workshops at SABATHANI Community Center, 310 E. 38th St., Mpls. (Check website for details and prices)

Carl Hancock Rux and Twin Cities performers, Sun. Aug. 19 6pm ($10) First Avenue, Mpls.

First published in 2001 in The Twin Cities Pulse