In the previous blog post (click here to read “Houston Poetry Scene Gets A Facelift”), I depicted the current landscape of the poetry/spoken word scene in Houston, TX. Right now, what is known as “the poetry circuit” is plagued with arrogance, fakery, and division. I expressed the need for something to be done to transform the scene from its bleak condition. I inquired what could be done to achieve this radical metamorphosis that is necessary.
Enter Karega Ani! Brother Karega, as I like to call him, is an accomplished, sought after music producer, musician, and poet who has continually worked at honing his unique talents for well over a decade. He accredits his undergraduate African American Literature professor, Dr. Ntozake Shange, for his emergence into the poetic realm. If this name sounds familiar, it is with good reason. She is the author of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf (which was later adapted for film by Tyler Perry). She helped him flourish and unleash his lyrical genius. He tackles radical themes that include everything from romance to social issues that afflict the community. He is a nationally recognized Slam Poet who has recorded and released a collection of spoken word albums, his latest being “Concentrated Substance: The Chronicles of a Hopeless Optimist” (available for purchase here), and has also shared the stage with “literary luminaries” like Sunni Patterson (I adore her!), Mutabaruka, and others.
The first time I had the pleasure of seeing him perform, I immediately knew he was in a league of his own. He clearly didn’t fit what I had seen as the norm in Houston. After only a few seconds, I knew I was witnessing greatness. As Common says, “It don’t take a whole day to recognize sunshine,” (“The Light” from the project Like Water For Chocolate). I was literally in awe of his skill, his level of professionalism, his delivery…I hated that there was a time limit due to the fact that there were so many poets who were slated to perform after him. I wanted MORE.
A couple of weeks ago, Karega posted a thought-provoking message on Facebook calling attention to the current state of the Houston poetic landscape. A few of the questions he posed were: Is poetry/spoken word a medium with the capacity to fundamentally change the listener? Can a poets words change reality, or are they merely useful when they offer listeners an escape from it? Does The Bayou City need an alternative to the (arguably) egocentric paradigm so often characterisic of our “poetry scene”? Are we currently “out of balance”? He then challenged his Facebook friends and followers to consider what pre-requisites are required for one to legitimately classify themselves as a poet. He alluded to the fact that many are the poetical equivalent of a person who listens to a Miles Davis’ record, subsequently purchases a horn, gets it to make some sort of sound, then calls themselves a jazz virtuoso. O-U-C-H! Shots fired!
Well, my brother isn’t the type to simply call out a problem without offering possible solutions. He, along with noteworthy poet EQuality, are bringing back purity to the artform. They have teamed up to create an event called Ink, Beats, and Brew that will appeal to all five of your senses. It will take place this coming Saturday, April 12, 2014 at 7:00 PM at the Kaffeine Coffee Internet & Office Cafe, 5255 Almeda Rd., Houston, TX 77004. For more information, please see the detailed flyer. I hope to see your face in the place.
Check out an interview of Karega Ani below, courtesy of RAWartists Media’s YouTube channel.
Karega Ani www.facebook.com/karegaani
~ShonJay~ Follow me on Twitter @ShonJay!!