The first Saturday of every month. diarise that!
The Word N Sound crew kicked off the 2013 Open Mic League with new poets, bigger prizes, bigger goals, a new venue and a BANG!
The new venue was the Market Theatre Lab, the beautifully named Ramolao Makhene Theatre at the Bus Factory in Newtown. Since the theatre was flooded late last year and is currently being fixed up, the set up was just outside. I really dug this set up, because I worried that the theatre may be too small.
Recently, I had started to worry that Word N Sound was closing in on itself by having the same poets competing in the Open Mic League. But I was pleasantly surprised when the open mic was filled largely with new faces. A familiar face, in fact part of the Top 5 last year was KB Kilobyte. That had me frowning a bit because I wondered if being in the previous year’s top 5 shouldn’t automatically disqualify a poet from the next season. I don’t know. Suffice it to say my worries aren’t that big of a deal because the new faces soon proved themselves to be serious competition. The competition is fierce.
Some of the new faces were mic virgins. They had never performed in front of an audience of that size much less compete. It showed, shem. The nerves got the better of a few but some, despite the nerves, showed a lot of potential.
Stands out were Roach, Mapule, KB Kilobyte, Gratitude Fischer, Nubia Queen, Pilgrim and No Life
Once the Open Mic League section was done, more established poets, the winner would be announced at the end of the show.
Likwid Tongue opened up with an emotional, energetic performance by Vallentine. I do wish Val would perform more and publish more because she brings to poetry more than just words, she brings a sense of theatre which isn’t boastful and narcissistic. Her performance is not just about standing out and making an impression but it’s about enhancing the poetry and advancing the layers of meaning. I really respect that she gives herself on stage not just the words.
Quaz performed next a mix of “page” poetry and hip hop tracks. The two sides of Quaz are equally powerful. Quaz is, for me, a special kind of writer. He has so much respect for form and this has led him to having quite a large range of work to play with. From reading a short piece in his book, to performing, full power, a piece backed by a great hip hop beat – I contend that Quaz is something of a triple threat. He’s a writer’s writer and performer’s performer.
And then there was Flo… one can’t think of Flo without thinking of “Hi, My Name is Flo”. A piece that regardless of how many years ago it was written still manages to capture new fans and recapture old ones. Flo has for the past several years focused on his work as a photographer. He barely touches poetry but somehow this isn’t something that one can take much issue with because he’s entertaining.
Mandi Poefficient, a poet I interviewed for the Up & Coming section in our anniversary edition was amazing. Mandi is the 2012 Queen of the Open Mic Poetry League. It was quite obvious that this performance was important for Mandi. One could just see on her face, how she loved being on that stage. Mandi clearly respects the stage and the audience. She performed some pieces that I had heard before but didn’t just perform them in the same way that I had heard them before. I particularly enjoyed the performance of Beauty is a Beast that involved a quartet of women who interpreted the poem through dance and “mime”. This showed so much growth in her work. I hope to see more of this sort of collaboration from her. Mandi was my absolute highlight – I look forward to more of her work.
The event was topped off with a musical performance by Lilly Million. Lilly has an absolutely grand voice. I, personally, find her music a little too folksy for my taste but that is not to take away anything from her performance. I enjoyed her energy and just how much talent she actually has. I mostly enjoyed her interpretation of the Gnarls Barkley hit, Crazy. Lilly is going far with her music and I think that she will have cross-over appeal too.
Mapule, whose performance was really, in my opinion, unrivalled won the Open Mic League. She will go on the defend her title in the next session in March.
Congratulations to the Word N Sound crew for the work they have put in these past three years. They have truly revived the Jozi poetry scene and every month I look to see what new thing they are coming with.
I’m actually properly excited about the 2013 season because ultimately this is about our love for poetry and all things poetic.