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Wednesday, 11 October 2006
Separated at Birth?
Topic: reviews

MC Baba Brinkman . . . and Geoffrey Chaucer. The resemblance is eerie. . .

Baba's performance piece, "The Rap Canterbury Tales," is, incidentally, Very Cool. And the foreword to his book makes a really interesting case for the parallels between the Tales and rap, and the resurgence of competiton and live performance as the wellspring of a revolution in poetry.  Although, as a page poet, I'm a little hurt by his assertion that the printing press killed poetry as a form accessible and relevant to everyone, I can't actually argue with it - poetry has become an Ivory Tower sort of institution for the most part.  And his idea that the invention of recorded sound sparked a 'rhyme renaissance' is intriguing, and exciting. 

I got the above image from the CD, also available on his site, which is a really nicely done retelling of the Knight's Tale, the Miller's Tale, the Pardoner's Tale and the Wife of Bath's Tale, as well as the whole framing story done from the point of view of a rap fan. It takes place on a tour bus between cities, and it's recast as a battle between rappers. Works nicely, and features Baba's piece "The Rhyme Renaissance" in the place of the "Tale of Sir Thopas." 

Go check out - it's pretty cool.  

Posted by Kathryn Hunt at 2:46 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 11 October 2006 3:11 PM EDT
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Monday, 9 October 2006
Kyra Shaughnessy: 'As Children We Knew the World Truly'
Topic: reviews

Kyra Shaughnessy has a gift. No doubt she’s practiced and honed her performance, and she has worked on and thought about what she does, but she also completely lucked into That Voice.  Versatile, pliable, honey-sweet, with consonants that have just enough of a burr to suggest the organic quality of a vintage 30s recording.

The first time I saw Shaughnessy perform was at the ShapeShift tour at Collected Works in September. She opened with a piece of short prose from one of her zines - something about unrequited love - and while it was sweet and seemed endearingly innocent and honest, I wasn’t particularly blown away. Then she stood up and started a sung and spoken piece called “Take Me Away” and my jaw hit the floor. The first comparison to enter my head was Billie Holiday, and that’s still the closest I can come to the sweet, intimate quality of That Voice.

Shaughnessy’s CD, “As Children We Knew The World Truly,” is spare and gorgeous.  Completely a capella, it moves between spoken and sung poetry.  She hangs onto rhythm and pitch without backup music or any tricks, and her melodies are innovative without losing beauty.  It’s one of the few completely a capella voice albums that I’ve listened to repeatedly in one day.  “Take Me Away” is on the album, and for that alone it’s worth picking up. The sung hook line - “take me away / take me away / take me away, I wanna go back to the place I know / away, away, away-a-way-a-way, way-a hey, hey” -  is so memorable and catchy that I caught myself singing it to myself as I was falling asleep that night.  It takes a jazz riff, repeats it almost till it becomes a mantra, and then breaks off into something that echoes Native American chanting, if not blatantly, and then brings it back to that soft jazz croon.  

Her spoken word poetry plays with the usual breaks, rhythms and rhymes, but as with the sung work it’s the jazzy, swingy sound of her voice that seduces. “And So It Was” is a song that wants you to fill in your own mental orchestration to go with the vivid images, “Lovers of QM & Economics Unite” picks up the tempo and gives her a chance to voice act as well, while “All babies are born (singing)” is a meditative, purely sung, piece that floats along on its own pace.

You can contact Kyra Shaughnessy at for the CD - only $5 - or look her up in Montreal.

Posted by Kathryn Hunt at 10:52 PM EDT
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