The Last Poets @ the EIBF

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Bosco Theatre
23-08-17

Despite there having being a major war fought in the United States of America over the issue of slavery in the 1860s, over the next century or so, the Southern States in particular disenfranchised the free negro, using apartheid as a principle & divisory socio-politcal instrument. Cue Rosa Parks sitting on a bus, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, the Black Panthers &… The Last Poets. Springing from the vibewells of Harlem, several incarnations of the same ethos began to move & motivate the American mind. ‘Niggers are scared of Revolution,‘ they sang on their seminal first album, a call to arms which ultimately ended up in the Pax Obama. Considered as progenitors of hip-hop, they half-chant invective observations over a wild percussive sound, & work really well as socio-political sound-artists.

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The queue for the Last Poets

The Last Poets @ the EIBF consisted of a chit-chat with their pseudo-biographer, Christine Otten, a Dutch novelist who’d attached herself to both the mythomeme & the physical personages of The Last Poets, & created a novel about their story, rather than a conventional biography. This was published at first in Dutch, in 2004,  it was only last year that it came out in English translation. ‘She’s a white, Dutch girl,’ said the Last Poets to inquisitive voices asking who the hell was this lady with an accent exploring the rock pools of their lives, ‘but she’s… OUR white, Dutch girl.’ During the talk, one could really feel that Otten’s presence was appreciated in the tight-knit world of the Last Poets, that she’d done a good job penetrating the egos, bringing out the humanity & telling ‘a decent story.’

The Last Poets – Baba Donn Babatune, Umar Bin Hassan & Abiodun Oyewole – are drifting back into the public consciousness, with a voice still resonant today – especially in the middle of all this Trump nonsense. After playing a gig in Edinburgh the previous night, the Last Poets are finally pouring their wisdom & love into the Scottish diaspora, & enjoying the experience immensely, comparing black subjugation to the English oppression of the Scots. So much so, that the talk spilled on for far longer than it should, but trying to get these guys off stage was hard work; neither they nor us wanted the moment to end, but when it inevitably did so, everyone just felt that little bit better leading & living their lives.

Reviewer : Damo

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