Word Up – The Drum, Aston

THIS was Behind the Arras’s ridiculously belated first visit to The Drum, which is dedicated to developing and promoting contemporary art and culture of British African, Asian and Caribbean communities.

Its ambitions are bold, as it strives to become a centre of national and international renown , yet still stay firmly rooted within its local community , leading and facilitating the development, celebration, performance and exhibition of the diversity of Black arts and cultures for the benefit of all.

It is a place where contemporary Black arts flourish and are enjoyed, nurturing and broadening the appreciation of these arts for audiences and participants from the whole community – Black and White.

It aims to support the development of contemporary Black artistic practice and involve people from every section of the community in cultural activities that educate, inform, entertain, challenge and delight them. When the evening drew to a close I think that Word Up met those objectives.

Led by the charismatic Keisha C and Cassandra ,the evening majored with black artists, though not exclusively, who were predominantly young, and combined straight poetry, drama, beat box, hip hop, and some songs sung to backing tracks.


Played on a modest (but higher than you might expect) stage, there is a good PA system which is needed in the cavernous surroundings of the foyer and licensed cafe area.

Jon Morley is heavily involved in the Drum and he joined Wole Soyinka to perform extracts from Death and the Kings Horseman . The Drum’s new in-house production is a youth music theatre adaptation of this classic of modern African theatre, set in Nigeria during World War II.

“The King has died, and tonight a sacrificial victim must escort him to the spirit world. As Chief Elesin Oba dances through the market, pursued by an entourage of adoring women, he promises to honour the ancient Yoruba custom of ritual suicide and accompany his ruler on the final journey. Will Elesin do his duty and prevent the world from tumbling into catastrophe? Or will meddling colonial officials precipitate the downfall of his race?”

It was a strong reading, powerfully brought to life by Jon and Wole, the full performances take place on Dec 8th/9th/10th at the Drum.

The other star turn was Mstr Morrison, whose poetic career continues to flourish. Graveyard Shift is a live staple of his, telling the down-market, downbeat, tale of Jasmine and her life in a brothel. A young man, he speaks with the wisdom, and sometimes world-weariness, of someone far older, and with a humanity that always enthralls.

His latest poem, provisionally titled Real Life Heroes, represented another step in his writing evolution as he juxtaposed popular heroes, the sporting ones of whom will come to the fore next year during the Olympics and European Football Championships, with the everyday, unsung heroes of day to day life.

Bambino’s Freestyle Beatbox, Anita’s singing and Kanski’s rap impressed, as did the spoken word offerings of Jade Richards, Shabz Ahmed and Christian. The “Shake the Dust” Youth Poetry Slam is taking place at the Drum on Tuesday 6th December. 01-12-11

Gary Longden

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