Ground Swelling at Poejazzi......

Ground Swelling at Poejazzi……



It’s my first Poejazzi experience and I’m not sure what’s on the cards. Performance poetry is pretty much a guarantee, and music too, but I’ve no idea how it will arrive. I imagine lyrical poetry dressed to the nines sidestepping across the stage with spangled jazz hands… though probably not.

We’re downstairs in a dimly lit space with a small stage ahead of us. More bodies are trickling down the stairs, finding a spot to stand. Dozens more squeeze in until the basement is comfortably full. It’s cosy without being crammed; a snug fit that’s more like a woolly winter jumper than Monday morning mayhem on the tube.

Once everyone’s inside our host bounces on to the stage. His name is Joshua Idehen, and he’s a bundle of energy. Founder of Poejazzi, his job is to get us ready for the upcoming acts, and as always, it takes a little prep. We have to warm up our voices, and stretch out any shyness we may be harbouring about getting vocal in a crowd full of strangers. The artists are here to perform, but it’s a two way street, and the audience has its own part to play.

Josh asks us if we’re ready.

Take One: The traditional (and noticeably pathetic) whimper of acknowledgement dribbles feebly forth, and evaporates before it reaches the stage.

Josh is having none of it; we’re not going to get away with that – not on his watch!

Take Two: Better. We’re laughing at ourselves now, still a little on the shy side, but much more willing to exercise the vocal chords now that the compere has caught us out.

Josh explains the magic rule of three when welcoming a new performer to the stage. First comes the ‘ground swell’, which loosely translates as using our feet to make as much noise as physically possible. Next we do the same with our hands (the best seal wins!) and finally, just in case it isn’t loud enough, we get our voices involved to complete the ‘Rapture’.

So… Take Three: Noise. Lots of noise (it’s a very good ground swell!).

This time we’re ready for him, and we’re ready for Poejazzi.

It’s time for the first band, These Ghosts, a talented indie-electro concoction that ease us gently into the evening with a stirring and memorable sound that I’m sure I’ll be hearing more of.  It’s a cracking opening that sets the bar pretty high.

Next up is the first performance poet of the night, Deanna Rodger, a Londoner born and bred, whose home-inspired stanzas about love, race, life, the universe and everything pack a mighty punch. She gives us a poem she’s never read out loud to a crowd before. It’s exciting to be amongst the first to hear her perform the words for the first time.

After a quick beverage break Josh is back on stage, this time sliding effortlessly into the role of lead vocalist for electro-R&B group, Hugh. Joined by the stunning voice of Izzy Brooks, the band has a unique, vibrant sound that scoops up the audience and doesn’t let them go until the end of their set. Josh tells us that Hugh’s debut EP will be out in June. Note to self: remember to buy Hugh’s debut EP when it comes out in June!

The penultimate act is Hollie McNish, an experienced and well-loved performance poet who radiates a natural warmth. Within a few lines we’re nodding in agreement, laughing in empathy, relating to (or imagining) motherhood and remembering our grandmas. All the while our thoughts are tumbling nicely in time to her rhythm. She plates up bite-size portions of poignancy and laughter, sprinkled with chunks of her life, from family and the generation gap to Optimus Prime.

It’s already been a mixed bag of performance and there’s  more to come. The final performance of the night comes courtesy of The Comet is Coming, featuring MOBO award-winning Shabaka Hutchings, master of the saxophone (and possibly the universe). It’s the type of music that fills the air between your brain cells; unescapable sound that prises the floor a couple of inches from its foundations. It seems to be everywhere for everyone and inside my head at the same time. There are no lyrics but the audience hangs off every burst of sound. We’re a ground-swelling, rapturous tangle of sound with no nudging needed from our host. And it’s bloody brilliant.

It’s the perfect way to wrap up a night that has been a culmination of words, music and the endlessly expressive, mischievously melodious and physical, political, philosophical ways we communicate what’s rattling around upstairs.

I can’t wait for the next swell.


God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.