Speech is an expression of mental acuity, used as a tool to build communal understanding; and so is poetry in many ways. While the former may be commonplace the vehicle of poetry as a thought-process elevates speech to an almost-divine status. This is the gift and uniqueness of spoken word as a genre of literary expression and it is this unique gift that has emerged from the temperate ambience of Jos city through the recently launched spoken word album of Andrew Patience (AP) entitled I AM. The album I AM, is an experimental exploration of the human condition in search of the beyond, interrogating human existence and self-consciousness. It is packed with 14 creative works, dramatic in tone, laced by musical rhythm that aids their melodious expression.
In one of the works, “Africa’s Rape,” the artiste attempts to invoke the ghost of the celebrated African economic historian Walter Rodney, for a conversation about Africa’s historical deprivation and the complicity of Africans in the continent’s continued underdevelopment. The work “Goodbye Depression” draws attention to depression and insomnia, questioning related misconceptions that tend to foster a culture of silence and undermine mental health concerns. This is a beautifully rendered work of art, crafted with beats that tell the tick-tock of the clock as the writer counts the dark phase of the day “…1 am; 2 am; 3 am; 4 am…with no sleep.” While the emphasis was on depression, the crescendo built to a point of introducing insomnia, but this was not developed further, raising possible conflict about what theme was really being addressed.
The album is replete with diverse titles, such as “Who murdered me?” “The Conversation,” “Without Words, “Woman in Me,” “God?” “Annabel” among others. In “Tomorrow Never Came” AP debuts as a social crusader, angry at the plight of the children and women exposed to the vagaries of abuse and abnegation of life. AP’s maiden spoken word poetry is a three-course literary cuisine, creatively served with love to inspire and satiate relationships at the levels of the individual, societal interaction and encounter with the divine. It shows that spoken word is not just about entertaining the senses, but could also be an activist tool for challenging long-held beliefs about the human condition by bringing issues of societal concern such as child labour, global inequality and collective inertia and neglect to public attention.
The title track of the album, “I AM” stands out on its own as a piece on self-discovery and consciousness. It is a tale of affirmation of conscious experience, but like every seeker of the Truth, the discovery is never complete. The “I AM” track reminds me of the painstaking journey of self-discovery that Anthony de Mello invites us to embark upon in his The Song of the Bird. So, let us listen to AP affirming…
… I’m a living spirit…
Seeking light, preying on wisdom
… I am a strong, feisty goddess
With knees that bend
Eyes that cry
But self conscious in the
… I am the universe and more
There are areas that the album could have improved upon to enhance its poignancy. The speed and rhythm of the performances could benefit from more distinctive pronunciation of words as well as editorial assistance to bring the listener to the state that the performer’s work desires. No writer writes for herself alone, much less a performance poet, whose aspiration is to reach the heart of the audience through the ear.
On the whole, the album I AM is a highly creative and imaginative collection of works by one of Nigeria’s upcoming performance poets with so much promise to stand on the world stage. In the words of Ellen Bryant Voigt, “the making of a poem is not a performance but an adventure, an act of discovery.” AP’s work clearly epitomizes this, inviting us to question our belief systems, explore our sense of consciousness and embrace the best in us while also accepting our sense of humanity. This is an invitation for you to set forth on this journey with the album and be rest assured that, if you pay attention enough, you will find a message that resonates with your person.