VOCAL PORTRAIT 2 Review

‘Vocal Portrait 2 is an excellently produced album, concise and heavy on the issues of our times. The dedication and zeal of Kwame in elevating the poetry both as an art and a force in Ghana and beyond cannot be ignored’

vpVOCAL PORTRAIT 2 IS THE SOPHOMORE ALBUM by Ghanaian spoken word artist/poet Kwame Write (Kwame Ata Aidoo). Regarded by his contemporaries as one of the refreshing poets to listen to. The poet has added another reason why he is not just a force on the poetry scene but leading the way with the promotion of spoken word in Ghana. His debut, Vocal Portrait was released in 2012 (read the review here).

This 16 track album features poets from Ghana, the UK and the US, espousing views on issues of life, politics and the arts in a mix of languages such as English, pidgin, Twi and Ewe.

In a society that reeks of conservatism-where a sexually liberated woman is a tagged by men (and some women) as a ‘whore’, Poetra Asantewa damns the critics. She entreats women, in her piece, Saint Ho’, forced to hold back their sexual gifts for fear of being labeled with the big letter ‘H’ (Hoe) to glow in their womanhood.

‘I am no whore. I was born from the fire. I’ll always be the heat that warms the bed. I am generous with my soul and share my body way too easily. These hands have been places. These fingers have touched surfaces. I know what to do with my body’. She ends with ‘I’m no whore. I’m no saint. I’m just a woman’

I like this piece because of the boldness of the message. Poetra never shies away from such unspoken subject (sex, sexuality) and makes her views know in forceful yet demure manner.

The role of the poet is to be the eyes and ears of his people, of his society and use his words to either chide a system going/gone wrong, challenge authority and conscentise his people. Afi Biara (Each Year), a piece by Achibald Acheampong delivered in impeccable Akwapim Twi, focuses on the need to false political promises, a regular past time of politicians, the need to speak the truth to ourselves.
The poet enumerates a bucket list of annual afflictions-corruption, poverty, avarice, deception that Ghana is embedded in. ‘Let know the truth. Let share the truth among ourselves. No other truth is greater than the honest truth’. The colourful language (Akuapim Twi) used in this poem is worth applauding. Achibald’s tongue is well sweetened. An excellent linguist.

In an era where remaining single especially by the fairer sex solicits the raising of eyebrows from family, friends and society in general, it is quite impressive to hear Uniq Sistar, a UK based poet/DJ (with Radio King, UK) address this subject on Single Handed. She strokes over the issue of marriage, divorce and staying chaste till the right one/time comes.
On the poem (it carries a late 80s RnB beat), Uniq Sista makes her reason clear ‘there are certain targets I would like to reach before wedding bells create a melody for my husband and I. And I get frustrated when others fail to understand that’.

I have read a couple of poems by Uniq Sista from her blog. However, hearing her deliver a piece on the album sounds even amazing. The manner of delivery, which carries an ‘I-Honesty-Don’t-Get –This-Thing’ ring makes the poem worth pressing the repeat button.

Poetry is what was lost in Trans (mission)’ argues Kwame. Here, the poet takes the listener on a roll across various mediums of communications-radio, newspaper, TV, internet and social media – and quizzes if the listener will treat poetry with the same likeness as the listed media platforms?

‘If I was the news paper for a day, what will my headline say? Would you long to look at my limbs? Will they be lacerated by a labyrinth of lines for the liberated minds? Will the lips of my conscience disclose the contents they don’t display?’ he questions.

Trans(mission) has depth. It tickles the senses of the listener and makes a claim for poetry to be treated with respect and love for it’s that which speaks truth. ‘Would you buy me from book stands/ Would you book plans to snatch me from hawkers hands when the traffic hit green?’

Mind Cast (performed by Crystal Tetteh and Kanal) is a reminder to humanity of their magnificence and power of positivism and human achievement ‘You’re a destiny maker/Your mind is above the clouds/Thoughts elevator/Your white eyes sees the bright future/On a star trek travelling the mind is a star ship/Rality dreamer creates the morning..’
Kanal, a rapper, trying out spoken word didn’t disappoint. He blended with Miss. Crystal (who sang and spoke) exceptionally well. My only regret is the poem is too short.

VP2 crewKwame Write (L) with Eden, Jahwi and Poetra (Photo credit inkfluent.tumblr.com)

The concept of being a ‘Product of Ones Environment’ aptly captured on ‘We Don’t Fear Huu’ by reggae, poet and beat box sensation Jahwi. He cascade over the hustling life in the ghetto whiles hoping to make the best of life. Jahwi gave an insight into ghetto life, something most people could relate to.

The solidity of the album lies in its excellent production, themes tackles and limited number of featured poets, something Vocal Portrait 1 lacked to some degree. Some of the pieces on Vocal Portrait 1 was rushed through as to beat deadline. Again, the limited number of tracks (16 in all) doesn’t make the listener weary, something Vocal Portrait 1 (20 tracks) overlooked.

The only criticism I have about the album is that the listener will be left to wonder if indeed, Vocal Portrait is Kwame Write’s handiwork because he’s virtually ‘absent’ on the album. He featured on only 3 tracks (2 full tracks and featuring on 1) out of 16. One could understand his objective; to create and offer platform for his fellow poets to sell to a wider public their craft, he could have been more prominent on this album.

The likes of Kodjo Deynoo, Nii Ayi Solomon, Lauren Goodwin, Afurakan, Sedi, Sallar and Eden all featured on the project.

“This is for those who were born artists
This is for those who seek to define what arts is
This is for those who dead before their arts lived
This is for those with necessary revolution on their minds, their hands and hearts’

Kwame Write tells us for whom the album is created for on the In(true)duction. It is for this crop of people that Vocal Portrait 2 dedicated to.

VOCAL PORTRAIT 2 IS OUT. Contact Kwame Write (@kwamewrite OR inkfluencemulti@gmail.com) for more information

by @swayekidd

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