Monday, December 18, 2017
Last updated: 2 years ago

Blackbird, Fly combines hip-hop and spoken word

Blackbird, Fly is weaving a tapestry of movement, narrative, music, Haitian folklore and hip hop. Photo courtesy Bethanie Hines.

Blackbird, Fly is weaving a tapestry of movement, narrative, music, Haitian folklore and hip hop. Photo courtesy Bethanie Hines.

Blackbird, Fly is a provocative duet featuring Marc Bamuthi Joseph, internationally claimed spoken-word poet and Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR) violinist and composer. The theme of this show, and of Beyond Words is collaboration and interaction, and the two are hoping to display and engage their mutual Haitian identities while exploring the differences between their histories and styles of performance.

“They’ll have certain vocabulary, perspectives and history to draw inspiration from,” said Wendy Atkinson, programming manager at the Chan Centre. “They’ll have to find a different way to communicate. Finding a common ground and working out what a collaboration will look like pushes you to create a way of communicating with the audience, because you have to communicate with each other.”


The artists’ backgrounds are completely different — while DBR is known for blending funk, hip-hop, rock and classical music into new forms, Joseph’s history is with the Senegalese National Ballet.

“The process of collaborating, of two people coming from different backgrounds and working together, means that their communication with the audience is different too,” said Atkinson.

The integrative processes of the duo are clear through the interaction of DBR and Joseph.

“[Joseph] doesn’t just stand and say his poetry — it embodies him,” said Atkinson. “They’re physically interacting, facing each other. I found that really interesting that the performance was so integrated.”

Describing the Beyond Words series in the Telus Studio Theatre is difficult. The performance series was launched in 2012 and focuses on literature, poetry and music. In the past, shows have featured John K. Samson, Shane Koyczan and Ivan Coyote. Recently, the series paired environmental activist Severn Cullis-Suzuki with Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq, creating opportunities for students’ voices to be heard on world issues through performance.

“It’s not a concert, and it’s not a spoken word performance,” said Atkinson on the Chan Centre’s series. “It’s talking about words and their importance in writing.”

The Telus Theatre is the Chan Centre’s lesser-known, smaller counterpart. In the blackbox theatre, Blackbird, Fly will be dressed in a cabaret-theatre style. Audiences are encouraged to bring drinks into the performance and to sit at the tables and chairs at performance level to yield a more intimate, casual feel to the show.

“Because the subject matter is so intimate we just wanted to use the small space,” said Atkinson. “It suits the content of the series.”

Blackbird, Fly promises to be evocative and exciting. Mixing histories, genres and styles in a tapestry of movement and art, the performers are sure to create an unforgettable performance.

Blackbird, Fly will be at the Telus Studio Theatre on September 25.

Check out a preview of their performance here: