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Ghostpoet: Hackney Empire

| Music, Uncategorized | 29/10/2013

Photo credit: Sophia Spring

Music began with the affable Andrew Ashong whom I last saw supporting Jimmy Cliff no less at ‘The Other Empire’. Check-out his intoxicating blend of sunshine-reggae and cool jazz. His talented backing band comprised a drummer and percussionist with three guitarists including himself. Yearnsome harmonies attained that beauty in simplicity marking talent, and the nursery-rhyme-ish ‘Special’ would have anyone dancing around its playground. The programme had been delayed by an hour due to “problems with the tickets” but at least it hadn’t rained. Meanwhile, DJ Thom of Alt-J slammed some slabs.

When I first encountered Ghostpoet’s astonishing ‘Plastic Bag Brain’ on Radio 3’s Late Junction I was blown away. It’s so exciting to hear any new artist who has that effect. As a live act his voice, though markedly unique, was more guttural noise than recognisable wordage. Nevertheless it drew the listener in completely – overriding the snazzy laser effects and back-projected static. Ghostpoet, aka Obara Ejimiwe, possesses an enviable energy, a heavyweight Dizzee Rascal, head-to-toe in funereal black. As his haunting intonation immersed itself in birdsong I caught fragments of his deep four-note riffs, only wishing for more poetry less swishy vocoder. Pertinent how his raw talent transcends the perfected mastery of a studio-track.

New album

2013 album by Ghostpoet

Ghostpoet plays on pronunciation and enunciation thus “I surely know” translates to “I surely Noah” qualifying his post-beat, post-rap status. Guest vocalist Lizbet Sempa added honey to the brew, with a stirring string quartet, in the gorgeously off-beat ‘Dialtones’. Ejimiwe seemed to become an additional percussive instrument in the following duet ‘Survive It’ with Fabiana Palladino. But it wasn’t back to the hard stuff yet, as the next offering crashed-in with Elton John piano and ballady drum hits. Etta Bond’s sink-estate-chic made for further contrast with Ghostpoet’s natural charisma, despite her quite saccharine hook. ‘Comatose’ drew on acid-jazz idioms before morphing into stadium rock and that was more like it, earning an exceedingly lengthy cheer.

The dais cleared for the divo to close. He wanted everyone dancing, and the back-and-forth bar crowd limbered to the woozy dub. “Would you like some more tunes?” he teased. Hmm. How about those mind-crunching urban rhymes and deconstructed breakbeats? Well, it came pretty damn close. Deliciously out-of-key keyboards overlaid series of low synth groans, in masterful performances by John Calvert and Clare Uchima. ‘Up Against Whatever’ seemed to summate Ghostpoet’s ethos. Bled red, this was his seventh heaven, and he whooped and swooped across the stage. The party started, and time to leave.


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