D’Gaf, LondonTo see spoken word poet, Shareefa Energy, and her performing friends is to witness a bountiful celebration of generosity and positivity. A celebration that smacks in the face of the continued tokenisation of women with agency in our society.
Shareefa launched her debut EP, called Reasoning with Self, at D’Gaf in Leyton, Tuesday evening, July 21, and to mark the occasion she organised her own spoken word poetry night with a guest line-up of all-female acts. What follows is simply a taste of what these eloquent sisters had to show.
The reasons that we’re here
When she took the stage, Shareefa made it clear that she wanted to put on this event, which she organised herself, to showcase the talents of some of the women who’ve influenced and inspired her own writing and development.
This EP was created with the help of London producer, Meandou, who approached Shareefa about blending her vocals with music. “Growing and working on yourself is a continuous thing,” said Shareefa of the title of her EP. Healing is a central focus for her, and you get the sense that Shareefa’s poetry is borne of a need to mead one’s self through expression.
The EP itself, which Shareefa performed, with a little assistance from fellow poets, Golden Blue and El Crisis, is packed with nuggets of vitality; reminders of perseverance, perspective and self-belief. There’s a real catharsis to her words (“Be careful what you criticise / And take lessons from your own advice”), which she articulates with a warm delight for all to see on stage.
Dressed in traditional Indian garb as she sifted through hardback notebooks, stuffed with poems, Shareefa also shared musings on truth, compassion, heritage and identity. This up-and-coming poet and community champion, who’s “used to only picking up a pen when everything in life seems absurd”, has vibrant material to share. You’d be doing yourself a favour to take notice.
The remainder of the night was hosted by Shareefa’s childhood friend, Trillary Banks, with support from Golden Blue. But her chosen acts and fellow supporters did give a good insight into where she may take her art next, and the vibe you might expect from future events she organises.
Words are what this night was all about. And poet, I-Sis, filled the minds of those present till they were overflowing with her witty, “intellectual detoxification”: ‘Why Write’, a poem that would put a smile on the face of more than a few A-level English teachers, for sure.
A girl and her guitar
Musicians, Caroline Archer and Rukea, put on rootsy acoustic performances that, each in their own way, touched the audience. Archer with two unhurried tributes to her late father, plunking her guitar strings softy, as she longed to sit there and listen to his tales. And Rukea with her silken, Jessie J-like tones, weaving words of love and heartbreak in the air.
All eight of the night’s female performers had strong sentiments to express. Being women of colour living as part of their specific British diasporas, identity and heritage were recurring themes in their work. Turkish poet, Güneş Güven, shared a poem about resistance, and another about hope. “Sometime in order to breakthrough, we have to break down,” she said of her challenging year so far, which has only been made more tumultuous by the recent terror attack in Turkey.
Poet and hip hop MC, Eyesis-Star, connected strongly with the audience with her boisterous, autobiographical bars (“I know there’s more to life than workin’ for a salary / I wanna spread my wings and fly away / I really wanna see a better day”).
Rara, the second poet to perform, dropped a parade of sizzling stanzas with her politically and socially aware poem, ‘You Fit the Description’, which mused about the discrimination black and non-white people face from the police, citing facts and figures, and drawing imaginative parallels between gang culture and the boys in blue. A new poem about an abusive father (“My father’s an artist, and I was his canvas”) chilled the room temperature considerably, so raw were her words. Rara doesn’t hold back. A glowing addition to the spoken word scene.
The biggest applause of the night, save for Shareefa’s, was directed at West African poet, Golden Blue. Preaching sonorously, her reflections on what it means to be female (“Remove all doubt that your existence is for somebody else’s entertainment”) and her frustration with living in the UK (‘Thiefin’ Set of People’), with its name-brand clothes, monarchy who wears African bling, and a government that’s ready to “hustle” the poor at every turn, had the audience hollering their approval and stamping their feet.
A wiser man than I once told me: “we write to raise people up”. And, through their poems and performances, that’s precisely what Shareefa and her band of word-weaving sisters are doing.
Reasoning with Self by Shareefa Energy is out now, via NLT Productions. It can be downloaded via her official website.
Image: Aaron Lee