Roya won the Bowery Poetry Slam on Monday night with ease, but it’s not a competition to her. Just a platform to spread her message and her voice, and if she gets rewarded afterwards, she’ll take it. It’s nothing new for her. She was a member of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe’s Slam Team, a position that takes a lot of winning-poetry-slams to reach, including their 2014 Grand Slam.
She doesn’t like talking about this sort of stuff – she will, but you have to dig it out a little bit. To her, she’s just one voice in a movement. The movement, the medium, the message, the art, the community – these are the things that are meaningful to her. I understand i’m using a lot of hyphens, but i think we’ll be ok.
It’s the empowerment of disenfranchised that i feel moves her, and it’s why she spends her time as a youth mentor and writing teacher, helping young people with something to say find their own voice, building a community of young writers, poets, speakers, activists, or maybe just a group of young people in touch with their beliefs and their feelings. The Bronx native values that community, and you can see that for yourself in this piece we shot in the first ever ‘Street Noise: BX’ feature, an honest and personal expression of the feeling of being gentrified.
You can find Rosa Marsh on twitter and instagram @issaroya
i am niamh doesn’t always play cello, but it’s easier than lugging a piano to the edge of Howth Head, where we drove out for the day to try to get some good shots. On the way out, she told me all about Mattress Mick, the Poolbeg Generating Station, and her desire to live with a Brony.
She had just released her album “Wonderland” to much acclaim and finished up most of the summer tour dates, so we found a free day to head for the hills and make some noise on the Cliffs of Howth, just north of Dublin City. In true Irish fashion, the weather was alternating from beautiful to cold and rainy the whole way there. We managed to get enough clear sky to set up and get in at least a few takes before the rain started up again and we had to run for the car.
If you like what you hear, and you missed her at Electric Picnic, i am niamh plays all over ireland and is coming to New York next month to play a few select dates around the city.
find her at: iamniamh.com or https://www.facebook.com/iamniamh
Back in June, I spent a day with 5J Barrow. Check it out.
If Mike from breaking bad was from NYC and decided to start going to poetry slams, he might end up like RAyW. You don’t often see actor, spoken word performer, private investigator, security liaison Vietnam veteran and retired cop on the same resume, but that’s what you have in Ray. His words deal with issues from his world – “fuck tha police” is his response from the other side of the thin blue line to the NWA song and subsequent rallying cry, repeating the refrain “say what you want about us, see what you do without us.” His words are sharp and blunt. It’s not fancy. The rhymes are pretty and clever but the delivery and the message is always hard and clear. “Next time, do us a favor – call your fucking neighbor.”
I swear, he’s a nice guy.
Between tearing into religion and giving the abridged version of the hell that was the Vietnam War, Ray made us stop into Ray’s Beingets to buy his girlfriend an ice cream cone and give me a lesson about the owner, an Iranian immigrant who’s been an East Village staple since 1974. “We can’t come down here and not go to Ray’s Candy Store,” he says to me, chuckling.
The anger in his poems shouldn’t be mistaken for bitterness. The fiery delivery comes not from a place of hate, but one of caring. He cares about the people he loves and the people he serves and gets angry about injustice, whether it be people disrespecting the elderly or the police, or people in places of power taking advantage of children.
Obviously part of the initial appeal is the novelty- it’s always exciting when talent comes unexpected places, and when you first meet Ray, seeming like a character from Full Metal Jacket, you really couldn’t possibly be ready for what’s about to happen. But his poetic prowess goes far deeper than simply a novelty act. His delivery and the way that it compliments what he’s actually saying (and what he’s saying is important) is exceptional and you soon forget why it surprised you in the first place – it becomes clear in a very short amount of time that that’s who he is, as much as he is a cop, a veteran, a private investigator.
He’s an old man with a young plan and he’s not slowing down.
You can find more of him at www.raywiederhold.com
ShoutHouse is an embodiment of the true creative spirit. What else would have drawn these people together? In a group that is roughly equal parts Juilliard, Vassar, Manhattan School of Music and Craigslist, the common thread seems to be the spirit of creation.
A classical musician tends to follow a certain path – a path that generally leads to a lifetime of jazz standards or Wagner, Brahms and Beethoven. There’s a reason people still play Take 5 and Beethoven’s Eroica. These are brilliant and timeless pieces that people will always need to hear and to play. However, the members of ShoutHouse recognize that music like that came from the spirit of bold innovation and experimentation, which is how it came to be that on one night at The Bitter End, I saw before me a 13-piece orchestra behind a singer, two rappers and 4 bucket drummers.
For about an hour, i watched them mixing a cocktail of classical, jazz, spoken word, hip-hop, pop in a way i’ve never seen, let alone imagined. It was as if Holst, Zappa and Robert Glasper had grown up in the East Village and formed a supergroup. It never occurred to me that someone could rap in 7/8. The whole night was a cacophony of shock, awe and whiskey gingers.
In what was by far the largest TSNP shoot ever undertaken, we brought them to Sara D. Roosevelt Park off of Houston St. between Chrystie and Forsyth. I wanted to shoot somewhere near the East Village and they wanted to shoot somewhere near Rockwood Music Hall where they had soundcheck at 5pm for a show that night. It was the perfect spot, tucked enough away that i thought we’d have a chance at not getting shut down immediately.
As it happened, we shot for about an hour and a half and nobody bothered us once. Park goers and passerbys stopped and listened, and for a while, we all forgot about the world outside of a tiny piece of the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
Will Healy, the piano man and ShoutHouse founder serves as the composer of roughly half of their music, but this piece, “Escher’s Friend” was designed by Jesse Greenberg, multi-instrumentalist and keys, mallets and synths player for the band.
Find their music and upcoming shows (including an approaching collaborative performance with a group of Hip-Hop and modern dancers at the DiMenna Center) at www.shouthousemusic.com
5J Barrow is the band that makes you stop what you’re doing and stare. That’s what i did the first time i saw them at an art-share party on St. Marks Pl. There were about 60 or 70 of us in a circle around Jason and Eryn, stomping, singing and banging strings. 60 or 70 people stopped and stared.
Their music is everything i want music to be. Energetic, evocative, unfiltered and beautiful. In an age of autotune and quantization, top 10 charts without any real instruments on them, 5J Barrow is the cure. I still haven’t seen them with their full band, only as a duo, but they get a bigger sound with two people than should be possible. With dynamics that range from a whisper to a tsunami, their songs tell stories of love, loss and longing. Their songs remind you of feelings that you lost track of. They take you to a place and leave you there without a ride.
The band was conceived in a living room on Barrow St. in Greenwich village. Jason had just moved here from California and he and Eryn would share ideas and create music to take down the street to Washington Square Park. It’s a routine that continues today. When i spoke with them to arrange a meeting, they told me, “Just drop by the park, we’ll be there playing there all day.”
I heard them from down the block. There they were under the arch. Perfect. Portrait of the artists in a New York City summer. Sink in.
More THEM at: http://5jbarrow.com/