Recently, on 10 January there was an open mic event at Tagore Hall organized by KathBath in collaboration with Yourquote India. It started after twelve; why I remember this is because the host mistakenly said good morning and I let out a scoff and hence I’m all about first impressions if nothing else. It was a closed event, thankfully because open events usually are messy and haphazard, therefore the audience comprised of people who, even if remotely, were interested in poetry regardless of language. There were around 34 speakers in all and I was number nineteen, on the previous day my father’s blood pressure had shot to 210mmHg because the whole result thing and the fear of marks shaming are so prevalent, thankfully he was okay in the morning and therefore I was able to leave.
This event clearly was something out of the ordinary only because the audience was more appreciative of poetry and music was a secondary aftertaste. Normally, the open events that happen around Kashmir are open and therefore the audience, forgetting poetry; tend to be beaten about music¬— they flood each and every event and nothing else remains to be seen, therefore.
Kashmir is full of poets; however, only a handful of them come out in the open because perhaps the habit of being in a dark corner and write about their torments comes as natural as words do. There is so much of resistance poetry happening in and around us and if we were to perform it, it’d be more reachable and impactful. The art of spoken word in the contemporary world is growing immensely and we aren’t taking any initiative to wash our hands in the new current.
Now, going back to the history of it, to Muslims spoken word is as close as the word of God, Quran was revealed to us in spoken form, with inflexions, aesthetics and intonation. Then our sahabas continued to remember it in a spoken form and it took a while before it was written. Quran has rhymes in it, if you were to recite a few verses, you’ll see that the lines complement each other, making it sound more beautiful and undeniably appealing. Therefore, the impact of spoken word spans back to the time of our Prophet (PBUH), the best of orators in the world.
According to Wikipedia, spoken word is a performance art that is word based. It is an oral art that focuses on the aesthetics of wordplay and intonation and voice inflexion. It is a ‘catchall’ which includes any kind of poetry recited aloud, including hip-hop, jazz poetry, poetry slams, traditional poetry reading and can include comedy routines and prose monologues.
From another perspective in history, some American spoken-word poetry originated from the poetry of the Harlem Renaissance, blues music, as well as the 1960’s beat generation in which there were poets like Allan Ginsberg and writers like Jack Kerouac. Notable speeches such as Martin Luther King’s I have a Dream, Sojourner Truth’s Ain’t I a Woman and Booker T Washington’s Cast Down your Buckets, incorporated elements of oration that influenced the world.
In the 1980’s competitive spoken word poetry competitions emerged, labelled ‘poetry slams’. American poet Marc Smith is credited with starting the poetry slam in November 1984. In 1990, the first national poetry slam took place at Fort Mason, San Francisco. The poetry slam reached a wider audience following Russell Simon’s Def Poetry, which was aired on HBO between 2002 and 2007.
Therefore, the ambience and the impact of spoken word as an art form needs to be incorporated in our society but unfortunately, the various stages available here have to be booked under authorities and requires a lot more than casual use of performance poetry. Various poets in Kashmir that have written against the atrocities and bloodsheds that have taken place in the history and present, could speak aloud on the stage as a means of artistic resistance. A Palestinian poet called Rafeef Ziadah has shaken the world with her performances pertaining to the daily massacres happening in Gaza, which otherwise the whole world is in blindside of and therefore protesting by means of her Art.
It is unfortunate that, while the world is a dunk in the storm of spoken word and speaking out by the grace of their art, we are not enacting it anywhere in our societies where flaws promptly take the upper hand, where issues need to be addressed and talked about. Thus the need for speakers, artists and writers as people taking it to the stage in a spoken form and raising awareness, confronting and declaring an emergency against its correction is non-evasive.
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