On the same night that fire-fighters rushed to tackle the blaze in the buildings on the corner of Hanover St and Dantzic St, poetess and rapper Akua Naru was preparing to set the city on fire – poetically – from Band on the Wall. Take the lyricism of Floetry, add Erykah Badu’s realness, sprinkle Jill Scott’s passion with a measured injection of Lauryn Hill’s daring spirit; meld all this up and you have the astounding Akua Naru.
Having faced some trouble crossing the border at Manchester Airport yesterday, Akua managed to make it for her scheduled performance at Band on the Wall – almost a couple of hours late, mind. Nonetheless this woman along with her band made it up to the patiently waiting fans. After a local opening act warmed up the crowd with some J-Dilla-esque jams, plus some authentic and organic grime tracks, Akua literally sprung onto the stage barefoot.
The room was buzzing and camera-phones illuminated the room like fireflies. The energy was palpably vibrating across the room as she launched into fresh tracks from her new album The Miner’s Canary, as well as classics from albums The Journey Aflame and Poetry: How Does It Feel? Crowd favourite ‘How does it feel’ had the room serenaded with the track’s syrupy lyrics “If love had a sound, this would be that sound”.
It was not all lovely vibes throughout the night however. Whilst Akua and her band are what you call the perfect recipe for a night of profound explosion of conscious rhymes, old-school hip-hop vibes and a reminder of what it means to be black, she is a realist. Echoing the Million Man March’s theme ‘Justice Or Else’, Akua didn’t hold back in conveying the same message to the Manchester crowd.
“Do not act like we don’t have a lot of work to do in this world, because we do very very much so. Peace is a human right, but in this world, peace is a privilege. That we are gathered here to celebrate this music, our collective movement; that a black woman is up here on the microphone, is a progressive statement”, Akua said.
What was seemingly a point made in good spirit, appeared to make the audience uncomfortable as the crowd’s energy dipped slightly. “Don’t tell me I dampened the mood. Don’t tell me I spilled some truth and y’all ready to go to sleep on me”, the poetess said to the crowd.
After talking about the injustices faced by black people in America like Sandra Bland and Eric Garner, Akua went on to speak about the value of black life in our world. When asked about what she felt about the crowd’s reaction to her words of truth, Akua said, whenever she touches on political issues, she feels a shift of energy in the audience.
Talking to TNT after the show, an audience member said, what Akua said “was tough to hear but it was true. She kept it truthful. It’s tough for white people because they like to pretend it’s not happening. It’s tough on black people because we like to be ignorant about it”.
The Miner’s canary is out to buy now.
TNT Entertainment Yasin Chinembiri