UnPlugged

Where Poetry is The Point

The Run-Down from Lover’s Lyrics

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For several weeks we prepared for Lover’s Lyrics.  I called on my close artist friends to help me make it a success, and they were absolutely on top of it.  I needed someone who would run the music part of things, who did I call?  David “AcoustikMoney” Barnes.  He hangs out at the music store and makes a point to meet and mingle with other musicians.  He found our bass player, Robert Galbreath.  Sean Mulkey is a friend and fellow member of D’town Arts Coalition and kills on keys.  Tinsley Page is a student at Albany State and plays the drums like you and I walk or run.  The vocalist, Karena Michelle was referred to me by Durrell Smith, artist and member of D’town Arts Coalition.

I needed photography and videography to happen so that we could document how awesome it is when Artists work on one accord towards something beautiful.  The model for the body painting was the beautiful and elegant Jennifer Dyson.  vendors were Silver City and Moe’s Bartending.  I called Treesy Cutts of “LetsGo Robo Inc.” for videography and Urijah Spencer of “Papaya Ink.” for photography.

The featured poet of the night, Taj El, is a close friend of mine from back home in Philly.  He was the whole reason I decided to move forward with making plans.  You see, Taj had been saying that he was going to come down to Albany to visit, but I didn’t believe him.  finally he called me and said that he was buying his tickets and wanted to come out to UnPlugged while he was in town.  He asked if we were doing a special show for Valentine’s Day… I said “No.”  And then it occured to me that the show that I’ve been designing mentally for a few months was about to happen!

I thought about locations, and the perfect place stood out to me.  I want people to attend events in businesses all over downtown to find out about what’s being offered here that most people miss.  Living Legends Salon was perfect because of the size as well as the ambiance.  It’s not every salon that can host a major poetry event without much ado.  We owe a huge thanks to Tosh Sevier for his appreciation of the vision and provision of the space.

I am not going to talk too much about the show, I just want you to know that the response has been overwhelming!  I am looking forward to planning the next Lover’s Lyrics 2013!  enjoy the pics and leave a comment or pic of your own from the event.  And don’t forget, Lover’s Lyrics is a special presentation of UnPlugged Poetry by Shewrightz.  Come see us at Global Essence (111 S. Jackson St. Albany, GA) every firrst and third Monday at 7:30pm.

DVDs of the show will be available for purchase on March 15, 2012.  Proceeds from DVD sales will go towards the Shewrightz trilogy book collection.

What is Lover’s Lyrics?

Considering that Albany Artists UnPlugged is a column in which I feature local artists who are serious about their work, and moving forward with products, ideas and events that will help to enrich our city, I wondered if it made sense to feature an event in itself.  I decided it must be so.  The great thing about featuring an event is that more than likely there will be a number of artists I’m able to inform you about performing at any given event.  I also decided that since I’m so excited about my own upcoming event, this would be a great one to start with.

Picture this:  You walk to the second floor of a building downtown that you may have never even thought to enter.  When you arrive at the entrance to the show, you are greeted by the sultry voices of AcoustikMoney and Karena Michelle, singing love songs from today and decades past in harmony with the band.  “The band?”, you ask?  (We’ll come back to that).  Scents of romance waft through the air.  There is food, catered by It’s Your Time Wedding and Event Planners.  Moe’s is bartending, and has on hand a pink tap and a red tap if you’re brave enough.  Live, nearly nude models are being painted with body paint; But not just any body paint.  Latex body paint is applied artfully by D’town Arts Coalition member, Durrell Smith and Albany State University Art student, Shequila Taylor.  You catch their silhouettes out of the corner of your eye.  Angela Mitchell, visionary painter and mosaic artist is over in the corner with an airbrush gun, tattooing a heart with an arrow through it on some smitten young lady’s arm.   Jewelry from Silver City glitters.  And once you begin to acclimate yourself to the ambiance, you see a familiar face, or two, or three and it becomes clear:  Downtown Albany really IS coming alive!  You buy a raffle ticket at the door to participate in the drawing for door prizes.  These door prizes though, are not like any other gift baskets that you have seen at a poetry show (or any show, for that matter).  These door prizes are generously packed, and sponsored by The Adult Toy Box which I’m sure you know has something special for everyone, as well as Global Essence, which will help to create a sensual  mood for you when the show is over.

Lover’s Lyrics Erotic Poetry Night is the name of the show.  I know that here in Albany the word “Erotic” scares a lot of people off.  This is not your hole in the wall dollar bill strip show.  Lover’s Lyrics is an upscale, sensual, sensory experience.   How nice will it be to enjoy an adult experience that is delivered with taste and class?  We have prepared for you, a seamless show for which No expense has been spared.  From the performances to the décor, food, art and door prizes, each aspect of the event will be a treat.  How much fun will it be to find out about one of the most beautifully laid out salons in the city, in a forte most salons do not have the facilities or ambiance to deliver.  Living Legends salon is Albany’s contemporary cool space.  I encourage you to come and see what it’s about.

And now for the band…  I can only speak on this topic as a person who loves music and beautiful sounds.  I am no professional.  I know that the past 3 rehearsals have been in my living room, and so I will tell you that I have only had compliments from my neighbors.  (And not one complaint!)   I think that says something when the guitar, keyboard, bass and microphones were plugged into a huge amp and the drums were kicking at 8:00am.   Karena Michelle, the vocalist who will be setting the melodic tone for the night has a vocal range rarely heard.  Her attention to detail and insistence on quality covers, creative renditions and bright, beautiful attitude will make it a night you won’t forget.

Finally, I want to give you all an introduction to a longtime friend of mine, Taj El.  Taj and I met in Philadelphia at Panoramic Poetry at the October Gallery.  He will be traveling to Albany just for this event.  Taj is one of those poets who use words as though they are physical play things.  He makes you see his vision, he makes you feel his inspiration, he makes your lady remember how deeply you love her and he will give your man a hint or two about how deeply to love you.  Taj will be performing throughout the night with and without the band.  I could try to describe his poetry to you, but I won’t capture the eloquence, so instead I’ll tell you this:  Tickets are on sale at Odyssey Records, The Adult Toy Box and Global Essence.  Ticket prices are as follows, and for more information or to offer sponsorship, email Tannur Ali at Shewrightz@Aol.com.

Advance Individual Tix:                $10.00

Advance Couples Tix:                     $15.00

@ The Door Individuals:               $15.00

@ The Door Couples:                       $25.00

(“What is Lover’s Lyrics?” was originally published in The Albany Journal Newspaper on February 8, 2012)

By: Tannur Ali

 

Made In Albany

Remember those tags that said “Made in America”?  When I was growing up they were just about everywhere.  Over the years, I have seen them less and less.  Now I can barely remember the last time I saw one.  While interviewing Heather Ashberry, the image of a new tag came in to my mind.  Made In Albany.

“Our country has allowed other countries to take over manufacturing and we don’t make anything anymore.”  -She states, sitting curled up in my office chair, no bigger than my nine year old daughter; and yet reminding me of a time when our country made everything from handbags to handguns and apple pie to automobiles.  It’s easy to be fooled by Heather’s barely five foot stature.  By looking at her you wouldn’t automatically think “Steel-worker” or “print-maker”.  But there is a secret hidden in her delicate fingertips.  Her artwork tells the story of a very old soul in a very new era.  I guess you could say that Heather is kind of like a computer chip, in that there is a ton of knowledge and know-how packed into a tiny package.   The cool thing is that she sees the irony in how our world and our city have changed.  She sees the good in the new as well as the old.

“Artists don’t have to starve”, she says impassioned.  “We have so many skills.  We build and make so many things and we can do something with that.”  When asked what her plans are for the next big project, she mentions SquirrelyDoodle Ink, her line of accessories and trinkets that already includes clutches and will soon include collector’s edition corsets, handmade leather items and much more.   She plans to open a boutique to sell her one of a kind handmade crafts and accessories, as well as an Etsy account soon to come.  Heather knows that in order to be successful, she must demonstrate skill as well as passion.  She does just that when showing her work at the monthly Nights @D’town events.  You may have also seen her work in her solo exhibition at The Albany Museum of Art, or maybe you’ve noticed the mural on the wall at The Levee studio.

She carries a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Georgia Southwestern with a concentration in painting and drawing, although she said much of her focus in college was print-making.  “School doesn’t teach the business of art.”  She tells me.  In order to know that side of being an artists, you have to put yourself in a position to learn on the job.

Ashberry is currently an apprentice to Trent Ty, Master Blacksmith.  Yes, Blacksmith.  The practical education that she’s receiving right now is not your stereo-typical horse-shoe conversation.  So excited about the level of expertise and talent she has found in her teacher, Heather immediately jumps on the computer to show me pictures of the gargantuan steel gazebo in Trent Ty’s workshop.   Then, pictures of knives that he’d made.  My personal favorite, the tooled leather handbags and man bags.  Wow.  She shows me pictures of her clutches and describes in detail some of her new ideas and designs.  I kept thinking “Where is your boutique, again?”  (Only to remember that it’s not here yet.)  I’m going to go ahead and let you know I’m looking forward to the SquirrelyDoodle Ink store more than the new Olive Garden set to open on the West side.

Albany has been called the fourth poorest city in the nation.  I’m convinced that’s because Albanians do not recognize and support the talent it has oozing out from between the cracks of the storied woodwork.   We have artists and artisans who take seriously olden days concepts like quality, detail and reputation.  They can provide us with the hot new things that no one else has, and they can do it right here in our own backyards.  All we have to do is support them financially, as we do verbally.

Americans, and Albanians by extension have become consumers.  “We’re so connected by technology that we no longer relate to each other in person.”  We laughed about sitting with friends and noticing everyone on a phone, computer or other device.  We laughed about it, both recognizing that it’s no laughing matter.  Heather’s vision to “create something personal and make it universal so that people can relate to it” is one that can help to change the way Albanians view Albany.  Heather, and artisans like her will help to make Albany represent culture, passion, skill and beauty.  The artists of Albany are showing up and showing out.  The next time you go out to grab a new purse, or place another piece of art on your wall.  Consider this:  Is it as awesome as a SquirrelyDoodle Ink design?  And is it Made In Albany?

To contact Heather Ashberry, or to view some of her work, visit her on Facebook at: Facebook.com/Squirrelydoodleink

By: Tannur Ali

1/16/12

Made in Albany (Originally published in The Albany Journal Newspaper January, 18 2012)

Any Given Day

Any given day in Downtown Albany, on a casual walk through Turtle Park, you may come across a man playing guitar, and singing to his heart’s content.  And to yours, too.   If you have a favorite song from between about 1956 and 2011, he probably knows it and has already added his own spin to it.  Try him out.   You just might be surprised.  He goes by the name AcoustikMoney.   One of the cool things about the resurgence of art and culture in Downtown Albany is finding out that some of us have been at it for quite some time.  AcoustikMoney has been performing at open mic nights, weddings, and living room jam sessions throughout Albany since before the band had a wagon.

Over the past two and a half years, you could regularly see David Barnes performing his original music as well as a boat-load of cover songs at Wet Mic Wednesday, which was the premier Open-Mic night in Downtown Albany.   And now, you can find him performing at UnPlugged on first and third Mondays at Global Essence or just about any D’town Arts Coalition function.  AcoustikMoney has made a name for himself as the go-to-guy to set the mood for just about any occasion.   At UnPlugged he shines.  Playing classic favorites between his original compositions, you can see that music comes naturally to this young man from the old school. When we talked about the resurgence of art in Albany, AcoustikMoney mentioned the D’town Arts Coalition art show “BLAM!” where he met the talented and interesting piercing and scarification artist, Matt Hattaway of Heart and Dagger Tattoo Parlor and Fine Art Gallery.  “I like this because I get to roll in circles I normally wouldn’t.  Like Matt Hattaway, from the art show, who dresses like a skater and wears tribal earrings.  The art movement here makes it so that I can meet people who are completely different from me, but share my love of art.  It’s what Albany needs.”

When asked what inspires him, he talks about favorites like India Arie, Eric Roberson, Kem, Jill Scott, Floetry, Jamie Foxx and others in the R&B and Neo-Soul categories.  These artists motivate and inspire him because of their stories, as well as their exceptional talents.  “Growing up in Leary, GA, a musical career was not something you dream about.”  He recalls the first guitar that he ever had: “When I first got my guitar, I just wanted to be cool.  I let people think I could play, and would tell them:  ‘I just don’t feel like it right now’.”  This charade went on for almost ten years.   Finally after realizing that he was spending all the money from wedding singing gigs on musicians, David decided to figure out how to play that old guitar.

An A student at Albany Tech, David is working towards a career as a pharmacist.  He knows that few ever make it into the industry and become rich so he is working on ensuring a stable future for himself and his daughters.   While working on Plan A, his days and nights are filled with musical interludes; teaching himself new chord progressions and finding words to his melodies.  “I mess around on the guitar and sometimes chords come together and the words that belong with that music just come out.”  Most artists can relate to the sentiment.  But if you didn’t know any better, you would think that he spent all of his homework time coming up with lyrics like:

“Don’t let our love come crashing down because of what you heard/

Because what you feel when I’m holding you goes way deeper than words/

The whispers of all your fears telling you we should be apart/

But love calls…

Can’t be heard by ear, you have to listen with your heart”. ©2010

 He said: “I think I’m good at conveying my ideas in ways people can relate to them.”  I think he’s right. •

To learn more about AcoustikMoney and for Booking Information visit his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/AcoustikMoney/266022003456960

By: Tannur Ali

12/25/11

Originally Published in the 1/4/12 Issue of The Albany Journal

UNPLUGGED: THE DEAD POETS EDITION. Get Inspired.

AT the Last session of UnPlugged, when the seats were in a circle… and everyone was feeling the vibe, the beat was steady and the guitar was in perfect tune. AcoustikMoney belted out: “There go them hateeeerrrrrrssss…” and IT WENT DOWN!


PM asked: “What did he say? Did he say ‘there go them haters?!’

He stood up, and WENT IN!

“PUT A CLIP
IN THE GUN
COCK IT BACK
PULL IT SLOW…”

Here is the message: We can all thrive and survive as artists. We can be who we are and contribute to each other’s success without hate or competition.

Here is the assignment: Write your piece! Several members of the FNM Dance Krew have already begun posting their pieces. (You guys were the inspiration behind wrapping the show around the movement of inspiration, so Thank You)

Come ready to GO IN… and If you just want to watch, that’s cool, too.

!Let’s bring in 2012 on a note of Inspiration and forward Motion!

The Open Mic is still in full effect! Many poets are already on the list…

Call ahead to ensure your spot. 229-809-2491

If you are afraid to share your work, show off and DO IT ANYWAY!
(knees knocking and all:)
If you know you have the hottest flow, bring it!

Get UnPlugged, Y’all!

The 2-Minute-Plug portion of the night is also STILL ON!

The Grants/Scholarship Information Sheets will be ON HAND!

Refreshments will be served & Provided by Omar Salaam!!

Musicians and other artists are encouraged to attend.
Bring along your acoustic instrument and Rock Out!

NO MICROPHONE.
NO PRECONCEIVED NOTIONS.
NO JUDGEMENT.
NO SLAMS.
NO FUSS:-)
No CoVEr, kinda (((DONATIONS ARE GREATLY APPRECIATED)))

((DONATIONS ARE GREATLY APPRECIATED))

Although children and youth are always welcome, I want to be clear that poetry is an expression of art, as such, the content of what is shared is not always “Rated G”.
Poets are asked to appreciate the audience as the audience is asked to appreciate the the Poets.

See you there! 7:30 Sharp!

Towanda Smith, A Hidden Gem

Many gems of talent and skill have arisen to captivate audiences.

Within Downtown Albany’s recent artistic resurgence, one such gem is poetry.   Poets, true poets have been seen walking the streets of Albany, inconspicuous and muted for many years.  They clamor for a piece of paper and a pen as though searching for an inhaler during an asthma attack.  Perhaps you have seen them on the city bus, or in the office, at the bar scribbling on a napkin or elsewhere.  They were rummaging through a purse or a desk drawer searching for a few drops of ink to tell tales of injustice, love, faith, social ills such as, promiscuity and disease and more.

Now that Albany is coming into its own as a quiet metropolis, these poets are starting to fill the seats in any place where they can share their work.  One of these seats, in one of these places, recently held a special talent.  Unassuming, yet deliberate, Towanda Smith commands the attention of the room.  She shares work from her recently published poetry collection: Inspirations from the Father’s Heart.

In her Sweet, raspy voice, Towanda speaks truth to power.   Recognizing purpose in her gifts, she delivers heartfelt expressions that give perspective to the struggles in her own life, and gives a poignant voice to many social issues affecting the African American community, and the American community as a whole.   Recently at Unplugged, I listened to one of her poems called “America”.  Requested by her Student Union President back in college, the poem sheds light on the new American slave trade:  the prison system.  Noting privatization, dehumanization and capitalism, Smith educates her readers and listeners about the flawed justice system that thrives on a failing educational system and self-centered economic system.

A transplant from Seattle, Washington and native of Louisiana, Towanda now lives and writes in Albany.   She is a dedicated Christian, and when asked how she made it through her life’s trials, she replies simply: “Trust in God.  Faith.  Believing that with His help, I would be okay.”  What she left out: using the talent that she was blessed with to help others see things from another, new perspective.  She hopes that people can gain from her testimonies about overcoming challenges.

In a recent discussion, she spoke of having to train herself to absorb the meaning of the parables in scripture.  “I used to take it all too literally,” she discloses.   “Now, I know that I have to take the meaning of each of the stories in the Bible and apply it to my own life.”  Also influenced by writers such as T.S. Elliot, Maya Angelou, Walt Whitman and Nikki Giovanni, her style is bold.

She tells the story of the first poem that she wrote, entitled “William”:  When sitting at a bus stop in Seattle, she noticed a young man with his coat open, revealing no shirt.  She asked him if he needed help, and went on to purchase a shirt and lunch for him.  She invited him to church that very evening, and when he showed up, she was over-joyed.  “That’s where I got my first poem,” she said with a smile.

Inspirations from the Father’s Heart, released through Author House publishers, is available on Amazon.com.  For more information about Towanda Smith, or to see examples of her work, visit the UnPlugged Poetry page on Facebook.   You can enjoy her work live, at UnPlugged Poetry on the first and third Mondays of each month at 7:30pm, at Global Essence, 111 S. Jackson Street in Downtown Albany.

(This article was published in The Albany Journal Newspaper on 12/14/11.  Visit http://thealbanyjournal.com/category/columns/ for the column)

America

America, America, land of

The free, got our black men

Bound in your prisons of slavery.

They’re in shackles and chains, agony, and pain

Going mentally insane.

 Locked up behind a rusty cell cage, full of anger

Despair, violent, turmoil and rage.

Treated like a criminal and beaten like an animal.

 A dollar for every black male head

That waxes your prisons floors and lies restless

In your beds from being raped the night before.

 Fill up our state prisons

And let them overflow for that is

Were our tax dollar

Will eventually go.

 Privatization, dehumanization,

All in the name of success and dollars, private

Prison management and Service company’s holler

Locked them up and let them do the time,

Even if the punishment doesn’t fit the crime.

 It’s a vicious cycle that goes on and on, that

Our media hypes up with the same sensational

Crime songs, that will scare the people,

So they can cry out, lets do away with

Black males.

 Our prison industry and Its perverted

Ways need, need more black men

Incarcerated just to get paid.

 It’s a 100 billion dollar industry that’s

On the rise, as business owners, and

Politicians, capitalize on

Black crime.

 They could care less if a black man dies for

All they see is floating dollar signs in the air,

Not caring about a generation that’s living in

Despair.

 All they’re thinking about, is the almighty dollar

And could care less about

Rehabilitating our black sons

And our fathers.

 America, America, oh my heart bleeds,

To see that we’re so far from where we

Need to be.  We build more prisons,

Than we do schools, sending the message

To our children, that crime is really cool.

 Our prison industry is nothing but wacked, with

All the dramatic social services cut backs,

From colleges, schools, drug rehabs,

No wonder why the prison reform doesn’t

Last.

 Our brothers can’t stay

Out of your prison cells, they come out worse

And wind back up in jail.

You stripped them of their true identity,

Told them what they can and couldn’t

Be, and taken them from their

Families and community.

 No investment in helping them to

Renew their minds, now they’re

Dependent upon you

As they serve a lifetime.

 Systematic racism and slavery, oppressing

The black man and calling them lazy.

Instead of cargo ships, you got them behind bars,

Then that way you can contain

Them from a distance and afar.

 No man overboard, or tossed

Into the sea, instead you just

Locked them up for life and throw

Away the key.

Written By: Towanda Smith  

Copyright 2004 All Rights Reserved

Get UnPlugged!


UnPlugged is a poetry night set in an intimate space, where voices carry without the use of microphones.

UnPlugged happens every 1st and 3rd Monday of each month at Global Essence, located at 111 s. Jackson St. Albany, Georgia.

Patrick Jenkins, owner of Global Essence, where UnPlugged is held is a horticultural artist whose store is filled with art, trinkets, imports and wares from all over the world. The space that he has created provides much fodder for the creative mind. Poets, musicians, dancers, vocalists and lovers of art, alike come to enjoy the passionate expressions at each session of UnPlugged, but also for the ambiance of the location.

With the lights low, background music set to mumble and love in the air, each poet in their turn takes their place at the front of the crowd and shares their work. Be it a poem, vocal performance, musical interlude or combination of the three, each member of the audience and performer becomes privvy to the sometimes funny, often emotional, always powerful work of each artist.

The evening begins at 7:30 PM and ends at about 10:30 PM.

It’s free, but donations are greatly appreciated and help us to continue to provide appetizers, seating and beverages at no cost.

There is also an opportunity for “2 minute plugs” which are opportunities to plug products for sale, community activities, or personal ventures that the community should be aware of.

Poets and writers are provided with a listing of scholarships, awards and grants that they can apply for. The hope is that we can assist each other in developing opportunities to gain income through our work.

For more information, please call or contact me, Tannur Ali via email at: Shewrightz@aol.com
or call:
229-809-2491

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