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Sisters with voices

23 Jan 2006

Upfromtheroots has been providing enriching entertainment for over a decade and the annual When Sisters Speak event has become a poetry staple in Toronto . It was therefore quite alarming to hear at Saturday''s show that the producer Dwayne Morgan was so worried, he considered canceling due to poor ticket sales.

Fortunately, true fans and newcomers came out and expierenced an evening of laughter, song and a healthy dose of food for thought. All of this was served passionately by sisters with powerful messages, nourishing Toronto ’s spirit as well as its appetite for the poetic.

When Sisters Speak showcased not only talent, but the diverse women in the African-Canadian community. So for those of you who didn’t make it, needless to say, you missed out!

The evening began with selections from writer, poet and actress Amani aka Anne-Marie Woods who though injured physically, was not in spirit.


Toronto poet Jemeni

Her stirring spoken-word piece “liv-e-cated” addressed the issue of gun violence in our community. Peppered with songs, this piece set the tone for the evening’s performances which were entertaining and stimulating. The self-described singing -spoken -word artist also showcased her comedic qualities while educating us on the five different colors of kryptonite.

Following Amani was NYC’s Tantra who came accompanied by an interpretative dancer. This in itself made her performance unique. But to end her set, she did an Ashford & Simpsonesque rendition with her partner that brought the house down and made her performance truly memorable.

The Caribbean Dance Theatre performed in honor of a departed friend “Blue” and had the audience captivated with the interpretative work set to the music of Brian McKnight and John Legend.

Crowd favorite Jemeni must be given added cool points for the most comedic performance of the evening, which included an eclectic mix of poetry, short stories and what I will call “risqué musings”. Jemeni held the audience captive while performing old favorites like “the community man” which is a hilarious commentary on relationships with “playas.” There were also fresh pieces such as a short story featuring Anansi the spider vs. Spider man. Let’s just say, belly aches were had by all after his trip to meet Mr. Peter Parker!!

Toronto poet Anne-Marie Woods

After a short intermission the audience was drawn back into the vibe with  Nova Scotia''s Shauntay Grant, who kept the poetic torch lit with her selections “Before” &  then “After” , both personal, poignant and powerful pieces on relationships.

“Expect fire, expect work that I stress is relevant, that leans on my training as a performer as a singer,” says Naila Keleta Mae the 1st runner-up of The Toronto International Poetry Slam 2005. And she did not disappoint! Naila moved us with the cleansing of her “psychic trash”, a passionate selection performed with a delivery reminiscent of an impassioned preacher. This piece seemed too brief. On a night where every word was relevant, Naila’s were all too noteworthy, with her commenting on the madness of a society that acquits police officers, guilty of shooting a young black man forty-one times.

Last but not least, was Virginia’s own Queen Sheba. As expected of royalty she held a confident pose, but when she spoke, she spat fire like an emcee with the grace and wit of a griot. She made us laugh, made us think, but most of all she left us wanting more.

Really, who am I kidding? This was the case for every performance. All the ladies obviously put their all into each piece. A more passionate and heartfelt evening could not be found.

After Saturday’s performances I think it’s safe to say spoken word is here to stay in Toronto. As Amani put it “I think it’s great what Dwayne is doing he has taken spoken word to a different level.” I agree and with our continued support the possibilities are infinite.

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