Few people can talk about African independence movements using rhymes, storytelling and music – George the Poet is one of them. Chapter Four of ‘Have You Heard of George’s Podcast‘ has recently been released with George exploring various independence struggles in countries like Ghana, Ivory Coast and more. We sat with George to discuss more about this new release, his history with music and much more.
GUAP: Your podcast is quite different in the sense that it’s filled with storytelling, music, and narratives – what was your creative process like?
George: More time I think what’s the point I am trying to make then I go from there. Every year we talk about BHM, but I just thought what’s better to measure than the moment we all became independent. That was from Ghana first 1957 and so I wanna talk about that. And I always wanna use music so if I’m gonna talk about Ghana then we should be using Ghanaian music.
GUAP: Where did your interest in music stem from?
George: I just think that music is one of those parts of black life that is a blessing. I don’t know why anyone would not want to hear all the black music out there. We’re all connected musically, somehow like with our rhythm and the way we dance. I really wanted to tap into all of that
GUAP: You don’t just use music creatively but also politically like you connect Premier Gaol to the Ivorian civil war. Why did you want to connect the two?
George: Like I said, this chapter of the podcast started from black history and independence and that started with Ghana in 1957. But I found in my research that Cote D’Ivoire had a different journey completely – like the Ivorian leader maintained a friendship with the French colonisers. So, I wanted to talk about these neighbours, Ghana, and Cote D’Ivoire. But like I said we’re all connected through music so whenever I want to talk about a country, I am going to do it through music.
GUAP: Would you say music right now is fuelling any political change?
George: Right now, I think it would be a stretch to say music reflects our political situation or is has that impact. Everyone got onto Burna Boy a couple weeks ago when he said Afro beats doesn’t have substance, but we all know what he was saying. The point of afro beats isn’t to make a political stand but to have a good time
GUAP: Did that current disconnect between music and political change shift you towards spoken word instead of rap?
George: 100%. The corporate music industry platforms the worst of black culture and I don’t want to be swimming against the tide in the music industry because I’ve been there before.
GUAP: In light of that, then, what was your aim with this podcast?
George: The podcast was supposed to be a political education, straight up. And it’s not easy because no one asked for that. But this is very important and if we all say to ourselves ‘they never teach us the real black history’ but, when we have the opportunity, we don’t teach others that history then we will never move forward.
GUAP: There’s a sense of hybridity to your work where you merge the intellectual with the cultural. Was that deliberate?
George: It’s been my life, yeah. I’ve bounced between different communities and had to explain myself on both sides. It’s now my life’s mission and so whether it’s with the academics or the streets, I don’t feel pinned down to one side.
GUAP: Speaking of life’s mission, within your work you consistently highlight the black experience. Would you say that has been an intentional focus?
George: Yeah, it was a must actually. I have always been concerned about the condition of the black community and black life, but I didn’t know how to talk about it because nobody else was. At first, I kept trying to be indirect with it. Now, ever since George Floyd, sadly, people understand what time it is when you say we need to talk about African history. I wanted to keep all that same energy in the podcast.
On October 18th George will be curating a major takeover – filled with poetry and music – at the Royal Festival Hall and he will be performing on October 20th– tickets available here.
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