Ital Fresh Food For Thought @ District 27/10/16

Celebrating the launch of Ital Fresh’s Food For Thought winter residency at District, where spoken word and acoustic open mic slots are married with divine and delish Ital cuisine (food that comes from the earth, following Rastafarian philosophy of oneness – no meat, no fish and nuh-uh to nasty processing), it’s fitting that dub poet LEVI TAFARI should take centre stage. A long-time exponent of Rastafarian culture in our fair city and beyond, Tafari weaves his observations of contemporary society with tongue-in-cheek take-offs of politics, as demonstrated in his set opener Parliamentary Erection which mocks how our politicians manage to, ahem, keep up during debates.

Every poem in his set is delivered with such an ease of rhythm, while his words are poignant but not pretentious and his stanzas are accessible and engaging; it’s clear that young and old in the audience delight in his storytelling. The set is laced with humour too – his uncanny take on a scouse accent surprises many used to hearing the Jamaican lilt in his voice – but along with this humour, there are serious issues to be dealt with. Recounting his autobiographical tale of being arrested and held in police custody in the 1980s – through no fault of his own, but simply for being black and in the wrong place at the wrong time – his words seem all too relevant in light of the multiple police shootings that have claimed black lives in America this year.

Despite tackling serious matters, Tafari injects warmth and positivity into a wet winter’s night. Rhyme Don’t Pay tells of Tafari trying to explain to his bewildered father that he wants to become a poet, while Unity Creator explains the meaning behind his name, praises his multiple identities and remaps his ancestry without the lens of Anglocentricism. Expressing “I am a crucial, rhythmic, poetic conscious-raiser,” Tafari is exactly that: his personal experiences played out in poetry carry the attention of the whole room who hang on his every word.

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