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Interview with Abiodun Oyewole of the Last Poets

You are credited with producing some of the earliest ‘rap’ and described as the forefathers of hip hop. Describe how you came up with your unique ‘sound’?

We decided in the beginning to use a conga player as background music for our poetry. We had even tried a guitar player, but it didn’t have the impact the drums had. We enhance what we are saying with the conga drums.

What inspires your poetry?

The people have always been my source of inspiration

You’ve described poems as being ‘rivers of our souls’, describe how you create your poetry?

I observe and listen to black people and discover what’s in and what’s not. I try to capture what we’re saying and doing poetically.

Has the message at the heart of your work changed over the years?

I have matured over the years and so has my poetry. We used to write a lot about “niggers” and how we were trying to make them black. Now I’m trying to make the whole world  ‘Understand what Black is’ as well as exposing the ugly system that continues to oppress.

It’s the Last Poets’ 50 year anniversary this year, how has your poetry changed over the years? How do you keep your music relevant ?

I stay relevant by staying in touch with the people, listening to them and watching them. I’m like a painter with a paint brush and an easel. I am trying to paint healthier images for us to see of ourselves.

Tell us a little about your new album ‘ Understand What Black Is’

At first I didn’t understand why the producer wanted to use Understand Black as the title track. After listening to it several times, I realized its importance and how the entire world needs to hear and understand what black really is.

What advice would you give someone who would like to start writing poetry?

When writing poetry one must use their five senses to describe or express a situation. Using anyone of the five senses is an easier way to reach the listener. The use of figurative language will automatically come in to play. Having passion would also help.

What can we expect from your performance at he Dulwich Festival in May?

I’m sure we’ll do something from the new album, but we’ll probably do some old stuff too because it’s still relevant.

What would you like people to take away from your show?

That we the people must be sacred to one another and respect the differences and not be so quick to put each other down.

How much are you looking forward to performing at the Dulwich Festival next month?

I pray for guidance before each show. I can’t guarantee anything, but I hope we have a wonderful moment in time.

The Last Poets. Dulwich College, May 20th, 5pm
Tickets at Eventbrite
£12, U25’s £5, Concessions £10


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