When Poetry meets Facebook: An interview with London spoken word artist Oneness Sankara

by NiaBrunellaAllen
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on 19 November 2011 in Features

That poetry and music have much in common shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone (and if you have any doubts about that I suggest you go get yourself a seriously large dose of Bob Dylan, then we'll discuss...)

However, most of the talented artists that have an affinity with both words and sound tend to opt for one form of expression over the other, creating either songs with poetic lyrics or spoken word pieces with a real sense of rhythm and musicality. But there's always an exception...

One of the contemporaries on the London scene who exemplifies this very well is spoken word artist and singer songwriter Oneness Sankara. Oneness is a multi-tasking, multi-talented lady, whose love for words is so powerful that she has chosen to express it through a wide variety of mediums.

If she's not performing at one of the many spoken word nights that are starting to become increasingly popular all over the British capital, she's on a stage as part of a contemporary theatre piece, or soothing people's ears with her melodic voice and the sound of her guitar.

Most her work reflects her acute social awareness and her desire to spread powerful messages. Now she has just released her debut single 'A Colon And A Bracket aka Dat Facebook Song', in which she addresses the topic of the infamous 'Facebook epidemic'.

I decided to interview her to discover a little bit more about how she views the overlap between music and poetry and about her relationship with her work and passion.

 How did you become so passionate about words

I love language. In fact I love communication. I learnt quite early on the power of words- Especially the delivery of words. Being London born African (via Grenada) I would hear my parents work magic with words- 'Home speak' 'Work speak' 'Friend Speak'..... My mother said to me when I was young (er!) - "I have no mother tongue to give you so let's make sure that the language that you do have (English) you must use to the best of your abilities!" (Blatantly wack paraphrasing!) Don't quite know if I've done that but I have fallen in love with the word in numerous capacities- Written, Spoken, Sung and so I do all. Kat Francois has a poem about words where she describes her journey with words and that piece speaks to my passion for words- It's called 'Blessed by Words'.

In your experience as a spoken word artist, do you feel that the general public pays more attention to form or content?

Well, for starters I don't think that the general public even really know what spoken word is- but as for my audiences it really varies. I think that it speaks to what people want. Some circles are about learning, some are about being purely entertained and some are about both. I personally aim for what I call 'Trinity' - Style, Content & Flow.

In relation to the previous question, how do you feel that the message of your song “A Colon and A Bracket” will be received? In other words, do you feel and hope that the majority will focus on the catchy music or the polemic message behind the words?

I think one of the great things about spoken word and lyric based music and song is that people have a number of entry points so if they enter through the music that's great as it brings them a step closer to the message and if they go direct to the words that that's blessed too because that's crux of my work and ultimately the message is extremely important to me.

What do you feel are your biggest strength and your biggest weakness as a professional artist?

Wow. That's a whopper of a question. I think I usually lie about this one 'cause it's a job interview one right....you know "my biggest weakness is that I am a perfectionist who likes to work long hours!" Ok seriously. Strength...my passion...for life and it's infinite possibilities...that's what drives my work...drives me to wake up in the morning...(or afternoon!) Weakness...Paper work! Admin! Yuk!!! I tend to put it off and then have to do it all at one time....driving myself bonkers and thus affirming how much I dislike it- It's a weakness because if I was more efficient in the area I'm sure it would give me more time to be more creative...or sleep!

What is your favourite word and why?

Um...it changes on a daily basis so today it's conversely! Why? Because it carries the spirit that nothing is absolute and everything changes!

Oneness's single 'A Colon And A Bracket aka Dat Facebook Song' is out now.

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