It was late November in 2006 when I ‘discovered’ Roots Manuva. MySpace was the dominant social platform, laying the foundation for everything else that followed. I had two pages – which I haven’t been able to access for a decade because I have forgotten the passwords and don’t have the email addresses I set them up with any longer. But, they are still out there: kojobaffoe and kojothepoet. I also had two blogs on Blogger.com: infinitepursuit and imperfectpoetry.
The beauty of the Internet at that time was its ability to open up the world of poetry, which I was heavily involved in, in terms of the work and the creators of that work. And the more I shared my own writing online, the wider that network grew. There wasn’t as much noise as there is today. so it was easier for kindred spirits to come together.
Four Continents Poetry Slam Tour
Somewhere along the line, I came across a poet and organiser based in Oxford in the UK – I can’t for the life remember his name and, embarrassingly, lost touch with him years ago. Anyway, he put together what he termed ‘The Four Continents Poetry Slam Tour’ which was a 14-day tour across the UK with eight poets representing four continents. The poets were: Thom The World Poet (Australia) and Penny Ashton (New Zealand); Henry Bowers (Sweden) and Richard (Scotland); Sonia Renee Taylor (US) and John Akpata (Canada); and Andreattah Chuma (Botswana) and myself.
It was one of those trips that will forever be indelibly carved into my memories. Getting on a bus to drive to the next city at 10am. Arriving, checking into a guesthouse, heading out to look for food, an internet cafe and to see the sites. Leaving for the venue at 6pm. Performing. Getting to bed and starting all over again the next morning. We did London, Cambridge, Oxford, Nottingham, Bristol, Brighton, Edinburgh, Leeds, Glasgow (where we had our only night off), etc. Each night was memorable for different reasons but Newcastle will always be up there for me.
Roots Manuva & Newcastle
We did our first show in London which my brother-in-law, who was based in the London area, attended. Over the years he has introduced me to a host of UK musicians and, on that night, in London, he came bearing gifts – a plastic bag with about 20 CDs and a Discman to play the music. I don’t travel well for extended periods with groups of people and always need music to find moments for myself. In this pack of CDs was Roots Manuva‘s Awfully Deep which started a love affair of sorts between myself and his music.
After the show in Newcastle, I was chilling with Faz, a tall, burly-ish Brit of Pakistani heritage who owned the transport company that was taking us across the country. We were chatting to some of the people who had come to the poetry show and they mentioned in passing that Roots Manuva was deejaying and performing at a club in the city called Headquarters (if I remember correctly). Needless to say, an hour later, there I was in a dark, not too dingy club, eagerly awaiting the man himself.
The DJ box was a rectangular cubicle with an opening similar to a food truck’s. Behind was Roots Manuva and his hypeman. He started off with a deejay set before launching ferociously into his discography including Witness (1 Hope) from his second album Run Come Save Me and Colossal Insights, which was the first song that hit me, when I first listened to Awfully Deep.
Within that confined space, Roots Manuva performed his ass off. By the time he was done, I had stripped down to a vest despite the dreary, winter’s night outside and was happily drenched in sweat having been taken on a journey through his music to that point. Over the years, I have looked out for everything that he puts out and he never disappoints, including the 2016 Bleeds.
This morning, browsing for something to listen to, I came across Awfully Deep in my collection and was immediately transported to that night, and that time in my life. It is beautiful how music houses our memories.