After a three month hiatus, Hit the Ode returned last Thursday, re-branded and ready to reclaim the hearts of Birmingham’s spoken word audience. Whilst jam-packed full of regulars, this monthly event organised by West Midland’s Apples and Snakes still attracted many newcomers, and the atmosphere was electric.
The open-mic performers displayed the varied poetic talent in and around the city. Although one poet did offend members of the audience with her insensitive and ignorant poetry about topics such as Ramadan and war, this was far eclipsed by those who also took the stage. From beautiful observations of bus journeys, to humorous ‘festival’ anecdotes, and rap and beat poetry, the eclectic mixture of styles made for an all-encompassing evening.
The first featured poet was Juice Aleem, originally from Birmingham. A proficient rapper and spoken word artist, who has performed all over the world, he utilised rhyme and rhythm to capture everything from ethnicity to relationships. Often funny, and extremely self-aware, Juice Aleem wowed the audience with his originality, and free-style skills especially.
Harry Baker, a Bristol-based poet and member of The Elephant Collective, was the next featured act. With an impressive array of slam champion titles, as well as several performances at Bestival, his gawky humour and love of puns really charmed the audience. From a ‘dessert’ version of Ed Sheeran’s A-Team, to 59: a love poem about prime numbers, he definitely captured the art of entertaining.
Finally we were graced with the presence of Luanda Casella, a Brazilian poet, performer, actress and musician. In collaboration with Espirito Brum Festival, she combined poetry, music and sound effects to give an eerie account of a nightclub and the various characters in it. Whilst surreal and confusing at times, her act was refined and her use of Voice Changer software, for example, was well-timed and never distracted from her performance. With her direct gaze and strong stage presence, Casella commanded attention and demonstrated the infinite possibilities of spoken word.