Features BooksPerformance Published 6 July 2012

Lyrix Organix

Founded by Dan Tsu in 2009, Lyrix Organix is an organisation that provides a platform for outstanding unsigned spoken word and hip-hop artists.
Carmel Doohan

Lyrix Organix is a not-for-profit organisation which brings together hip hop, acoustic folk, soul and spoken word. Reinvigorating the lyrical and consciousness-raising roots of spoken word their events form an innovative mixture of music, poetry and visual art and at the same time raise awareness for humanitarian and human rights issues.

Their monthly nights at The Queen’s Head in Islington have hosted a wide range of international performers, moving with ease from kora, to cello, to beatboxing. It is a place to  find radical new sounds and insightful new perspectives. Here the personal becomes political; intimate, lyrical and deeply engaged in building a better world, this room above a pub creates a glimpse of what such a place might sound like.

At Glastonbury last year, they collaborated with Médecins Sans Frontières to recreate an instillation of Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake. Alongside specially commissioned graffiti pieces and the stage were cholera treatment centres in freight containers; festival goers could watch films about the aid work being carried out then enjoy a line up of acts from the UK Underground. On their return Lyrix collaborated with The Hip Hop Shakespeare Company at Rich Mix and co-hosted the Uprise anti-racism festival in Dalston.

This May they worked with The Other Cinema to hold a screening of La Haine in a community centre on Broadwater Farm, Tottenham near where Mark Duggan was shot and last summer’s riots began. Shown on the eve of London’s Mayoral Election and partnering up with residents of the estate, this was a free event for the local community, featuring musicians and poets and funded by subsequent screenings at The Troxy, Limehouse and in Paris. Unafraid to take on a challenge and always on the look out for new ways to use music and poetry to spread their message of togetherness, this summer Lyrix are taking their new project Lyrix:Relay around London. As part of the Cultural Olympiad it will tour ten London boroughs-  all profits going to grassroots humanitarian organisation Restless Beings.

With outdoor staging built out of discarded materials from the Olympic site, it will bring together Dean Atta, Zee Gachette (Z Star), Grace Savage and Natty Speaks who, poised on podiums will form a relay team of live music and poetry. Atta is winner of the Spirit of London Award and his poetry explores the political through the personal; he voices the fear and loneliness he sees around him, winding his storytelling into the rhythm created by his team mates. British/ Trinadadian singer and songwriter, Zee Gachette performs ‘Woman of the Hood’ before passing the beat on to Grace Savage, human beatbox extraordinaire. Able to simultaneously create a drum ‘n’ bass beat and sing melody over the top, Savage is witty and ingenious – gasping “Dub step, oh my” over the sound of records being scratched – one of only a few female performers in a predominantly male genre. Natty Speaks takes the audience over the finish line with his freestyle rap as all four overlap and interact.

The Lyrix:Relay launch party at The Yard Theatre showcased live street art from Joanna Layla and Kate Cunningham as well as poetry from emerging and established poets. Highlights were Bernard James’ neurotic tales of broken hearts and haircuts; Osama’s startling and evocative imagery; Poet Curious’ fierce and irreverent verse and Hollie McNish’s witty and insightful observations. Poetronica pioneers The King’s Will mixed performance art, requiem and rap and Ayanna, a cellist and singer songwriter of enormous power, put to music the words of African-American abolitionist Sojourner Truth, singing “Ain’t I a woman” to a spellbound audience.

Impossible to predict, Lyrix Organix’s approach defies categorisation. This micro-festival tour takes interdisciplinary and collaborative artforms to audiences and locations which are often ignored. Seeking not to draw lines but to expand minds, this is an Olympiad alternative worth celebrating.

For the dates and locations of Lyrix:Relay, visit their website.

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Carmel Doohan

Carmel is an arts journalist and writer who lives in Hackney, London.

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