The program notes for 7NMS|Marjani Forté+ Everett Saunders‘ Prophet: The Order of the Lyricist at REDCAT state that this work is a ‘project on the life journey of a lyricist, (it) illuminates the distinctive practices, systems, philosophies, and political ideologies that have shaped hip-hop’s emcee/lyricists’. It does this and more. This show does not just illuminate, it expresses in gorgeous three-dimensional reality one man’s development as an Artist, full of the requisite ups and downs, self-doubts and revelations inherent in taking up such a journey.
The writer, composer, sound-designer, performer is Everett Saunders who is at every moment in control of the material and expression necessary in order to bring his message home to the audience. His message is intensely personal and, having realized himself as an emcee artist, full of hope and light.
The piece opens with two ceremonially garbed individuals entering the space and committing a ritual dance to make it ready for the story that is about to unfold. These were the choreographer/performer Marjani Forté-Saunders and dancer Marcella Lewis. They complimented each other and beautifully set the tone by their movement for the oratory to follow. The Choreography was sustained adagio with a bit of Tai-Chi which added a deliberateness to the proceedings. The costume design by Zoe’s Vintique and Shvawn ‘Siren’ Bausley was reminiscent of period Korean wear with both performers wearing the ‘Gat’, a type of Korean traditional hat worn by men during the Joseon Dynasty. They also had robes and voluminous pants which billowed and added to the serene effect.
The set consisted of two monoliths in white which served as borders, dividers, framers and most effectively screens for projections. Forté-Saunders and Lewis manipulated these set pieces throughout, complimenting and commenting on various parts of the story being told by Everett Saunders. Media designer, filmmaker was Meena Murugesan with videographer Rashaud Michel. The projections were an integral part of the performance and while gorgeous on their own, lent spiritual gravity to aspects of Saunders’ journey.
The music covered every moment of this show and cannot be separated from the content. Musician and co-composer Chris Ryan Williams and ‘Thought Partner’ Rahaman ‘Kil’ Kilpatrick were evident here. Saunders, relaying who he was and how he came to be a lyricist, developed along with each note and phrase. The two were inextricable. His survival through music and his passion for emcee university were all displayed musically through rhythm and rhyme. His poetry, clearly heard and delightfully engaging, captured all attention. He credits his coming of age to three ‘Kings’. Three men who come out of nowhere and help him realize himself. They are others – they show him strength within the society and reveal him to himself.
It is a heartfelt exploration of who one man was and how he became changed and found himself through music and spoken poetry. His Art transformed and his soul realized.
For more information about 7NMS|Marjani Forté+ Everett Saunders, please visit their website.
For more information about REDCAT, please visit their website.
Written by Brian Fretté for LA Dance Chronicle.
Featured image: 7NMS|Marjani Forté-Saunders + Everett Saunders – “Prophet: The Order of the Lyricist” – Photo by Angel Origgi