Rejuvenation, Celebration and “Ridiculous Emceeing” at BAM’s First Live Virtual Spring Event

Rejuvenation, Celebration and “Ridiculous Emceeing” at BAM’s First Live Virtual Spring Event
Image: BAM

Rejuvenation, celebration and “ridiculous emceeing.”

That’s what BAM has on offer for its first live, virtual concert of the spring, which will take place on the evening of April 23rd: an interactive hip-hop showcase featuring music, spoken word poetry and dance performances, along with live visual design that will respond to the artists’ performances in real time.

The event is the latest iteration of BAM’s Word. Sound. Power. series, an annual spring event that was cancelled last year as the coronavirus swept through the city. The event is intended to celebrate hip-hop and other African diaspora art in a way that resonates with Brooklyn’s young people.

But this year, the arts institution is hoping the event is also an opportunity to celebrate something even more fundamental: survival.

“With so much difficulty and struggle, we wanted to find time and moment to step back and rejuvenate and celebrate,” said Mikal Amin, BAM’s education manager, who helped put together the show.

“Despite all of these real world challenges, many of us are still here, hopeful, wanting to thrive.”

The 70-minute show, which will take place on the evening of April 23rd, will feature new music from the Atlanta-based emcee Sa-Roc, who will perform a medley of songs from her album Sharecropper’s Daughter, released last year. Also on the bill are vocalist-percussionist Okai, MC Nejma Nefertiti and dancer Jade Charon, all Brooklynite, along with Bronx poet Peggy Robles-Alvarado. The event will be hosted by MC Baba Israel with backup music from DJ Reborn.

Those artists will also play off of and react to visual and graphic arts created live by the design collective ViDCo.

Amin didn’t want to give away too much about exactly what those visuals will look like, but he described ViDCo’s work for the event as “a music video reaching out and talking to you.”

“We’ve been spending numerous hours building cues, designing worlds where the shows will take place,” Amin told Bklyner. “I can’t do it justice, but it will be unlike anything anyone has seen.”

Possible interactive elements for the show are still under wraps, but the event will end with an open Q&A with the artists.

Earlier this month, BAM hosted their first live in-person performance since the pandemic began, an ice-skating performance at the LeFrank Center in Prospect Park. And the organization’s spring season includes a number of in-person events at outdoor sites like the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and the Navy Yard.

But BAM will continue with virtual events as well, a format Amin anticipates is here to stay. And he’s hopeful that the spontaneity and mixed-medium nature of Word. Sound. Power will give audiences something close to the thrill of a real-life performance.

“All these things are going to feel like you’re actually really at a performance,” he said. “When viewers shut their laptop, I want them to be in awe of the experience, to feel like they left their homes and came to the Fisher Building.”