Liverpool International Music Festival’s star-studded tribute to the “Black Dylan” will open the weekend. Getintothis Shaun Ponsonby takes a look at what we can expect.
With LIMF less than a month away, we’re starting to get pumped at Getintothis HQ, particularly for some of the commissions. The first night of the festival has two great events happening simultaneously, making choosing which one to attend a difficult task.
Firstly, there’s a special live edition of BBC 6Music’s The Record Producers programme at the Epstein Theatre with special guest of honour Lamont Dozier, legendary Motown songwriter and producer. You know any songs by the Four Tops or the Supremes? Chances are Dozier wrote it.
However, as much of a Motown nerd this writer might be, at the same time St. George’s Hall hosts The Revolution Will Be Live, a special tribute to the legendary Gil Scott-Heron.
Heron’s work as a poet, musician and activist is undoubtedly one of the most important voices in African-American culture, and the main catalyst in the formation of rap. A clear line is drawn between Heron’s then-unique spoken word style, along with the funky beats and jazzy interludes and the hip-hop of the future.
Despite the odd ideological blip along the way (we would like to think that he progressed beyond tracks like the homophobia of 1970’s The Subject Was Faggots later in his life), the sheer depth of his work means he stands out amongst his peers.
The Revolution Will Be Live, titled after Heron’s iconic piece The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, ensures that LIMF begins with a bang on the Thursday night.
Although Yasiin Bey – formerly Mos’ Def – was initially announced as the event’s headliner, he has had to pull out due to filming commitments. However, LIMF wasted no time in filling the position, with Bey’s former sparring partner Talib Kweli being a natural fit. His thought-provoking style mirrors that of Heron, a major influence on his work, and is equally as progressive.
Joining Kweli will be a number of UK-based acts who owe a debt to Heron. Notably, UK reggae stars Aswad, a band Bunny Wailer referred to as “The Young Wailers”. They were amongst the UK’s first authentic reggae acts, with a set’s worth of hits, including UK #1 single Don’t Turn Around.
Naturally, the evening wouldn’t be complete without a Liverpool flavour being sprinkled on top. Providing this will be 80s chart toppers The Christians, and a personal touch will be added by Malik & the O.G’s.
Malik Al Nasir was an 18-year old kid, homeless and going nowhere. A chance meeting with Heron in the 80s turned his life around as Heron mentored the youngster. He taught him the business, politics and raising him like a son. Nasir has pulled this event together in tribute to his mentor, and will joined by GIT One To Watch Sophia Ben-Yousef.
Incredibly, despite the huge line-up, the organisers have more up their sleeve, with guests of honour, Heron’s son Rumal Rackley and even Nelson Mandela’s grandson Ndaba (yeah, that’s right, they got a freakin’ MANDELA!).
To finish the evening off, the UK’s foremost flag-waving supporter of all things funk and soul, Liverpool’s own Craig Charles will perform a DJ set in honour of his hero (just last Friday, this writer heard Charles refer to Heron as such on BBC 6Music). Although best known as an actor in Red Dwarf and Coronation Street, and now as a DJ and radio host, Charles began his career as a performance poet, and greatly inspired by Heron in his work.
It looks as if LIMF have pulled off an incredible evening to begin this year’s festival. A tribute worthy of a social, political and cultural icon such as Gil Scott-Heron, and further evidence of LIMF’s desire for ambition and to set a great artistic standard.