With just over a month to go until VERVE explodes back onto the scene, we’re giving you the lowdown on some of our much-anticipated events. If you’re looking for more background info and what to expect when you get your tickets, you’re in the right place!
This week it’s the turn of the amazing Dancing to Music You Hate, a riotous night of music and poetry put together and hosted by Jasmine Gardosi, alongside a brilliant band as well first class featured poets AND open mic slots. Well, what more could you ask for? Jasmine tells us more below:
Jasmine Gardosi is a multiple slam champion, Birmingham Poet Laureate finalist and recent winner of the Out-Spoken Prize for Poetry. Jasmine uses audience participation, beatboxing and manipulation of voice and body in order to explore LGBTQ+ issues, sex education and mental health. Her work has appeared across BBC Radio, including BBC Radio 3's The Verb, Radio 4 and BBC Asian Network. Her debut pamphlet Hurtz was published in 2019 via Verve Poetry Press.
“The audience must hate me by now. They must do. It’s been a whole hour. Surely they need to pee. My jokes probably weren’t that funny. No one wants to hear what I have to say about gender identity. And Celtic Dubstep? What even is that, anyway? Why did I pull an entire musical genre out of my ass and mix it with poetry? Okay, it’s the end of the show. Oh, the audience are on their feet? Okay. Maybe it was actually pretty rad.”
That was the first of two standing ovations in my two-night run of the show in Warwick Arts Centre last year. Despite my very reliable imposter syndrome, I had to believe the audience when they told me they felt euphoric; that it was something they had never seen before; that it added something vital to the discussions around gender identity; that the show sparked important conversations afterwards with friends, family and colleagues.
This is a show that combines poetry, beatboxing and Celtic Dubstep to explore just that – gender identity. In it, I come to terms with my trans identity, break down the binaries, and ask a question that a lot of genderqueer folk think about – do you tell your family about who you are? If so, when? And how, damnit? That said, you don’t have to be trans or gender-questioning to see or enjoy this show – at its heart, it’s really a show about self-expression – something we’ve all struggled with. The music is a glorious means through which I demonstrate this struggle.
I first began to combine poetry with music thanks to Funkenteleky and Mouthpieces, two Birmingham-based events that prompt its guests to collaborate with a live band of musicians. The excitement and freshness of the sets I produced as part of these events drove me to explore this combination further. I was granted a career-changing bursary by Jerwood Arts Foundation which funded me to learn beatboxing under the tutorship of Ed Geater, and I was also awarded Arts Council funding in order to pay musicians to get in a room and venture further into this interaction between music and poetry. The cherry on top of this delicious cake of support was Warwick Arts Centre, who commissioned me to devise a two-date studio show in October last year.
Out of this combination came Dancing To Music You Hate, a not-theatre-but-not-quite-a-music-set-what-is-it-actually? show. I didn’t want to create a set where the music just functioned as a backing track underneath my words – I wanted the poetry and the instruments to directly interact with one another. So that’s why the musicians don’t always accompany me – sometimes they interrupt me. Sometimes they argue with me. Sometimes we converse reasonably. Sometimes we try to drown each other out. Sometimes we are at war.
And what a formidable band of musicians they are. Jobe Baker-Sullivan is musical director of the show and an Irish music specialist responsible for the soaring violin riffs, accordion and tin whistle that collide with the heavy drums and bass powered by drummer Damon Wilding and DJ C@ in the H@ who both hail from Alternative Dubstep Orchestra. The result is Celtic Dubstep that blows your brain through the speakers.
Added to this mix is Sam Wooster aka UUOO, a phenomenal trumpeter and techno artist whose trumpet is like a rubber band in his hands – that’s how much power he has over his instrument, creating sounds I’ve never heard before. And lastly – Xhosa Cole, saxophonist and flautist, BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year 2018 and beloved Birmingham legend. Not going to lie – I have the best musicians in the universe.
John Bernard is a poet & rapper based in Coventry who uses his artistry to inspire, influence and invigorate his listeners with meaningful messages. His aim is to provoke positive change and steer his listeners towards realising their potentials. He was a BBC Words First Finalist in 2019 and is founder of the BACE foundation.
Luke Kennard won an Eric Gregory Award in 2005 for his first collection The Solex Brothers. His second collection, The Harbour Beyond The Movie, was shortlisted for the 2007 Forward Prize for Best Collection, making him the youngest ever poet to be nominated. In 2014, he was named as one of the Poetry Book Society's Next Generation Poets. His poetry collection Notes on the Sonnets (PITM, 2021) won the Forward Prize for Best Collection.
On Thursday 17th February, we bring Dancing To Music You Hate to the Hippodrome. The first half will comprise of an open mic and guest poets Luke Kennard and John Bernard – two poets I admire and am intimidated by for entirely separate reasons. Open mic-ers will have the opportunity to perform their poem whilst accompanied by the band (this really works, trust me) before Luke and John knock your socks off with pre-rehearsed poetry/music sets.
And then the second half? Buckle in for the show. Let go of your expectations. Enjoy the ride. Yes, it’s called Dancing To Music You Hate, but you won’t hate the music. It’s actually pretty rad.
For info and tickets for this and all our other amazing VERVE 2022 events, head over to our line-up page! In the meantime, be sure to check back here regularly for updates and sign up to our mailing list for all the latest direct to your inbox.