There are spirits we know, yet don’t know. There is energy we feel and cannot define. There are influences we emulate, yet fail to acknowledge. And there is the space between these occurrences, which is filled by the things we feel but find difficult to identify. These are the words of Semaj, the local fire poet who, on her CD Tongue Tongued, sends messages the heart will pick up immediately. The head will have to be more studious.
Semaj is more than poetry. She is the jazz of a freed spirit. Her words defy conformity, but her metaphors and similes still make sense. Complementing her throughout the 15 poems-cum-tracks are strands of traditional jazz and bebop. They punctuate her verse on pieces such as “Black Widow Spider (Parts 1 & 2),” luminous odes to the power and seductive nature of women.
Semaj has the playful spirit of a child and it shines as she bounces over rhythms, careless of whether or not she keeps count 100 percent of the time. The CD often achieves the feel of late-night basement sessions where rules are thrown out and improvisation is championed. Standout cuts include the CD’s title track, “What If, Then?” and “The Stolen CoCo Bean Head.”
The challenge here is not to get with Tongue Tongued, but to get with Semaj herself, because anyone who is free in his or her craft is going to do something to challenge your wit and nerve. Like a child, Semaj’s words and music sit on the ground and wonder why you, sitting in a chair, pass up the opportunity to connect with the beauty and nature of life.
Khary Kimani Turner writes about music for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].