UNDERCURRENT: amplified poetry by brandy nālani mcdougall + craig santos perez
Pacific poets Brandy Nālani McDougall and Craig Santos Perez have teamed up with the producer team of Hawaii Dub Machine to create an album of recorded poetry from their respective collections: The Salt-Wind, Ka Makani Pa‘akai (McDougall), and from unincorporated territory [hacha] and [saina] (2010, Perez). Recorded using only the poets’ voices and some creative reverb, distortion, and layering, and often offering dubs and remixes of some pieces, the album creates a range of effects, from the minimalism of a straight reading to ornate superimpositions of voices over voices and lines over lines.
Undercurrent’s themes focus on Native Pacific Island culture, as well as its historical and ongoing collision with the attitudes of the colonizer, from the brutal militarism of eminent domain—which overtly claims and subjugates—to the insidious branding of local traditions by tourism and the fetishization of culture by anthropologists who don’t recognize the inherent absurdity of questions like, “Do you now, or have you ever practiced human sacrifice, and/or eaten your enemies, or your friends/family?”
Though McDougall and Perez are most passionate and powerful as readers of their thornier works, there is also un-ironic and unselfconscious sweetness in tracks like “He Mele Aloha,” where myth and story and poets and listener are bound inextricably into a timeless now, and then cast forward, so that it becomes clear why poems are the bodies our stories choose to inhabit.
Like any good album, Undercurrent also contains the catchy track destined to become an earworm: in this case, “Spamification, [Hot & Spicy Remix]” will be difficult to shake, along with the tongue-in-cheek revelation that SPAM might, in fact, stand for Some People Are Missing.
Final word: Billed as amplified poetry, Undercurrent is a great companion to the authors’ respective books, but the remix idea could have been pushed even further. Consider it ripe for collaboration, ready for some of you poetry-loving, dub-step sorcerers to drop in some wobbles, breaks, and beats.
To preview and/or purchase: Amazon | iTunes
By Brandy Nālani McDougall and Craig Santos Perez
Produced by Richard Hamasaki and H. Doug Matsuoka
Not sure how to post here . . . . so piggy-backing off / amplifying on L. J.’s post . . .
agree that UNDERCURRENTS is a superb addition to the growing archive of recorded poetry from Oceania. This genre, somewhere between the page poem and live (or recorded live) performance, throws the emphasis more purely on voice as sound, and allows for creative mixing and arranging of voice with added sound and sound effects. Voices loop back over voices, mix with themselves, reverberate–particular words are rephrased, highlighted, and stretched with new forms of phonic punctuation and spatial arrangement. The form thus presents poetry with the attention to acoustic detail and enhanced/purified sound that makes a studio recorded album importantly different from a live performance. The producers/recorders, Richard Hamasaki and Doug Matsuoka, have previously released TERENISIA (poems by Teresia Teaiwa and Sia Figiel) and ELECTRIC LAULAU (poems by Joe Balaz), among others, and continue to evolve their collaborative method of celebrating and sharing Pacific poetry. McDougall (native Hawaiian) and Perez (Chamorro) are both accomplished “page poets,” whose formal/technical/spatial arrangements and sense of line are part of their poetic arguments, which tell stories of cultural memory, of resistance to the ongoing desecration of the islands, and of transformation. Part of the joy of this collection—of hearing the carefully constructed poems read rather than reading them—is in the ways that the breath of the poets gives life and body to the words, and the ways that voices are faced toward and break over each other, the Hawaiian figures speaking with and to those from from Guahan: “our voices rising with yours,” as one poem puts it (in a way that potentially includes the listener as well).
[…] Please read the review at Litseen […]