Ghostpoet, Scala, London
Entranced by the haunting melodies of a master rapper
Thursday 20 October 2011
As the Scala's lights fade down to darkness, prefixing the start of Ghostpoet's set, a sense of anticipation begins to fill the north London venue. Scattered shouts echo across the empty stage, and every shaft of light emitting from the stage door prompts wild yelps of excitement from sections of the packed auditorium. As the shadows of Obaro Ejimiwe and his band become visible against the dramatically lit stage, this eagerness turns to elation, and the first few haunting beats of "Gaaasp" start to arc over the cheers from the rapt crowd.
These opening notes offer an instant indication to the uninitiated about Ghostpoet's live sound. Combining droning electronica with irresistible backbeats, they produce unusual and entrancing sounds that mix the introspection of experimental electro with an innate hip-hop groove, all tied together by the conversational brilliance of Ejimiwe's vocal style.
Ejimiwe, the band's mastermind and clearly the poet of its moniker, has a unique delivery that is both conversational and lyrical. His low-register rap style eschews the bombastic bragging of mainstream artists, opting instead for a kind of quotidian poetry that relays the humdrum through an articulate lens.
Tonight' that lens's view is sharply in focus. The sparse opening of "Run Run Run" is lit up by Ejimiwe's incantatory, measured flow, while "Liiines" shows that the he can deliver a powerful melody too. The latter is a joy, incorporating live strings alongside a remarkable drummer and guitarist, who lay the foundations for Ejimiwe's vocals to communicate so earnestly with the crowd throughout. The London-born lyricist is in fact quite reserved: dressed in his trademark trilby and large-framed glasses, he shuffles between his complex computer setup and the front of the stage, transfixing the crowd not with posing, but with honest enthusiasm and candour.
Disappointingly, the first third of the show doesn't engender much energy from the audience, "Garden Path" and "Longing for the Night" not prompting the kind of reaction the quality of their execution merits. However, by the time we get to closer "Cash and Carry Me Home", Ejimiwe's hymn to sobering up, there's a feverish hum to the Scala that not many acts can generate. It's a fittingly rapturous close to an impressive show from one of Britain's best young artists, and one our humble host is amazed to receive. He needn't be so modest.
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