Nina Simone once said that it was an artist’s responsibility to ‘reflect the times’. George the Poet represents this model in the most sophisticated way.
In an interview with MM, the London-born poet previously explained that if he was not provoking thought then he was not doing a ‘complete job’.
What better way to share that conversation than to take the stage of Rusholme’s Antwerp Mansion where he delivers a resonant message of social hope and political awareness with a suave elegance that gives George Mpanga a definite edge.
“Manchester wagwan?” George works the crowd. “You good?”
The Oxbridge educated poet takes the stage dressed in grey trousers, a white shirt and a black parker.
With a poised confidence, he begins to recite his first track Grinding – a playful super produced mash up of the iphone ringtone and So Solid Crew’s classic 21 seconds.
The 24-year-old’s introduction of physical theatre is a key element into understanding the contextualised meaning of his art and performance.
During a small break between tracks, George thanks his audience for coming before beginning to advocate the importance of community engagement, fighting austerity and the issues with social exclusion.
An audience member then asks the wordsmith: “Who you gonna vote for in the elections?”
George replies back, teasing: “Don’t worry, all of that will became apparent during the show.”
The poet’s enticing obscurity remains open for interpretation.
Stage left: pieces of clothing hang from a rack, a full length mirror stands alongside.
Confused glances are exchanged as George proceeds to take off his parka jacket to then tuck in his shirt.
As the audience are wrapped up in the juxtaposing characters found in If the Shoe Fits and dance to the Deep House inspired My City, the North West Londoner then removes a tie from the rack which he then wraps around his collar.
The former Cambridge student then addresses the issues of self worth and political exclusion of the Britain’s youth.
As this is carried out, he adds the final piece to his transformed outfit, a tailored blazer.
His final addition of clothing interludes to the poem Manifestos.
In less than an hour, the audience has witnessed George transition from one of the mandem to a zealous countercultural demigod with a simple message – change.
The lyrics in Cat D, suddenly become much clearer, ‘I’ve got too much love for the mandem to much love for the hood rats, but I could never live life like them but that’s my people I understand them’, it’s apparent that Mpanga isn’t just here to entertain but is here to provoke a chain of thought and most importantly, action.
As far as location is concerned, Antwerp mansion is not the typical spoken word performance space.
The traditional clicks of appreciation are replaced with rowdy cheers and a bellowing live band, which in some instances overpower the wit and stringent political ideas.
However, catching the young poet’s mystical aura live on stage amplifies the need for more societal thinkers in UK mainstream music.