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HomenewsNewark's Njpac Hosts the Once-in-a-lifetime "Represent!" Concert, Featuring a Stellar Line up...

Newark’s Njpac Hosts the Once-in-a-lifetime “Represent!” Concert, Featuring a Stellar Line up of Musical Acts.

At “Represent! A Night of Jazz, Hip-Hop and Spoken Word” at Prudential Hall of NJPAC in Newark on Nov. 19, Nikki Giovanni was treated like a rock star.

After reciting her 1968 poem “Ego Tripping (there may be a reason why)” to tremendous applause, she added, “I’m only a poet.” “This is new.”

She probably meant showgoers. She may have been referring to the enormous musical cast, led by bassist Christian McBride (the event’s musical director), who performed with her.

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At the 11th TD James Moody Jazz Festival at NJPAC and other Newark venues, “Represent!” was the most ambitious show.

The festival’s main concert was perfect: Uniquely presented artists. Due to the vocalist’s and musicians’ skills, no two numbers were the same yet flowed together.

McBride and his Christian McBride Situation band (augmented by percussionist Baba Donn Babatunde of The Last Poets and others) served as the house band, playing with a variety of rappers, singers, and spoken word performers who sometimes crossed genres.
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Video and audio tributes celebrated Gil Scott-Heron, Amiri Baraka, and Tame One (of the group Artifacts).

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Yasiin Bey (formerly Mos Def), Dupré “DoItAll” Kelly (of the veteran Newark hip-hop group Lords of the Underground), Speech (of Arrested Development), Black Thought (of The Roots), and Jessica Care Moore performed a sharp version of Scott-spoken-word Heron’s classic “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” in the evening’s most memorable tribute. Everyone delivered their lines with intensity and perfection, proving they love this song.

Abiodun Oyewole and Baba Donn Babatunde of The Last Poets, joined by Speech, performed “When the Revolution Arrives,” which inspired “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” with its lyric, “When the revolution comes, some of us will probably catch it on TV.”

Black Thought’s recitation of Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poem “Sympathy” (with its famous line, “I know why the caged bird sings”) with ethereal musical accompaniment, Speech’s upbeat renditions of Arrested Development’s “Tennessee” and “People Everyday,” and Bey’s soul-searching “Umi Says” with Ravi Coltrane’s haunting saxophone part were other highlights of the 2 1/2-hour show.

Moore and singer Apropos’ duet on Apropos’ “Simple” was enthralling.
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The performance played Amiri Baraka’s “Why Are We Americans.” His son, Newark mayor Ras Baraka, a published poet, performed his fiery “What We Want” with The Last Poets, trained by Amiri Baraka.

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Kelly opened with Ras Baraka (who became a Newark councilman this year). The two talented politicians sang their 2020 song “Keep the Faith” together.

In this song, Baraka thundered, “We made it here by faith,” over McBride and his band’s beautiful music. “Our predecessors held the stars so we may rise tall.”

Giovanni read her down-to-earth meditation on mortality, “Vegetable Soup,” backed by gospel music, and sang a shaky but heartfelt version of “Night Song,” a melancholy ballad from the musical “Golden Boy” with a prominent saxophone part by Javon Jackson.

Giovanni stated, “That was Nina Simone’s favorite song, and the reason I love Javon… He lets me sing.


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