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Five young artists bring their unique blend of spoken word, poetry, music and visual art to life

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Today is National Poetry Day, and with that, comes the release of an innovative new concept driven by some of the biggest, boldest and brightest young change-makers in Britain. Curated by musical and visual artists Lyrix Organix, UnFOLD is a project that works to recast words and emotions with a string ensemble, percussion and visual art.

Lyrix Organix, founded by Dan Tsu and later joined by Nathaniel Sobhee, are restless experimenters of live performance, music and art. Imagine them as the crazy scientists; playing around with bubbling concoctions of visual concepts, rhythm and rhyme. Partnering with global artists and festival stages, they have played host to Kate Tempest, Akala and Ed Sheeran across Glastonbury and the Rum Shack. More importantly, however, they devise and implement vital youth education programmes (through events, social action, music, poetry, etc) with iconic venues such as the Roundhouse, the British Council and BIMM London.

Their latest labour of love is UnFOLD. And to mark the occasion of National Poetry Day, UnFOLD have released EP2 - a short collection of tracks (and accompanying visuals) from the cream of the UK’s spoken word and poetry crop. Existing in a realm between linguistic experimentation and visual illustration, EP2 traverses spoken word, electronic instrumentation, nu wave jazz and classical. But more than that, it is relatable to audiences young and old. While an older audience can identify with its technical and classical elements, identifiable lyricism and ballsy experimentation reach out to young people.

Sophia Thakur kicks off EP2 with ‘Dance’; a vibrant, grime-meets-dancehall track with contemporary classical string breakdowns and a full-bodied visual accompaniment. Sophia talks of foes dressed as fake friends stealing your “magic”, global warming and politics, citing the country’s turbulent socio-economic situation in particular: “The politics of man is always ugly / And Britain is testament to that”. With this critical analysis comes bursts of colour (“I insist you must dance! / Move, and be moved by the wisdoms of those before us / Tap along to the cadence of their laughter”) in a back-and-forth, pushing and pulling into and against our beautiful and beaten existence.

Next up is Kieron Rennie, a young poet with the poise and grace of a seasoned professional, who is making waves in his residency as a Barbican Young Poet. ‘Snow Leopard’ is a poignant and cultured social commentary that tackles violence, poverty and depression, all underpinned by soothing strings and conflicting Caribbean-influenced drumming. “He could’ve been a snow leopard / But he was told to be a sheep” - Kieron’s lyricism strikes at the core of social and economic conflict, and resonates deeply with the lives of young POC in the UK.

Solomon OB sits on the cusp of rap and poetry. A National Slam champion, Solomon channels the frustrations of his youth into a captivating, all-encompassing performance ‘Patterns of Behaviour’. Raised in foster care, the Bristol-based artist increases his lyrical tempo to match the frantic furore of violins, clashing cymbals and heavy, kick drums. In the final minutes, emotion and fury boils over into a cataclysmic crescendo of noise and vocals. It’s impossible not to listen to Solomon.  

Claimed by Akala as “one of the most gifted young wordsmiths” and by Kate Tempest as “the future”, Toby Thompson offers his abstract, lyric-focussed piece ‘Spooky’. Thick, undulating drums and minimalist percussion support a psychedelic, thought-provoking poetic performance in short increments between slots of scintillating spoken word. A resident at Battersea Arts Centre, Toby is propelling himself to the top, soon to be known as one of the most adept young artists in the UK.

“I need three days before Monday / Cram them in like Londoners on a 8:32 tube train / Just three days before Monday” Liverpudlian Laurie Ogden laments atop a ticking, pendulum-like drum beat and feverish strings. A quietly observant poet, Laurie offers ‘Superpowers’; a subtle piece of art with considerations like that of a delicate wallflower which explore the changing tides of a relationship with someone with a terminal illness. Love, selfishness, anger, deadlines and missing home are carefully considered and illustrated wonderfully through Laurie’s sweet tone and acute analysis.

Not only do all of these artists offer beautiful musical and artistic performances, they also prove that young voices are strong, empowered and full of knowledge and wisdom that begs to be heard. Speaking about UnFOLD and its growth from a “humble grassroots” initiative, Lyrix Organix founder Dan Tsu said: “It feels now, more than ever, we need powerful young voices to be heard - these guys are exceptional wordsmiths. This is our effort to add intelligence, quality and imagination into popular music.”

UnFOLD will be taking EP2 on a UK tour across Manchester, Bristol, Gateshead and London. An awe-inspiring 60 minute live performance will feature five spoken word artists, together with a full band, the London String Collective and visual accompaniment from Joanna Layla.

For more information about UnFOLD and its UK tour, check out the Lyrix Organix website. Their first stop on the tour is Manchester on the 10th October, click here for details and tickets.

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