The Revolution Will Be Live

Civic Reception and Honorary Dinner for the family of Gil Scott-Heron.
Liverpool Town Hall – 26th & 27th August 2015.

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Malik Al Nasir, Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Lady Mayoress, Rumal Rackley (Gil’s son)
Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

The music of the late and legendary poet Gil Scott-Heron, was an inspiration to multitudes of people, the world over. His inspiring, uplifting, insightful and real ‘tell-it-like-it-is’ observational lyrics, struck a chord in many people’s hearts and minds. None more so than Malik Al Nasir who was taken under Gil’s guidance from an early age. Malik cited the wordsmith as being responsible for putting him on a positive career path and overseeing his transition from boyhood to manhood. Today Malik himself is a successful poet and wordsmith, fronting his own band Malik & The O.G’s, as well as being a high-profile activist, promoting civil rights within his hometown of Liverpool and beyond.

As a mark of respect and a big thank you for all Gil had done for him, Malik felt it fitting to put together the ‘tribute of all tributes’ to his teacher, mentor, confidant and surrogate father figure. ‘The Revolution Will Be Live!’ took place on Thursday 27th August 2015, preceded by a Civic Reception, presentation and dinner at Liverpool Town Hall, in honour of the great man on Wednesday 26th August, hosted by the Lord Mayor of Liverpool alongside invited dignitaries including Gil Scott-Heron’s son Rumal Rackley and Gil’s daughter Che’ Scott-Heron Newton. UK Vibe was privileged to be invited to cover both events and interview the main protagonists and key performers.

The Lord Mayor of Liverpool

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The Lord Mayor of Liverpool
Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

The Lord Mayor of Liverpool paid his own tribute to Gil Scott-Heron during his speech at the Civic reception, whilst also recognising the attendance of Gil’s son and daughter.

Lord Mayor: It is an honour that we’re joined here today by members of Gil’s family, his son and administrator of his father’s estate Rumal Rackley and also here his youngest daughter Che’ Scott-Heron Newton. May I say on behalf of the City of Liverpool, that we appreciate the impact of your father’s legacy upon the people of this city. We welcome you to Liverpool and look forward to your finale event at the prestigious St Georges Hall tomorrow evening when Liverpool’s International Music Festival (LIMF) opens with the declaration: “The Revolution Will Be Live!” May I thank all those involved… Including Yesternight Productions, Fore-Word Press and the Mandela Memorial Campaign Group. For the City of Liverpool, it is very important that we further the legacy’s of Gil Scott-Heron and Nelson Mandela. Thank you very much.

Rumal Rackley – Gil Scott-Heron’s son and Administrator of his Estate

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Rumal Rackley – Gil Scott-Heron’s son
Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

Gil Scott-Heron’s son took the podium to give his own measured and heartfelt response: “Lord Mayor, Deputy Mayor, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. I’d just like to thank you all for coming out today in support of our family. Che’, myself and the rest of our family are deeply moved by the fact that we were able to attend a tribute to Gil; his works, musical work, poetry works, literary works and civil duties. We were here in Liverpool earlier this week and I was speaking to someone who is actually here, a very beautiful lady who was telling me that she was speaking to Gil in 1982, right after the (Toxteth) riots, he was speaking to the community and encouraging them. So Gil has deep roots here in Liverpool and a long history of action in the community, as well as using his music to entertain but also with his messages. We would like to continue to give those messages to a new generation… I would really want to thank everybody for this honour and for appreciating Gil from the bottom of my heart. Thank you.

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Che’ Scott Heron-Newton and Rumal Rackley – Gil Scott-Heron’s daughter and son
Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

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Sonia Bassy, Simon Glinn, Ibrahim Brian Thompson, Che’ Scott-Heron Newton, Rumal Rackley, Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Stephen Nze and Malik Al Nasir
Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

Rumal Rackley

Following his thank you speech, Rumal Rackley, along with a few other key protagonists responsible for bringing Gil’s tribute events to fruition, took a few minutes out to speak with UK Vibe’s Michael J. Edwards, on what the man – Gil Scott-Heron – meant to them and how proud they were that Liverpool was hosting such a prestigious tribute in his honour.

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Rumal Rackley – Gil Scott-Heron’s son
Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

Rumal Rackley: I support Malik and his love of Gil and it’s necessary to have tributes to help support Gil’s work and to honour him as an artist. So I was glad that Malik felt the need to try to organise events in tribute to Gil and I wanted to show my support. I knew Malik was trying to pull together some sort of tribute event for some years, so a few years ago he was talking about it and I told him I would give him my support and that’s what I’ve done – and now that it’s here – I’m here also!” (Laughs).

Michael J Edwards: What are your thoughts on the reception that Liverpool has given this event, with the Liverpool International Music Festival and the Lord Mayor of the City of Liverpool getting fully involved and embracing it?

Rumal Rackley: “That’s the part that’s amazing because it’s been on every level, from the Lord Mayor, to the Liverpool International Music Festival (LIMF), to the people of Liverpool that I’ve met; everyone has been onboard and everyone has been showing their support for Gil. I’m very impressed by that and I’d like to thank the city for welcoming us.

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Rumal Rackley and The Lord Mayor of Liverpool
Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

As a child and young man growing up, I viewed him just as you view your father, not as a superstar but as a man. I viewed him as someone who was strong and who was funny and who was generous and tall. (Laughs) I learned life lessons but they were never forced, it was more him leading by example. He was just a great guy to be around, he was very funny and so I enjoyed just having someone I could talk to, who was just a regular guy.

He used to always go on European tours and I went on a few of those when I was in college. I would join Gil and the band, when they would do the European circuit. That was good in terms of expanding where you are i.e. not just staying in the USA. I was fortunate enough to see the world when they would go on tour. One of the first things I took away from that, was that we would be in countries that didn’t speak English but they knew every word to his songs. We’d be in a full concert, with thousands of people and they would be chanting his songs along with him but they didn’t speak English! That’s when I really felt the magnitude of it like – “Okay, this is something really special that’s happening!”

Michael J Edwards: There is an impressive roster of artists taking part in ‘The Revolution Will Be Live’, with Talib Kweli, The Christians, Aswad, Malik & The O.Gs, plus rising talent Sophia Ben-Yousef – all representing. It should be something special?

Rumal Rackley: I think it should be; I think everybody has a vested interest in continuing to promote and to honour Gil and I think each one of those artists can add a special bit of creativity to make it all come together as well.

Simon Glinn – Former Director of the Liverpool Philharmonic

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Simon Glinn – Former Director of the Liverpool Philharmonic
Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

Simon Glinn: I got involved through Gil Scott-Heron really. I first came across Gil’s music in the eighties and loved it. I loved the revolutionary dance music, at a time when angry music in this country was a little more about Punk music; but that was my age and my time during the ‘Rock Against Racism’ movement, alongside a lot of ‘Ban the Bomb’ marches etc. back in the early eighties. By the nineties, I found myself working for Glastonbury Festival running the jazz stage. Gil was supposed to play our stage in (I think) 1994 and I remember taking a phone call from his then agent, saying that ‘he wasn’t going to get to the country.’ I had to go out and staged and tell 30,000 people that Gil Scott-Heron was not going to make it! I remember that it then became a mission for me, to get Gil back to Glastonbury as I programmed that stage for the next few years.

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Simon Glinn
Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

The next time he did come back to Britain, was to play some gigs at The Jazz Café in London. The then ‘Head of the Mean Fiddler Group’ arranged for me to meet with Gil, which was very helpful of him and we got on famously. We then cooked up a plan to bring Gil back to Glastonbury, which we did and his last Glastonbury performance was in 2000.

Fast forward ten years and I found myself doing something quite different in the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall. I was also part of an organisation called ‘Music Beyond Mainstream’ (MBM) which is a network of major concert halls – very similar Liverpool Philharmonic – around the country. Being very interested in Gil and also aware of the imminent release of the new album on XL Recordings after several years out of the limelight; we were interested in him doing a show and possibly even doing a tour. To my surprise, the rest of that network weren’t interested. So we did a show here in Liverpool and Gil was taking part in something at the Southbank Centre as well… The show in Liverpool was brilliant, there was a big festival in town called Liverpool Sound City and we suggested to them that they could treat it as their launch event, which they did. The venue was sold-out, it was a fantastic show and afterwards, I very briefly met Malik in the green room.

Just a few months later Gil died, Malik went to the funeral and the story was in The Guardian and Rolling Stone magazine and it went around the world. Then Malik rang me one day and said, “Hi, my name is Malik Al Nasir” and I said, “I know exactly who you are, the answer is yes. Now why don’t you come and find me in the pub I’m in and tell me what the question is.” I was actually sat in the pub with Cllr Steve Munby, who joins us here today, having a pint. It was Ramadan, so Malik wouldn’t even have a glass of water with us but he told us his story and we said, “Let’s see what we can do?”

So it began! A sort of saga, in trying to find a way to bring this project to fruition. Initially, I had hoped that through Music Beyond Mainstream (MBM) that it would happen. It did get some research and development funding and a very good friend of mine called Guy Morley suggested that we get Orphy Robinson involved as the Musical Director. So Orphy become involved and latterly Cleveland Watkiss as well and I think that link with Jazz Warriors International was a stroke of genius from Guy, which was so relevant. That’s what I like about Malik’s band – Malik & The O.G’s’ – incorporating members of Gil’s band ‘The Amnesia Express’ and ‘The Jazz Warriors’ I think that’s a great thing! I was pleased that happened and its Guy Morley that deserves all the credit for that suggestion – making that happen.

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Malik Al Nasir, Simon Glinn, Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Lady Mayoress, and Rumal Rackley
Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

My colleague Richard Haswell at Liverpool Philharmonic suggested working through an organisation called Phrased and Confused who do some very interesting stuff around poetry. That hasn’t ended up in the mix but I think it’s been very helpful for Malik, in looking at the spoken word element and the presentation of all of that and sort of validating the spoken aspect (as much as the music).

Then there was a chance conversation I’d had with Richard McGinnis of Mama Group – who’s also very well known as a promoter of various club nights in town – We were discussing something entirely different and I mentioned something about Gil Scott-Heron and he said, “I love Gil Scott-Heron!” So I told him the story and really Richard picked up the baton from there and is actually producing and promoting the event in partnership with Malik through their company ‘Yesternight Productions’.

Richard, along with Malik, were commissioned by Yaw Owusu music curator of Liverpool International Music Festival (LIMF). I had first met with Yaw in Liverpool Philharmonic and shared this idea and he was into it immediately as well. So the festival has nurtured Malik’s band with performances in 2013 the launching of the festival and then this year they commissioned this whole project; they really got behind it.

I haven’t done very much really, apart from introduce one or two people and fair play to Malik, he gives me a lot of credit for that and has invited me here today. It’s lovely to see it come to fruition. I was just reminiscing with Cllr. Munby just now; that conversation in the pub was four years ago and Malik’s persistence has been fantastic because not everything has been plain sailing. Also, my having worked so long in Liverpool but then having left to go and work elsewhere, I can’t say strongly enough how impressed I am with the city for this wrap-around as well… Not many cities will provide this level of civic response and respect for an artistic tribute. Fair play to Liverpool on that; it’s a very special place.

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Simon Glinn and Michael J Edwards
Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

Michael J Edwards: Your views on the presence of Gil’s son Rumal and his daughter Che’ here to support the event?

Simon Glinn: It’s brilliant! That’s what it needs, for it to be that significant. This will not be the only tribute to Gil Scott-Heron that’s ever happened in the world; people have recorded albums of the songs and there have been other events but this has been done on such a scale, with such ambition and it’s been embedded so well throughout the local community. Also, as the opening event of the city’s key music festival, I believe that gives the level of respect that Gil – whom I love very much – merits and deserves. So I’m proud of the fact that Liverpool has been the city to make that response in this country. When I worked here, I used to promote a lot of concerts in a specific concert room at St Georges Hall and to see this concert there, in such a spectacular building and with so much good spoken word on the bill, I’m really looking forward to it.

Councillor Steve Munby – Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods

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Councillor Steve Munby – Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods
Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

Steve Munby: My name is Steve Munby, I’m a councillor in Liverpool 8 and also a Member of the Council Cabinet. I suppose where I came in was about four years ago, just after Gil had died. I was having a pint with a mate of mine, Simon Glinn…Then Malik Al Nasir came in and he was pretty manic; it was Ramadan, so he was fasting! He was talking to us about his idea for this event – basically, which we were very supportive of. I haven’t had much involvement since then but when Malik contacted us and also the Mandela Memorial Campaign, which I’m involved in – headed up by Sonia Bassey and Stephen Nze It’s a campaign to put a Monument up for Nelson Mandela in Princes Park, in Liverpool 8. They planned a civic event to run together with the creative events, so they contacted me and I said, “Great! How can we help?” So we thought it was right that we have a civic reception, which we’ve done today and that events should be here in our halls that were built on slavery. These events being held this week in Liverpool of which this is one… include the opening a new Jamaican restaurant with ex-Liverpool football player John Barnes called “Marley’s” and Rumal (Rackley) was there as an honoured guest.

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Malik Al Nasir, Simon Glinn, Che’ Scott-Heron Newton, Rumal Rackley, councillor Steve Munby
Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

It’s about affirming positive experiences of the people in the community and today’s civic reception has been great, it’s been really nice, I’ve seen a lot of old friends. Tomorrow night, were going to have a fantastic concert. Tony Concepcion, the Lord Mayor, grew up in the South End of Liverpool; I’m not from Liverpool but I’ve lived in the South End in Toxteth since the late seventies… We’re really proud of it and it’s great to welcome members of Gil’s family here and I hope they’ll come back. Malik should be so proud of himself; the boys done really well, I’m ever so proud of him! I’m so excited about the concert tomorrow. I haven’t seen Aswad since the late seventies so I’m really looking forward to that and St Georges Hall is a spectacular venue to hold it in.

Ibrahim Brian Thompson – Artist

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Ibrahim Brian Thompson and Rumal Rakley
Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

Ibrahim Brian Thompson: I lived in Liverpool for thirty years then I moved but the pull has brought me back home, this is my real home, I found out this is my community. I spent thirty years in south Liverpool, working with Malik and a lot of his generation in schools and I met one of them tonight. I had taken her to see Bob Marley in 1978 in Manchester on a bus with fifty-two children. She was one of the students but something important happened. We saw the concert on the Sunday night and the next morning I was teaching art and I heard one of the children say, “How did so-and-so get home last night?” And then they told me, “That three girls had gone backstage to see Bob Marley and we picked up three hitchhikers”.

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Ibrahim Brian Thompson – Artist
Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

So I ran downstairs to the Head’s office, just in time to hear a mother banging on the table saying, “All I want to is know who’s going to pay for the taxi!” Now that same girl saw me tonight; she’s opened a restaurant this week called Marley’s. This girl who went with me to see Bob Marley has opened a restaurant called ‘Marley’s’ and I worked in that school in Hodge Lane and I’m going to be ‘Artist In Residence’ for a year and we’re going to do a few things. This event means the world to me and to see Malik and to know his story and to see all you guys here. I’m just so honoured that my work is being used.

Che’ Scott-Heron Newton – Daughter of Gil Scott-Heron

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Che’ Scott-Heron Newton – Daughter of Gil Scott-Heron
Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

Che’ Scott-Heron Newton: This event means a lot to me. I’m like the youngest member of the family and obviously I haven’t been to as many events of his as anyone else, so it’s so nice to see so many people turn up. Malik e-mailed my brother, Rumal and told him to ask me to come. That was about four weeks prior to the event, so I put it in the calendar. I was very excited to be coming to Liverpool because I had never been invited before.
As a father, Gil was very interesting to speak to. He gave very good advice and had a very dry sense of humour. He influenced me in many ways – the music that I was brought up on was completely different to what most of my friends were brought up on. I was brought up on Nina Simone; I was brought up on Etta James, sorts of other musicians like that. I had a very different upbringing to my friends, when I was playing my music, they would be like, “What’s this?” And I would say, “How could you not know about Nina Simone?” I would consider myself pro-black; I’m very conscious and whenever I do something I want my people to succeed. I’ve always wanted that. I’m very conscious of politics – of the times that we’re living in and how far we’ve come and how far we haven’t come – I learned all of that from Gil.

Malik has definitely pulled off a great event and I’m happy about the people that he has brought. I love Aswad, I love Talib Kweli – he’s one of my favourites, so I’m excited to see him tonight because I’ve never seen him perform anywhere. It’s excellent and the turnout’s great.

Malik Al Nasir – Tribute Event Organiser, Poet and Front Man of Malik and The O.G’s

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Malik Al Nasir (Right) – Tribute Event Organiser, Poet and Front man of Malik and The O.G’s with Rumal Rackley
Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

Malik Al Nasir: This project was conceived at the funeral of Gil Scott-Heron in 2011 and it’s taken me from 2011 to 2015 to pull this off. For me this was a personal quest, it was a labour of love and it was something that I would have taken as far as it needed to go until it got done. We had a lot of hurdles to climb; we had many disappointments along the way. I tried to initiate the process at Gil’s funeral when I spoke to Kanye West. Kanye said he was willing to do it if we could pull it off by November of that year – as he was going to be in England in November. So I started talking to Gil’s agent (Walter Laurer at GLP in Vienna) to see if we could make it work in November 2011 but the lead-time was just too short, so that was a missed opportunity.

Then we went to a variety of different organisations to try get this thing off the ground. We worked with Music Beyond Mainstream (MBM) and Simon Glinn, (the then Executive Director of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic) got behind the idea from the get-go. As soon as I got back from the funeral in Harlem New York, I went to the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, (which was the last place Gil played in Liverpool) and I left a message for Simon Glinn. Shortly after I got a call saying that “I’m in Liverpool in a pub with the City Cllr. Steve Munby; I know who you are and the answer is yes, now can you come down here and tell me what’s the question?” So that’s how the whole thing got started.

The significance of doing the show in Liverpool is that I’d met Gil in Liverpool and I decided very early on, that the important thing for me, was to do it a) In a place where I could operate in quite easily and b) To be in a place that was quite significant to me – this is my home town, this is where it all started for me. This is where the story started. So if you’re going to have a narrative around this, then we need to have that narrative make sense to people. The story starts in Liverpool, so it makes sense that ‘The Revolution Will Be Live’ occurs in Liverpool first. We’d love to take it to New York and we’d like to take it to Paris and certainly to South Africa (Johannesburg) but I had to start in Liverpool and Liverpool International Music Festival and its curator Yaw Owusu got right behind this project from the beginning. Yaw decided he was going to commit to allowing us to produce this event.

Also, Richard McGinnis who is one of the biggest promoters in the country partnered with me on this and once he put his name to it, things became a lot easier because he’s a big promoter who’s got a credible track record in delivering big events. Regarding funding, once the festival got behind it, they put the money up and that was a major factor in getting the whole thing started. We’re hoping this will even become an annual event, or the beginning of something that we can tour – in order to continue the legacy of Gil Scott-Heron year-on-year, so that young people coming through will not forget who this great man was and his significance in the industry.

This concert is the launch of Malik & The O.G’s’ brand new album ‘Rhythms of the Diaspora Vols. 1 and 2 featuring Gil Scott-Heron and The Last Poets. It’s our coming of age – school’s out. I’ve spent years studying with Gil and The Last Poets and now it’s time to step up and carry on the legacy. So that’s what it means to me. If I fail to do something with that legacy, then I wasn’t worthy of it in the first place. Incorporating Ebo Shakoor and Rod Youngs from the original Amnesia Express, alongside members of my band has always been an idea of mine. Rod Youngs has been very, very supportive since I first started, he’s on my albums. Ebo Shakoor lives in Germany, so he did all Gil’s European tours when he used to tour there over the years… The other members of the band are primarily made up of the Jazz Warriors International Collective who are top-drawer musicians from London. Orphy Robinson is the Musical Director as well as being M.D for The Jazz Warriors. He is the person who was brought into this from a very early stage by Guy Morley and Simon Glinn.

The amount of love that has been shown for the idea, the concept and for the memory of Gil Scott-Heron has been phenomenal…The city got behind this, the Mayor (Joe Anderson) and the Lord Mayor of Liverpool (Tony Concepcion) got behind this… Now ‘The Revolution Will Be Live’ at St Georges Hall, (which is the most prodigious venue in the city) is the finale event to a whole week of events in honour of Gil. We had the Slavery Remembrance Day commemoration, we had Poets Against Apartheid – The Legacy of Gil Scott-Heron, which we did with the Museum of Liverpool and the Slavery Museum where I performed alongside Tayo Aluko the fabulous Jean Binta Breeze MBE and Incognito Gospel Choir (who were selected by kingpin Gospel Producer Nicky Brown), as well as many other community events such as Rumal’s visit to the Tiber Young Persons Steering Group in Liverpool Toxteh community.

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Malik Al Nasir (Left) and Rumal Rackley
Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

This event tonight means everything to me. This is the culmination of my life’s work. It’s almost like, the whole of my life has been funnelled into this one moment and that’s going to be my moment on stage tonight. I just hope it goes well and people come to appreciate the validity of what I’m trying to do. Gil’s in my heart and Gil will always be in my heart. Just like anyone who loses a family member, certain situations I always ask myself, “What would Gil say? What would Gil think? I’ve got that narrative of him in my life, his mantras are instilled my mental archives for when I need some inspiration.

Tayo Aluko – Actor and Participant In Poets Artists Against Apartheid – The Legacy of Gil Scott-Heron

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Tayo Aluko (Right) – Actor and Participant In Poets Artists Against Apartheid – The Legacy of Gil Scott-Heron (Pictured with Event Organiser, Malik Al Nasir)
Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

Tayo Aluko: I learned of this event through Malik. I live here in Liverpool and my current profession is as an actor and singer, mainly doing the life of Paul Robeson and stage in a play called ‘Call Mr. Robeson.’ Before that I used to be an architect. I gave that up about seven years ago, partly to do the play and partly because the recession was hitting… I must confess to not being a follower of Gil Scott-Heron’s music until earlier this year when I was asked to perform at the ‘Writing On The Wall’ festival at the ‘Black-E’ venue in Liverpool… That’s where I crossed paths with Malik, as he did some of his work there. Then I found out about his relationship with Gil Scott-Heron. I subsequently messaged him to let him know that I was honoured to be in his presence. He was impressed with what I did that night and asked me to take part in ‘Poets Against Apartheid’ here in Liverpool. He suggested that I did a Gil Scott-Heron song on Sunday, so I learned ‘New Beginnings’ and sang it with this trio (Incognito Gospel Choir) from London; so that was nice, even though I only met them 5 minutes before we went on stage.

I don’t think the city knows what’s hit them by hosting a tribute to Gil Scott-Heron? The Town Hall event is also quite a significant thing… It’s a very significant thing. Maliks’ enthusiasm and drive has made this happen, along with knowing the right people in Liverpool. It’s a great honour for the city and I met so many people who said they remembered Gil’s performance here in 1984. So he’s still inspiring to this day!

Talib Kweli – US Rap Star and Headliner

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Talib Kweli
Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

Talib Kweli: Incorporating Gil Scott-Heron’s music into the set came easy to me because I’m familiar with it and a lot of it very directly influenced who I am as an artist. It didn’t feel foreign to have to incorporate some of his music into the set. Gil Scott-Heron, The Last Poets, Jane Cortez, Sonia Sanchez… all these people were putting poetry to music and laying the foundation. Hip-hop has existed since the psalms in the Bible but it goes by another name all the time. What they were doing was hip-hop, we just didn’t start calling it hip-hop until the late seventies. It might morph and evolve into something else in the future; we call it hip-hop right now but it might become something else later. It was Negro spirituals at one point, it was Jazz music at one point, it was Gospel music at one point, it was the ‘Signified Monkey’ (A famous jail toast) at one point. It’s gone by many different names but it’s the same thing.

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Talib Kweli
Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

Gil Scott-Heron is a very direct influence; I consider him more than an influence, I consider him a friend. He’s a part of my family, he’s someone who knew my mother. He’s somebody who is part of my musical family, he’s part of my legacy, I’ve sampled him on records. I used to go to his shows whenever I could get the chance to. This is my way to repay all that.

Aswad – Drummie and Tony Gadd

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Drummie and Tony Gadd – Aswad
Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

Tony Gadd: As young musicians, we always looked outside for inspiration. One of the inspirations for us to play music was obviously Bob Marley and as we learn more about Bob Marley growing up, we learned about other people as well. Within that list of people who inspired us was Gil Scott-Heron. We were young when we first listened to Gil Scott-Heron but as we got older we grew to understand what the message actually meant and for us now at the peak of our careers and the lives that Gil Scott-Heron’s influenced, its a big one and for us to come here tonight to Liverpool celebrate the life and times of Gil Scott-Heron is an honour and a pleasure. We were contacted about this event through our management and when we heard it was about Gil we said, “Yes, let’s go!

Drummie: Life is for living. Gil Scott-Heron is still living in our hearts and minds and he inspired us along with Bob Marley, Dennis Brown and Burning Spear.

The Christians

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The Christians: Garry Christian (Lead Singer), Joey Ankrah (Lead Guitarist/Vocals) and Neil Griffith (Acoustic Guitar/Vocals)
Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

Garry Christian: We are the Christians and we are at this amazing place called St Georges Hall, Liverpool. We’re here to do a kind of tribute to Gil Scott-Heron. Over the years for me he’s been an inspiration musically, his poetry is fantastic and when we were asked to do it we said yeah. As you know, we’ve covered a couple of Gil Scott-Heron’s songs in the past; even though he didn’t like them at the time because I think we were more of a pop band. We made the choruses more chorus-like. When I heard ‘The Bottle’ (which is one of the covers we did) we had to make it – not ‘Gil-like’ – but the sentiment is still there in his song. He was just a great ambassador for everything really, for me.

His music should be taught in schools as part of the curriculum, so that you’ve got to listen to Gil Scott-Heron. He’s the ‘main-man’ and this is the tribute to him tonight.

Joey Ankrah – The Christians: The album I always used to listen to a lot from Gil Scott-Heron was ‘Pieces of A Man’ but I don’t think it’s necessarily the album everybody would pick but I used to play that repeatedly. He was a big influence; he was like a doorway to everything that had come before me musically. Not just the music but also the poetry. It was almost rap but then he had this great singing voice as well. People actually take it for granted that he was just a poet but the guy could sing. Not only that but the jazz influence on his music was incredible. There was a massive influence for years going on just based around those beats. People were making loops from them for years.

He was poetic but he also had something to say, he wasn’t just trying to write some kind of love song. Gil Scott-Heron is necessary listening for any musician.

Neil Griffith – The Christians: I always think about the way Gil said it as well, there’s not a lot of emotion coming from his voice. It’s almost like his commentating on the times. He’s hard and he’s telling it like it is, as opposed to being too emotional. He’s just hard and direct.

Ebo Shakoor and Rod Youngs (Malik & The O.G’s / Amnesia Express)

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Ebo Shakoor (percusion,flutes) and Rod Youngs (drums)
Photos: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

Ebo Shakoor: I feel a great sense of gratitude to be able to have enjoyed those moments, those minutes, those seconds with him and the whole crew. It was marvellous. It’ was something that you never forget. All the different experiences and the laughter. It’s always been the case that the hip-hop world has loved and been influenced by Gil’s music, they just loved Gil. So whenever they could take samples of this and that from Gil, it made them feel a part of the whole aura which surrounded Gil because a lot of them weren’t there because they were too young but to be able to get a piece of that music to embellish their project, it made them feel that they were a part of Gil.

Rod Youngs: It’s an absolute honour just to be here and to perform as well; it’s a very momentous occasion. With the tradition of African American music part of the learning process, or rites of passage so to speak, is learning from those artist who came before. The studying, the analysing, it just gives you more depth as an artist yourself. For those contemporary artists who recognised his contribution, I really commend them; that’s part of being a real artist, learning from those who came before.

The O.G’s

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Rod Youngs, Orphy Robinson, Veslemoy Rustad Holseter, Malik Al Nasir, Cleveland Watkiss, Ebo Shakoor
Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

Orphy Robinson (Musical Director, Malik & The O.G’s): This really makes me feel great because we’ve been putting this thing together for three or four years from the initial idea when I was first brought in. I remember sitting in a meeting with Malik and a few other promoters and nobody understood what he was saying, nobody understood where he was going with a particular idea and I could see that picture immediately and I just thought ‘this is a really fantastic idea of honouring someone who’s really special.’ I was working on a lot of other big projects but this just seemed so exciting and so necessary as well and Malik was a character who was new to me… So I was there at the end of the phone.

It’s good to see that he’s had that focus and drive to get it here today. We’re here now and we’re all really excited. I’m sure it will be a very exciting way of commemorating Gil in Liverpool.

Sophia Ben-Yousef – Opening Performer, The Revolution Will Be Live

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Sophia Ben-Yousef
Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

Sophia Ben-Yousef: I am honoured and so excited to be a part of such a fantastic event tribute, to one of the greatest musicians – in my opinion. I’m just thrilled to be playing alongside talented musicians. Personally, I cannot think of any better way to celebrate music in the city than leading a tribute to Gil Scott-Heron. Also, being a Liverpudlian is a brilliant thing as well as having this event in the city – which is my home town – and being able to perform tonight.

The song I’m performing tonight is called ‘Perfect’. It’s following on from a song I wrote when I was fourteen called ‘Carry On’. My dad’s side of the family are from Libya; so during the revolution, we saw how happy everyone was – they finally got everything they wanted their way but then as the revolution started to die down and they had got what they wanted, people started to turn on each other. Friends would betray their own friends and I think my song ‘Perfect’ is there to make you stop and think and just ask yourself, ‘Who is actually doing the right thing here and maybe we should all take a step back instead of revolting?’ I just think sometimes of the consequences that are involved in those situations.

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Sophia Ben-Yousef
Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

I’m so honoured to have the privilege of being the opening artist on the St Georges Hall stage tonight. I only found out not long before the event and I’m speechless. To be performing after Rumal Rackley (Gil Scott-Heron’s son) addresses the audience, I’m so nervous but also excited and looking forward to a wonderful evening.

Michael J Edwards

Essential Websites:
Malik & The O.G’s Rhythms of the Diaspora Ft. Gil Scott-Heron & The Last Poets download
The Revolution Will Be Live!
Twitter: @malikandtheogs @yesternightltd
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travelling the spaceways since 1993