After missing the “Angels Are Born” CD release party at Mercury lounge on June 29th, I knew I had to see Loh El play at Mugshots last night. If you haven’t yet seen this poet perform, get on that.
Opening with his signature beatboxing harmonica, Ottawa’s Graeme O’Farrell AKA Loh El the Minstrel, invited his small crowd to be moved. This “The Womb of Music,” which is as beautiful and gritty on the album as it is live, is the summation of what Loh El stands for. “[I] put myself at the mercy of music as if it were the weather and I were a castaway.” He dared us to open our eyes, to realize that what we are fed every day might not actually be nourishing.
To know Graeme is to know his spoken word. And to know that, you know he loves his young son more than anyone on the planet. His debut album is a labour of that–the title, the dedication & every second song are for Evers. We can only guess if the album would have even come to be without his son but we know for certain the finger-painting album cover wouldn’t exist without those little fingers.
If you’re ready to see Loh El live you’re shit out of luck until Sept. 14th, when he’ll play at Raw Sugar. I sincerely hope something sooner comes along. However, he’ll be attending the Hillside Festival in Guelph, ON July 26th to 28th so if you’re as diehard as I might prove to be… you’ll attend too. His spoken word poetry & efforts are chronicled here.
“Cause yeah I’m broke but I live free so you cannot make a slave of me.” He’s a wordsmith who doesn’t scrimp on the whammy bar. Curtis Perry on back-up guitar playing out bass-like tones and Dan Mollema on drums with no less than five cymbals brought Loh El’s love letter to his son to life on the small Mugshots stage.
Every time a set as warm as that plays out in the jail hostel’s courtyard I wonder about the catharsis of humanity. The three hangings of murderers that occurred above the venue are no less real in the past of the ancient prison than the Palestinian conflict ongoing in the Gaza Strip. There is so much we choose to ignore, which Graeme stares in the face. Perhaps looking at it this way, we can agree that being haunted is not a physical or extrasensory experience but a part of us. Maybe we’re all meant to remember what had to happen and what should never have been.
Maybe this doesn’t belong in a music review. I don’t know about that. All I know is that as long as there are artists like Loh El the Minstrel to read us like books and remind us of what really matters, our human condition might not always have to be “just the way things are.” We can be the change we need to see–if we write a poem at least.