A blank canvas hung by the windows of the Rainbow Bistro this past Sunday, May 19, inviting attendees of Nationless Nights: Edition Zero to immortalize the night by leaving their mark of love on the white surface.
Organized by Ottawa’s Nationless Minds crew, the inaugural night of music and poetry featured a variety of local artists who gathered under one roof to celebrate community, love, and freedom through the arts.
It was encouraging to see the crowded venue right from the get-go and the great turn-out demonstrates that the tightly-knit Ottawa arts community supports the launch of Nationless Nights in large numbers.
To kick off the night in music, Slim Moore, front-man of Slim Moore and The Mar-Kays and of Ranking Yout and The Dub Pilots, performed a soulful song entitled Sleeper Awake, which set the tone for what was to come. Partly acting as MC, Slim Moore returned to the stage several times throughout the night to either perform or to introduce the next performers.
Candice Bruchhaeuser, a local slam poet, followed Slim Moore’s opening performance with a lovely piece of poetry after which Toronto-based rapper Rosie Monday aka Elle-P, took to the stage with a dynamic set during which she reached out to people with her lyrics, concluding with the strong track United We Stand. Although she was a bit difficult to hear at times, Rosie Monday delivered a powerful performance fittingly in tune with the night’s theme.
V’s poetry came next, intertwining the musical performances with an in-your-face piece proclaiming, namely, her disdain for Fendi and Prada.
Following V’s high-powered piece, Slim Moore returned for the ‘half-time’ show with additional material, this time performing catchy reggae tunes from his new project Ranking Yout and The Dub Pilots.
After Slim Moore’s intermission set, it was The Key Components’s turn to perform for the audience. Comprised of members Aspects Bloclawz and Moun Fou, the acoustic hip-hop duo presented several original tracks along with a couple of cover songs including Aloe Blacc’s I Need A Dollar. Based on the crowd’s response and overall reaction however, The Key Components were not the high point of the first edition of Nationless Nights. Having said this, kudos and cookie points for the effort and stage presence.
Once The Key Components wrapped up their set, Prufrock Shadowrunner, a local spoken word artist, rapper and DJ, took a break from his DJ duties to perform a hilarious poetic piece on douche-bags after which Candace Bruchhaeuser came back on stage with yet another beautiful piece of poetry while Jaguar Priest set up the stage for their performance.
Saving the best for last, Jaguar Priest, by far the highlight of the night, came on stage towards the end of the show. Comprised of rapper Hyf the GypsySun, accoustic guitarist Balam Santos, bassist Salomon Carrillo and percussionist Denis Kashi, the newly-formed Ottawa group opened the door to their sound and invited the attentive audience into a unique world of afro/flamenco/hip-hop music.
Balam Santos alone, the lead guitarist, was simply humbling to watch and listen to as he vigorously strummed the strings of his acoustic guitar, producing beautiful harmonies reminiscent of the graceful touch of Spanish flamenco guitarists. His expressive body language, clearly feeling every note being played, made it an even more engaging performance to watch while Hyf the GypsySun brought his soul on to that stage, delivering a high-energy performance full of passion and dynamism, clearly giving his all to the public.
Jaguar Priest’s overall performance somewhat resembled a ceremonial rite of passage into the world of music inviting audience members to embrace one another for an inspiring night of lyrical unity. It was lively, refreshing, engaging and invigorating all at once and it’s surely only the beginning for this talented group of musicians. There’s no doubt about it, Jaguar Priest made quite an impression.
Towards the end of the show, the white canvas that I’d seen when I arrived at the Rainbow had been filled with inscriptions by community members who understood the importance of capturing the essence of such a great night of artistic freedom.
It’s safe to say that Nationless Nights: Edition Zero has made a name for itself and paved the way for future artistic gatherings of the sort in Ottawa. It’s still unclear when and where the next installment will be, but one thing is certain: it’ll turn you nationless, if only for a moment, a song, or a poem.