Music Sheet: Café Nuba: Multi-media Hip-hop Venue Uplinks Worldwide




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Sakari Alighandhi

Qui’Anna Ray, the house MC and poet heats up the mic and the audience.
"It’s hot and it’s Black!" she yells.
The crowd responds.
"It’s hot and it’s Black!"
Ray then introduces poet Maurice Ka.
"Get your dictionary out — you’re going to need it. His deep poetry may leave you clueless."

Café Nuba, the hottest spot in Denver to become mesmerized by the spoken word, flicks by filmmakers of color, and the hottest urban music beat; has gone worldwide.

Denver Community Television started airing Café Nuba locally in 2003. Due to the venue’s rapid success, FreeSpeech TV on Dish Network picked up the lounge’s eclectic performances from DCT and began broadcasting them globally. Ashara Ekundayo, executive director of the Pan African Arts Society and founder of Café Nuba, was excited to announce the success to her multi-cultural audience.

With spoken words becoming so popular, thanks to movies like Love Jones and Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry on HBO, the needed publicity may pan out to bring success for Café Nuba artists who are aired monthly.

Ekundayo started Café Nuba four years ago to bring recognition to African-American filmmakers and give artists a venue to cultivate.

"There was nothing like this in Denver," Ekundayo says. "We needed to create a micro-cinema movement and wanted something uniquely ours."

Ekundayo became interested in black films when she was introduced to the work of black filmmakers while studying African America Studies at college. She recalls seeing the film Daughters of The Dust, which didn’t get much-needed recognition – partly because it was a film produced by a first-time filmmaker who happened to be a black woman.

Ekundayo says Daughters of The Dust, is an intriguing movie, much like Eve’s Bayou, which was also produced by a black woman.

Ekundayo says she realized the limited number of outlets that many black artists have to "manifest their creativity," and she wanted to "find and promote young local artists." She wanted people to feel like they had a place to go other than New York to see black artists.

Denver has had many poetry lounges and cafés, but nothing like Café Nuba’s mix of artists. On any given last Friday of the month, you can hear poetry to enlighten and awaken the mind.

While Ekundayo admits she is the creative link behind the scene, she says she has nine young volunteers who keep it fresh.

Even if you’re not into poetry, Café Nuba has other talents and featured celebrity guests to capture audience interest, such as Oscar Brown Jr. In January, the featured artist is Craig Grant, AKA Mums, from the HBO special OZ. Cong Lucong, a painter from the Space Galley, was the featured November artist. The audience was able to view him at work as he painted a canvas throughout the night.

Café Nuba also has creative DJs that showcase their beats, and anyone with a positive message can speak, sing or perform a skit from the Café Nuba stage.

Ekundayo says that being copied by others wishing to have a venue like Café Nuba's has been the highest compliment of the well-received venue.


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