Artist, activist, organizer, writer, Catherine J. Howard (CJH) sat down with poet, producer, organizer, leader, visionary creative, and soon to be Harvard fellow, Dasan Ahanu (DA) to talk about his new spoken word album, “Last Temptation Before Sunrise: the prologue.”
CJH: What was the underlying motivation for your new spoken word album, “Last Temptation Before Sunrise: the prologue?” What were you exploring in yourself?
DA: I’ve had the title in my head for a while, but what made sense now as a project was the preparation for the fellowship in Boston.
Looking at the last two years and all the things that had been happening to me in the arts community, it felt like that is what this needed to be about. The idea actually came to me in the two parts — to do the prologue (the before) and then the epilogue (the after) — because there is this transition happening in which so many things are going to change. The epilogue will come out at the end of the year, and the middle will be what is happening in between as other projects that are released.
Before something really good happens, it seems like you have a whole lot of stuff that you have to sift through.
All that good and bad stuff that you have to sift through is the “last temptation before sunrise.” You are shown so many things that you have to face in yourself — worry, concern, habits, what you’ve established — that have kept you where you are and will keep you from ever reaching your sunrise.
Most of my work is narrative-based poetry, and this is the last set of completed pieces that I’ve had sitting around. That’s another big reason why this is the prologue. This is it. The slate is clean. After this, there will be a shift in my energy, and it will be interesting to see what happens next.
CJH: In my experience, a lot of people are afraid to totally empty out their creative wells because they are afraid they won’t have anything to put back in it. How does it feel now that everything is out there?
It feels good! I’m borderline OCD with my art, and there are folders that I’m constantly reordering. This is one of the pockets that has been lingering. It now feels like there is so much more metaphorical room in the house. The next thing will be doing this same cleaning out process with the music that I’ve been hanging on to.
CJH: Is there a specific demographic of folks you are speaking to with this project?
Deep inside of my writing is an elder uncle who has a story for everything and who never says much directly.
So in that sense, my writing is for anyone who wants to listen because that is the uncle’s audience — anyone who will let him spin a yarn for them. Anybody who has that uncle knows that he’ll find someone to talk to anywhere he goes.
With “Last Temptation Before Sunrise: the prologue,” I also tried to provide something else to surround the poems. I stopped putting music behind the poems on the spoken word cds in 2011 and started putting anecdotes in between the tracks. In this album, I wanted other voices included, so you hear me interacting with folks on the way to the show as interludes between the poems.
And as this uncle version of myself, the work that I’ll be doing on campus in Boston will give me an opportunity to create new work and just be a part of a community with fewer responsibilities as an organizer.
At the end of August, Dasan will be heading off to Boston as the 2015-2016 Nasir Jones Fellow at the Hip Hop Archive at Harvard University. Under the leadership of Dr. Marcyliena Morgan, Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., and other fellows from all over the world, Dasan will be researching lyricism in Hip Hop. However, he is moving to one of the more expensive places in the country.
Lend a hand to help Dasan maximize on all the community engagement and the research opportunities that come with this fellowship. Dropping a few bucks in the bin will provide the necessary equipment and resources for Dasan to create meaningful work in this engaging new realm. Donating will get you a copy of “Last Temptation Before Sunrise: the prologue” and put you on the list to get first access to “Glory After Dawn: the epilogue.”