Monthly Archives: January 2008


So for those who are in the know, we were suppose to go to Kenya in the middle of this tour, but I have to say that its been cancelled. I say this with mixed emotions. On one hand, to have the opportunity to travel to an amazing country like Kenya, may happen once in a lifetime, we all were very afraid of the situation there…..And see a country go through so much….brother against brother.. sister against sister…..neighbor against neighbor…..and where would we fit in all of this ? In this time, they have to find themselves again to return back to where they were. If they can even go back. Too much has already been said and done. Maybe they can only go forward….yes forward….very slowly, but forward… peace.



From Casablanca to Marrakesh

Its been a long time, I shouldn’t have left you, without a dope blog to read through…..Sorry for those who don’t get the hip hop quote on this one…..Gotta get your hip hop 101 together. Well since we’ve last spoken, so much has happened, where do I start….Ok we had our first real show in Casablanca, a double bill with Gawa Fusion, a local band here in Morocco. 

We had a crazy soundcheck with a soundguy who had a hard time adjusting the mics, our voices, and the space. And a crew guy who gave the other band a real hard time about their keyboard player….Ahhh… It felt just like home. Our set was good, we were sounding good, we were a little concern about the language barrier, but we made a good impression. At the end of the set, Mildred sang an old traditional Moroccan song, that the audience went wild for. It was a little rough but they totally appreciated our respect for their culture. Gawa Fusion took the stage after that for two songs and then we came back on and “jammed” with them for another song. 

You know, you have to love these exchanges, the opportunity to connect with people. Lots of hugs, e-mail exchanges and pictures taken. Met a couple of people from France and some Moroccan promoters who want to bring us back…..All I can say is Morocco….this is happening in Morocco.  Next it was off to Marrakesh, a three hour drive to the more “country part” of Morocco.

Now if you know anything about Universes, we love to keep ourselves entertained so falling asleep around us is very dangerous. Those missing pictures may pop sooner or later, depending on who is blackmailing who. Its amazing how busted you can look in pictu
res when you’re tired and asleep…… Now Marrakesh has a different flavor than the part of Casablanca where we were staying. There were mountains peeking at you from behind the buildings.
Our next show was in a theater where they have opera , so our sound was a little different then what their staff was used to. We had this guy who worked there who couldn’t speak English and didn’t know anything about what was going on but was trying to tell everybody what to do….Ahhh just like home.. He wore this cardigan sweater and..had this weird energy around him….I shall call him the Cardigan Man…..This show was another collaboration with the hip hop Moroccan group called “Fnair”. 

They were really excited to have this opportunity to perform at this opera house, but they were only able to get on at the end of our set, but they didn’t care. We all rocked the spot as if it was a smokey club with messed up microphones at one o’clock in the morning… know what I’m saying….We found out later that during the sound checked they were being watched by the Cardigan Man to see if they said anything negative about the government….Weird Energy!!! 

Now after the show,..we went out to the medina…which was jumping with an energy and excitement that you wouldn’t believe. 
There were small groups of people performing traditional music…. african and egyptian rhythms….inspiring and moving….Moroccan culture all around you. Now don’t get me wrong…it was amazing to see…but you had to keep your head out there. There was also this sense of danger…pick pockets and hustlers all watching each other and the tourist roamimg around. Now we had Mars with us, our jedi driver and bodyguard, who kept his eyes where we didn’t keep ours. You always felt safe when he was around,…But we definitely kept our new york attitude with us. Now it was off to the food area, where everything is cooked outside. Kind of like a big giant barbecue. We sat down at area 22, with our Moroccan connections from the state department for this traditional meal. Now, I must say this was one of the best moments of the trip. We had Mutton head, camel hump, coucous (I think this how you spell it but its late, forgive me) It was just cool watching the activity of the medina, sharing good time with the waiters and the cooks, who chased away the young kids who were out there hustling for change with a little too much passion. Almost hurting them, trying to protect business. But it kind of struck me that when you see kids out there, late at night, some as young as 4 (no lie) it breaks your heart,and I’ve seen it in the USA, Chile, Poland. No matter how exotic, there it is…the other side of the fantasy.
Now there is so more to talk about but we’re saving that for the book. But the story of old Nigersaurus versus Mutton Head and his sidekick Camel Hump in the land of the Numb Numb, is coming ….stayed tuned (inside joke)
I guess you just have to be here.

Early Morning Reflection

Up early….too tired of being tired/to sleep/ Long walk on the streets of Morocco can’t cure/restless confession/Unknown street signs and long stares/invite/reflections/of life that has taken another twist/another turn/I recite poetry into the air/to hear how it sounds/ new words I’ve never said before/ feels like Sonny Rollins/practicing his horn on a bridge/looking for his sound again/looking for his soul again/I’m looking/for the right words to say/again/ancient words/older than language itself/maybe I’ve been saying them all along/to myself/not loud enough for me to hear/Maybe I’ll tell them to my son/ like my father told me/ and I didn’t understand a word of it/ until now/I’ll tell it to my son/ and he won’t understand a word of it/until/ just like I didn’t understand a word of it/until/now.


the trip to Ben Slimane

Ok Steve Sapp here…giving you another episode of Universes on the road in Morocco. Yes my people we are in Morocco…I guess if you are reading this you know that already…we just keep pinching ourselves everyday. ok so today we went out to Ben Slimane on a day trip to a teachers conference. They were learning how to teach English to students using music. The experience was interesting because they were very intrigued with how we use language and music. They kept saying we were the innovators of this style, and we kept telling them that we are just in the tradition of great artists like The Last Poets, Ntosake Shange, Sekou Sundiata, and Sandra Maria Esteves and that what we do is not really new at all. But they were excited about being introduced to something that was positive and spiritual. Since they were teachers they kept stressing to us the importance of teaching what we do and the importance of this tradition, and how serious we should take it. After answering numerous questions about how and where we got together, they asked us if we were sponsored back home in the USA, which made us laugh. When we told them that we have to hustle with every gig and dollar they were surprised, which made us feel good, that they thought that what we do is so important thatwe should have a sponsor. Now if we could find one it would help greatly but hey, the work comes first and the blessing are a blessing. After the event and performance, we drove back to Casablanca and decided to go to Rick’s Cafe. Now for those who don’t know this is the famous cafe from the movie “Casablanca”…now I know thats sounds like a real tourist thing to do and it doesn’t really jive with our revolutionary image but we may never get back here, so damn it we decided to go.
AND WE HAD A BALL…Our waiter Semo Muhammad was really funny, spoke really good english and he told us dirty jokes that I can’t repeat on this blog. But trust me, we laughed all night long and when you see us ask about the jokes, we’ll definitely laugh before we tell you the joke. And if you don’t laugh, I guess you had to be there.

the off day

yes, here we are….Steve Sapp…..on our off day going to the Hassan II mosque. A pretty amazing structure built over water. All I can say is that you just feel like you are in the presence of holiness. Where you marvel at the work and craftmenship of the building. Gamal was the only one they let in because he’s Muslim, but that was cool, just standing there was enough. And plus, when one of us rides, we all ride, you know what I mean. As we were leaving, a fog seemed to drop from the sky and covered everything. I don’t know it just felt like heaven. So now we go out to eat and all the Arabic that Ninja thought he knew was all dated and sounded as if he was in a Moroccan movie. Well thats what our guide Abdelkrim told him laughing hard. Ok…after laughing for two hours (I guess you had to be there) we took a walk through a little shopping medina. Gamal and Mildred bought olive oil to take home and then we heard the call to prayer echoing through the area. Hey, I’m not Muslim but I felt like dropping to my knees but I would never fool around like that but you do feel it. We then went over to hear the band GAWA Fusion who will performing on the bill with us at one of our venues here. They were rehearsing and they were excited that we were there. By the end of the rehearsal we were passing the mic back and forth….bringing us together through the power of music. Damn, I know that sounds like a hallmark card but hey it was fun.

After we got back, we decided to go out and get some more food, (yes we like to eat) So we decided to go out on our own. MISTAKE. We were quickly swarmed upon by a group of kids asking for money, and would not take no, or sal or any language that says no for an anwer. They just kept following and asking, and if they only knew that we don’t have any money they wouldn’t have wasted their time. But this is part of the experience. You can’t be mad….We are in Morocco baby !!!!

Universes 1st day in Morocco

The first day is here and what a day it has been. We were met by Mars, the jedi of North Africa, who got us through customs with the jedi mind trick. I swear, we were going through customs and he literally walked us through everything without us stopping in the customs line. Even when the customs agent approached us with serious concern, he said a few words in Arabic and waved his hand like a jedi and the agents walked away with smiles on their faces. Welcome to Morocco. The next person we met was Abdelkrim, who works at the America embassy, and he is the cultural affairs specialist. He preceded to give us the blow by blow of the history of Morocco, and tell us about his connection to Spike Lee. He told us that it was his name that Spike Lee used for the character Radio Raheem for the movie “Do The Right Thing” He met Spike when he was a teacher at Duke. He was very excited about his history in movie history. Between him and Mars, it was a beautiful introduction to the country of Morocco. I have to say that it is interesting being in a place where you can’t blend in at all. When someone looks at us they know that we are not from here. Kind of weird not being incognegro, but the energy has been cool so far. After a quick two hour rest, we were up and about and on our way to Sidi Monument Center. A community center in the middle of town where the poor people live. A chance to see where the people live. This experience was truly amazing. We were br

ought in as the special guest for an event they were having with a local band. There were a room full of people, all smiling and excited for us to be there. To break it down for yall, it was just cool to vibe and soak in the local flavor. After the local band performed, they brought us up to perform. The other band was so excited to “jam “ with us that the second we started our brief set, they jumped on stage with us and started playing their drums and jimbe. Needless to say the sound kind swallowed us up, but the energy in the room pushed us forward. I don’t really know how we came across but we were standing on a stage in Morocco yall. How can you even question that ? Blessings. Its all a blessing. We are going to have to learn more words in Arabic, we are kind of lacking.

Yes….another day…..another day….So here we are at Jazz at Lincoln Center…Dizzy’s Room…Universes is here… do that hoodoo voodoo that we do so well. Let me set the scene,(music starts to play, lets say some Coltrane) the time is 3pm and the room is packed yall. They had to turn people away at the door, yall (no lie)
Ok.. the event was free but it still felt real good. I just remember the early days of just hoping the poetry scene would take us serious, so here we are at Jazz at Lincoln Center….the road is long…the road is long…but I’m just glad we got a road to walk on. So we’re hanging backstage, with our new homeys Alexis and Monauk from Jazz at Lincoln Center, and the time is drawing near. These two people have been our contact into the world of the Rhythm Road, and their energy and enthusiasm for the work just makes this fun. Now we can get a little crazy…a little silly and real serious all within a minute, and they are able to handle all of it. And I kind of feel sorry for Alexis because she is going on the road with for three of the countries. So our mission is to have her beatboxing before this is over. Damn, nothing like a little pressure. Oh yeah, the show….so if any of you know the little things about our inner sanctum we don’t really like sitting around backstage too long because you can get a little restless, and bored, cause you just want to get out there and tear the room down, leave your essence all over the walls,…. sorry i got a little carried away…..I guess its just that open mic juice in us, so we had to “hang around for a couple of hours but between chewing raw ginger and looking for Wynton through the halls, we didn’t break nothing.

Universes here…

Live at the nation’s capital Washington D.C……Baby, Baby, Baby, we are in the house. 
OK time to be serious. This is the beginning of our Jazz at Lincoln Center Rhythm Road Tour. 
We are here on “official business”, as cultural Ambassadors. We are here to meet with government officials about our African/European tour. We leave in a couple of days to Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey,Kenya and London ( in that order).

The meeting was very interesting to say the least. The representative of each country described their region. The most intriguing was the person who was there to talk about Kenya. Her approach to it all was very positive and we felt that if we didn’t know anything about the political upheaval that was shaking things up over there, she wouldn’t have said it. 

So we asked as many questions as we could ? 

After our meeting we went over to the National Geographic Society. An amazing experience, picture this, all these years, we know Africa through National Geographic magazines and videos, and here we are, performing live at the spot because we are about to “ambassadate” 🙂 to Africa. Is that a word? Is that a word? Yes it is. At least in the Universes dictionary. M.m.m
To our surprise, the exhibit of a huge dinosaur at the entrance greeted us with a smile. 
The dinosaurs name was Nigersaurus
Ain’t that some sh.. Yes, that is his name, and he was there to welcome us. So after all the jokes, you have to check back with us a little later to read about “The Legend of Nigersaurus“. 
Anyway, our showcase was a double bill with The Kelly Johnson Quartet. An amazing Jazz Quartet. The turnout was good, we tore down the house and we were definitely inspired by our brother Nigersaurus.
Ninja got a chance to sit in the National Geopgraphic oard room, head of the table, I might add.  But no one was listening.
Pics: Here we included pics of our dear Nigersaurus.  
Alexis and Monauk from Jazz, were rollin with us in DC. 
Til the next.

Universes @ The Nuyorican 1-08

My people,
my people,
my people,

Steven Sapp here, coming to you “live from somewhere”.

Today, I would like to bring you up to speed,
up to date,
maybe uplift you a little on the latest Universes stuff.
We have just finished our showcase for APAP at the Nuyorican Poets Café.

For those of you who know us, this is one of our early homes,

and for those of you who don’t know us…this is one of our early homes.

As usual with the Nuyorican, anything can happen and it did. They were having sound issues. Their soundboard had blown and at first they were telling us that we would only be able to have one microphone. So we kind of had to scramble around a little bit to help them help us. All of this happening with presenters walking into the room. But you know something, even though this moment could have and maybe should have stressed us, we come from this. And no matter how far you travel or how far you think you are, it humbles you in a good way. We’re regular folks, who ain’t afraid to get it done the way we need to. Okay so after dealing with the microphone issue, we got down to the business at hand. We are beginning to shape our new theatrical piece “Ameriville”. The only way to describe this process is: let’s say you’re in a boat with some friends and the boat is out in the middle of nowhere and you’re looking for land with no compass, no map, nothing. Oh, and the map that you thought would lead you in the right direction has holes in it. So you’re kind of paddling along looking for land, and trying to get everybody to paddle in the same direction. Well, with this latest piece, I think we see land in the distance. It’s still far way but damn it I think we see land. So with that said, we had about 30 presenters there, some loved it, some were disturbed by it, but for us those are the type of emotions we are looking for. The work has to challenge and stimulate on some level and if it’s not pushing something, then we are not truly doing our jobs. But overall the work is what we are here for, and our agents were happy and we were happy, and isn’t that what it’s all about. Some happiness…all you truly want is happiness… 🙂

Until next time my people.