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The Godfathers of rap

by Daniel Brown

Article published on the 2009-01-09 Latest update 2009-01-09 14:44 TU

The Last Poets.

The Last Poets.

The new documentary Made in Amerikkka, by French director Claude Santiago chronicles the rebirth of The Last Poets, a collective of New York musicians and poets, founded in May 1968. Their name was inspired by a poem by the South African poet Keorapetse Kgositsile. He believed in writing poetry before guns battles would take over… a feeling that was also shared by certain sectors of the African American society. World Tracks went to the French premiere of the 52 minute documentary and met the three founders of The Last Poets.

Abiodun Oyewole, Jalal Nuriddin and Omar Bin Hassan were clearly moved and shaken by Claude Santiago’s documentaryIt features the founders of this iconoclastic band as they travel through half a century of musical and political upheaval for African Americans in the US.

World Tracks: The Last Poets part 1

09/01/2009 by Daniel Brown

“I’ve seen other documentaries on us,” said Oyewole, wiping away a tear after the documentary, “but this one got to me. Nothing has captured the essence of who we are, like this. I feel redeemed. It shows who we are, and we’re still around to tell the tale.”

“I wanted the Last Poets to identify with this film,” said a beaming Santiago after the projection. “They inspired me 30 years ago with their humanity, so it was the least I could do to return the favour.”

The Last Poets.

The Last Poets.

The Last Poets have released dozens of albums in the 40 years they have been around. Their work straddles adversity and conflict, with intimate brushes with prison, drugs and violence.



Their lyrics influenced generations of wordsmiths across the world. One critic wrote that the Last Poets’ politically charged raps, taut rhythms and engagement to their community “almost single-handedly laid the groundwork to the emergence of hip-hop.”

Intriguingly, their musical chronicles of the US in the 60s inspired the likes of Fela Kuti, Bob Marley and Joe Strummer of the Clash.

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(Credit: Nneka)

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Christine Ott also uses the ondea, similar to the ondes martenot, in her classes(Photo: Alison Hird)

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Lhasa de Sela.Photo: AP

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