EDINBURGH FESTIVAL 2009: BWW Interviews Baba Brinkman of THE REBEL CELL
How did you come up with the idea for The Rap Guide to Evolution?
Last year's Rap Canterbury Tales r prompted it, of course - people started to ask if I was going to do a Rap Guide to Shakespeare, Beowulf, all kinds of things, and I didn't have a clear idea of how I'd do that. But Darwin felt timely, with the 200th anniversary of his birth. I'm attracted to synchronicity.
How did the whole Rap Guide thing start? Is there a link between Chaucer and rap?
There's an obvious link. I wrote my Masters thesis on it! I think that rappers fill a social niche that poets did in Chaucer's time. Poets now want to publish, but not perform, and poetry has changed over the years. Rap fills a necessary role, because people have an instinctive love of language arts. I think rap and poetry are kindred art forms, and that poetry has altered so much it would be unrecognisable to Chaucer.
So how do you stage your shows?
It's just me up there with some video. There's some acapella bits, there's some comedy, there's some rap. I actually listened to my entire CD collection to come up with ideas of evolutionary themes, and I found lots, so I've tweaked some of those for the show.
And how did The Rebel Cell start?
My friend Dizraeli and I enjoyed having heated debates, and even when we argued about social issues, we'd still be able to come to some sort of agreement. So we decided to put these thoughts about the world into a show, set in a dystopian country that's become a police state. Dizraeli is on trial, and I'm a war correspondent looking to get to the bottom of the dissidence and civil disobedience. All the dialogue is rhymed and rhythmic. Just like Shakespeare is stylised, it tells you a story and you become immersed into it, and it becomes a sensory experience as your mind becomes stimulated by the sounds.
What are you up to after Edinburgh?
I'm going back to Canada, then to the Burning Man festival, and then I come back to the UK in October before a college campus tour of the USA at the end of the year. Then after that, it depends - we've got opportunities to take the show to Australia and New Zealand, and perhaps even to places in the Middle East, where the issues we debate in The Rebel Cell are very relevant indeed.
Baba Brinkman appears in The Rap Guide To Evolution (Gilded Balloon) and The Rebel Cell (Underbelly's Hullabaloo)