This is an extract version of the full article which can be found in My Voice, My Practice: Black Dance, available at our online store
1969. I am the last of six children born into a creative Grenadian family. My parents had typical Windrush generation occupations. My mother worked for the NHS, my father for National Rail. They loved calypso and would blast Sparrow on a Sunday afternoon, as well as Studio One reggae and gospel by Jim Reeves. In the house, they encouraged us all to be creative.
1982. My late brother Tim introduced me to hip-hop, via the seminal track Planet Rock by Afrika Bambaataa and the Soul Sonic Force. I was already into electronic music because of Gary Numan, but this tune was next level. It was electro-funk! Buffalo Gals by the World-Famous Supreme Team (Malcolm McLaren should’ve stayed out of it in my unhumble opinion) was the first time I heard scratching. I couldn’t make out what the sound was. Then I saw the accompanying music video. What sorcery is this? Manipulating vinyl on turntables to create a brand-new sound? This was the first visual of the culture that would shape my life and define the world I live in. Seeing Wild style graffiti, painted so technically proficient it appeared in art galleries. Rock Steady Crew breaking and popping in Washington Square park, on the streets of NYC. Those streets could easily be the streets of Bow, E3. So, we made them so.
1986. Not sure why I chose to do three A-Levels. Government and politics, sociology and English literature. Memorising Haralambos and Holborn was a waste of my time. The complex language of King Lear was annoying. I didn’t have any money. My mother was dying. I dropped out.
1990. Victoria Marks taught choreography at the London Contemporary Dance School (LCDS). She is from New York City, the mecca of my polarised passions; contemporary dance theatre and hip-hop. She was constantly curious, and carefully carefree. I appreciated her teaching methods. Her exercises didn’t impose a particular dance style, or suggest an intended outcome. As a group, we would collectively make discoveries. She encouraged us to be ‘thinking’ dancers, to engage our intellect in the creative process. As a mentor, she was great at asking the awkward question.
1994. Only close friends were aware of my mysterious double life. I needed a change of environment. I started performing poetry a lot more. Acapella verses. No music. The conditions in which I would usually write. The beat was limiting. I wanted to switch my cadence mid verse. Speed up and slow down at will. Bars became rhymed monologues, delivered with comic timing and dramatic pauses. Charlie Dark was the first person to invite me to perform ‘spoken word’. Black Pepper, Speakers Corna, Apples and Snakes, and Brixton Art gallery had some great poetry nights i would frequent in the mid 90s. I enjoyed the varied subject matter and the strong female voice at these events. Less testosterone than the average hip-hop jam. It smelt much better. This space was the fertile soil needed to incubate my seedling vision…
Full article can be found in My Voice, My Practice: Black Dance available at our online store.
LDIF+ Masterclass with Jonzi D is happening at Curve on Sunday 20 June.
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Jonzi D is a MC, dancer, spoken word artist and director, he is the foremost advocate for hip hop who has changed the profile and influenced the development of the UK British hip hop dance and theatre scene over the last two decades.