Warriors and wordsmiths practise their Tongue Fu art

Tongue Fu performers

Tongue Fu performers - Credit: Archant

If you like your spoken word backed by improvised licks from a band who are hearing the inspiration for their score for the very first time, then you need Tongue Fu in your life.

Having made its home at Rich Mix five years back, the show has continued to draw in talented poets from across the world.

Tomorrow (Thursday) is no exception, with three times World Slam Champion Buddy Wakefield from Seattle taking to the stage.

Alongside him will be Toni Stuart, from Cape Town, who last year was named in a list of inspiring young South Africans for her role in co-founding an NGO that uses storytelling to help build integrated communities.

Benny Boot, an Australian comic who has been described as one of the best joke writers in the country, will also perform as will the Tongue Fu founder, prolific performance poet and the night’s host Chris Redmond.

For the uninitiated, the premise is simple.

“They get up on stage and tell the band what it’s about,” explains Chris. “The band then have to conjure up the soundtrack. There’s no rehearsal, we just see where it goes.”

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It has gained a loyal following over the years which has only grown as awareness of spoken word – somewhere between poetry and hip-hop – has increased. Names like Scroobius Pip and Kate Tempest bringing a wider audience to the fringe scene.

No surprise, performing with the band is a challenge that can produce thrilling results when both sides come together.

“Until you get up there you don’t really know what’s going to happen. It’s quite important to be polite to the band – they can make or break it for you.

“That’s sort of the fun of it. Letting go of control a little bit and letting other people into your work.”

But the daunting prospect has put off professional poets in the past, according to Chris.

“I know quite a few poets who have avoided doing it for quite a long time because it isn’t under their control. What normally happens there is when eventually they do it, they love it.”

Tongue Fu is on at 7.30pm on Thursday, December 11, at Rich Mix, Bethnal Green. Tickets cost £8, £6 for concessions. Visit richmix.org.uk or call 020 7613 7498 to book tickets.

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