baba

Text-based, hip hop artist Baba Israel will perform at 7 p.m. March 16 at the Huntington Museum of Art. The artist talked about his work via e-mail recently.

Can you describe when you first fell in love with writing and music and theater?

I was born into the theatre and grew up around the arts. My parents were both members of the Living Theatre, a world-renown theatre group that toured internationally. My father was also a jazz musician and exposed me to great music as a child. I grew up in New York in the late ’70s and ’80 when Hip Hop was emerging as a national and global phenomenon. As a child I remember writing poetry and the magic of words and the emotions and images they unlocked. I was also in a children’s theatre group that toured the parks in New York and I remember early jam sessions with friends recording raps and beatboxing.



What artists have influenced you and how?

My father is a big influence on me and this show. He always integrated real stories into his one man shows. The whole idea of creating a one man show came from me watching him as a kid. I loved watching him turn into characters and tell stories. I also loved how he mixed serious issues with comedy and made it an experience that was playful and full of humanity.



When people come to your performance in Huntington, what are they going to see and hear?

They are going to hear real stories that will break open their perception of New York, Australia, and how I look at the human experience. They will experience world-class beatboxing and the characters that make New York such a rich and diverse place. They will laugh and learn and some might end up on stage. They will expand what they see as theatre. They will hear didgeridoo played live and experience improvisation. They will connect with a show that has toured England, Holland, New York, Los Angeles, Prague with no two shows every being exactly the same.



How would you compare the New York music/theater scene to the London music/theater scene?

New York is dynamic and full of energy and I am now in Manchester actually which is two hours north of London on the train. Manchester is a fantastic city rich in culture and history. It is a smaller city but still very vibrant. What is different? The way the arts are supported. In the UK, there is a strong culture and belief in the arts and this reflected in the public subsidy and the amount of grant support for artists and really exciting venues like Contact.



What are you working on that is new at this time?

I am the artistic director for an amazing theatre in Manchester. We are doing so many great projects — contact-theatre.org and I have also been selected as a cultural envoy by the U.S. state department to travel to Gambia to work on artistic and cultural exchange.



What are your goals as an artist?

My goal is to grow, learn, and connect with global development in new forms of music, theatre and interdisciplinary arts. I have a real passion for the creative voice of young people and for diversity in the arts. I believe art can challenge ignorance, connect and build community, and be fun and exciting release!

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