Vibe ‘n’ Verse bring grooves to Jacks Place

John Hult

John Hult

Vibe n’ Verse, a five piece spoken word and jazz ensemble, wowed students with verbal virtuosity, smoking rhythms and instrumental improvisation on Thursday.

The performance, which lasted about an hour and a half, was followed by a question and answer session.

The Chicago based quintet opened with “libation,” a retrospective piece that highlighted the importance of gratitude towards the achievements of the past. Kasembe, who brought a potted plant on stage to represent the flowering and continuation of knowledge, asked the over 40 members of the audience to participate in a call-and-response tribute. Kasembe watered the plant for each person’s name he called, some of whom were Nat Turner, Langston Hughes, Sarah Vaughn, Duke Ellington and Martin Luther King Jr.

With the lights low on the Jack’s Place stage, the soft grooves spun from a mixture of vibraphone, flute, alto and tenor sax, and bass provided an airy background for poet Lasana Kasembe’s powerful prose. The group has toured for six years.

Kasembe said during the dialogue following the show that the the troupe’s passion for art is also fueled by a passion for the truth. When asked by an audience member how the group deals with performing to mostly white audience, Kasembe responded,

“We tell the truth. If the truth hurts, you’ll be in pain.”

Kasembe, who wanted at one point to be a history professor, also spoke of the past as fuel for his heavily emotional wordplay.

“I try to use the history as a resource rather than a reference. I try to put myself there,” he said.

Kasembe and woodwinds player Prince Saleem Mohammed were both quick to note that Vibe ‘n’ Verse has played to audiences even less diverse than the 40-plus member crowd at Jack’s Place. Mohammed pointed out that bringing the grooves, messages and metaphors to people with different cultural backgrounds was an end in itself.

“The Supreme Being created us all to be who we are. The beauty of it is to be who you are and what you are,” he said.

Although Kasembe did say that some audiences react more vocally to the group, the SDSU crowd was quite impressed.

One aspiring prairie poet who was quite taken with the urban poetic flows was SDSU sophomore Rory Stephenson.

“It completely blew my mind,” he said.”They were real–especially being out here in South Dakota, you don’t really get much by way of different cultures.”

Stephenson was also taken with Kasembe’s highly energetic performance style.

“He was kind of like a shaman. When he got deep down into his verses and his poetry, I swear–everything else disappeared,” he said. “I don’t want to sound like a hippie, but everything just sort of formed into one.”