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Rise Up! Festival: resilience, revolt and R&B on stage

Updated: May 17, 2022

Review of the performance event 'In Our Own Words'

by Rory Buccheri

The Rise Up! festival lifted its curtains in Aberdeen on Friday 15th, bringing to the stage of His Majesty's Theatre a multitude of talents, from spoken word artists to musicians and activists.

I cannot recall the last time that I attended an event that had such different and outstanding talent packed in such a short time.

In just a couple of hours, the audience were treated to Noon Salah Eldin's poetry, the music of two, young musicians from Aberdeen, Aiysha and Paix, and the explosive, slam-poetry quality of Mae Diansangu's spoken word.

This may be the 100th time I have seen Noon perform, yet it is always a fresh and unforgettable experience. She manages to pour her soul into her poetry, and capture an entire room with her words. I loved that she performed her poems in English and in Arabic, preserving through some the connection with her home in Sudan while bringing to the stage important themes about the country's current situation.

Though a very different poet and performer, Mae is also another favourite of mine when it comes to spoken word circles in Aberdeen. Her poems are pungent and punchy, and her words are able to convey feelings of hope, just as disappointment, rage, and truth.

The work Mae brought to Rise Up! touched upon Scotland's role within the BLM movement, and how the UK cannot be excused from perpetrating systemic racism. It was refreshing to see this vital topic taking shape in the words of a creative like Mae, who is fiercely against performative media presence in the lives of people of colour.

I was surprised to find out that Aiysha, the opener of the event, turned 17 on that day. Her gigs included the BLM protest taking place in Aberdeen in May 2020, together with having been a favourite at The Voice Kids in the past. It is just fantastic to be able to see such young talent in the spotlight. Aiysha brought a mix of pop and R&B songs on stage, a perfect blend to showcase her unique voice.

But the shock performer for me was Paix. It is not often that a music performance starts with the singer tuning themselves to the music, taking time to become one, and then confess to the public "I just really love singing".

Paired to the unforgettable voice, the chemistry with her accompanying musician was tangible. Together, they gave us a perfect session of soulful R&B to savour.

Brought to the city thanks to the joint efforts of We Are Here Scotland and Aberdeen Performing Arts, the festival offered a weekend of performances, talks, workshops and community spaces celebrating Black and People of Colour Creatives in Aberdeen and Scotland.

I believe Rise Up! succeeded to do that, and that it is imperative that we make these creative spaces a regular gig all across Scotland, especially in Aberdeen.

As the workshops and events established, it is time to assign funding to and to support projects by black creatives and creatives of colour.

The Aberdeen creative scene can pride itself to be diverse, and to offer a wonderful array of people who dare reinventing the scene everyday by doing their own thing... and doing it awfully well.


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