After reading Siana Bangura’s truthful collection of poetry about her experiences, I was thrilled to be able to attend the launch event that she had been so excited about in the weeks leading up to the release of ‘Elephant’. On Friday 20th May, a special moment took place in the heart of Hackney at the renowned Hackney attic, a venue which provided the right atmosphere and tone for an intimate and surprisingly emotional evening.
Siana’s attention to detail did not only apply to the creation of her book ‘Elephant’. We were given more than we expected when the show started with a call and response performance by special guest, Usifu Jalloh, a performer from Siana’s home country, Sierra Leone. During this performance the audience were taught phrases of empowerment and liberation in Krio (Sierra Leonean creole) as we prepared to be taken on a journey to where the story of ‘Elephant’ began.
Siana was soon welcomed on stage and the screams, claps and foot stamps were still not enough to demonstrate the love and energy in the room. Wasting no time, Siana delved into the first section of her book and literally brought these poems to life! Having never seen Siana perform in such a way, I was compelled to keep my eyes and ears fixated on the stage. Her first selection of poems acted as a teaser for what was to come as she introduced another guest act, Ayelle, who performed a number of tracks relating to an unspoken theme of womanhood and identity. Her songs were all original and gave us an insight into who Ayelle is as a person and as a performer.
Following the sounds of Ayelle, Siana returned to the stage with soul singer Nia Ekanem to perform a number of poems including ‘Scorched Earth’, ‘Denim’ and ‘How does one learn to write tenderly?’. Siana and Nia made a near perfect combination and gave the poems a life beyond the page! During the night, Nia performed his own set, sharing songs such as ‘Changes’ and ‘Travellers’ which is his latest release. The acts Siana selected to support her on the night all carried the underlying messages within and of ‘Elephant’ throughout the event. Each performer took the audience on their journey and welcomed us into their world.
With a short break half way through the night, the tone was still intimate and guests were seen mingling and getting to know each other. Perhaps Siana had created a safe and friendly space for her audience that night – it certainly felt that way. Following the break, Siana had more guests join her on the stage to round off the show. These guests included Jules Vaughan on viola and Marcus Joseph on sax, who both accompanied Siana on closing performances of ‘Elephant’ and ‘Halo’.
The launch of ‘Elephant’ was a huge success, and not only that, but Siana’s specially curated night demonstrated the love, care and energy put into creating the right vibe for both the audience and her guest performers. Regrettably, those who did not attend missed out on a magical evening of honesty, vulnerability, history, transparency and great poetry.
‘Elephant’ was officially released on 21st May and debuted at number one in Amazon’s women’s fiction category – a spot well deserved. If you missed this event then definitely look out for more from Siana Bangura – a name one shouldn’t forget any time soon!
Review by Anthony Olanipekun (Poetry and Positive Vibes Show)