SURREY — You say you want an evolution? Well, you know, you should go see Baba Brinkman’s show in Vancouver.
The erudite Brinkman, who was raised in the Burnaby area and was schooled in Surrey, brings his award-winning off-Broadway hit show, The Rap Guide to Evolution, to the Historic Theatre at The Cultch from Oct. 29 to Nov. 10.
With pieces like “I’m an African!” and “Darwin’s Acid,” this is science with an insightful edge. And it’s probably the only scientifically peer-reviewed rap show – every bit of the science has been fact-checked.
That’s hardly surprising because the show started after an exchange between Brinkman and biologist Dr. Mark Pallen, author of The Rough Guide to Evolution. Pallen was among a number of biologists who saw a performance of Brinkman’s Rap Canterbury Tales several years ago. Impressed as they were with what the rapper had done, they dared him to do more.
“They said, well, Chaucer’s fine, but what about Darwin? I thought it was a neat idea so I said, sign me up!” Brinkman said from New York, where he now lives.
The result is a show that won the Scotsman Fringe First Award for Best New Theatre Writing at the 2009 Edinburgh Fringe Festival and enjoyed a sold-out run off-Broadway. The Cultch production is the first time the full theatrical show has been performed at a major venue in Canada.
Brinkman has toured his evolutionary guide extensively and recently embarked on a tour of New Zealand.
He says he gets some of his biggest kicks performing “I’m an African!” for a wide variety of audiences. The rap tune is based on DNA mapping that shows all humans are descended from an “African Eve.”
He says strange and magical things happen when he asks the audience to sing along.
“A lot of the time, white crowds start off very timid, but a catharsis happens, and they get into it, and then you’ve got all these guys pumping their fists in the air and getting into it and screaming, ‘I’m an African!’” he said.
“Sometimes, someone will walk in late and stand at the back and see 200 people shouting ‘I’m an African!’ and they’ll have this look on their face like, ‘What the hell is going on here?’ I love that.”
(SEE VIDEO BELOW OF "I'M AN AFRICAN!") story continues below video link
As a kid, Brinkman would travel to Surrey from Burnaby and, for a time, New Westminster, for classes at Discovery School, which has since moved out of the Whalley area.
“My younger brother and I would hop on Skytrain together to get there – I was nine and he was seven,” said Brinkman, now 35. “You can’t really imagine that anymore in today’s culture, with most parents being so controlling and paranoid about everything.”
Later, Brinkman attended Relevant High, another “alternative” school, in Cloverdale.
“It’s a democratic school where students chair the classes and it’s all based on a citizenship model,” he explained.
As for The Rap Guide to Evolution, Brinkman says the show is constantly evolving, based on the feedback from the scientists, the audience and reactions he gets when he tries different things.
You wouldn’t expect anything less from an artist who compares himself to a single-celled organism.
“I’m like an amoeba, just putting out feelers, sensing what’s out there, seeing the options and reacting to the feedback,” he said.
For tickets and more show details, call 604-251-1363 or visit www.thecultch.com.
with file by Tom Zillich
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