OkayPlayer Presents: Dragons of Zynth and Bilal
December 11, 2014
Unfortunately, the OkayPlayer Holiday Jam featuring The Roots and tons of special guests was on hiatus this year, which made their show featuring Dragons of Zynth and Bilal their unofficial holiday show. Regardless of the specifics, this particular show was one of the most memorable shows of the year, providing several moments that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
- During Dragons of Zynth’s explosive electronic rock/funk set, they dared the audience to be more human, to defy a system that forces you to be less loving, less kind, less creative by asking the crowd “Are you a robot – or are you a human being?"
- I was standing next to a dear friend, who I later had a falling out with when the poet and actor Saul Williams accidentally stepped on my foot. Williams quickly apologized to me and my response was a laughing "We’re cool, baby. We’re cool.” Hell, to be honest, that brother could step on my foot any day he wanted. But a few minutes after that Williams ran on to the stage to perform with Dragons of Zynth, as he did during the Afropunk Festival 2013. And when Williams got on the stage, their set took on an even deeper consciousness and political feel. In light of the then-recent deaths of Mike Brown, Eric Garner and Akai Gurley, this was not just timely, it was necessary. Naturally, Williams led the Brooklyn Bowl crowd through the now popular protest chants of “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!” and “I Can’t Breathe.” He added jokingly that there were some people out there who needed an intervention to stop what they were doing. But he turned serious, reminding the crowd that it was going to take more than just changing a few laws to get it right.
- Bilal took the crowd on an otherworldly and spiritual journey with a voice that expressed joy, ache and defiance within a turn of a phrase. He’s probably one of the most expressive vocalists I’ve seen in quite some time – when he sings, his face contorts in kind. But even he had commented about how the Eric Garner decision made him so angry that he felt like he was going to kick something – right that second.
- But by far the most powerful and influential moment of the night was Saul Williams sitting off to the side of the stage, grabbing a microphone during a break between Bilal’s set and spitting more truth to the crowd. He started off by chanting “Black life matters/Latino life matters/Chinese life matters/All life matters/Black life matters.” He then followed by telling the crowd to “Live your life as a form of protest.” And then implored the crowd to go out there on the streets and fight and not let the college kids fight their battles for them. I’m going to remember that for the rest of my life.
Check out some photos from the set below.
Dragons of Zynth
Saul Williams and Dragons of Zynth
For these photos and more check out the Flickr set here: