“CARMEN 56: THE SPOKEN WORD GROUP GIVING EVERYONE GOOSEBUMPS.”
The Carmen 56 is a famous antique tube radio, also called the Nordmende Carmen stereo. Produced in 1956, this radio is famous for its brass and wood decals, but especially for its impeccable sound and limited static hiss. Deep, refined, and tasteful for an evening radio show, the Carmen 56 is a timeless radio. But the name is deeper than an antique object, it is the brainchild of the label founder Khalid Jones, “‘Carmen’ is the Latin word for ode or poem, and 56 happens to be the category number for the Grammy’s Spoken Word award,” producer Shevy Smith told LADYGUNN. While the name has multiple meanings, all relay the idea of a timeless ode to art.
Carmen 56 is a record label created to share the experiences of minority artists. The nine members of Carmen 56 envision a work of spoken word set behind beautiful brass, or funky drums, or jazz instrumentation. The collection ranges from talk about being the perfect Black girl to Newton’s theory of gravity. Each poem demands unwavering attention and sometimes knocks the listener off their feet. The themes are not always easy to hear but are necessary, and I found myself needing time to sit with what I was hearing. Everyone should sit with each of the 11 odes.
Each artist in the collective brings their own experience of the world. Sam Berlin from LADYGUNN talked with the members of Carmen 56 about their beautiful art and what they hope they can add into our lives through their words.
What is your mission?
Monique Mitchell: My mission is expansion. A lot of people feel most free and expansive as a child, and as they grow older, external forces cause them to contract. For me, it was the opposite. I was born in a state of contraction. Poetry helped me expand. It helped me breathe in a world that wanted to steal my breath. It helped me speak in a world that wanted to silence me. The more poetry breathes through me, the more my community has the audacity to breathe. The more poetry speaks through me, the more my community is heard. We lift our heads, open our hearts, and straighten our backs until our expansion leads us into liberation. My mission is liberation.
What would you say to the little Black youth listening to your words?
Tyris Winter: First, I would say thank you to be honest. I am ever grateful that I could develop to the point where my words could be received by those of my likeness. I honestly only write for myself, which I don’t think is selfish but more so claiming my own narrative. In writing so personal, I was really surprised when I started being approached by people relating to my art.However, as Olivia Gatwood says ” we find each other in the details”. So in writing a piece about my frustration with the economy, people touching my hair, or having to hide parts of myself for protection. I am writing for Tyris the young black queer kid who grew up in the middle of nowhere with nowhere to feel safe but the page. I am writing for young black queers everywhere who still have to hide. I am writing for the black queers across the gender spectrum, across the age spectrum who need to hear that the parts they were told to hide are worth sharing, are beautiful, are worthy, don’t need to conform, or perform for nobody. That they can say NO. They can claim or take up space. That they deserve to live, exist, be happy, be upset, know their emotions are valid and be respected for it. Full stop. End scene. Period.