Afrakaren ft. Tuku Crawford, Toronto ON March 21

Afrakaren ft. Tuku Crawford, Toronto ON March 21
Ever-reaching for the top of the list of Toronto's worst music venues with its open, split-level design and duelling sound systems, Crawford on College was the unfortunate performance space offered to local spoken word duo Afrakaren and Tuku on the CMW's opening night. Forced to battle the racious club rhythms of Biggie and Drake blasting down from bar's main floor with little more than a lone acoustic guitar and their own soft voices, the two made the best of a near impossible situation, delivering a calming blend of poignant poetics and tortured soul melodies. Tuku's minimalist plucking and floating vocal lines formed the base as Afrakaren's weighty, provocative monologues -- long, probing questions of spirituality, sexuality, African ancestry and our connection to the Earth -- provided a wealth of vivid imagery and moments of thoughtful introspection. Though that decidedly tuned-down combination might have been better suited to another place and earlier hour, their brief set added a welcomed bit of calming diversity to a festival in which quiet spaces run at a premium.