As a legendary musician and spoken word artist, Ngoma Hill (Baba Ngoma Oayemi Ifatunmise) continues to shine as a spokesperson for the oppressed and a mentor for a whole community of artists, musicians, and fellow wordsmiths. The dexterity of Ngoma’s creative guise has proven to be the brick and mortar for a career that has lasted more than five decades. During his epic journey as a performance artist and writer the “Godfather of Spoken Word,’ as he is so eloquently known, has received several awards and honors, including his recent selection as the Beat Poet Laureate of New York for 2017 by The National Beat Poetry Foundation.
Ngoma’s latest offering is perfectly suited for a world that is looking for a breath of fresh air and a post-pandemic miracle. I Didn’t Come Here To Tap Dance by Ngoma Hill is a monumental memoir that provides a windowpane view of human society from the musings of our favorite literary elder and spiritualist. The book is a collection of some of Ngoma’s finest poems. The formatting and production of the text are superb and should be treated as valued – priceless.
The uniqueness of I Didn’t Come Here To Tap Dance cannot be overemphasized. The artwork for the project was created by the legendary cognoscente Iyaba Ibo Mandingo. Aside from the main body of work, we also find additional information about Ngoma Hill’s career, which includes a detailed biography, a discography of the sound recordings that he has released, and theatre work. The book opens with a rhapsodic forward and poem by the enchanting writer and spouse of Ngoma, the lovely Osunyoyin Alake. Her words certainly set the tone for what is to follow. Overall, the book’s extra trimmings create a podium for Ngoma’s envisioned protocol of nouns and verbs that serves as a means of enchantment and critical thinking.
I Didn’t Come Here To Tap Dance is composed of nearly eighty poems that prove to be the canvas that Ngoma is able to paint life’s wisdom upon. The opens with the first chapter that is entitled I Didn’t Ask To Come Here. Within this dimension, Ngoma explores America’s long history of racism, everything from the Middle Passage to living in segregation. Cleverly, Ngoma uses America’s hypocrisy to expose the nation’s mental illness. This aspect of the work is clearly seen in “Where I Come From,” a poem that demonstrates Ngoma’s sarcastic intellect as seen in the following stanza, where we read – I come from runaway slaves/I come from pour libations on ancestors’ graves.
The next section we encounter in I Didn’t Come Here To Tap Dance is titled The Year Long Back Packing Trip Thru Sunny Southeast Asia. This portion of the text covers Ngoma’s time in the Vietnam War. Amazingly, not only will the reader find Ngoma’s Vietnam Tour thrilling, but equally enthralling is his description of life after the war. In the poem After My Year Long Backpacking Trip Thru Sunny Southeast Asia, Ngoma laments “walking on concrete seemed really strange/ trying to sleep in a bed was weird too”. Like many people of color originating in the Americas who’ve experienced oppression even amid their military career, Ngoma’s rank and file description of the Vietnam War.
Despite some of the horrors of the Americas faced by Ngoma, he was able to find peace in the spiritual traditions of the Motherland, namely Ifa. I’m Gonna Do What The Spirit Says Do is a very moving portion of the book that explores Ngoma’s discovery of Ifa and how it has transformed his worldview. This spiritual transformation is vividly described in the title Poem For My Egun, which is a letter of praise to Oludumare and the Seven African Powers. The depth of Ngoma’s journey can be best understood by comparative analysis of other titles in this section like New Millennium Dream and Mom Believed In Jesus. These poems are seemingly well-written period pieces, but also unique in that they summarize many of the inner mountains that Ngoma had to climb to reach a place of self-discovery.
As I Didn’t Come Here To Tap Dance continues to unfold and take shape, the reader is able to draw a clear view of some of the pillars that served as sources of inspiration in Ngoma’s life that mirror our own experience. Beginning with the chapter Music Is My Essence, we are introduced to many of the dimensions that Ngoma walked through and the perspectives that he gained. This adventure finally culminates in the last chapter entitled The Corona Chronicles. Ngoma’s poetic virtuosity breathes great continuity into I Didn’t Come Here To Tap Dance as the text maintains its intensity from start to finish. Henceforth, we find that while humanity has become engrossed with thoughts of death and despair, Ngoma chooses life and survival. His poem Said I wasn’t Going To Talk About Death exemplifies this perspective, as he observes in one stanza regarding death – “it’s only the other side of life/ why can’t we applaud survival.” Although much of Ngoma’s work is shaped by his witty sarcasm, the concluding chapter provides a perspective of hope that all freedom fighters draw strength, as revealed in the poem This Plandemic Ain’t New.
I Didn’t Come Here To Tap Dance by Ngoma Hill is a masterpiece. This poetic memoir not only sets an example of how to lead an artistic life but gives the reader the philosophy to do so. The warm overtones of the book come alive through the reader’s eyes because of the paradigm-shifter’s talent snd self-honesty. A lot of artists tote chips on their shoulders, but I Didn’t Come Here To Tap Dance proves that the artistically elite live life like writing an open-book biography. Salute!