ARCHIVE: Tigga, by the Tale

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The wonderful thing about Tiggas: Asbury Park poet and spoken word artist Tylik “Tigga” Railey brings his autobiographical performance piece PHOTOGRAPHIC MEMORY to The Showroom this Thursday night, in a premiere event that was rescheduled from this past December.

By TOM CHESEK (First published on Red Bank oRBit February 23, 2010)

Last summer, after the actress, writer and dancer Lorraine Stone hosted a poetry program over at the Shore Institute of the Contemporary Arts (as part of Brookdale College’s Juneteenth celebration), we started hearing some wonderful things about a spoken word artist and activist from Asbury Park named Tylik “TIGGA” Railey — not just from Lorraine but from another artist whose instincts we’d come to trust: Rock Wilk, the Brooklyn-based “singer, scribe and spoken-word sensei” who’s gotten scads of invisible ink in these paperless pages. It was Wilk who called Railey “an artist who screams truth, someone who can mobilize real change,” and went on to say “since Asbury Park is going through a renaissance, Tigga — who is born and bred, powder blue-and-white, Asbury Park — should be a very important and included part of that evolution.”

When we caught that Tigga by the tale at one of the monthly Eclectica music-and-media mashups at SICA, we found an accomplished 26 year old cat who had been writing and performing his own words since his days at Asbury Park High School, a craft he’d gone on to hone during stints at Brookdale Community College andMontclair State University. It was at MSU that he joined the poetry slam team, a squad that vied at national competitions in Texas — and a “typical” calendar month might find him anywhere from SICA and The Inkwell to the Newark Public Libraryand the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, screaming truth speed-of-sound and getting it across with an honesty that has no time for expectations or fashions of any stripe.

This Thursday — in a rescheduling of a December 2009 event that had to be postponed when the artist came down with pneumonia — Asbury’s Showroom screening space is the place where the big cats roam, as the Arts Coalition of Asbury Park (ArtsCAP) presents a full-length multimedia piece by Tigga entitled Photographic Memory. Spinning stories of his hometown “Dark City” — an economically segregated place that he likens to the Batman character Two-Face — the self-described “starving artist” plays “devil’s advocate” in a series of pieces that “talk about social issues, personal issues, past experiences, my own inner demons.”

Asbury Park High School student Attila Bartos will play piano interludes between Tigga’s spoken word segments, and Lorraine Stone will be there to moderate a Q&A session at the conclusion of the 8pm show. Admission is on a $10 ticket, with refreshments included — but Railey will also be offering a chance to look in on a special 5pm “warm-up” performance, free of charge. Check the ArtsCAP website for further info on tickets and a lot more things about Tigga — and Continue Readingfor the sabertooth trooth from this sayer of sooths, in conversation with Red Bank oRBit.

tiggasmallRED BANK oRBit: Good to hear from you, Tylik — and I guess the first question is going to have to be how you’re feeling; if you’re back on track to perform a full-length show.

TYLIK RAILEY: I’m feeling alright; much better. I’ve been having to walk around with a hat all winter, bein’ all old fashioned.

Just remember to keep enough of your head exposed so you can observe and report back to the rest of us. Anyway, this performance on Thursday night will be pretty much the same show that was scheduled for back in December?

Yeah, Photographic Memory is a show that I put together about my town — a lot of anecdotes about Asbury Park. The show means a lot to me; ArtsCAP is sponsoring it. I came to them not to do a show, but to get a spot where I could do an open mic. They heard me do some of my poetry and said wow, we gotta get you in a show.

Now, I’ve seen you doing your thing solo at the microphone, but this is a step beyond that from what I understand; kind of a multimedia thing along the lines of what Rock Wilk does?

Not too much like Rock’s show, but then I haven’t had the best tools to put it together. I do have Attila doin’ his thing on piano, and also a couple of selected tracks — oldies but goodies, you know, popular songs that speak to me as personal favorites.

The pictures were the hardest part. I’ve been going through a lot of stuff, mostly old pictures that I had for years, plus a couple of things off the net for background. A friend of mine is cool with a laptop and helps me out with the audio and video. Mostly I just concentrate on writing the words, and they come out the way they come out.

Now, I also understand your family has been in town for several generations. 

Four, maybe five generations in Asbury. I have a family segment in the show, incorporating a lot of my poetry about personal stuff. I’m proud to be part of my family — they molded me into what I am. So it’s about where I’m from, and how sometimes I feel like a stranger in my own town.

How so? Is it just a consequence of the new investment, and how new arrivals can make you feel kind of crowded out of things if you were one of the people who stuck it out all those years in town? 

Yeah, don’t get me wrong, there are some good things about how Asbury Park has transformed and revamped itself — I’m not mad at all. But it’s a gift and it’s a curse — not that I have a better plan myself.

Still, I think you’ve gotta appreciate a place like The Showroom and what they’re doing, for pretty much anybody who’s got any kind of idea at all. 

Definitely. I’m glad to be there — I was in awe of the space ever since I saw Rock’s show there. It’s interesting to have a place like that, that’s open to all sorts of culture and art.

There are some other places downtown where I like to go. Me and my girl go to Old Man Rafferty’s and enjoy it there. I’ve been to Twisted Tree Cafe — and yesterday we were bingeing on hot cocoa at America’s Cup. But at the same time, it’s not really for the community as a whole. And most of the people on the west side of town won’t hang out downtown.

Why would you say that’s the case? 

It’s not going in the same direction as the rest of the community. I remember seeing this all start to happen around my freshman year of college, back in 2002, 2003 — I told my friends that things won’t be the same in five years, and that’s just how it happened.

Even taking into consideration the good intentions and any efforts that have been made to draw the whole town together, what do you think has been missing from the mix?

It’s just that there’s no sense of where people’s lives are at in the other parts of town. Do you understand the school system here; do you understand how great a percentage of people here are on public assistance? To say it the race way, we hurtin’ out here.

I’ve been working with kids here in town — and they have nothin’. Any parks are gone, there’s no place for them to go other than hangin’ out in the street. They get in trouble, become statistics, ’cause there’s no outlet. Kids need to be able to express their talent and their art.

Have you met any particular kids in town that have that spark of inspiration; someone about whom you would think, this kid can really succeed? 

A lot of kids have that spark. You see some definite talent that needs to be encouraged. A year ago I helped get a poetry group together — not just for kids but for people up to 40 years old. I ran the creative aspect of it. I tried doing stuff for kids through the Boys & Girls Club; tried to work with the West Side Community Center on things, although that didn’t work out.

So if you were able to raise the cash to do everything the way you think it ought to be done, is there anyplace in the city where you think you could really make a go at doing the arts thing with the local kids; do performances and instruction and the whole deal? 

I wouldn’t want to do it at a venue downtown. I live over on Fifth, close to Main, and I can think of a couple of places that could realistically work out. Jimmy’s has a nice little hall area, and the building across from the Frederick Douglas Apartments, the Masonic Hall, would be good also. They’re cool spots; people can get to them, and you have to remember that a lot of people in town don’t own cars. If I can get accomplish anything, I just want to plant that seed, you know, for people to be more aware.

I almost forgot to ask one more very important question — where’d you get the name Tigga? Are you a big fan of Winnie the Pooh and his friends? Is it because Tigger had his own rhyme?

That’s my personality! I’m not really into Winnie the Pooh, but Tigga’s the best character on the show — I am that wild one, that crazy one.

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