He is a poet, a presenter, a producer, a performer, a pedagogist, a postgraduate researcher, and a polymath – Tommy “A-Man” Evans – speaks to SpeakHub about what it takes to grace the microphone.
SpeakHub: How would you describe what spoken word poetry is?
Spoken word poetry is an oratorical tradition found across many cultures, societies and nations. One could connect the dots between the griots of West Africa; the verse of Zaid Bin Thabit “poet laureate” to The Prophet (peace be upon him); the troubadours of medieval Europe; the DJs toasting on dub plates in 70s Jamaica all the way to Drake selling out stadiums in the present day. It’s all poetry in some form or another.
SpeakHub: How important is public speaking to you and how much of a role does it play in your craft?
Public speaking plays an essential role in my craft as it’s all about performance and connecting with an audience. As an orator one must possess emotional intelligence to “read” the crowd to tailor one’s content in a bespoke manner that strikes a chord with those listening.
SpeakHub: How do you prepare before a show/recording/interview to calm nerves, and ensure you remember?
I’m fortunate in that I don’t get nerves before shows however preparation is an essential part of my craft. I rehearse my material before entering the stage or studio as the old aphorism “Fail to plan, plan to fail” certainly holds true!
SpeakHub: At what point in your life did you realise that you wanted to use your voice for your craft?
I hail from a hip hop background so as a fan of that culture from a young age I wanted to contribute in my own right. That artistic expression evolved from breakdancing, to graffiti to rapping, the latter metamorphosing into spoken word poetry in a graceful maturation of style.
SpeakHub: What are the 3 most important tips you can give young people who want to be better speaking performers?
To improve one’s skills of public speaking the best advice one can dispense is to practise, practise, practise. In his opus “Outliers”, the ever erudite Malcolm Gladwell popularised the “10,000 hour rule”; to achieve mastery of a particular discipline 10,000 hours of deliberate practise (equating to approximately ten years) need to be invested. It’s a useful heuristic to apply in my humble estimation!
SpeakHub: SpeakHub promotes English language public speaking in schools that are primarily outside of English speaking nations. Is speaking English important today? If so, why?
English is a lingua Franca around the world especially in entertainment and academia. Whilst the historical causes for this current state of affairs are somewhat disconcerting, one might take a pragmatic view and immerse oneself in the language to enhance one’s repertoire, increase employment opportunities and augment life experiences.
Hailing from a family of artists and architects, imagination, initiative and industry are embedded in the DNA of Tommy Evans. In his decade long career as a pioneering hip hop musician he appeared on over forty releases; managed a record label; collaborated with multi-platinum and underground artists alike (appearing on tracks with Neneh Cherry, Martina Topley-Bird, Stereo MCs, Nightmares On Wax, Andreya Triana, Plan B and Kano); featured on Radio 1 and MTV; performed in the UK, USA and Europe; counted Kylie as a fan AND was sampled by the late, great J Dilla! Presently, he delivers motivational talks and dynamic spoken word performances in the UK and around the world as his artistic alter ego A-Man as well as mentoring many emergent verbal artists including two of The Roundhouse/1Xtra Words First 2016 finalists. In addition, he celebrates the social, cultural and aesthetic interplay of Black and European culture as a writer for afropean.com; acts, writes screenplays, runs workshops, directs, designs, edits, models, photographs AND is writing up his doctoral thesis exploring the educational arena in which migration, minorities and the free market intersect.