Review: Griot Gabriel, Poetry&Words, Glastonbury Festival 2023

Griot Gabriel’s poetry explores and is influenced by his upbringing in a black urban environment and culture, as well as his twelve years working as a professional youth worker. It looks at masculinity, political discourse, racial identity, experiences of inner-city young people and their challenges and relevant current social issues.

He is a strong performer, entering the Poetry&Words stage with assured confidence and delivering his poetry masterfully, riding the waves of rhythm. You can see the hand of his influence, Tupac Shakur, but not in a copycat way – it’s in the rhythm and the construction of the sentences. 

The first poem Gabriel performs is inspired by Tupac, with a powerful allegory of a rose that is growing through the cracks in the concrete and celebrating its tenacity.

‘I’m from a place they tried to gently gentrify’ he says in a poem written about Manchester, the city he grew up in. Another poem looks at his reshaping of his relationship with his Nigerian heritage; a reunion he calls it, and questions why it wasn’t a union already.

There is a sense of finding yourself in the world throughout each poem. He talks about a drug dealer who could be a businessman because the only difference is the product. Finding your place, finding yourself – a truly moving half-hour of poetry.

Griot Gabriel is at Glastonbury Festival 2023.