This weekend, Antoine "Keno Evol" Duke will be releasing a collection at Third Place Gallery of spoken-word pieces he has developed over the past few years. This will be the 19-year-old performer's first spoken-word album, and his second appearance at the gallery after collaborating with concert violinist Karen Kim and composer Patrick Castillo last month.
Saturday's event will feature work that Evol created for The Echo Of Keno Evol,
his debut album. The work marks a new stage in his spoken-word career.
"It's a release party, but it's also kind of a birthday party for my
new name," Evol says.
"Evol," he explains, is "Love"
spelled backwards, while "Keno" means "a game of chance," much like the
lottery. He says he liked the idea of spontaneous things adding to a
sequential sum of experiences.
includes writings about returning to Minnesota with his adopted
parents and twin brother, Antonio, eventually moving to a residence on
Chicago Avenue. There are also poems about living with his girlfriend in
his new home on Portland Avenue.
streets -- Chicago and Portland -- are central to the work. "I tried to
show the world to someone who might not have been to south Minneapolis,"
he says. "I really wanted to vividly show imagery that would reflect
what you would hear, see, and smell living on Chicago and Portland
Avenues." For example, there are moments where there's extreme quiet.
Evol describes sitting in his living room at one o'clock in the morning,
sensing everything that is around him, "and how big that can feel," he
At other times, there's mayhem, with the sounds from HCMC, the sirens, and the random noises that sound like
banging on walls. "You hear all kinds of conversations," he says. "You
see a lot of characters [in the album] that inspired me to write."
Violins were Blind When the Thunderstorms Hit," the poem that inspired
the earlier collaboration with Kim and Castillo, is about not knowing his past.
Keno and his eight siblings were all adopted, and for years Evol lived
in foster care before he and his twin brother were adopted. "It's about
not being able to forget the people you've never met, like a mother or
father. It's really about reconciliation and forgiveness," he says.
is still very close to four of his siblings, who live in
Minneapolis, all of whom are performers. (One brother is an actor who
has worked with the Guthrie and Mixed Blood, and his younger brothers
both do spoken word.) "We just all found a really strong common ground
in spoken word, theater, and dance," he says.
Third Place Gallery
owner Wing Young Huie says he encountered Evol through his work in
Minneapolis Public Schools, first meeting him at Washburn High School
where they had been part of a workshop. They reconnected again when the
school made a visit Huie's space. Evol later visited the gallery on his
own, and he and Huie got to know each other.
Last month, when Kim and
Castillo were working on a presentation at Third
Place, Huie thought it would be a good idea to include Evol. Huie had
seen him perform "The Violins were Blind When the Thunderstorms
Hit" on YouTube with violins playing in the background. He
thought it would be interesting to see what would happen if he did the
piece with Kim and Castillo. Evol also collaborated with them on another work in honor of the late John Cage, where Evol read an essay by Cage
as Castillo created sound and Kim played the violin. "It was an
interesting interaction," Huie says.
The trio ended up submitting the work to a music competition in New York City, and were accepted into the Queens New Music Festival. "Kim-Castillo-Duke Trio: The Future of Music" uses Evol's original poem in a new collaborative piece.
Huie says the evening with Kim, Castillo, and Evol was one of the most powerful moments at Third Place. Evol has "a lyrical authenticity," Huie says. Not showy, the young artist has a truthfulness that is resonant and powerful. "We feel lucky he wanted to release the CD here," Huie says. At the gallery, performers come from all over the place, but it's been great to feature an artist who is from the neighborhood. "This is his territory."
For Saturday's event, his brothers will be performing as well, along with Tish Jones, Alissa Paris, Crystal Spring, and Tottiana Adams. "I picked people who have helped me grow," Evol says.