Chic Street Man, who will concertize at the Ventura College Theater on Saturday, is a kindly raconteur for whom the description "singer-songwriter" would be only a partial truth.
Armed with an acoustic guitar and a seemingly incurable upbeat attitude, Street Man has worked on developing a musical persona in which his training in psychology and his interest in theater and social consciousness converge. His biographical information describes him as a "musical ambassador for peace and human rights."
And he does it with kid gloves, relying on a low-key charisma to get his points across.
In the late '80s, Street Man lived in Santa Barbara, where he gained a following for his shows around town and for the popular, therapy-minded "Chic Street Man School of Performing Arts." Street Man's students were encouraged to explore and unleash via creative expression.
Street Man headed to Los Angeles and, in 1990, made a big splash with the musical "Spunk," an adaptation by George C. Wolfe of stories by Zora Neale Hurston.
Street Man wrote and performed the music for the play, which was presented at the Mark Taper Forum, the New York Shakespeare Festival and The Royal Court in London, among other places. He earned an NAACP Theater Award for his work.
Since then, Street Man has played at the 1992 Montreux Jazz Festival and the 1993 Berne Festival. He also has given benefit concerts for the United Nations Human Rights Center in Geneva, and was the artistic director of the cross-cultural place "Peace Child," traveling to Poland and Russia.
For all of his work in other media and in larger theater pieces, Street Man has always been a self-reliant troubadour--guitar and voice will travel. On his 1994 CD, "Guns Away," (Mo' Street Music), Street Man exudes a rolling, Taj Mahal-esque charm, his gentle, textured voice in a folk-gospel style.
Like Mahal, Street Man uses his guitar as a chordal and percussive tool, played with a combination of riffing, strumming and rhythmic slapping.
Street Man coined the term "rap recitation" for his rambling, discursive narrative style, as heard on "Gladys" and "Guns Away." But this is rap of the soft-edged variety, dealing with social issues with nary a nasty, discouraging word.
In his music and his message, Street Man's sense of the word "street" is more benign than its typical connotation as a place of raw emotions and rough edges. Street Man is a nice guy with some serious things on his mind.
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* CHIC STREET MAN at Ventura College Theater, 4667 Telegraph Road, 8 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 at the door; 654-6459.