Poetry night with a musical twist

Wednesday November 27 2013

Poet Namatsi Lukoye during a Spoken Word poetry competition held at Imax Theatre in Nairobi on October 17. For art lovers, a mix of the spoken word and melody can be quite gratifying.

Poet Namatsi Lukoye during a Spoken Word poetry competition held at Imax Theatre in Nairobi on October 17. For art lovers, a mix of the spoken word and melody can be quite gratifying. Photo/KINGWA KAMENCU  

Poetry and music blend well.

For art lovers, a mix of the spoken word and melody can be quite gratifying.

One would expect that in a country such as Tanzania, which has a rich history of Kiswahili poetry, the spoken word would be vibrant, but that is not the case.

Perhaps this is why Bongo Hip Hop artist Fid Q and Danstan Kolimba, a banker with a love for the arts, thought of bringing “Poetry Addiction” to Dar es Salaam, an event that boosts poetry and live music.

Performing poets and musicians sing to a live band called The Core.

It has been held three times since July this year at the Triniti Bar in Oyster bay.

The first event took place in July; the next in August and the latest was held on November 2.

Featuring new talent like Damien, The Voice I Deserve aka VID and Jade, the event is lighting up Dar es Salaam’s entertainment scene. The event has also featured poets such as yours truly and Langa Sarakikya.

The third event featured an all women’s cast, including Bongo Flava artists Grace Matata and rising star Vanessa Mdee, as well as upcoming talents Aichi who strummed her guitar to her self -composed songs with backing from the Core Band, Jade, Melisa John and Elizabeth Mwakijambile.

Stars from outside Dar es Salaam included Khethukubonga Ntshangase aka Khethi from South Africa, and Mama Charlotte O’Neal aka Mama C from Arusha — both female Afro Jazz singers who incorporate the spoken word in their songs.

SOCIAL ACTIVISM

South African-born singer Khethukubonga is a social activist whose songs centre on the upliftment of the African people.

Originally from the sleepy town of Pietermaritzburg town in KwaZulu Natal, she has lived and worked in Johannesburg, Malawi, England and Tanzania. Khethukubonga has collaborated with creative minds from Malawi, France, Spain, Algeria, Mali, Jamaica, England and India, in her debut album, Xemplify.

Mama C is over 65, but looks much younger. She is a poet and musician who plays the nyatiti, — a traditional stringed instrument. She is also the founding director of Tanzania’s United African Alliance Community Centre (UAACC), a community-based organisation which promotes community development in rural Africa, and has its base offices in Arusha.

Fid Q appeared distraught throughout the curtain raiser performances, calling one sound engineer after another. That was understandable as in Dar es Salaam, it is no secret that good sound engineers are hard to come by.

The sound quality was, however, better during Poetry Addiction’s debut in July, and its follow up in August. But at the November event, something went wrong.

Danstan Kolimba, one of the organisers was apologetic. “We’re really sorry we definitely plan to ensure this doesn’t happen again in the future,” he said.

Mama C, in a way, saved the night. She recited a few poems with fervour, oblivious of the sound quality.

One of them encouraged unity instead of tribalism, and another spoke of gratitude, in which she narrated her own life’s experiences, including the birth of her children who are now all grown up.

Her prowess in playing the nyatiti left the crowd elated.

By the time Khethi took the stage, the crowd was already on the dance floor, cheering her on — and that was way past 1am. She performed mainly titles from her album.

Her voice is jazzy, and despite the sound mishaps, she delivered her songs professionally.

Indeed, Poetry Addiction has started a good thing, but we hope that during the next edition, the organisers will have much better sound.

This story first appeared in The East African. CLICK HERE to read more

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