Poet Koo Kumi Eulogies Mohammed Ali on “The Greatest Poem Ever”

The world remembers the brave. Their deeds continue to attest to their bravery, inspire others and, to an extent, influence and shape the course of history.

One of the men whose deeds embodies all the above is ‘the greatest boxer to ever live’, Mohammed Ali. His prowess as a boxer made him a household name; his politics impacted American society and his loud mouth and sense of humor has become a staple for many boxers who have come after him.

It is these incredible achievements that inspired a new poem ” The Greatest Poem Ever” by Koo Kumi, a poet and spoken word artist.

“The Greatest Poem Ever” recounts the history of Ali from his days as a young boxer from Louisville, Kentucky to global phenom and how his fearless spirit fueled him to the plane of greatness.

Koo Kumi employs both historical facts, personal readings and witness statements in writing this poem. For instance, he references his grandfather’s description of Ali’s proficiency: ‘he hit so hard, his opponents wanted to cry’.

For what inspired the poem, Koo Kumi explains it as such:

“I have been a Muhammad Ali fan since childhood. So the life of the man and what he stood for inspired the poem. Especially the way he called himself “the greatest” and became it.

His resilience and swag that gave African American a sense of self worth when he was in his prime. I saw a picture of great African Americans in a community library in my hometown when I was about 11 years old, the librarian pointed Muhammad Ali to me and since then, I wanted to be like him “The Greatest”.

With hard piano chords accompanying his words- 808 drums drop along with hook, Koo Kumi incorporates ring side bell sound, flute rhythms, an Ali speech and the famous ‘Ali Bomaye’ interpolation into this poem.

The clarity in the message, the cadence in delivery and the gripping chant of ‘Ali, who’s the greatest?’ adds to the enchantment of ”The Greatest Poem Ever”.

Koo Kumi captures what he has learnt from Mohammed Ali’s life in this way: ‘I have learnt that, we don’t need a special one to hold the magic wand, and when life hits you in the face, you relax and gauge and hit back with all you got just like you did to George Foreman’.

Listen below

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Book Launch: Nene Tetteh Adusu to Release “Heart In The Sand

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When: 29th April, 2018                  Time: 3PM         Where: Jamestown Boutique, Accra.

In the sand of love, the heart of the poet was buried.

The 2016 Universal Inspirational Poet honouree, Nene Tetteh Adusu is set to release his poetry collection – Heart in the Sand.

Heart in the Sand presents various shades of love and carries the reader on a journey line by line. Tetteh bares his heart on this collection with each poem inked with truth that the reader can relate. Heart in the Sand is a collection of lyrical poems. In the foreword to the book, Dr. Santosh Bakaya, poet and writer of Ballad of Bapu writes:

This powerful collection of poems, reminded me, at times of William Blake’s poem NEVER SEEK TO TELL THY LOVE. Love at times can be, like the gentle, soothing wind, invisible and silent.

“For the gentle wind does move

Silently invisibly”.

At other times, it brought to mind Andrew Marvell, pleading with his coy mistress,

‘Had we but world enough, and time

This coyness, Lady were no crime,’

This is second poetry book by Nene Tetteh Adusu after co-authoring Palm Leaves. Nene Tetteh Adusu, christened Solomon, is a playwright, poet and dramatist who believe in the transformational power of words. His works duels in existentialism and realism. His writing and performances are inspired by his culture.

The launch will feature performances by Nene, conversations with the audience and a book signing session.

For more copies and information about HEART IN THE SAND, contact 0243 830 944.

 

Writers Project of Ghana Host Author Dr. Dami Ajayi At March Book Reading

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Writers Project of Ghana and the Goethe Institute resume our reading series after a four-month break. We proudly present Nigerian author Dr Dami Ajayi as our author for the month of March 2018.

Dami Ajayi is a poet, short story writer, essayist, and medical doctor. He is currently the Senior Registrar of Psychiatry at Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba.

Dami Ajayi’s writing has appeared in various print and online anthologies and journals such as Kalahari Review, Afreada, Jalada Africa, Gambit: Newer African Writing and ITCH Magazine. His poetry has also featured on BBC Radio 4, Prosopisia, World Poetry Book, Badilisha Poetry X-Change, Enkare Magazine and elsewhere.

His non-fiction has been published in the Guardian UK, Chimurenga Chronic, Die Zeit, Wawa Review of Books, OlisaTV, and Bakwa Magazine.

 

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Dami Ajayi is the author of two collections of poetry, Clinical Blues (2014) and A Woman’s Body is a Country (2017). His debut book was the runner up for the ANA Poetry Prize and was shortlisted for the Melita Hume Poetry Prize. His second book, A Woman’s Body is a Country, was selected by Quartz Africa as one of the best books of 2017.

Dami Ajayi is also co-founder of Saraba Magazine.

Join us for an interesting reading and discussion session with Dr Ajayi.

Date: Wednesday, 28th March, 2018

Time: 7.00 PM – 8.00 PM

Admittance is Free.

Venue: Goethe Institute, 30 Kakramadu Close, East Cantonments, Accra.

 

Interview: Poetyk Prynx Talks THE SANCTUARY: A Candlelight Event for the Well-being of Mental Health and Sanity

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Poetyk Prynx (pronounced Poetic Prince) is a notable figure within the poetry scene. Over a couple of years, he has grown his poetry skills to a point where he is able to host his own events. In 2015, he organized his first event “Kaleidoscope’’, an ‘’interactive show and a soiree on my birthday that includes all forms of art being performed in between discourses’’. In 2017, he staged ”The Call”, a hangout for creatives to meet, discuss and create bonds that would foster growth and trigger useful conversation among creatives.

A multi-talented creative-he plays the saxophone and guitar and is a self-taught illustrator- Prynx doesn’t confine his skills to the arts alone.

He is also a health advocate, with special interest in mental health. He’s also a member of The Rheumatology Initiative, TRI Ghana (@trighana), a non-profit organization dedicated to providing education, advocacy and research into the autoimmune rheumatic conditions. According to Prynx, his advocacy, especially in mental health was born out of personal experience. ‘It was from spells of depression, being suicidal with two attempts, inferiority complex and not finding the help I needed. These pushed me into wanting to create a sphere where people who need such help wouldn’t have to have it hard like I did’’.

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Poetyk Prynx

This Saturday 17th March, 2018, Prynx would be holding another event dubbed “THE SANCTUARY”. Describing the event as ‘a safe space for the well-being of sanity and mental health’,  “THE SANCTUARY” would incorporate both poetry, music and incredible conversation around the subject that many shy away from discussing or blatantly deny.

I caught up with Poetyk Prynx to talk about the idea behind the ”THE SANCTUARY”, mental health in Ghana and what inspires him.


 First, how’s the preparation going for the event?

So far so, good. All the needed logistics needed for a successful vigil are being put in place. Got some friends helping out. I spent the whole day today working on some of the stuff that will be printed out.

This is not your first time organizing events, mostly on your own. What are some of the peculiar challenges that you face?

I would say funding is most peculiar challenge I usually face anytime I put an event together, as I am doing it mostly on my own, like you said. Then there’s the issue of me exhausting myself financially, emotionally and mentally, trying to get things done on my own.

What drives me to do all these is passion and my love for the arts as a medium of expression; a tool of change and the hope I have in humanity.

It would be fair then to ask what drives you?

This is probably a cliché thing to say but to be very honest what drives me to do all these is passion and my love for the arts as a medium of expression; a tool of change and the hope I have in humanity. I have this bigger picture for the art community (in Ghana and Africa especially) and social welfare, mentally in my head, that I wake up to every morning and I ask myself how do I contribute my token to make this bigger picture a reality.

You tweeted the idea for the sanctuary. And how you’re on course to see it happen. What made you put it together?

A day before the day I put out the idea of the “Vigil”, I made a thread asking people to join in the said thread to say something nice and positive that could possibly lift up someone, because I’ve noticed that there’s a sudden wave of frustration and depression that has hit a number of people. The thread was an effort to reach out to people like that. The response to that thread was quite unexpected. I didn’t think many people needed a thread like that and that many people are willing to spread love to whoever needs it. Next day, I had the idea and I was like “why don’t we have a vigil and spread this same love and light among ourselves?” And it all began. This morning I realize all this happened in one day.

You’ve been involved in promoting mental health and other health related initiatives. What inspired your interest and what have you learnt through your involvement?

My personal experiences did, from spells of depression, being suicidal with two attempts, inferiority complex and not finding the help I needed. These pushed me to wanting to create a sphere where people who need such help wouldn’t have to have it hard like I did. And by being involved in all these, personally I have learnt to deal with my situations better than before. Also I’ve learnt Ghana has a long way to go when it comes to the issue of mental health.  We hear this all the time but trivialize it. I’m re-sounding it. We have a long way to go and we should tackle it.

‘Ghana has a long way to go’. The society, the people, the government. Where does your observation lie?

My observations lie in my day to day conversations with people and also how people respond to events and discourses that has to do with mental health.

I get excited anytime I think of the fact that Ria Boss is on the bill for the Vigil. Ria’s music is very soulful, well crafted, a voice for years, and full of feels that uplifts a listener, and she has a whole EP that focuses on self-freedom which is in a long run tied to mental health. She really is a perfect artist for a vigil like this.

What were some of the things that shocked you during these encounters?

Statements like “It’s all up in your head” “Depression no dey barb black people especially if you be man”, “you are stupid if you are thinking of taking your life”. Also, one time I had a “who sent you?” while I was running one of my campaigns. However on the brighter side, I keep getting shocked by the number of people who offer to help when I put stuff like this together and also by the number of people who open up on issues like this

About the vigil, how easy was it to get someone like Ria Boss on the bill. What’s about her music that made her the perfect artist of choice?

Ria Boss is also a great advocate of mental health activism and an event like this resonated very well with her and she signed up for it. I must say I didn’t see it coming. I get excited anytime I think of the fact that Ria Boss is on the bill for the Vigil. Ria’s music is very soulful, well crafted, a voice for years, and full of feels that uplifts a listener. And she has a whole EP that focuses on self-freedom which is in a long run tied to mental health. She really is a perfect artist for a vigil like this.

As the organizer, what impact do you envisage for The Sanctuary and also, what are your expectations?

Ultimately a safe place for everyone and that this will be the beginning of many of such vigils to come. For that night I am expecting that those who come out for the event, those who will join in through the live streaming will feel at home and someway somehow find the help they need and deserve.

”THE SANCTUARY” is scheduled for Saturday 17th March at Serallio, Osu

Mutombo DaPoet and His Children: How ‘Photosentences’ Opened Doors For Other Spokenword Artists

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Not all heroes wear cape. But, sometimes, the effort of these cape-less heroes must be identified and emphasized and celebrated so that their accomplishment will not go unrecognized. Their statuses are achieved, not by the footprints they leave in the sand, but their brave move to step in the sand in the first place, and leaving a huge footprint afterwards. (Note: The idea for this article came as a result of a twitter engagement with @element_reezy )

One of such none cape wearing heroes is MutomboDaPoet. His last name betrays his trade (although his talents goes beyond standing on stage mesmerizing audience with his attention grabbing poetry). His untiring efforts at pushing for the recognition of the art form he loves at a time when nobody really gave two fucks about poetry or spoken word in the city of Accra especially at small spaced event can’t be slipped under the rug. What’s fascinating is that, Mutombo stammers.

1* He adopted the name of basketball Hall of Famer, Dikembi Mutombo

 Mutombo DaPoet, born Percy Nana Osei-Appiah has been a performance artist since his days in Accra Academy in the late 90s. 1Nicknamed Mutombo for his basketball abilities and height (he towers over 6’3), he was drawn to poetry during his study of literature at Senior High School (formerly Senior Secondary School). His interest for spoken word was however fired up after watching episodes of Def Jam Peotry on MTV. He disclosed this during a 2015 interview with Culartblog

 I love the arts, every art form, especially music. I used to rap in Secondary School for the fun of it. Literature was a subject as well, so I knew what poetry was. But spoken word started for me way after school when I watched Def Poetry for the first time. I was writing before then but wasn’t taking it seriously. Watching that video motivated me to start writing on a serious note, it gave me the vim. 

2* ‘Bless The Mic’ was held every Thursday night around the mid-2000s in Osu. The event gave some of today’s top rappers the platform to build their fanbase and develop their crafts.

 Cracking through the brick wall of acceptance meant seizing moments and holding his own. Mutombo DaPoet did that by making appearance at 2‘Bless The Mic’, an event created for hip hop enthusiasts -rappers, singers and enthusiast to enjoy a Ghanaian rendition of the culture we all love. Founded and hosted by P.Y Adoo Boateng, ”Bless The Mic” didn’t feature any poets. It was such events that Mutombo found himself, ultimately becoming a resident artist.

There were spoken word acts before I came through. I know of Sir Black who was doing it before I came through but he wasn’t that active. The difference I brought was performing from open mic spots to public events, and don’t forget, these events were filled with only rappers. I was the first spoken word act to perform side by side with these rappers. So it makes sense when people see me as the pacesetter or pioneer or whatever. I don’t let that get in my head though because I’m not solely responsible, even though I contributed immensely, and because the job isn’t half done.

3* Sankwas Bois is rap group made up of Mutombo and Glen aka Simpol Tinz. They were featured in Cov Ov Moni 2.

A man of many talents which include rapper (he’s one half of 3Sankwas Bois), photographer, video director, actor and artist manager (he manages the incredibly talented Amaarae), Mutombo doesn’t claim the accolade of being the first spoken word artist in Ghana. He, however, takes the title of invigorating the spoken word scene through his relentless performances at spaces not accommodating of the art form. He acknowledges that, there were some before him.

Read: Interview with Mutombo 

Poetry wasn’t an unknown genre before Mutombo’s appearance on stage. Ghana had – and still has- very renowned poets like Ama Ata-Aidoo, Prof. Koku Anyidaho, Kofi Laing, Kofi Awoonor, and ‘young’ poets like Nii Ayikwei Parkes. Their poems followed the conventions of written poetry.

What Mutombo introduced in 2006, on a broader scale, was a new form of poetry (spoken word); a variant of hip hop. Spoken word is hip, youthful and full of adrenaline. The subjects of his poems were similar to those reflected by orthodox poems- love, politics, and social themes. What spoken word does is to not to follow these conventions but rather create its own ‘rules’. Aside it’s acceptance of pidgin, Twi, Ga and other languages as a medium of expression, its definition is similar to how hip hop music is deemed within the context of ‘real’ music. That is, does rap qualify as music?  Also, spoken word goes with music. Their voice isn’t the only rhythmic tool of expression. Spoken word artists recite (or rap out) their lyrics to cheers from the audience like it happens at music concerts. As he indicated during an interview with Kwaku Sintim-Misa (KSM), poetry is what is written for the page. Spoken word is what is written for the stage.

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4* Mentor was a music reality which run on TV3 for almost a decade.

5* Ehalaksa Slam is a poetry event held annually in Ghana

The efforts of Mutombo soon earned him a degree of visibility within the mainstream media scene. I recall him being interviewed on Showbiz, a thirty minutes entertainment show around 2000s. He became the first spoken word artist to make an appearance on 4‘Mentor’, a TV Reality Show in 2007 where his performances earned him resounding applause. These, along with his continuous knocking on the door of acceptability via his performances at ‘’Bless The Mic’’ led to a profound move that ultimately changed the face of spoken word in Ghana which many poets and spoken wordists are continuing to blaze the trail. In 2009, he was adjudged winner of the first 5 Ehalakasa Poetry Slam held at Alliance Franciase, Accra.

Read: Album Review of Photosentences 

After many years of performances, Mutombo DaPoet finally released his debut project, a 13 track album rightly titled ‘’PhotoSentences’’ in April 30th, 2012. The name of the debut, he explained was his attempt to paint photos with his sentences. Mutombo’s play on the scientific term ‘Photosynthesis’ in naming his debut album won’t be lost on anybody with basic science background. On the album, Mutombo paints very vivid portraits of childhood, politics, love and relationships, and about Ghana, and death. His style of delivery and expression of his perspective is an attention grabber.

On tracks such as ‘Changes’ and ‘Parade’, the topic of politics is addressed, with Mutombo focusing attention on its negative bearing on the country and people, in economic terms. They owe all things; sophisticated automobiles right down to your TV screens”, he bears out on ‘Changes’. He observes the struggles of the citizenry: “all our struggles have been rewarded with coins”. We are yet to handle the paper”. ‘Parade’ is an expression of nationalist sentiments.

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6* X-Ray was the first single released and featured singer Lady Jay

Tracks like ‘Kicking Buckets’, ‘Native Slaves’, ‘My Thoughts’ tackle the subject of death, colonialism and neo-colonialism and capitalism respectively. On ‘Unborn Child’, he takes a pro-life stance. Whereas ‘Ten Regions’ is an excursion through the ten regions of Ghana, ‘Internal Migration’ discusses rural-urban migration. ‘Paddies’ reflect on the real friends verses fake friends nexus. Love receives a look courtesy the elegantly pieced 6X-Ray’  (where he sells his potentials and virtues rather than the depth of his pocket to a girl) and ‘Vibes’ is an exaltation of a lady.

Aside his profound abilities at social observations and political wokeness, what is praiseworthy also is his choice of musical effects to go with his pieces. From hip hop and jazzy beats to traditional dirge sounds, Mutombo made ‘PhotoSentences’ musically engrossing.

Get Photosentences here

This trendsetting move by Mutombo validated his position as a leader when it came to spoken word in Ghana. He held high the torch of spoken word and today, spoke word has acquired a noticeable presence on the art space through poetry events and even at national events. In 2016, a spoken word performance was witnessed at the Vodafone Ghana Music Awards.

As Mutombo rightly acknowledges, there were other contemporary poets before him – like Sir Black. What he did different was to take the genre from obscurity to relative prominence, inspiring in the process, a legion of spoken word artists to put their works out for the consuming public. Do you know the number of spoken word artist who have put out albums, EPs and singles since Mutombo’s 2012 album? And he didn’t do it with an album alone. Mutombo also put out the first video for a spoken word single ‘X-Ray’.

Follow him on twitter: @MutomboDaPoet

His Instagram page: @fotombo

 

 

Spoken Word Artist, Hondred Percent Looks To The Future With “Senses”

When “Senses” was announced by spoken word artist and rapper Hondred Percent a few weeks ago, he thought it an opportunity to share back story and inspiration behind his poems, spend intimate time with his fans, and also build a solid fanbase with whom he could share his future projects with.

‘An artist is nothing without his fans’, he emphasized during the Q&A session. Hondred Percent (real name Paul Forjoe Jnr) has been involved with poetry since his childhood years. Despite growing up on rap music, he had always been fascinated by wordplay and rhymes, and that had stayed with him till date. ‘I often times get confused as to whether what I write is poetry or rap’, he confessed.

That notwithstanding, Hondred Percent knew under which category his piece ‘’Africa Sent Me A WhatsApp Message’. The poem, which is found on his debut 2017 album, WTF? is a portrait of his views on Africa, the continent he loves. From conflicts, wars, avoidable disasters and political and economic plagues bedevilling Africa, Hondred Percent, in a rap and spoken word style touches on an ubiquitous situation in Africa. He also performed ‘Gigididi’; ‘Akola Boni’, a call for the resurrection of moral fibre and ‘Bitch Nigga Shit’, which dissected and contextualized the use and meaning of the slangs ‘nigga’ and ‘bitch’ in everyday parlance.

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Hondred Percent (aka One- Zero- Zero) took his poetry performance seriously during his time in University days in South Africa. With its vibrant spoken word scene, it was easier for Paul to plug in and make a name for himself. Armed with that experience and confidence, he began making inroads within the Ghanaian poetry space from 2011, blending elements of rap and spoken work. He was ultimate crowning as the Ehalaksa Slam Champion in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

The evening wasn’t only about Hondred and his performances. He invited opinions and/or critiques from the gathered audience after sharing three new poems. ‘I want you to tell me what you think…so I can improve on the pieces’. The opinions were varied yet positive

Except for the low turnout (I was expecting more people than those who turned up. There were about 20), the event was a positive initiative. It offered the audience an opportunity to appreciate the state of mind of the artist; leading to a better appreciation of what one finally hears on their albums or EPs.

‘I’m looking at sustaining this…to help build a good following’, he told me after the event. For Hondred Percent, an artist’s work isn’t done if it doesn’t impact people and society. Despite being such a herculean task, Hondred Percent is undeterred. After all, that’s what he has committed himself to do.

“Senses’’ was held on Friday 23rd February at The Shop Accra.

 

 

Poet SharkMellon Tackles Greed And Corruption on “Merchants of Accra And Lagos”

Poet and Playwright, Sharkmellon (real name Shakiru Akinyemi) has had and seen enough of the debilitating effects of corruption and greed, perpetuated by the ruling class and their cronies across many African countries.

His frustrations and fears are contained in his latest poem, “Merchants of Accra And Lagos”.

Sharkmellon provides the background and inspiration behind this spoken word poem:

It’s about that cancer that’s spreading through every fabric of our society: top to bottom, bottom to top. “Merchants of Accra and Lagos” is a synecdoche for Africa, and seeking to identify these people who are profiting at the expense of the continent.

On inspiration
I just want to see a more equitable community, country and continent where everybody has equal access and opportunity. Where individuals see themselves as part of the whole so that they don’t think about themselves only in the way resources are allocated and expenses but to think of the general good.

Sharkmellon captures the exploitative behaviour of the ruling class on their citizens in these lines:

“These merchants of Accra and Lagos –
plant holes and moles and tolls on every corner,
guard their sacred notes and abandon the flag to rot,
Big toes crushing children’s bones on the statue of Nkrumah,
And wiping their feet with the remnant of flag while eating american bread with asian butter”

He further invokes the economic hardships that once hit Ghana in 1983 to illustrate his fears of us returning to that era if nothing is done to stop the economic rape of the country.

“Each time I sit here in this forlorn cubicle – watching inmates queue for crumbs, I dread a day, I dread someday, that my children and I will have to queue again for grains,
While waiting for these merchants of Accra and Lagos to cart in food through our shores and seal their reputation as the faceless cabals”