Year 2016 in Retrospect: Poetry in Ghana

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So, a couple of months ago, I asked writer and poet O’Zionn to share with me his best 2016 moments in the Ghana Poetry and Spoken word scene. In this post, he list a few under various categories. Here is his list.


It’s been just a few years since I actively joined the burgeoning poetry scene in Ghana. And it’s been one swing of a ride! A lot of hard work has been effected, creativity expended and challenges have either been surmounted or have been too high to scale.

This year hasn’t been any different as we’ve probably witnessed progress in various aspects of this art form. From purely poetry events and/or projects to the ones that are a blend of other art forms but have featured poetry significantly.

From SASA’s “Roots”, January 2nd to Jazz & Qoke on December 30th. Well, you decide. Nevertheless, there’s been so much that has happened and here are some of the highlights of the year for me.

Audios (Singles)

“Empty Konko” —Laud De Poet

“My CV of Sin” — Rhymesonny

“Love Yourself”— Poetra Asantewa

“Box Mentality” — Ian and Elidior the Poet

Four 21” — Poetyk Prynx ft. Ugene Kay and

For 3 a.m.” Kwaku Quansah ft. Euphoria

Some Other Place” — Mutombo Da Poet

IWITP” — Akotowaa ft. Meffstone

Dear Future Wife” — Koo Kumi

Vote for Me” — Poetra Asantewa ft. Akan

Femur” — Mutombo Da Poet

Body of Work (Albums/EPs)

Vocal Portraits 3 — Compiled by Kwame Write

“First of All” —Throneroom Perspectives

Solitaire EP — Akotowaa (Listening Session and Project Launch)

Back to Basics —Wonderword (Listening Session)

Videos

“Anti-Indoctrination” — Akotowaa

“Love Yourself” — Poetra Asantewa

“Untitled Ones” — Koo Kumi

Artists

Poetra Asantewa

•Conversations with Poetra

•One Beat Tour in the United States of America

•Lagos Poetry Festival

•Drum Roll, Please

Rhymesonny

•Lyrical Dexterity

•Lagos Poetry Festival

•Rhymesonny’s Show Tours

3. Hondred Percent

  • One on One with

Organisations

Kpodola

•Spoken Word Videos

•Kpodola Challenge

MiCheck
•In the process of establishing a National Poetry Association

•Spirited Poetry at Chale Street Arts Festival 2016

Brunch Over Books
•Meet-up with Poets

Workshops

•Gird Writing Camp 2016; Poetry Workshop

•Kpodola 10 Poetry Workshop

Shows

•The Write Experience [Inkfluent]

•See Calendar

•Keep Digging [SASA]

•Unbridled Tongues

•Beneath the Poetry Baobab with Prof. Lade Wosornu

•UNESCO World Poetry Day

•Public Book Reading: According to Sources [Writers Project of Ghana]

•Book Launch: Haiku Rhapsodies by Celestine Nudanu

•Pentasi B World Friendship Poetry Festival — Ghana 2016

•Let’s Write the Future [Poetic Justice Society & Creative Spaces GH]

•Teen Slam [Inkfluent & Mode Conceptz]

•Made in Ghana, 2nd edition

•JiVe

•Verbal Ink

•Poetry Nites with the Rainmakers [March to December]

•Chaskele

•Writers Project’s Public Book Reading with Patron Henekou

•Nkabom Literary Festival [Inkfluent]

•Book Launch: Afriku by Adjei Agyei Baah

•Ehalakasa Festival

•Ehalakasa Slam 2016

There’s quite a lot more than this which happened. I believe there are several things that I must’ve missed out on but that doesn’t mean they’ve been absolutely left out.
I look forward to 2017 and what it has timed up for poetry in Ghana.

O’Zionn (Daniel Appiah) is the 2013 Winner of Ghana Poetry Prize and has recently published Seemingly Untitled-An Anthology available on Amazon.com. Follow him on twitter @Ozionn

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Listen To ‘Unlisted’ by POETYK PRYNX

For all millennials, who are fearless, chasing their dreams against all odds‘. An apt descriptive note accompanying ‘Unlisted’, the eight track spoken word EP released by POETYK PRYNX, today.

A young Ghanaian, known for his incredible artistic gifts – he’s a poet, writer, saxophonist, illustrator, graphic designer and a graduate in physics (Electronics Major) – POETYK PRYNX is also an activist, with interest in mental health.

According to him, ‘Unlisted’ is a way of facing his fears and airing some of his struggles with life.

First, to face my fear of putting out mediocre stuff. I’ve always had this fear that my work won’t be good enough. So I decided to challenge myself with it.

Also, the past few months has seen me struggle with life, in terms of all the things I want to do and love and it keeps clashing unfortunately with the things my elders feel is right. And I always come to see that, this struggle of mine is a widespread one, So, I decided to work on this project to throw more light on this struggle, hoping that it reaches (every) young people out there  so they see that they are not alone in the struggle.

On ‘Unlisted’ (which is his debut project), he shares thoughts about the state of the arts, life, chasing dreams and self-love. 

The EP comes four days after ‘Kaleidoscope’, an event held to celebrate his birthday with friends. 

Listen to ‘Unlisted’ here:

 https://soundcloud.com/poetyk_prynx/sets/unlisted

Poetra Asantewa undergoes ‘surgery’ in ‘Love Yourself’.

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There’s a story I heard of a young ‘celeb’ who had to deny her identity to save her face. She had stepped out of her house one early morning, under a state of emergency, to an ATM nearer her house in her unpolished state.  After withdrawing the money from the machine, a lady who worked at the bank nudged her with the ‘are you (this person)?’ question. Her response was a simple ‘NO’. She flatly denied herself. Her reason: answering yes would damage her brand. Her ordinary look was bad for business.

The pressure to project a certain look in order to fit in or earn validation from others has always been an item many have grappled with. It’s not a new thing. The difference this time is that the pressure has been notched ten folds thanks to the media projections of what is or must be the ‘standard’ for beauty.

Social media has evidently become a pressure hub since everyone with an account can grimly comment on all shared pictures. These twitter fingers would fire some very uncouth 140 character comment that could leave you questioning who you are in terms of your looks. Those at the receiving end of such vile judgments have been mostly ladies.

A year ago June, (2016), this subject inspired ‘’Love Yourself’, a poem by poet, writer, sometimes singer Poetra Asantewa. The lyrics of ‘Love Yourself’, as the title suggests, is about embracing your flaws. Like Tyrion Lannister told Jon Snow: ‘Once you’ve accepted your flaws, no one can use it against you’ is the crux of the poem.

If the lyrics are inspiring, the video, released six days ago is very descriptive, intense and beautiful. Directed by Eames, this black and white toned video has Poetra, on what seemed like a surgeons table, about to get a surgery performed on her.  A surgery to FIX HER looks to conform to the ‘standard of beauty’ and earn a validation among her friends and society at large.

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The first image one encounters in the video is the face of Poetra, embroidered in all of its natural glare. The camera rotates in an anti-clockwise direction and posits it at the 90 percent angle. With her braids spread out and eyes closed momentarily, we see a blurred image of five faces examining something lying below them (obviously Poetra). These five faces are the ‘surgeons’ to fix her flaws.

Watching the video felt like watching someone make a power point presentation, where the visuals aptly reflect the words being spoken. The words: ‘Chisel approximately 3.5 inches of flesh out of the waist area. Lift the breasts to a firm position until it is perky and a perfect D cup. Add three layers of skin until the backside can vibrate with a single poke. Tone the leg muscles until men can see their reflection in your gleaming skin. Widen the hips until it is the exact curve of a bass clef’ are graphically captured from the 0.30 sec- 1 min mark.

One gleans an expression of displeasure and lack of enthusiasm with the whole ‘fixing’ as depicted by the straight face that accompanied the line ‘Soften your muscles, don’t be too boyish’, the swinging of head, the holding of her hand by one of the ‘surgeons’ whilst the others make her up and the tears shed attest to the discomfort or stress associated with image enchantment procedure. Eames creatively magnified portions were necessary to emphasize some of the points she touched on.

”You have to look natural but not the kind of natural that makes you look like you just woke up from a 36 hour sleep”

In the second part of the video, the black and white toned visuals are replaced with a colour-filled image of an elegant, ‘well fixed’ Poetra. Like someone delivering a televised speech, she goes on about the need for women to love themselves by embracing their flaws; to ignore this so-called beauty standards.

She was quick to remind all women to be comfortable in and with their body – size, shape, colour – and not seek people’s (either men or women) validatory comments first before loving themselves: ‘Love the part of you you’re waiting for someone else to love before you learn to love yourself wholly’

Poetra further draws attention to one of the big issues that women globally grapple with: their bodies. With fashion magazines, fashion brands and TV shows constantly projecting a certain physical acceptability code for them, women are forced to take certain measures, sometimes drastic and injurious to the health, just to avoid the obnoxious culture of body shaming prevalent today.

You keep running away from your body like it isn’t home. You keep trying to fit your body into negative spaces. Like you aren’t magic’

It’s ironic that, even those who get ‘fixed’ are sometimes not spared the criticism. As it is with life, no one is spared, hence the more reason to embrace who you are. As Poetra rightly observes ‘Everything you do is an open invitation for condemnation, so go ahead and love yourself anyway’.

In regards to the topic of loving yourself, there’s no truth more valuable than her statement above. We at CulArt, therefore realize how important it is for women especially, to embrace this.

EP Review: Holes In A Pair by Slimo

Any avid watcher of the poetry scene in Ghana today would have noticed the vibrancy and energetic efforts at pushing the artform towards the centre of entertainment. 

Poets are leading this effort through the release of various projects-mostly EPs. This year has seen the release of some compelling body of work by some leading voices within the poetry scene; picking up from last year. With the release of these EPs, poets aren’t concentrating on sharing their works with just a handful of poetry enthusiasts in a small room. They are reaching out to a larger audience- both far and near.

Slimo, a performance poet is the latest to join the caravan of EP dropping poets. His 6 track EP, “Hair In A Pair”, is a collection of thoughts and observations on relationships.

Slimo’s love for poetry began in Junior High School but it wasn’t until at the University that he took to performance. He emerged on the radar of many after placing third at the annual Ehalakasa Slam in 2016. On “Holes In A Pair”, one clearly notice his gifts-artistry, nuances, clarity of thoughts. For Slimo, “Holes In A Pair” is a reflection on a flaws in relationships: between a father (Sugar Daddy) and daughter; Mother and Daughter; Man and Life; Girl and an Ex”. 

The stories on the Spider 64 produced EP are, according to Slimo ”inspired by real life experiences of a lady”. It features Elidor The Poet, Jeff Joen and Tommy Maverick

​ The EP’s ‘Intro’ present a poet who trades talking or speaking for rapping. It’s the musings of a jilted lover who completely extricate himself of any blame: ‘said I’m the cause of all this but had your mind made up. Just to look good in the eyes of the people. Don’t you do that with your make-up?’.

On ‘Sugar Daddy’, his descriptive writing comes to light- he describes his characters and situations in vivid detail: ‘margins of his singlet shows/ the armpit of his shirt are soaked in sweat‘. Employing a skit from the classic ‘I Told You So’ movie as a contextual tool, he brings a tone of comic relief to a serious subject. ‘Sugar Daddy’ is a story about infidelity- a young girl dating a older married man whose wife is being banged by the young girl’s brother. He aced on how he eneded the story.

‘Her Mother’ is a ‘how to be a lady’ letter from a concerned mother to her daughter. She takes cognizance of today’s fashion culture- short, tight, skimpy and cleavage showing crop tops-worn to win likes on social media. Her conservative views on dress codes stems from the fact that ‘there’s no proof that decency was different than it is now’. She emphasizes the notion of ‘you get addressed by how you dress’ especially in attracting the right guy: ‘You search for the right guy is like a mirage in a desert with thirsty nomad’.

‘Is life unfair?’, that’s question ‘Fruits’, the bluesy/country-esque guitar driven piece seek to unravel. ‘Fruits’ explores the relationship between Man (humans) and Life. With vox pops serving as anecdotes, Slimo eschews the notion of pre-determinism. He regards failure as a human choice (life is not fair is a cliche that denote failure). He bemoans the often crazeof blaming life for what it offers rather than taking the blame for how ones life turns out. In his view, ‘life is fair if you make yourself useful’.

Both ‘Numbers’ and ‘Blues’ play on the concept of unrequited love and the recuperation process after a break-up respectively. Sampling Nina Simone’s ‘You Know How I Feel’, Slimo whines about the unevenness in relationships; where one party isn’t into you. He questions the trip that is love: if love is that good a feeling, why do you have to fall before you feel it?’

‘Blues’ on the other hand, deals with the difficulty in seeking a perfect palliative after a break-up: do you jump in a new one, curse him for stealing your innocence, taking long walks? Or you still wish he calls you, send you those text, make you a priority?.

“Holes In A Pair” scores high in some aspects – creative presentation of thoughts, right theme songs to aid his expressions, a voice tone that’s not irritating- some male poets like to flaunt their skills and cadences unnecessarily. 

However, there are flaws, minor though as noticed on ‘Sugar Daddy’ and ‘Fruits’, where the transition from song/skits to delivery didn’t merge well. His opinion about how women should dress (on Her Mother) would raise eye browns in some quarters especially the link between decent dressing and marrying the ‘right guy’ Although the EP is inspired by the reality of a lady friend, Slimo excused men of blame for some of their actions that provokes post traumatic love disorder. 

As a debut project, “Holes In A Pair” is a good advert for Slimo. His talents are not in question. How he goes from this point would define him, as an artist, a writer and a creative mind. Every relationship has it’s flaws (holes) and this EP seek to ask the simple question: what is the hole in your pair (relationship)?

Music Review: Serwa Akoto by YOM (Writer Poet)

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Yom tackles the issue of skin bleaching on his latest poem Serwa Akoto

The name Serwa Akoto has somehow become synonymous to beauty thanks to the classic hit song Serwaa Akoto by the Yamoah International Band released in the 1970s. The name, based off the song title and lyrics, celebrated the beauty of Serwa Akoto. (Note: Serwa Akoto was a real individual resident at Dansoman, Akoko Foto).

The latest act to reference the name is Yom The Poet. His celebration of beauty carries a twist. YOM tackles the subject of how today’s generation perceive beauty: the adoration of light skin and the culture of skin bleaching (or is it toning). Through the character called Serwa Akoto, the ‘African Geisha’, Yom shares his views on this trend; exploring reasons behind it.

Featuring singers Tara and Bella, whose ballads and background harmonies are as ornate as Yom’s words, the two describe the contradiction Serwa Akoto is: ‘Serwa Akoto, African Geisha. She’s beautiful. She don’t know it’. They proceed to tell us how her ‘smile light up the day’.

The first verse situate the poem in context: ‘she aspires to be the crème of the crop so she applies cream to crop out the darkness’.  Serwa Akoto’s motive for bleaching is borne out of her realization that, being dark skinned was a disincentive.  Light skin, holds a lot of power and influence over men (so they say). The advantages-both social, economic and colonial- compels her to ‘photoshop’ her body.

‘Somewhere in the syllabus I suppose someone forgot to teach that,

 A painting possesses more value that a photoshop version’

The subject of skin bleaching (or toning) and the continuous fuss about the measure of beauty has become topical in recent times. In some African countries, measures including banning of bleaching creams has been instituted. In Ghana, the advocacy against skin bleaching is alive. The harmful effects of bleaching are well known. These facts notwithstanding, many women seem unperturbed. Like Serwa Akoto, their actions are borne out of an obtuse cultural thinking (light skin is beautiful or superior) and to an extent, its socio-economic benefits. Yom captures the ‘prestige’ associated with being light skinned aptly: ‘now she speaks in pounds and sprinkles of cedis’, adding ‘her dialogue is unlocked by sparkling Mercedes’.  ‘The Barbie, never been offered a penny for her thoughts/Pennies are often offered for what’s beneath her frocks’, he points out the irony.

Yom doesn’t only chide them for bleaching. He blames society for playing a role in this whole situation including Kwame Nkrumah, when he married Fathia (ha!). He asks: ‘Must we find beauty in this beast disfigured by the pressures of an unforgiven society?’ He muses over the reasons for bleaching: ‘mouths to feed? Or a misguided need to belong?’ (social factor). Yom finally concludes on a leg of despair: ‘African Geisha seems lost yet only she can find her’.

There’s a stunning calmness in the manner Yom delivers his words. They are unforced and languid; rolling off his tongue like they are draped in silk. The background music-a mix of jazz, soul and afrobeats- along with the singing of Tara and Bella hands the poem a soothing sensation. There are moments when the soulful tunes are replaced by high tempo highlife groves. A good stunt to pull for it’s important to cheer the listener after delivering such heavy, disturbing yet truthful message (in the midst of drinking is when thinking is done, as they Akan proverb goes).

Village Minds Production presents AMALE

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Village Minds Production and Alliance Francaise presents “AMALE”. Amale as an event will encompass music, drama, spoken word, poetry and dance. The event will happen on the 8TH Day of April, 2017 at Alliance Francaise, Accra at 8 pm prompt

Amale seeks to question the status quo and make ridicule of the gullible nature of man. Poetry performance, music and hilarious dramatic acts will take center stage as Ghana’s poetry and spoken word performers mount the stage to make you laugh, cry and ask questions. Have you ever been to a funeral and heard a bad comment made about the deceased? Have you ever wondered why people get married? Do you really believe in the efficacy of medicines sold to you at Lorry station and in buses? Well, AMALE will put all the lies on stage and let you do the rest of the thinking.

AMALE is a Ga word which loosely translated means, a lie or Lies. Man has accepted everything without asking questions and such attitude has the tendency of destroying us as a people. Performances will look at very touchy attitudes within the Ghanaian society and ridicule them with the sole purpose of drawing the audience’ attention to the ills of society and provoking them to either eschew or make corrections for the betterment of all.

Ghana as a country has imbibed a habit of celebrating persons when they are long gone and cannot see and appreciate what is being done to honour them. Amale will feature poems from Kofi Awoonor, Kwesi Brew, Attukwei Okai, Kofi Anyidoho, Fiifi Abaidoo amongst others. The performance will also feature Nj Braso, Koo Kumi, Brenda Bakomoro, Koo Kumi, Nene Tetteh Adusu and Selikem Geni.

 

For those who do not know, Village Minds Production over the last two years have been known to produces fine and quality theatrical performances. In November of 2016, they staged THE LOVE OF MAMVI, then, in 2016 the performed the hilarious play, HOMELESS all at the Amphitheatre of Alliance Française.

This performance is brewed in the pots of Village Minds Production and directed by WK Dzewornu-Norvor and ably supported by Nii Ayi Solomon and Cygishmel Da’Cherub.

Amale is powered Blaqsheep Multimedia Group.

 

Listen: Mutombo Da Poet releases ‘Fit In’ on Word Poetry Day

‘Looks like I’m surrounded by perfect beings

who try to make me believe that they are flawless

They have no blemish but

I’ve even seen stainless steel rust so I know none is perfect’- FIT IN

This is how one of Ghana’s known poets, Mutombo Da Poet, opens his new spoken word poem ‘Fit In’, a poem reminding us about the beauty in embracing ourselves and our flaws (we are only humans, we make mistakes) -and not bend to the pressures to become something we are not just to be accepted by society or friends.

Released on ‘Word Poetry Day’, Fit In (listen below) highlights the absurdity of hero worshipping (they see their peers as gods because they feel no brain when they touch their temples); lack of self-esteem and confidence (don’t dance to anyone’s rhythm they said but most don’t trust their temples); and the need for self-belief (you never realize potential until you free mindset from those mental chains).

Mutombo Da Poet has been known for being an ‘outsider’ (one who lives on his own terms).He often speaks his mind on numerous issues both in his poems and on social media. On Fit In, he cites his own life as an example to advance his thoughts (I’m not fitting in. Jack is out of the box) whiles bidding all not to ‘confuse my concerns with jealousy’.

He caps off his commentary with these words: I’m not a cool kid there’s no time to impress when death lingers.