Mutombo The Poet of Ghana presents Africa’s spoken word to the world

Mutombo The Poet during a recital in Ghana
Today my piece will be on Spoken Word; a form of poetry that often uses alliterated prose or verse and occasionally uses metered verse to talk about happenings in a society. This style of poetry is mainly in the first person singular and generally from the poet’s point of view, it is mostly themed on personal or current events and out spoken word artiste is Mutombo The Poet.

In entertainment, spoken word performances generally consist of storytelling or poetry. Noted practitioners of this art form are Hedwig Gorski, Gil Scott Heron, Spalding Gray and well known Ghanaian born spoken word poets like Kwame Dawes and Mutombo The Poet on whom much will be revealed in this piece.

I have always been a lover of both the linguistics and written words so when they are made much more finer and intricate to become poetry, I become a complete sucker for that. It was therefore no surprise that I was slowly but surely falling in love with this young Ghanaian stand up poet Mutombo. Early this year, I discovered two things: Mutombo and this online radio solely dedicated to poetry called Badilisha Poetry Radio. Both discoveries have not stopped intriguing me.

I urge you to go online and listen to ‘Just another black boy’ a recent recital by Mutombo The Poet on video.

Mutombo The Poet will soon be featured on Badilisha Poetry Radio. There are other Ghanaians whose work are featured on there from the likes of lesser known poets like Tahiru Hamid Seinu, Crystal Tettey, Mr. Re, DK Osei-Yaw and one of the more known and well recognized Ghanaian poets; Kwame Dawes of whom I’ll talk more about in later paragraphs. For now the spotlight will be on Mutombo who begun his romance with poetry from his high school days. As a student of Accra Academy, a senior high school for boys located in Ghana’s capital city, Mutombo majored in English Literature where he noticed that he had a great way with words and discovered he could actually write poetry in 2005. This discovery encouraged him to start going on road shows in 2006.

Before winning his first ever award at the 1st Ehalakasa Poetry slam in 2010 at the Alliance Francaise in Ghana which further catapulted him into the limelight, Mutombo worked on his current job as a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer. Whiles doing that he was mainly writing for himself on varied issues; he drew inspiration from sources ranging from politics, social, spiritual and personal life experiences. When asked who or what has been his greatest motivation and inspiration in the world of African and world poetry, he responded ‘I wont really affirm that a particular person inspired me, when I discovered this beautiful art form, I was listening to poets like Saul Williams, Taalam Acey, Gil Scott and Maya Angelou. I enjoy reading, listening and watching them perform. I would say my greatest inspiration has been the people I encounter in everyday life.’

In 2006 Mutombo started doing public performances and appearing on acknowledged shows and stages for the very first time in Ghana, he was however not the first spoken word poet in Ghana at the time because it was during that period that he first came across a poet named Sir Black who had been performing before Mutombo became a household name. Poetry has been a part of the Ghanaian Culture for centuries but today, other musical genres like Highlife and Hiplife has made it less popular.

Within Hiplife and Highlife are some artists who dabble in poetry occasionally, especially in local Ghanaian dialects. Mutombo himself plans on doing poems in his local Ghanaian dialect of Twi very soon to rope in his non-English speaking Ghanaian fans: he says ‘I have a couple of poems in Twi but I’m yet to performed them.

Up until recently in Ghana, there were no poetry pubs, clubs or venues, thanks to efforts by Mutombo, Sir Black and other poetry lovers in Ghana, all this is gradually changing even though these places only exist in smaller numbers. This is an example of the difficulties faced by people plying this particular trade in the entertainment industry in Ghana. Mutombo believes the government is not giving the necessary attention to spoken word poetry because they fail to see the value and importance it holds especially in preserving the history of linguistics in Ghana. ‘It is sad to see that a lot more spoken languages in the country are either not taught in schools or spoken by their original owners today,‘ he laments.

Hearing Mutombo speak with such passion about African and Ghanaian poetry brings to my mind one of the most prolific spoken word poets of Ghanaian origins; Kwame Dawes, who is also an Emmy Award winning writer. Kwame Dawes was born in 1962 and spent most of his formative years in Jamaica. He is a writer of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and plays. His book titled ‘Bob Marley: Lyrical Genius‘, remains the most authoritative study of the lyrics of the legendary reggae musician Bob Marley till today. Dawes has published fifteen collections of poetry. His most recent titles include Back of Mount Peace (2009) and Hope’s Hospice.

In 2009, Dawes won an Emmy Award in the category of New Approaches to News; Documentary Programming: Arts, Lifestyle and; Culture for his project on HIV/AIDS in Jamaica.

I’m sure Kwame Dawes will be full of encouraging words for Mutombo’s fledgling career and I personally want to see Mutombo’s work featured on Badilisha Poetry Radio and indeed any medium that promotes the art of spoken word poetry in Africa and the entire globe. Mutombo The Poet says he learns everyday, with every poem he writes and with every performance he makes. Reminiscing on how far he’s come, Mutombo believes without tooting his horn that he has made some head-way by making lots of people in Ghana fall in love with spoken word poetry and that is already heart-warming.

The poet is presently looking forward to performing in other countries and ultimately touring the globe. He says this after having gotten over one of the most impressionable memory on his career. This unforgettable moment happened when he first performed live on national television on TV3 in Ghana — ‘I remember the tension and fright that went through me right before my appearance. That moment will always live with me, always,’ Mutombo recounts.

There are a lot of other young and upcoming poets in Ghana and across Africa today who are aspiring to achieve or are already replicating what Mutombo The Poet does which gives him hope: ‘I have come across so many poets who are doing so well, but like I always say, there is always room for improvement and though they say think out of the box, I prefer to contradict that impression by saying do not even be in the box at all. Everything that you write should be an improvement on your previous work,‘ he encourages.

The artiste who records under the label of Pidgen Music in Ghana gave thanks to local artists who have helped shape his career, some of whom are Wanlov The Kubolor, M3nsa, King Ayisoba, Yaa Pono, Lady Jay, Kwam1 and Kweku Ananse, all of whom he thanked for making his first ever album; ‘Photosentences‘ (the album can be sampled and purchased online via this link); come to life. Photosentences is enjoying a lot of support and air play in Ghana right now with Mutombo presently working on his second album which would be out by the mid-2013. He plans publishing a book of poetry in the very near future as well.

Written by Oral Ofori

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