Entertainment of Monday, 16 January 2017
It is another cycle of writing. As usual, our creative geniuses will arouse critical thoughts; thoughts that provoke us to think deeply about issues that make and unmake the creative arts industry. Last year, I tried as much as possible writing on as many aspects of creative arts in the country that needed attention. I touched on arts education, celebrity lifestyle and their craft, music, events, culture and tourism, media and politics.
An area that endears to my heart, but one that got the least, or a near “no mention” was poetry. I wrote just one piece on poetry in March, as my contribution to the commemoration of World Poetry Day. Poetry, no doubt is a major genre of literature. Its various forms have inspired many artistes to express their talents using that medium. It is said that poetry is the most terse of the arts, yet it is the most loose, and its interpretation, not that terse.
In Ghana, poetry has transcended that literary medium scripted and left in books. Today, there have been performers who have made the art their mainstay, gracing local and international platforms. Call them spoken word artistes; some call them wordsmiths. They have made poetry realistic; they have demystified poetry, and have packaged it so well that the ordinary person and corporate Ghana have seen the essence of poetry as a form of education and entertainment.
Yes, spoken word has become an integral aspect of mainstream entertainment in the country. On radio, they have some opportunity to sell themselves to the world. Citi FM, YFM, Radio Univers and Pluzz FM are some radio stations that highlighted these talents last year.
Thankfully, the spoken word artiste is gaining some form of recognition, so also is the art form. A random survey of the educated youth, or middle class won’t struggle to mention some of these young artiste who have taken after the Atu Kwei Okais. Nana Asaase, Rhyme Sonny, Nenebi, Sir Black, Chief Moomen, Mutombo da Poet, Poetra Asantewa, among others are household names in Ghana and beyond. These artistes have chosen the craft as their source of livelihood and have become entrepreneurs in their own right, selling a craft that one day, will compete with the other genres of entertainment.
“Myself and my group, People Of Equal Thoughts & Spirit have identified over 500 poets in Ghana now, our segment on YFM has seen over 100 poets taking turns to deliver quality poetry. Our events, including Alewa, Ministry of Poetry, #BringBackOurPoets, The Big 6 Poetry Show, Ehalakasa, Poetry Nights with the Rainmakers, have registered thousands of people coming to enjoy poetry brewed in the Ghanaian pot. So it’s on a rapid rise. Very soon, it will be opening doors for talents to be able to make a living from it,” Rhyme Sonny in a July 2015 interview with “Daily Guide” newspaper.
And truly, spoken word from Ghana is getting the needed attention. Sonny, last year, together with Poetra Asantewa performed and showcased their craft at the Lagos International Poetry Festival. The BBC featured Sonny in their “Africa Business Report” where he expressed his political views on making Africa a haven.
Poetra Asantewa, also subsequently embarked on a 5-leg OneBeat tour of the United States. The announcement by talkmediagh.com said “she joined 24 other people from around the world in the United States for a month to collaboratively write, produce, and perform original music, and develop strategies for arts-based social engagement that will have a positive impact on local and global communities.”
OneBeat is an international cultural exchange that celebrates the transformative power of the arts through the creation of original, inventive music, and people-to-people diplomacy.
Spoken Word Artistes as Main Artistes
It is evident that spoken word industry is growing. In fact, that art encapsulates music, comedy, rap and oratory. Thus, for someone to pass as spoken word artiste means real talent. nana asase
According to Rhyme Sonny, for the Spoken word artiste, “content is key. Style is the lock. A unique writing and performance style opens doors… His or her level of understanding of the field, the academic side of the art and a commanding personality will be just a top up.” These attributes, most of them have. They haven’t disgraced that “little” platform they graced. Haven’t we hailed their creative prowess? And tell me that artiste wasn’t the toast of patrons, that day you saw him “murder” that five minute slot he was given albeit, as curtain raiser?
So why can’t we elevate the spoken word artiste to a status, one that they are not just “preluders” but main artistes contracted to entertain patrons. I was at Israel Ofori’s “Aseda 2016” concert on Christmas Day, and I dare any patron to show me any artiste who outshone Nana Asaase? He was just splendid, but as usual, he was a minor act.
I will love to see our spoken word artiste perform at our comedy shows. “Night of Laughs and Music” and the “Lords of the Ribs” should give them the opportunity. If Ghanaian comedians have found their way to awards shows and major events, I don’t see why spoken word artistes aren’t getting high profile gigs in the country.
Or they are not just pushing enough? But for Sonny, they are, but “most Ghanaians cannot come to terms with Spoken Word and poetry as a commercial art form and the fact that the artists should be paid adequately to sustain their craft.
“There is no real support for our events and projects. I have spent a lot of my own money to get poetry this far. I have had to fund our programmes, workshops and events. It’s not easy investing when you don’t know what time you will be harvesting. But still, there is no giving up. We will continue to push the genre until it is recognized by the mainstream and its commercial value appreciated.”