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

Sat, 6 Oct 2012 Source: Ofori, Oral

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. 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 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 named

Mutombo The Poet. Early this year, I discovered two things: Mutombo and

this online radio solely dedicated to poetry called Badilisha Poetry Radio

that can be checked out here:

http://badilishapoetry.com/en/radio-african-poetry-readings/ Both

discoveries have not stopped intriguing me.

Watch 'Just another black boy'; a recital by Mutombo The Poet:


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 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 artistes 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 poets of Ghanaian

origins; Kwame Dawes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/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 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 which you can hear him recite

here: http://badilishapoetry.com/radio/kwamedawes/ In 2009, Dawes won an

Emmy Award in the category of New Approaches to News & Documentary

Programming: Arts, Lifestyle & Culture for his project on HIV/AIDS in


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 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


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, Mensa, King Ayisoba, Yaa Pono, Lady Jay, Kwam1 and

Kweku Ananse all of whom he thanked for making his first ever album;

'Photosentences' (the Photosentences album can be sampled and purchased

online here mutombodapoet.bandcamp.com) 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 middle of

2013. He plans publishing a book of poetry in the very near future as well.

Oral Ofori, +1202-706-9881, oralofori@gmail.com, Freelance Writer (

www.oralofori.blogspot.com), Wikimedia Ghana Enthusiast, Broadcaster,

Retail Specialist, Music Promoter, Artiste. http://about.me/oralofori/

Columnist: Ofori, Oral