Featured Poet – Grandmaster Masese

Our next featured poet Grand Master Masese got a standing ovation when he performed during the March Rhythm & Spoken with his Obokano. He has performed at the Sauti Ya Busara festival in Zanzibar, Hay Festival UK Kwani open mic and various other stages.

How would you describe your poetry?

My poetry is contemporary,it is life,it is music, a story that is always waiting to be told in words,rhythms and words in silence

You also make use of the traditional Kisii instrument Obokano, how did you come about it?

Yes, I do.I learnt at the age of ten at a relatives home and it became my obsession after.and now i use it to do folk music and poetry to……….

In what way has it enhanced your performance?

It has given the performances the variety and a kind of uniqueness that is only true to GRAND masese.i call it GRAND cONTRADICTION.it brings the whole art in poetry and covers a cross section of the audience as well.

What’s your creative process like?

It involves listening to my inner self,observing my surrounding,listening to people and discussing hence I get the whole picture,then i put it down when am alone in the poetic world.then i think of the best way to present it and to who,why,etc

Which poets do you look up to?

I like Okot p’ Bitek and great East African poets from the 60s,American contemporary poets,Tony Mochama,Ukoo Flani Mau Mau poets,Rumi,Shaaban Bin Roberts and many more

Where have you performed and what has been the reception so far?

I have performed in Nairobi in Kwani? and Wapi since they started,from 2005,Italian Institut,Goethe Institut, KNT, Molo, Kisumu, Kisii.Internationally I have performed in Ghana and the UK.The reception has been great and overwhelming.I have been humbled by the occassional standing ovations and also criticism here and there.

What do you hope to achieve through poetry? Who do you hope to influence?

I hope to help make poetry become a notable literary voice in East Afrika so that it is not overlooked.It has to engage and reward the poets as other forms of art.i hope to advocate for more poetry publications.hope to publish my poetry volumes in Kisii,Kiswahili,Sheng and English.I want to influence everybody who can read and write or listen to poetry.

What do you think is the future of poetry in Kenya and Africa?

There is a great future for poetry in kenya but I think the rest of Africa is ahead.The problem with Kenya is that people havent known what is poetry and what is not.not everything is poetry and that you dont have the outside influence to be cool.Originality in Kenya is questionable.The fact that not much of poetry books are published in Kenya just tells how far behind we are.

What do you wish to see done differently?

Poets need workshops all the time to ensure quality because now there is quantity which might compromise Quality,competitions and prizes,Poetry has to be able to join what they call celeb thing in the local papers,i mean to be regarded highly as any trash(sic) that is in Genge/kapuka.publish poets and let them get established

Which of you poems is a crowd favourite? Which is your favourite?

The crowd favourite should be Letter From My Girlfriend although there could be many and my favourite is Mo Pain,No Gain

Five lines off your favourite piece/ a sample of your poetry…

..I know you will say this is the voice of treason
But I say No,this is the voice of Kenyan reason
Hii ni voice yangu na meditation za revolution
naanza na kuondoa confusion,
watasema nawa threaten ama na threaten peace ya wakenya watukufu wenye mioyo mikunjufu…………



Featured Poet-Mike Kwambo

Mike Kwambo on stage at Rhythm & Spoken

How would you describe your poetry?

My poetry is cutting edge, sometimes controversial,sometimes sweet, sometimes witty, sometimes direct. It is pretty much a reflection of who I am.

What’s your creative process like?

There are two ways to describe my creative process.
1.Ad Hoc! Well…I am the kind of person who will get struck by creative moments while engaged in other activities.Many are the times I have dropped everything else or woken up at two or three in the morning to pursue this creative itch.
2. Structured…There are occasions when I have taken my sweet time, days or even weeks on end to complete my works.

Which poets do you look up to and why?
I look up to Allan Hope a.k.a Mutabaruka, Benjamin Zephaniah , Lamar Manson a.k.a Black Ice, Dana Gilmore,(I love her piece “wife..woman..friend”) and good old William Shakespeare. Their work are thought provoking, conscious pieces. There are plenty of local poets that deliver that kind of content too, they are also sources of inspiration.

Where have you performed and what has been the reception so far?
I have performed at the Kwani? Open Mic at Club Soundd in Nairobi. My first appearance here was in February 2007, I did a piece called “But Nyako” which the audience absolutely loved. I was featured poet at Kwani? in November of that year.I still do the odd performance at this venue.
I have taken a liking to Rhythm and Spoken at the Dass Ethiopian Restaurant in Westlands. The audience is always receptive.Their response is always great , which is very humbling. This gives me the motivation to keep writing more pieces.
I once performed my piece “vision 2030” at the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya (ICPAK) Economic Symposium to a mixed reaction. This piece is questions the Kenyan government’s ability to attain its goals by the year 2030 as pointed out in their wonderfully written master plan.The audience loved it but one Prof. Bitange Ndemo, Permanent Secretary in the Information and Communications Ministry was totally miffed. He took a whole hour responding to this piece before delivering his keynote address.
I have also performed at the just concluded Rift Valley Festival to a wonderful, humbling response from the really attentive audience. I attended this festival as part of Mstari Wa Nne, the performance poetry group I belong to.I use the words wonderful and humbling because we went up on stage just after Chris Adwar and The Villagers Band had wowed the crowd with their energetic performance. I was unsure of the crowd’s response, would they consider poetry an anti climax? Would they stay to listen to poetry ? Would they walk away? They were very attentive when Mstari got on stage. They paid keen attention to our poetry and gave us a standing ovation at the end of it. We made great contacts, big things are definitely on the horizon. It was a very humbling response.
I have also performed at the Kenya Burning exhibition in April 2008, and with Mstari Wa Nne,the Daniel Pearl World Day of Music in 2008/2009, Ignite Poets in October 2009 as well as some private functions. The responses from the audience have constantly been great and it is an absolutely humbling experience when people walk up to you and tell you that they loved your work or that it captures their sentiments.

What do you hope to achieve through poetry?

I would like to see a paradigm shift in our attitudes. We are have so many issues, good and bad that are not being dealt with. they are simply being swept under the carpet. Poetry is one of many vehicles that can address these issues. I aim to educate,provoke and entertain the public, the audiences that I interact with. I aim to influence everybody…the regular Joe and the decision makers in government and larger society.

What do you think is the future of poetry in Kenya and Africa?

With the right exposure and approach, poetry in Kenya and Africa has a very bright future. This is because it can be a very subtle means of dealing with the most sensitive and taboo topics. Africa is going through a revolution of sorts

What do you wish to see done differently?

The whole approach to poetry. I honestly think it doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Poets have got things to say, issues to address, lets give them a chance. We need to change our mindsets and be more appreciative of poetry as a powerful art form and tool of expression.

Which of you poems is a crowd favourite?
Probably Vision 2030, it stirs up a lot of passion from the audience. I would like to think that people tend to associate with the issues being addressed in this poem
For obvious reasons, Big A** Bed, it is raunchy. Raunchy is popular.

Which is your favourite?

It’s not really a poem, it is my intro.I call it “She is” …I regularly open my performances with this intro.

Five lines off your favourite piece

She is….
my biggest temptation…my sweetest sensation
in my heart she’s managed penetration….filling me with joy…elation…jubilation…
she is a sultry goddess…every man wants to possess
when they see her they say lead us out of Egypt like Moses…

R&S March 2010

This Friday is Rhythm & Spoken, the monthly poetry open mic, at Dass Ethiopian Restaurant, Westlands.
We will feature singer and guitarist Maia Von Lekow and Kato Change.
Special appearance by Ngwatilo Mawiyoo who will be reading from her book ‘Blue Mother tongue.

Neo soul groove Afterparty with DJ Eduardo
call/text:0728293638 for sign up/reservations/directions

Ashimba on our minds

When it comes to Tanzanian music playing in Kenya, mainstream bongo flava dominates. But that should’nt mean there is nothing different coming from TZ.
Our newest listening experience is Ashimba you may have heard some of his music played during January’s R&S .

He is a singer, guitarist and songwriter from Bagamoyo, Tanzania. His music is fuses traditional and modern in a style that echoes Senegalese singer Yossou N’ Dour. Story telling, proverbs are part and parcel of his songwriting. He sings in Swahili and traditional Tanzanian languages.
His album is titled Nuru Nyikani (Swahili for light in the wilderness) and includes the must listens Maisha and Yaya featuring Nakaaya.
We met his producer Jakob Poll during the Kenya Music Week in Sarit Centre, Nairobi where he had come to promote MaishaMusic, a Danish-Tanzaina label looking to promote East African music across the globe. He was also featured during the Afrobased festival Blankets and Wine in Nairobi.

Check out his myspace page: http://www.myspace.com/ashimba
And more of his music on http://www.maishamusic.com

I’m a BlackStar


We are currently feeling Jay Ghartey. He is Ghanaian singer whose mix of urban and Ghana rhythms is quite cool. He looks a little bit like Kenyan neosoul singer Shu.


Just a little bit. But apart from the ‘African in diaspora’ vibe they both have, their styles are different.
The song that inspired this post is titled Blackstar the Accra mix has a funky touch of African house.
Sample the lyrics:
“But I keep on, cos my soul don’t break/
And they try to get in our way but them never gonna slow us down/
Don’t matter the things they say cos we come from the underground/
It’s the African’s time to shine…
We’ll never run
We’ll always be here
I’m a Blackstar, ye I’m a Blackstar, no matter where you are, you’re a Blackstar”

More info and music can be found on www.jayghartey.com

R&S February 12th 2010

I have realised that there are as many poets as they are singers, sometimes you have both. Muthoni Ndonga performs spoken word and sings. She may be famous for her singing, and fabulous drumming skills but when the need arises she can lay down a serious ‘flo-em’.

Poet, Maik Kwambo, who is part of Mstari Wa Nne poets also sings. You may have heard him sing Nakupenda if not, we will be giving you a sample of his songs soon.

I was watching the reality talent show, Tusker Project Fame 3 (TPF3), when I saw a familiar face.
Patricia Kihoro, is currently one of the top three acts on TPF3.
She has graced the Rhythm and Spoken stage as a poet before, who knew she possessed such great vocal talent. And it turns out she is also an actress and you may have spotted her in the Just A Band video If I Could

Her first song on the show was Lazizi by the band Sauti Sol, keeping it local all the way, Catch TPF3 every Sunday on Citizen TV.
(**ahem**I had a little trouble uploading her picture but it will be up soon) Yep! here you go!

Playlist 101

Playlist 102

Here’s is some more information on the Rhythm &Spoken playlist i.e the music played before and after performances


To Go Forward

You may have heard her single closer or first love. Goapele (pronounced gwa-play) actually has Kenyan roots. Well, not exactly, her father Douglas Mohlabane a South African exile met and married her mother Noa a jewish student in Nairobi, Kenya. Her name means to go forward in South African language Tswana.

The couple then relocated to the US where Goapele and her brother were born. A gifted child, Goapele attended the Berkeley Arts Magnet School where she sung in the school choir, joined a music group called Vocal motion and became actively involved in organisations that fought racism and sexism. The activism bug bit her early and to this day Goapele remains involved in social awareness.

Goapele attended the Berklee School of music when she graduated from high school. Her first album the Even Closer is a mixture of RnB and jazz and features gems like Closer, Ease your mind, Too much the same.

“With my music, I’m telling my own story. I’m expressing my own view. I want for people to not feel like they’re alone. I want people to reflect on their own lives and think about the things that they want and figure out how to obtain them. Also for people that aren’t satisfied with what they see around them and in their communities, I hope it motivates them to start taking small steps to change those things.” – Goapele,

For more on Goapele visit http://www.goapele.com



Rwandan roots and an international upbringing mark Corneille Nyungura who was born in Germany. When he was six years old his family moved back to Rwanda. Corneille described this move as “ going to a place where he belonged” but this feeling was short-lived when in 1994 Rwanda’s President Habyarimana was assassinated. What followed was a horrific massacre that saw 80,000 people killed, among them were Corneille’s parents and relatives. He managed to escape with his life, living first in Kinshasa then Germany where some family friends took him in.

“For a good ten years after the genocide,” he says, “I lived in a great deal of denial. But I managed not to get too bitter because I had parents who always made me feel special. It’s a sort of pain that you can have closure with. I know I’m not going to be able to talk to my family ever again, but they left me with memories filled with such love that I don’t have that much anger.” He lived in Germany for three yeas before moving to Montreal where he released his first album Parce Qu’on Vient de Loin. Though not initially a hit in Canada, the album was an overnight success in France and this prompted it’s re-release in Canada where it eventually went platinum.
Corneille, who has recorded with Yossou N’Dour, is a goodwill ambassador as well spokesperson for Red Cross. He is latest effort is the The Birth Of Cornelius album which he recorded in English.

More on Corneille visit http://www.corneille.ca