“Justice has been kidnapped in my country and nobody is willing to pay her ransom, she was absent at the tribunal when the verdict was given, so the marauders were declared winners even though the votes were phantom…”
That is a snippet from a poetry rendition by Efe Paul, one of the leading voices in the Spoken Word Poetry movement, at Read It Loud (a literary forum organised by the public affairs section of the US embassy in Lagos, Nigeria).
Spoken Word Poetry movement in Nigeria has evolved from small cells to having a capacity filled audience, it is safe to say a new generation of youths are rising but certain sections of the society are yet to catch this bug, so It became imperative to inform members of the public on what exactly this movement is about.
Spoken Word is a form of poetry that often uses alliterated prose, or verse and occasionally uses metered verse to express social commentary, it’s a form of poetry intended for onstage performance rather than print because it’s beauty lies in its delivery, the poet assumes the position of a prophet or sage reflecting on issues affecting his society; usually a product of deep meditation, views of the artist encompasses frank and sometimes satirical comments on politics, religion, gender, sexuality and other social behaviours; It often contain references to current events and issues relevant to a contemporary audience; using clever punch lines, witty remarks, poignant allusions, and sarcasm. The Spoken Word Poet echoes the yearnings of his society, offering scintillating performances in from of a dramatic monologue, which are not mere reverberations or tintinnabulations but are the very pulse of a generation.
It’s important to note that Spoken Word originated from blues music and the Harlem renaissance in America. The modern poetry as its known today became popular as far back as 1960 in African American community with the last poets, a political and music group borne out the American civil rights movement.
Spoken Word Poetry is at its peak in the western world with poets making a living out of their talent. However the same can’t be said of Nigeria as the Industry is experiencing snail paced growth, this could be due to fact that it started out as an elitist movement, with open mic sessions held mainly on the Island. The Industry received a boost recently when international spot light fell on Chiedu Ifeozo, he was featured on CNN inside Africa, and another plus for the industry was the visit of Bassey Ikpi to Nigeria to host and headline a couple of Spoken Word Poetry shows. Bassey Ikpi is a Nigerian based in America, who became a regular feature on Russell Simmons Def Jam poetry.
Several poets however have emerged on the Nigerian scene, they include Sage Hasson, Plumbline, Efe Paul, Atilola, Olulu, Torpedo, Nini Efem, Ivori, Donna K, Increase (a 13 year old poet), Dark Poet, Wana Wana, Bob Ekat, and the list goes on, and with the right corporate back up, another blooming industry is set to emerge.
Spoken Word is an outlet for people, especially the younger generation to express their views outside academic & institutional domains of university and colleges. Apart from its surface aesthetic value, which is live entertainment; Spoken Word is an educational tool, which is intellectually engaging, for a generation of youths that have been lost to a pop culture with eroding influences. It can be used to instruct, inform and reshape ideologies, enabling its audience make better informed decision, as it makes them aware of certain aspect pertaining to human life. Spoken Word also has been found to be very therapeutic both to the artist and the listener, as topics discussed are often things the society shy away from confronting. The advantages can’t be overemphasized as it’s high time we raise socially conscious youths who will mount the mantle of leadership.
Spoken Word Poetry is us telling our own story our own way. For a generation where popular pop culture is shifting attention, deregulating morals, objectifying women, Spoken Word offers succour.
I will conclude this with William Wordsworth words, “Poetry is the first and last of all knowledge, It’s immortal as the heart of man.”
Ajibola Adeoya is a singer/song writer/ instrumentalist/ writer/ poet. He is a graduate of Industrial Chemistry from the University of Ibadan, and he is the convener of SPIN Africa.