Starred \\ Kenya’s top 10 male spoken word artists
Some of Kenya’s male poets that have helped popularize spoken word in the East African country.
For the past decade, there has been a lot of activity in the Kenyan spoken word scene, milestones have been achieved by a number of young artists who have overzealously fought to make poetry grow in the country. The field has solely remained a tuff for young minds with little interest from the older groups and an entertainment industry that seems to steer clear of the genre which appeals to its loyal fan base in the East African country. The following are the top ten male poets who have greatly played a role in the growth of the craft, Musungu Okach features the artists in no particular order:
Born Ken Kibet, Mufasa is known for his highly emotive voice and animated delivery that sparks electric frenzy among his audience at any sitiing. Mufasa’s poetry is influenced by American poets Saul Williams and Alysia Harris and the Canadian Poet Shane Konicyzan. His works focuses on social political evils and are a clarion call for enlightenment of people in order to fight for freedom. Mufasa has used various platforms in his country like ‘7 Poems’, ‘Back to my Roots’, ‘Unchained Voices’ and ‘No Judgment’ events to air out the dirt in society.
Mufasa has also graced events hosted by the Supreme Court of Kenya, UN Women, Embassy of Ireland and Denmark, and Ubumuntu Arts Festival in Rwanda besides popular television shows in Kenya. He is also one of the Judges of the popular Slam Africa Festival in Kenya and the 40th Slam King.
Aside from his popularity in live performance Mufasa has an album, Inside Out- a six poem masterpiece that resonates with the four walls of the house and speaks to the soul. He is vibrant lion on stage with creative ooze that slowly diminishes into a calm collected invisible person in the crowd.
Mufasa will in April 7 hold another of his exciting performances at the Alliance Française.
His 2016 album Misimu made him become hit in the country’s spoken word circles. The album sparked conversations online under the #Misimuzangu (my seasons) hashtag letting people share about their stories/seasons of sadness and happiness.
Gufy known in official circles as Oscar Ogero is a long term MC of the ‘Slam Africa Festival’ and a host of ‘Upgrade Poetry’ in his hometown Nakuru. Gufy’s poetry is a passionate call for vigilance sacrifice and self-love. He speaks of issues as corruption, choices (elections), parenting and openness. He was crowned the 43rd slam king and has hosted various solo performances for instance ‘Home’.
He is the leading ‘sheng’ poet in Kenya. Teardrops official name Joshua Ouma’s poetry is a cry of the oppressed and the fact that it is in sheng (Kenyan urban slang), he speaks to an extremely wode audience. His wordplay is intoxicating and his mannerisms political. His huge fan base is impressively receptive to his banter that always invokes audience participation.
Teardrops poetry tackles the two ‘big’ tribes in the country at the present; the rich and the poor. Though the issues he addresses are serious, he takes a lighthearted defiance with nursery rhymes that resonate well with his fan base.
In April 2017, Teardrops- who hails from Eastlands launched his second album ‘Made in Eastlands.’ Other than ‘Made in Eastlands’, he has another album- ‘Shengspear’ that stamps his mastery of the Sheng language.
Teardrops religiously criticizes an errant world with a call for all to embrace humanity. Teardrops has worked with popular Kenyan musicians like Mufasa, Sarabi, Fadhilee Itulya, Juliani and other sheng poets like G-Cho Pevu and Murathe Ngigi among others.
The poet has featured prominently on Kenya’s premier comedy show Churchill Show and The Trend.
He started off his foray into the entertainment front in 2000 as a rap artist with four of his friends but realised that sounds swallowed his voice, it was not until 2012 that he came to hear about spoken word poetry when he attended Kwani Open Mic according to a 2015 interview with Daily Nation, the country’s biggest newspaper.
Dorphan official name Dennis Mutuma brings to poetry a performance that merges music and recitation. Dorphan’s poetry is spirited and evocative in presentation; it is also meditative in its delivery. His stage presence is conversational, like the kind of chat you will have with friends at a street corner.
Some of his poems include; ‘Mama Aliishia’ (Mother Left), ‘Najua’ (I know), ‘Show Me’, ‘Ndoa Doa’ (Marriage Mistake), ‘Brenda’, ‘Kings and Queens’, ‘Colossus’, and ‘Mashujaa’ (heroes). The musical element in his poems comes in form of a refrain which is easy to follow at times letting the audience take lead.
Last year Dorphan, whose name sounds like D’-orphan,-raised as one- held a show; ‘Without a Trace’ in which the poet presented a dramatized version of a creative’s life which ends with little or no legacy but blue prints, unlike Shakespeare, whose works and life still dazzle many, the works of others are nothing but dust in the present day miserable life.
Though Dorphan an IT professional, poetry is his main course. He is the 34th Slam King and a committee member of Slam Africa Festival in Kenya.
He is well known for his appearance on the popular comedy show in the country- The Churchill Show. A Certificate in Criminal Justice holder works as a comedian, poet and a musician with a blend of afro-fusion. His poetry is inspired by Suli Breaks. Brigeddia’s most popular pieces include ‘Special Dedication’ to the ladies, ‘Mheshimiwa’, ‘The Agent’ and ‘Mamu Lizi’.
His solo Album ‘Poetic Jungle’ was launched last year (2017) in Kisumu. Like his other counterparts in the industry, Brigeddia known officially as Francis Odhiambo Onono hosts a poetry showcase ‘Words n’ Word’ a monthly poetry and music show in Nairobi.
Master of Arts graduate in Literature, Dan also Daniel Obungu was the second Slam poetry winner in Kenya. His influence is drawn from legends like Hip Hop MC Talib Kweli, Suzzana Owiyo and Ogwang’ Lelo a Nyatiti instrument player.
Being among the first few poets to feature in Slam Poetry in the East African country, Dan became an overnight success and was featured on the cover of the Wapi Magazine in 2009. He lives in Kisumu.
He is a multifaceted artist, G-cho Pevu is known for his powerful lines and a profound and enlightening sense of humor. He has an electrifying stage presence. G-cho was synonymous with his black beret hat, and large glasses. Once in a story of his life, the Kenyan police apprehended him for impersonation of a police officer-because of the hat’s resemblance to the one worn by men in uniform and was stripped of his beloved trademark. The questionable arrest, but not bizarre with Kenyan police, attracted the wrath of Kenyan creatives, activists and Kenyans on Twitter and G-cho would be released without his hat.
The poet has ever since moved to a godfather hat. He, however, as he says, he is still digging for another black beret which he says is hard to find. The 26th Slam King released a five-track Album in 2015 under the title Safari.
The artist also known as Steve Biko album includes hits like Chance to Live and Dear Mama. He is scheduled to release his new album in 2018. Born first in his family G-cho has made it in life as a force to reckon in the Kenyan poetry scene- a Sheng poet and an influence on youth in his backyard in Mathare and Huruma Slums where he was born and raised.
He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from University of Nairobi. Kennet B uses his poetry as a platform for mass enlightenment and community engagement with a campaign to encourage planting of tree in his home region of Nyanza.
Through the state media Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, the poet has a platform in one of the vernacular radio stations- ‘Mayenga FM’- where he presents poetry in his native Dholuo to his fans.
The founder and host of ‘Poetry after Lunch’, a weekly poetry and comedy show at Kenya Cultural Centre/ Kenya National Theatre is inspired by Jamaican poets Linton Kwesi Jonson and Mutabaruka. He is also a performing reggae artist.
The poet born Kennedy Leakey Odongo, who also works with his children under the group ‘The Pot’, has four albums to his name; ‘Coming of Age’, ‘Success’, ‘Cheka na Kennet’ and ‘Refugee’.
A multi-talented genius Dembede Mido AKA Checkmate Mido stands at the top of his career as poet, musician, drummer, human Beatbox and an actor.
He began performing in 2008 and from then he has graced various stages like the ‘LaBa Arts Festival’ (Uganda), ‘SPOKEN WOR:L:DS’ (Germany), ‘NuVo Arts Festival’ (Uganda) and ‘Festival du Theatre Des Realites’ (Mali), ‘Storymoja Hay Festival’, ‘Kinanda Festival’ and ‘Poetry Slam Africa’ (Kenya.)
Checkmate is known for his thought provoking poetry that indulges all his skills from music, beatbox, drums and narration. His ingenuity blends the four elements into a fiery work of art which has resulted to several projects including the 2016 EP ‘Box of Beats’.
Checkmate had a successful debut in the plays ‘The Mayor’s Diary’. Thereafter he featured in the 2011 ‘Death and The Estate’ and the 2012 series ‘Fire by Ten’. As far as performance goes, checkmate has led a very busy career doing collabos with many local and internationally recognized artists like Mo Pearson, Booker K, Janice Iche and Ngare Mukiria in the EP ‘Box of Beats’. During the launch of the EP in September 2016, German-based American poet Akua Naru was at hand to hype up the event with her performance. In 2010 he also released a collaborative album Broken city with With Australian Femcee Izzy Brown among others.
Akil Ahmed known by stage name El poet is well known for his poem ‘The school Bell Rings’. His poetry is lucid with rich historical metaphors that reveal the depth of his Knowledge.
El Poet started writing poetry in 2004. Back then his poems were heavily influenced by hiphop before he found his style. El Poet’s poetry work can be found on his blog http://elpoetsick.blogspot.co.ke . An avid fan of music, sport, movies and arts, El poet is also the co-founder of Alternative Agency- a marketing agency in Nairobi.