When Going Gufy, A Poetry Showcase

Kenyan poet Gufy is scheduled to host one of his biggest shows at the Michael Joseph Centre on February 9th. The show will reveal the healing power of spoken word, a trend he has set ever since the launch of his album Misimu.

Gufy may sound like a familiar name especially for those who enjoyed the character Goofy on Disney. However Gufy and Goofy are totally unrelated characters, one is human with a tenor voice while the other an animated tall, unstable dog who was not bright but sometimes proved ingenious. Whether, Gufydox a Kenyan poet chose the name inspired by a favorite comic/cartoon or not, it has proven to be quite a moniker; some of his fans do not know his real name.

Gufy is a Kenyan poet, film maker and an MC having served for long as Poetry Slam Africa MC. It is hard to imagine Gufy as a serious poet but wait until he puts on his serious face on his young boy’s face and spits on the mic carrying the audience with him. My first encounter with Gufy the poet left me in wonder because I had come to know this baby face MC who received banter from co-MC Njeri wa Migwi to the delight of the audience. His playful self as an MC was replaced by a deeply philosophical and sometimes vulnerable personality that left me a little disturbed and mystified by the transformation.

We were all gathered at the British Institute of East Africa in Nairobi just weeks after the release of his first album Misimu. The fans hissing above our heads, and crowds milling in out of the auditorium, Gufy would pop on the stage and deeply yet thoughtfully, like an accustomed lyricist embellish imagery of our world with a magical touch only an artist can. You can’t fathom my disappointment since I expected playful poetry garnished with puns and fried in Sheng- the popular Kenyan slang. But what I was served was deeply philosophical Swahili and English poetry that deeply provoked by sapiosexual mind. I have nothing against Sheng poetry, my disappointment was more in the fact that the boy Gufy was oozing Kiswahili in a classical sense like someone born in the seventies in urban Kenya. Nevertheless, as I got to know him, I came to understand the two personalities of the guy.

I met Gufy’s performance in Misimu an album he released in 2016. The album’s debut created a sensation online and the conversation that arose post the launch under the Hashtag Misimuzangu revealed the deep scars hidden in people’s smiles and laughter. From then Gufy has been on the steadfast emotionally spreading the seeds of hope to those in despair. Misimu Zangu which literally means my seasons was a good start for the campaign sharing is healing. In this respect Gufy has been on the steadfast trying to help those who have no space to share their misimu. He has dedicated some of his shows to reminding them that there is someone out there who cares.  

In May 2018, Gufy teamed up with Becky, the 2017 Slam Africa Poetry festival winner in order to share their experiences on Mental health through poetry and music dubbed May I. May has been a Mental Health Awareness Month since 1949 when it was first celebrated in the US. Coincidentally, my people believe that May is the month when many of the docile bipolar disorder individuals react. This, according to ‘village psychiatrists,’ is believed to be the effect of maize pollen grains which are believed to escalate such situations. But that is neither here or there. Now Gufy and Becky, using their wit, charm and wordplay would regale the audience with music infused spoken word showcase at The Elephant in Nairobi on May 26th.

Despite the chilly cloudy weather, crowds thronged the soggy gardens armed with hoodies and hats. Given the torrential rains in Nairobi, one would have expected the rain jittery Nairobians to remain ensconced at the warmth of their four walls but not when Gufy is performing.

In the open garden, embraced by a towering tent and salient trees, the crowd silently drunk in nostalgic poetry led by the duo. In the sky- where eyes would apprehensively dart- the eagle and the crow made rounds trying to find dinner while in the bushes around the speckled mouse bird, weaver and the common bulbul bird added their flavor to the guitar riffs and key board notes. 

The performance which involved the collective input of Eddy on the Keys Shilla and Zosi on backing vocals was nothing but spectacular. The poets made sure that they touched on the emotional, the physical and the waning political will to fight for what is right. They observed how wrong has become right and how right has become an act of cowardice or betrayal. And as they ushered the day home, they pledged that  May I, will be a movement to create awareness around mental health awareness and an open forum where those bereft of a chance to share could find a home to freely share about their own struggle with mental health issues.

Now ‘May I’ is behind us, buried together with his other show Home which was staged at Braeburn school in Nairobi on May 7th 2017. The show addressed various issues including parenting, death among others. These shows could have been the stepping stone for a big one coming on February 9th 2019 titled Going Gufy. Knowing Gufy, the show is going to be one of the biggest events in 2019. He has a way with wrapping his performance into a well packaged walk into the emotional and the thoughtful and the entertaining. His shows have always been food for the soul, the mind and the whole body. Once you walk into his shrine, you are sure to be fed, educated and massaged into a new perspective while maintaining you own identity. Hosted at the artistic shrine of the Michael Joseph centre in Nairobi, Gufy is sure to live you appreciating the healing elisxir of spoken word.   

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