Went the drum
Bass came in between
Hit the hat
Then came a dream …
This quote from the poem Boomtwenth shows not only the versatility of its creator Checkmate Mido, a rhyming, rapping, storytelling and beatboxing poet from Nairobi. It also represents the diverse sounds of Nairobi’s Spoken Word Scene. Be it Swahili poetry, Spoken Word, Slam poetry or Rap – contemporary urban poetry has a vibrant scene in Nairobi. The numerous poetry events in the Kenyan capital mix Spoken Word and HipHop, improvisation and freestyle, literature, music, dance and visual arts. Very often, singers, beatboxers, instrumentalists and DJs support the performing poets. Beyond the official languages spoken in Kenya, English and Swahili, a younger generation of poets delivers rhymes in Sheng, a creative slang with growing influence in urban areas of Kenya.
down by the river. from the play rooms follow
woolen mice, they grow, conquer
the sky as clouds, push on the water.
there, ghosts of old educators
flee from a dark gang in night hoodies.
silver clasps hold on to the moonlight.
This is a quote from Birgit Kreipes poem entitled „Children’s Home“. Armin Steigenberger wrote about her first volume of poems schönheitsfarm (2012): „Birgit Kreipe’s texts are a silent highlight. Her language is very abundant and twisted but at the same time cautious and reflected.“ But in Berlin the spaces for poets, spoken word artists and MCs seem to be further apart from each other than in Nairobi.
SPOKEN WOR:L:DS builds on the Nairobi vibes with their big variety of styles, languages and genres within performative poetry. It connects the poetry, Spoken Word and Hip Hop Scene in Nairobi and Berlin. In an international lyrical exchange, eight poets from each city take part in an active poetic encounter of up and coming, as well as established artists from Nairobi and Berlin. Styles of performance poetry in Kenya connect with and confront current trends and developments within the German speaking poetry scene and vice versa, generating new pieces of literature in the process. Thereby the project aims to highlight Hip Hop as a global culture that has influenced contemporary poetry with its principles of cut ‘n‘ paste, sampling, freestyling and DJ-ing. Thus we want to go beyond Hip Hop by collecting its repercussions.
The eight artists from both cities will meet each other during intensive workshop settings for mutual translation, adaptation, collaboration and exchange. Both delegations consist of two participants in the categories: Poetry, Spoken Word, MC´s and in addition two upcoming artists. The ‘translation’ of each other’s works will be done on the basis of written lyrics, videos of performance and recordings. The ‘translation’ could be a textual translation but also a performative adaptation, a new text on the basis of the original or a spontaneous reaction to a performance. Transcribing one’s own Spoken Word poem and sending it to a colleague in Nairobi or Berlin might be already an act of translation. SPOKEN WOR:L:DS aims at translation across genres: there will be musicians dealing with lyrics of poets while transforming them into their art form, poets will be confronted with rap lyrics. The different cultural contexts and forms of expression in both cities will be experienced during the exchange in workshops, performances and personal encounters.
Many of the artists involved in our project are part of educational, cultural or social youth projects mainly focused on working with young people through Hip Hop. Rap often encourages young people to deal with literature, a genre that seems to be far away from their lives. In Nairobi and Berlin young people from local neighborhoods will meet artists from the respective exchange city in workshops. Together, they will perform their poetry, exchange and debate the contents and forms of their lyrics.
Concerts, readings, performances and debates open to the public are taking place in Nairobi (November 9th-15th 2013) and Berlin (April 5th-12th 2014). They will not only offer insights into the Poetry, Spoken Word and music scenes of different cultural spheres, but also a cultural transfer and exchange across genres. Kenyan poetry will be transformed into German Rap and German Spoken Word poetry will be turned into Kenyan verse or Rap lyrics. The audience will experience the powerful energy of literature, language and music.
Please find all our events in the CALENDER.
In the project we will produce a CD of selected studio recordings from Kenya and Germany. Poetry and performances will also be published here on our website and in our vimeo channel!
SPOKEN WOR:L:DS is a project by Literaturwerkstatt Berlin, Maono Cultural Group and Kwani Trust in cooperation with Goethe-Institut Kenya. It is funded by the TURN Fund of the German Federal Cultural Foundation, Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung and supported by Goethe-Institut, Auswärtiges Amt, and Gangway e.V. The project’s media partner is AfricAvenir