Spoken Word act, Kwame Write, speaks to Gameli Hamelo, on his trade and its future.
Full transcript below.
Q. Who is Kwame Write?
A. I am Charles Kwame Aidoo; better known as Kwame Write. I grew up living with my Ashanti mother and grandmother as well as 3 loving sisters. After completing basic education at Deks Junior High in Tema, I enrolled at Presec Legon. I am a proud Odadee of course and BSc Biochemistry and Biotechnology degree holder from KNUST 2009 year group. I did my National Service at Tema Lube Oil Company and worked on contract with Tema General Hospital, Ghana Statistical Service, Ministry of Finance under the auspices of ACCUID, just to mention a few. I write and perform poetry and I live for the arts, especially those that deal with rhythm.
Q. Who introduced you to spoken word/when did the passion for this begin?
A. The free-minded creative atmosphere I grew up in must have inspired my passion. Yaa Pono, D-Cryme, Stay Jay, etc, were some of my childhood friends so you know Tema exposed us at a young age to be artistically expressive. I’ve also been playing with words since I can remember. I love playing scrabble and was awarded MMRS Ogilvy National Scrabble Champion 2010, Intermediate Division. I mostly read poetry by the best West African writers as well as William Blake or Shakespeare. I’ve always been a hip hop head as well as Langston Hughes and Gil Scott Heron fan. I have introduced many to the art and it’s worthwhile to see others make global marks now. Writing to me is a way of life and a design similar to painting or graffiti without the brush or spray can.
Q. How many years have you been at this professionally?
A. I have been doing it over a decade as a hobby sort of, but professionally I’d say give or take 3 years. In senior high, I submitted a poem for a world poetry competition and won a nomination as International Best Amateur Poet in 2002. In 2004, I wrote for the Gazette Editorial Board in school, read my poems on Radio Univers weekly and for the first time, performed on stage at the University of Ghana.
Q. Do you have any spoken word piece out?
A. I have several spoken word audios out and these can be freely accessed and downloaded on Soundcloud as well as videos from my live performances on Youtube . I realized the industry had a deficiency of diverse sorts of poetry audios so I started recording and compiling works by fellow poets from Ghana and abroad.
Q. Which events have you performed at?
A. I have performed at numerous shows and venues; from Alliance Francaise, Ehalakasa, Alewa, National Theatre, Jive, 4Change, Republic Osu events in Accra to Le Mandingue in Lome and honoured to have shared the stage with the late Prof. Kofi Awoonor, Dahveed Nelson of the Last Poets, Sarah Kay, Paul D. Rodgers, Manchilde, Afro Moses, Atongo Zimba, Gyedu Blay Ambulley, Royal Hartigan, Onaje Murray, Nii Ayikwei Parkes, Mariska Taylor-Darko, just to mention a few.
Q. What are the topics/issues you address in your pieces?
A. I have always admired the Adinkra-spirited history and art of Sub Saharan Africa. My writing is mostly in touch with relevant ideologies in connection with the baggage of history of the African. I use writing as a tool for creative activism also because I live in a society where corruption is the order of the day and development is at a snail pace. I write freely and unrestricted about everything; love, life, culture, society, politics, media, etc. I also write fiction when my imaginary mind takes my hand.
Q. Does it pay being a Spoken word artist?
A. Robert Graves once said ‘There’s no money in poetry, but there’s no poetry in money, either.’ In Ghana, some artists live off the art but I can’t tell if they make their money solely off that. For me, it pays to a certain extent but first comes the passion. It is still in its growing stages as compared to other art forms which have been practiced over the past decades. Good thing is, it is catching up very quickly and there are events every week in Accra especially. Event organizers should put poets on the same pedestal as they do performing ‘celebs’ due to the fact that poets do not mime their works and a lot of work goes into that as well as producing informative and educative pieces for this generation and progeny.
Q. What do you do aside spoken word?
A.I founded and manage Inkfluent which organizes events and workshops especially that for poetry. Inkfluent is also a talent management and record production company; producers of the series of spoken word compilations called Vocal Portraits. I do music journalism for Goethe South Africa’s Music in Africa project. I was recently longlisted for Golden Baobab’s Children’s Literature prizes 2014 so I’m even more inspired to write and do illustrations for children. I am as well working with a few friends to build a social media management powerhouse.
Q. Do you think Spoken word has a following in Ghana?
A.Yes it does! With reference to the large crowds that gather at each and every spoken word event and the thousands of listeners who tune in to weekly radio poetry shows. It is still a growing art form but the following is growing at a fast pace every day.
Q. Future plans?
A. The future is enormous. My pen will never be still. I want to further my education in the science field and employ my creative sense innovatively. I want to work in connection with the environment and community development at some point in time. I have a long list of plans and try to motivate myself each day because whatever has to be done is always by choice. I am very ambitious and look to achieve loads. It’s fun!