1. Tell us a little bit about the background of Mufasa, your childhood, how did you get into poetry/spoken word?
I started writing to keep myself company. Writing was my way of having a conversation for the many times I liked being alone. I had a skin condition in high school and a couple of family issues we were going through that I wanted to keep a secret. The thing with having a secret is, you have this urge to say something but you can’t, so I took it to paper. I wrote stuff first, just stuff, not necessarily poetry. Then it developed to poetry, and much later on I came across videos of spoken word poets on YouTube. The idea that people could sit, be quiet, to hear you express yourself, was mind-blowing for me. I felt like I needed that, I needed to step in front of people who didn’t know anything about me and just let myself blow up. So for the time I started performing, my pieces were very emotional, you can see that in the earlier TV interviews I had then. At this point I was just writing to breathe. Writing for myself. I’m at a better place now and while my poetry delves more into social justice issues now, I write about happy and funny things in life too.
2. What kind of poetry do you do, is it abstract, or what is it? Do you have a specific technique associated with your brand?
I would associate my poetry with free verse.
My writing creativity depends on how it comes to me naturally. There are no grounded rules like this should rhyme or what not. My end goal is for every piece to be relatable and for sense to come before style.
3. What are your artistic influences; poets, spoken word artists, or just people who inspire your writing/performance?
My writing inspiration comes from random sources, not just fellow performing poets. I get inspired by sermons in church, by lives of extraordinary human beings now or before like Patrice Lumumba, Malala Yusafzai and the late Wangari Maathai, I get inspired by relationships, between families, between couples…and my life experiences!
4. What challenges have you endured during your artistic journey?
Sharing the stage with hype musicians before a crowd that wants to dance and scream and jump is a challenge. I have had to craft my art to suite different times, different moments, different people, and sometimes I still come short.
Sometimes, especially when I had just started my journey in performance poetry, people belittle you before you open your mouth.
There is the case of big organizations asking you to perform pro bono because this is your passion, and they have no money because they used what they had to pay an expensive venue, hire a sound company, get a celebrity MC, hire food caterers…
Thing is, they get their salary at the end of the month and you share your passion with your landlord.
The other challenge we have, especially for those of us doing this full time, earning our living through performance poetry… Because poetry is quite recognized right now, many people want to jump into the train but sometimes people who are just doing this for fun, to pass time while they are in school or something, don’t take their time to understand and work on their craft, the end result of this is misrepresentation.
By the fact that spoken word is still new to a vast majority in the country, when an audience watches a spoken word poetry performance for the first time from someone who doesn’t understand or hasn’t mastered the craft, or who in this case isn’t really relaying or passing any message, they are likely not to show up at a performance poetry event when they hear of one.
5. Do you think there is a future in the Kenyan art industry for poets/spoken word artists?
Definitely there is a future! And I’m earning my living through it, something I wouldn’t have thought to be possible 4 years ago. Spoken word poetry will take over the country in the next few years. Spoken word poetry will not just raise artists; it will raise individuals, young people, who will be agents of change in the country.
6. If you had to change one thing in the Kenyan poet/spoken word industry what would that be?
The notion in many minds that a spoken word performance is supposed to be cheaper compared to other performance genres. We go deep into ourselves to write, far out of us to research, we prepare material that is entertaining, mindset-changing and relevant!
7. If you had a chance for an international work collaboration, who would it be and why?
Alysia Nicole Harris. Her soul is on fire and I like it when my soul burns too.
8. Do you have a favorite poetic piece, your crown jewel?
Every new piece is a jewel… Until I write another.
9. If you were not doing art what you would be doing?
My whole life is art! If I was not doing poetry, I would be fully into acting, if not music… Or somewhere in an office thinking about art.
10. Where do you see Mufasa in the next 10 years?
Globally renowned poet and ambassador for social justice.
11. Word of advice to aspiring poets/spoken word artists
Don’t work on your art to be like someone else, find your style, find your strength and be the best version of it. And don’t be comfortable with where you are, there is always room for growth.
12. Where can people buy your music/concert tickets/ or which clubs do you play in?
I have quarterly events. Follow me on social media, I share information of anything coming up there. And we can chat too!
Mufasa Poet (Facebook) @mufasapoet (Instagram/twitter)