Wednesday, April 25, 2012

poetry is music

The Harare International Festival of the Arts ( HIFA ) is on again this May 1 - 6 in Zimbabwe. My band  sonic-slam-chorus  is on stage, Thursday 9th at the 7 Arts theatre, I'm looking forward to merging poetry with music for this year's set. Remember we don't get to see each other much because almost every member lives in a different country and we are literally spread country across 3 or 4 continents depending what time of the year it is. Thank you email and Skype.

Speaking of poetry and its music, there is a Sunday morning radio show in Botswana that's been on for a number of decades called 'dipina le maboko' quite literally 'music and poetry' and it features a number of the old poets/ folk artists who almost always merged music with their poetry. In a sense, for them, you couldn't really claim to separate the two, and instruments like the 'segaba' - a kind of home made violin, and 'setinkane' popularly known by its Zimbabwean name Mbira/thumb piano were a big part of the poetry performances. I say performance because traditionally the poet would have gone out of his way to wear some sort of special leather attire fashioned just this purpose and perhaps carry a horse-tail whisk and deliver his poetry in quite a vocally dramatic manner, accompanied by a woman whose duty was to 'cheer' him, or the poem, on through ululating each time he encouraged her through pauses or instruction to do so. In addition to this he (to begin with women would not have been allowed to recite poetry on public platforms, rather they were expected to tell folk stories to children around the evening fire - thank progress for the current inclusiveness of the craft now) at any rate, the poet would never write the poems down, simply composing them in his head until he had them just right or much like some modern day rappers compose the poem as he went along in front of his audience.There are still a number of poets who honour this tradition and it is quite a thing to behold.

Me, I like to sit with the words on a page first. And then find a stage. And if the story leaves room for the music to rise above the words, then we can talk. Hope to see you in Harare.

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