SPOTLIGHT: AN INTERVIEW WITH MUTOMBO DA POET
MUTOMBO DA POET is a recognized name within the Ghanaian art scene; first as a spoken word artist, a photographer, an occasional rapper and sometimes an actor (he made cameos in Coz Ov Moni Pt 1 & 2). For many, Mutombo is one of the leading contemporary poets whose untiring efforts has helped push spoken word poetry from obscurity to visibility: making spokenword an interesting and very patronized event in Ghana.
Culartblog caught up with Mutombo Da Poet and asked him a few questions about the spoken word scene, the journey thus far, life and fatherhood.
Your involvement with poetry in Ghana is widely known. You can be described as a veteran. What made you choose poetry (spoken world) over other genres and how did it start for you?
I love the arts, every art form, especially music. I used to rap in Secondary School for the fun of it. Literature was a subject as well, so I knew what poetry was. But spoken word started for me way after school when I watched Def Poetry for the first time. I was writing before then but wasn’t taking it seriously. Watching that video motivated me to start writing on a serious note, it gave me the vim.
You once described yourself as someone who helped build the foundation of today’s spoken word scene. Others consider you the pioneer who set the template. Are you being modest in taking the credit for the growing of the genre?
There were spoken word acts before I came through. I know of Sir Black who was doing it before I came through but he wasn’t that active. The difference I brought was performing from open mic spots to public events, and don’t forget, these events were filled with only rappers. I was the first spoken word act to perform side by side with these rappers. So it makes sense when people see me as the pacesetter or pioneer or whatever. I don’t let that get in my head though because I’m not solely responsible, even though I contributed immensely, and because the job isn’t half done.
Are you proud of where the genre is at present? Is that what you envisaged when you started performing?
I knew spoken word was eventually going to get the attention it deserves. It was a dead artform when I started and I remember how I used to get frustrated because there were no avenues for spoken word poetry but I knew things would happen eventually. It’s better now but I feel it could have been way better if poets were united in Ghana. Everybody is doing what they can to contribute but I think if we were one, if there was a union of some sort, spoken word would have been up there with for example, hiplife.
What can be done to move it forward?
Like I said in my previous answer, there should be unity amongst poets, there should be a union of some sort. The government also has a role to play. Art is essential in the growth of a country, therefore should be given attention. Spoken word/poetry is an art form too, in case they didn’t know.
Your album PhotoSentences was released in 2012. You’ve been releasing singles afterwards. Are there plans to release a second? (If yes when. If No, why)
Photosentences did very well and I thank everyone who bought a cd and all those who attended the shows. I intend to put out a project this year. I don’t know if it’s right to call it an album, but yeah, something is coming out this year. I also plan to put out a track and a video every month starting from February 2016.
Your recently released single ‘Father Figure’ focused on fatherhood. You promised your son to be a better father to him. What inspired that piece and why that particular theme of Fatherhood?
I wrote Father Figure in a couple of hours whilst looking at my wife’s tummy that is where I got the inspiration. My son, who wasn’t born then, inspired that piece and it’s dedicated to him. Some of us didn’t have fathers and being a father is a great feeling and experience,
How much has marriage and fatherhood affected your life and choices?
I did some things related to spoken word in 2015 but it wasn’t enough for me. 2015 was dedicated to my family; wife (new marriage), pregnancy and a new baby, so I didn’t really have time for my art. 2016 is going to be different. Marriage is a beautiful thing, now, it’s not just about me, I think before taking some decisions, I love every moment of life right now.
You engage a lot on social media and through your blog posts. Some of your posts have been described by a section as controversial especially those with political or social tones. Are such posts and tweets to solicit a debate or it’s you being frustrated by the system?
I created all my social media channels to communicate with my fans/friends and also to share my views. I am not out to look for arguments or debates even though some of my posts have caused that. I basically always want to share my thoughts and free my mind on issues that prick my conscience, whether political, social or cultural.
Is the Ghanaian youth a docile being in your view? One who who talks on social media but won’t get involved to demonstrate or protest against an issue?
I give up on the youth of Ghana. There is no hope for us. No one is willing to take a step, no one is ready to take action. Let’s talk about other important things, Swaye, let’s talk about important things.
Your were in the US last year to perform. Was the trip a way of selling yourself/craft to the rest of the world? Any outcomes from your trip fans should know?
I decided to use last year to relax, spend time with family and study the scene, not just in Ghana but also across the borders. I chose to visit America out of all the countries because I knew spoken word was big there. I basically went to meet other poets, to perform and also to collaborate in the future. I made some great contacts and let’s just wait and see what happens.
Does poetry pay in Ghana? And what should a poet do to be good?
Currently, no one can survive on doing poetry. I did that for so many years and I had to change my mind. Poetry doesn’t pay at all so my advice to poets is for them to have other jobs on the side. That is the best way forward. And to be good, you have to keep on writing. Simple.
You currently host the Department Of Sound Podcast. What is the inspiration behind it?
My inspiration is my almost 20 years of listening to the BBC constantly. The podcast is my attempt at curating everything from arts, politics to social issues; love issues and many more. I’m trying to get people from different spheres to share their thoughts on their area of expertise. Currently there are Six (6) podcast -mostly interviews with some amazing artistes, producers and professionals. It’s available for free downloads
Listen to Department of Sounds on Soundcloud
follow @mutombodapoet on twitter.
Visit his instagram page Fotombo