Holiday season in Accra means lots of entertainment. Many Ghanaians come home from abroad to celebrate with their families, and after family obligations are sorted, clubs and music venues fill up for the year’s busiest party season. One of the best shows I had the pleasure of attending was the Indie Fuse concert, organized by Accra [dot] Alt at the Alliance Française. Many of Ghana’s more forward thinking artists teamed up on one stage, showing locals and visitors alike how lively and diverse Ghana’s sound is.
Among a slew of fantastic artists at Indie Fuse—Wanlov, Lil Shaker, Yaa Pono, E.L. (not a Google-friendly moniker, by the way), Efya, Jayso, Jojo Abot and countless others—Mutombo the Poet had his time to shine. More than his towering presence (the nickname Mutombo says it all), it was his meticulous delivery that kept the crowd in check. And seeing a spoken word performance with a live band, in Accra, was a rare pleasure for me, and one that justifies a little back story.
When we first sit down to chat, Mutombo tells me his first encounter with poetry was in high school, studying literature, Shakespeare and the like. “But that was kind of boring.” Yet after getting a bit more comfortable, he tells me, “poetry has been a part of our [Ghanaian] culture from time [immemorial].” It seems that when Ghanaians think of poetry, they think of Western, classic poetry, which tends to be presented in a disconnected, often inaccessible way, making it, in the end, pretty boring. However, poetry is as much a part of Ghanaian culture, but it is taken for granted and even ignored.
“Ghanaians’ perception is that poetry is SO BORING,” Mutombo says. “But they talk based on Shakespeare, etc. We have modernized this thing to fit their everyday life.” It is an art perceived as boring, but also an art that is hardly acknowledged, let alone known. Lots to work with! But rather than accept the fact that poetry is boring, Mutombo is taking matters into his own hands, creating his own kind of poetry that is rooted in every day life in Ghana, and adapting it onto music. That’s a cocktail I dare any Ghanaian to resist.
Download: Mutombo, “Sweet Memories”