Poetry needs a good ear and depth in understanding. It seems like the community of good listeners in Nairobi has increased judging from the 60th edition of Slam Africa’s attendance. On 13th March 2016 Alliance Française was packed with an energetic audience ready to watch poets battle for the title of the 60th Slam King or Queen.
The competition started off with nine poets taking turns to deliver their poems. The masters of ceremony, Goofy and Devine, helped facilitate the breaks and transitions between artiste performances and the competition. Their chemistry and love-hate relationship on stage kept the audience entertained.
Rash band, a Kenyan rock band, was among the acts that performed as we waited for the judges’ verdict on which poets made it to the next round. Their performance was far from ordinary. They used three guitars and a drum set to wow the audience with their rock set, something Kenyans are not as exposed to-at least live.
During the competition, some poets were set back by their poor use of the microphone and ended up being too loud which turned out to be irritating. However four poets; Becky, Kalamu ya Mshairi, K-9 and Saisi stood out and made it to the final round.
Becky, the only female finalist, was open in her pieces. She wasn’t afraid to express herself even in matters rarely spoken of in her speech, body language and tonal variation especially in her poem where the persona was a sex addict.
KYM (Kalamu ya Mshairi) engaged the audience with his energy and wit. He referred to himself as the “writer of the palms” in one of his pieces which he used his hands in storytelling. K-9, who was also good at storytelling, used satire well in his piece for the ladies. Saisi’s body use in his performances kept people listening and watching as well as his sense of imagination which showed through his facial expressions.
This edition of Slam Africa had a slot for tag teams of poets to compete as well. Romeo and Juliet stood out with their involvement in their piece, exquisite characterization and adorable chemistry in a story of love that never was. They brought down two other teams, one whose piece was flawed by missing lines which brought down the team’s performance.
Nasara the poet and Young Noiz put up one of the best beat box performances I have ever seen in Kenya. The kept the audience asking for more as the judges tallied the poets’ points for the last round. Young Noiz even played the harmonica while beat boxing awing us all. He got us laughing when had to stop in the middle of his breathy performance to sip water. The duo’s performance was fresh and captivating.
Tension rose when time came to know the winner. All finalists performed very well but Kalamu ya Mshairi emerged the 60th Slam King which seemed to please most of the audience. May the Slam culture continue.