Her words are insightful, thought provoking and her expression of them is passionate to say the least. Raya Wambui, a young spoken word enthusiast and poet is a definite jack of all trades. She is a mother, poet, entrepreneur and activist. You may even remember her from her moving performance at the Garissa concert at Uhuru Park. Her bold move into holding the torch for spoken word in Kenya is clear for all to see. We got to talk to her to find out more on her and the Ubuntu fireplace event going down this May 9th;
Varcity: You are such a jack of all trades, an entrepreneur, a poet, a writer and an activist. Which is your greatest passion among them?
Raya: That’s tricky, I think I’d say poetry, just because it has least incentive other than passion.
Varcity: When did you fall in love with poetry?
Raya: Falling in love with poetry is one of the first things I did in my life. Dr. Seuss books, Especially ‘The Lorax’ inspired me from that time,
“Unless someone like you, cares a whole awful lot, Nothings going to get better, its not.”
That verse is my clearest, earliest memory.
Varcity: What inspires your poetry?
Raya: By expressing truth, we face the present for what it is and actively record history. Only in facing what is wrong, can we start fixing it.
Varcity: When was you first performance and which was your favorite performance?
Raya: My first big performance was for The Carnivore Star Search. My favorite performance was for The Spoken Word Project at Imax, on that day, I felt the realest, deepest connection with my audience. I really felt that the reasons I wrote Define And Conquer was communicated. It felt like the right thing, at the right time.
Varcity: You have a blog, how do you come up with the content?
Raya: My blog is very sporadic, as is my writing, I don’t add to it just to add on to it. I only add to it when I really want to share something. I know it’s not ideal marketing, but it’s more about creativity than publicity.
Varcity: To write poetry and speak spoken word, you need to put your heart on your sleeve and give it to the world, did you find that easy? If not, how long did it take you to speak in front of people?
Raya: It isn’t easy, especially when crowds are not already super receptive. People can be judgmental. What you have to remember is to find the balance between humility and confidence. Then, speak to people as though they are people, because, they are.
Varcity: Your words are so deep and intricately thought out, what is your writing process? How long does it take to come up with a piece?
Raya: That varies greatly. When I work on specific projects, I do allot of research, I try not to overlook the audience’s perspective or the facts. Then I try to arrange the words to say as much as possible, in as little words as possible. Other more emotional poems just come out of the pen, when I least expect them. At least 70% of everything I write is just practice and doesn’t turn out to be anything I share. I try to share only my best work.
Varcity: As a poet, what are the challenges that you face in the industry or rather, what challenges have you faced to be able to even get a platform for your work?
Raya: Currently, there are a lot of platforms, just Facebook search spoken word, and the city you’re in. The trouble is, to sustain the art form, there should be a way for dedicated poets to be able to live on poetry. That way, we can keep getting better, as a part of oral culture.
Varcity: What can be your advice to young poets out there??
Raya: The industry is still developing, so it takes allot of sacrifice on the artists parts. So, if you’re an aspiring poet, keep your day job, we all still have a long way to go. People shouldn’t think that most prominent poets can actually survive on poetry, it’s rarely the case. Read widely, watch widely, practice like crazy, every performance you do will never be rewound. Give every poem, and every performance everything you’ve got. Go for Eminem’s Lose Yourself approach. It’s ok to be scared to jump on stage, but that means you’re doing something important, so jump anyway.
Varcity: What are willing to achieve with your poetry? What is the reason you wake up every day and still hold a pen to coin up another wonderful piece of spoken word?
Raya: The sky is the limit. If one day I could get a Nobel prize, I would die happy.
Varcity: Did you face a lot of discouragement as you ventured into poetry?
Raya: Oh yes, but the people who were doing it out of concern for my future, fearing I was not being serious, are now proud of me. So, sticking to it has been worth it.
Varcity: Spoken word can almost be described as a song, have you ever considered song writing? If so, why.
Raya: I really appreciate and respect musicians, it is just a different art form, and the one that I want to perform is spoken. I like to speak to people, without giving the opportunity to nod your head to the beat and zone out. J I like every word to have a specific purpose, and that is best delivered and appreciated without music. I’m not against doing a collaboration though. The art forms are different and from the same soul.
Varcity: Some people view spoken word as boring. What would you say to them to change their minds?
Raya: One of my poems. I would select one that on a topic that’s most likely to interest them. I have lots in my head, and it’s a great way to challenge my content, delivery and skill.
Varcity: Who is your all-time favorite poet?
Raya: Maya Angelou. Her words spoke for her time, for her generation and for her race, consequently its message is universal. Next time you feel like the world is ending, Read or watch Still I Rise, and tell me you don’t feel better when you’re done.
Varcity: You have an event on May 9th, Ubuntu fireplace. It is a Bob Marley tribute. Is he an inspiration for you? If so, why?
Raya: Bob Marley stood for a better tomorrow; he too spoke for his time, for his place and for the struggles that fell under them. Because of that, he is also universal. Truth is universal. The best artists’ works, translate to all places and all times, and to do that they have to be true about their own spaces and times.
Varcity: We’re excited to hear what you will perform. Care to give us a sneak peak on what it’ll be about?
Raya: For Me, Bob Marley’s spirits of passive resistance and of inspiring social change are ideals I live by. So the pieces I will perform will be in line with those ideals, only representing my time and my country.
Varcity: What do you do in your spare time when you are not writing or performing?
Raya: I spend time with my daughter, she’s growing so fast and she inspires me and motivates me to do all I can to make this world a better place for her to grow up in.
Her grace and creativity is definitely something that leaves many wanting to hear more. You will have a chance to listen to her live at the Ubuntu Fireplace. Here is a sample of her work;
The Ubuntu Festival will be held at the Kuona Arts Centre from 6pm. Keep it Varcity to see how the event will go down.