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The best kept secret in music


http://www.chimurenga.co.za - Chimurenga Online



Calabash: Afrobeat Poems by Ikwunga Vol.1:
Ikwunga’s debut; Calabash is a concept album that pioneers a new and authentic dimension to Afrobeat, defines Afrobeat poetry and how it should be presented, and remains true to a literary work of art. Calabash Vol.1 introduces the confluence of a new spoken word (Afrobeat poetry), a new contemporary Afrobeat (produced by Dele Sosimi) with a distinguished modern-day African art and graphic design (illustrations for the poems by Chima Eze and Graphic/Album design by Geoffrey Olisa). The album is truly a collector’s item. Already inching up the World Music Charts, Calabash has set the gold standard for a sub-genre of spoken word/Afrobeat, and how it should be presented.

Ikwunga featured on the Afrobeat Sudan Aid Project Compilation:
It is an honor to contribute an Afrobeat poem (Di Bombs) to this noble cause that is geared to raise awareness and funds for the victims of the genocide in Darfur Sudan. Estimates place the number of lives lost at about a quarter of a million. This compilation under the auspices of Modiba Productions, TrueMajority and Apple computers is to be released on Apple’s iTunes in November, and features an eclectic collection of Afrobeat from top-notch Afrobeat artists like Antibalas, Akoya Afrobeat Ensemble, Dele Sosimi, Franck Biyong, Keziah Jones, Kokolo Afrobeat Orchestrea, Massak, Tony Allen, and Wunmi. Your support for this album goes directly towards making a positive change in the lives of fellow citizens of our global village. The album has already generated over $100,000 which has been sent to Sudan.

Ikwunga featured on the Essential Afrobeat Compilation:
The 3 CD Essential Afrobeat (Family Recordings/Universal Music) has been compiled by Dele Sosimi who joined Fela Kuti's band when he was 16 and became Fela's musical director by the age of 21. Sosimi has included classic tracks from all the main Afrobeat players (Fela Kuti, Femi Kuti, Tony Allen, Orlando Julius, Youssou N'Dour, Hugh Masekela, Salif Keita) plus more modern takes on it from Fatboy Slim, DJ Food and Knuf (the spanish Daft Punk and Funk spelt backwards to boot). The album is pure energy and pure party music, and is perhaps the very best compilation of organic Afrobeat yet. There is a Bonus Afrochill CD that contains more mellowed Afrobeat tracks from the likes of Antibalas, James Brown, Afro Dizz, Lijadu Sisters and Ikwunga. Ikwunga’s “I don love” rounds out this Afrochill CD with distinction.



The First Afrobeat Poet: Ikwunga

Ikwunga grew up in Port-Harcourt, Nigeria in a family that emphasized reading Western and African literature. His father was a tribal Chief, a philanthropist, and a famous West African poet graduate from the prestigious departments of Literature at the University of Nigeria, and the International Writers Workshop, University of Iowa. In elementary school, Ikwunga was a leader in the “Young Brains” television debate hosted by the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) Port-Harcourt and was the youngest member of Saint Paul’s Anglican Church Choir, Diobu, Port-Harcourt, a religious affiliation he would later renounce.

At this very young age, Ikwunga came to embrace the concept of “Negritude” and pan-Africanism that he read so much about in his father’s work, and literary collection. His secondary school years found him writing in school magazines. Subsequently, while undergoing the rigorous training of medical school, he co-formed the musical group called “What?” What? wrote their own songs, toured several Nigerian Universities, and recited beat-poetry in Pidgin English (unconventional innovations in the 80s Nigerian University music scene). What? songs had a socio-cultural message for African leaders and youth alike. The group was unrivalled as the underground leader in the Cultural Revolution that was occurring in Nigerian Universities at the time.

In the early nineties, Ikwunga featured a developing beat-poetry style that was significantly influenced by the traditional poetic styles of Okogbule Wonodi & Christopher Okigbo, by the dub-poets Linton Kwesi Johnson [LKJ] and Mutabaruka, and the beat-poets Gil Scott-Heron, and Allen Ginsburg. In a quest to further translate his influences and to make them even more relevant to the environment and culture in which he was immersed, he drew on another influence, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti and Afrobeat. Ikwunga did this and subsequently became a regular opening act for Femi Kuti at the Afrika Shrine night club in Lagos when, with the opportunity created by Dele Sosimi and Femi Kuti, he first incorporated Afrobeat into his evolving beat-poetry style.

The Calabash Vol.1 CD features 6 Afrobeat poems, and was released on October 14th as part of the 2nd Annual Fela Anikulapo-Kuti Birthday Concert at the London Brixton Fridge. The CD is released on the indie label, Rebisi Hut Records. Ikwunga delivered a brilliant performance of two Afrobeat Poems (ABPs) from Calabash Vo1.1 live with Dele Sosimi’s Afrobeat Orchestra. The African Liberation Support Campaign Network (ALISC Network) sponsored the event. For a new release, Calabash Vol.1 has already made an impressive entry into the Afrobeat enclave, with one track (I don love) featured in the “Essential Afrobeat” compilation by Universal Music Group (release- October 18th), and another track (Di Bombs) featured in the “Afrobeat Sudan Aid Project [ASAP]” compilation (Modiba Productions/TrueMajority & Apple iTunes: CD release-November 16). Since it’s release in Novermber, the ASAP compilation has raised over $100,000, which has been sent directly to Sudan to aid refugees of the genocide in Darfur.

While in London in October, Ikwunga was a Special Guest of BBC Network Africa with anchor Bola Musoru. During the 4 editions that featured tracks from Calabash CD, several listeners sent encouraging text messages welcoming the new poetic style and the socio-political content of the tracks. Go Slow, a poem that bridges mental illness with social commentary on the state of affairs in African Nation States was of particular interest to listeners. Callers were particularly interested in the advocacy of the Afrobeat Poet promising to stimulate a dialogue that would bring challenge the popularly held beliefs about mental illness in traditional African communities. The BBC interview and the grass roots mental illness awareness campaign to be launched by the poet have featured as headline news in Port-Harcourt and Lagos Nigeria, and has been received by many as a clarion call for changes that would allow Africans with mental illness ultimately have access to treatment without stigmatization.

Back in the U.S, on Monday December 6, Ikwunga interviewed on the VOA TV to Africa program “Healthy Living” where he focused on mental disorders in African communities. The weekly TV magazine (Healthy Living) is hosted by Josephine Kamara and is syndicated to TV stations in several African Countries. More recently (Dec 19th), Ikwunga was featured guest on the popular Pacifica Radio 89.3 FM show, Africa Meets Africa with Hostess Angelique Shofar.

A current interview of the Afrobeat Poet is published online in Chimurenga (http://www.chimurenga.co.za/), and is to be featured in the January edition of Sentinel Poetry Magazine.

Calabash Vol.1 is currently on sale at www.cdbaby.com/ikwunga, on my website www.rebisihut.com, www.afrodicia.com, and www.amazon.com . A track (Di Bombs) from Calabash Vol.1 is c