Nairobi Poetry

I was lucky enough to spend January 2011 in Nairobi. I was staying with my friend Diana Awino, music publicity guru to kenyan stars like Juliani. It was my 3rd time in Kenya and I was so impressed with the poetry scene there. Here’s a round up of what I got up to.

I first hooked up with Sitawa after asking Botswana poet, Andreattah Drea Chuma, who performed at Glastonbury 2010, if she had any Kenyan poetry connections.

Sitawa and Ngwatilo

Sitawa Wafula met up with me and gave me the low down on poetry events and the vibrant Nairobi poetry scene. She ran a series of poetry workshops in Jan at The King’s Element near Nakumatt Junction. There I got to meet Blaze, event organiser power house of Nairobi. He saw me perform at Sitawa’s workshop and he asked me to perform at Wapi .

I also got to meet Ngwatilo who has a great book, Blue Mothertongue. I also met Fuse a Sheng poet with a great flow and style that you can enjoy even if you dont understand most of it.

Sitawa was keen to organise an event to feature me so we asked Ngwatilo and Fuse to join us and Nairobi meets London was born.

Hisia Zangu

My first performance at a poetry night in Kenya was Hisia Zangu on Saturday 22nd 2011. Sadly I was a bit late after fretting about having no one to go with and having to get a taxi. However I was so glad I made it to the Bowling Green! I used to live in a bowling green and had some poetry nights there around the fire and Hisia had a fire too! I saw some great poets including El Poet whose complicated multiple rhymes really floored me!

The night was hosted by Kevin Orato and Namastsi Lukoye, both great poets and it was their fourth monthly event. There was at least 150people there, on a Saturday! It was all open mic with great performances form Nemesisi , Mwangi , Checkmate, Kaffy, Monaja Monj, Charles Lwande, Julia DouglasKuni Mbichi,
Tear Dropsand loads more that I cant remember but you can check out my pics from the night on my Facebook

I performed some pieces I had written for a Kenyan audience including Single Story,and Training Ground/Conspiracy Theory, one about Ireland whcih went down really well!

here’s a video of me performing it at Nariobi meets London, it kind of explains a bit of my Nairobi poetry journey

Me and Juliani at the listening party

That day I had also helped Diana Awino do a listening party at HomeBoyz Radio for Juliani’s new Album Pulpit Kwa Streets. The previous weekend we also did a photoshoot on a very tall Nairobi building for Juliani’s album art work with acclaimed phootgraper Emmanuel Jambo

Diana Awino, Abbi and me

Through Diana Awino I also got to meet two of Kenya’s biggest music stars. Abbi and Emmanual Jal, (who I independently from Diana, met years ago) who was in town on his way to Juba to vote in the Sudanese referendum. You can see more pics here

Diana Awino also got me two interviews on HomeBoyz Radio, one with Sitawa, interviewed by Amina. Then I did a full show with Jack Omondi on his show My Bloc.

Nairobi Star

Sunday Nation

The East Afircan Standard

Diana got me coverage in the Nairobi Star, The Standard and The Daily Nation. She is a great publicist and we have gone into business together. Watch this space for got U&I (our new company) ar eup to and get in touch with Di to avail of her talents and contacts!

I also went to a great night without poets called Paragasha on 25th Jan 2011

My second poetry event was Barstool @ Giggles 26/01/11, hosted by Oliver Mathenge . I was already starting to see soem familiar faces and feeling very welcomed in the poetry scene, pics here

I also recorded a tract with Miggy MC and his great producer in Eastlands, maybe you’ll hear me rapping on Kenayn radio sometime!

On Sat 29th Jan 2011, it was time for WAPI, I had heard a lot about this event and it lived up to expectations. Its an all day Hip hop extravaganza like I’ve never seen before. My guess is about 2000 people, its all free but artists get paid. There was live graffiti, a cypher, packed open mic, hip hop dancing from some Swedish Ladies,  MC Benady , Fuse and loads more, you can see my pics here

Then it was straight on to Wamathai, at Secrets lounge, organised by the great James Wamathai. It was a packed out Saturday night, with easily 200 people in the room and a host of brilliant open mic poets and featured musicans pics here

Sitawa at Nairobi Meets London

And then for my penultimate performance at my very own show, Nairobi meets London hosted by Sitawa . It featured great performances from Ngwatilo and Fuse , open mics from the great and the good of the Nairobi poetry scene. I was also very touched at the how many people came and how warm the audience was, pics here and vids on my you tube .

Last but not least was Kwani, an inspirational ‘Kenyan based literary network dedicated to developing quality creative writing and committed to the growth of the creative industry through the publishing and distribution of contemporary African writing, offering training opportunities, producing literary events and establishing and maintaining global literary networks. Their vision is to create a society that uses its stories to see itself more coherently.’

They run a monthly night at Club Soundd, a great venue again great open mics and a feature from the man of many names, one of them being Nemisis . I really enjoyed performing at Kwani Open Mic and will have the video soon! Sadly I had to run out the door half way through to catch my plane!

A big Thank you to everyone in Kenya for making my experience there amazing and apologies to anyone I left out! Its nothing personal there was just so much going on!


8 Responses to Nairobi Poetry

  1. kaffy says:

    welcome back an time love,it was a blessing having you here,you stirred up loads of positive attitudes towards poetry here in KENYA.dont be a stramger,you family.

    • catbrogan says:

      asante sana for you karibu blessings. singing the Kenyan national anthem today and thinking of my kenyan home. I’m sure i’ll find a way back son. keep positive and keep in touch.

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention Nairobi Poetry | Catherine Brogan --

  3. kauchii says:

    i loved the piece you did at @Barstool. twas awesome. Welcome back anytime.

  4. Mambo says:

    I am a poet,but not a performing one,because i have no idea how to go about it!tell me ,how do you go about oratory in a way tat is entertaining to the audience?especially considering that a poem isn’t a song you can sing,or a play you can act?

  5. Geekay nungari says:

    I have loved the page everything happens for a reason.How do i get to be a part of these n perform too,or how do i get to show what i can do?.

  6. jessica hayoun says:

    Hi Catherine,
    I am innairobi looking for places to read poetry. I know you were a while back, but doyou have any suggestions as to the best places that offer beginner readings? Or people/ websites I should contact?
    Thanks foryour help And for this awesomeblog… helpful!

    • catbrogan says:

      Hi Jessica, Thanks for getting in touch. This was all a year ago so i’m sure the Nairobi scene has moved on since then. Would be great if Nairobi people could update the post as a lot of people come across this post. I stay connected with the Nairobi poetry scene on Facebook and twitter, find me on there and i’ll hook you up

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