THE Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja was agog on Friday, July 6, 2012 as performance poets from across the country gathered at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel for Nigeria’s first ever National Poetry Slam Competition. In the last six years, the Abuja Literary Society (ALS) has held a quarterly poetry feast, popularly known as the Abuja Poetry Slam. Its consistency and success culminated in the partnership with The African Poet Organisation (TAPO).
Gradually, poetry slam is becoming a popular, peer-judged poetry competition in the country, wherein poets are judged for content and rendition. Judges are selected randomly from the audience with the mandate to grade contestants.
Members of the audience have also shown tremendous interest in poetry slams, as they feel both entertained and enriched by the quality of poetry and presentation.
The ALS has the credit of popularising this poetic showpiece in the federal capital territory.
In its six years of existence, the Abuja Poetry Slam has successfully attracted hundreds of followers, that anxiously look forward to it every other quarter. Halima Ali, then a youth Corps member serving in the FCT, won the first edition of the slam in April 2006. Other winners include Dexmankind, Ford Manuel, Storyteller, Ekene Atusiubah, Prince Toby, Gospel Emakuno, Lady Ifueko and Simon Abiodun, the SlamMaster, Mr. Ken Ike Okere.
Apart from the quarterly contests, there is also a grand slam every December with Ekene Atusiubah, a.k.a Poet for Life and Reward Enakerakpor a.k.a. Storyteller emerging winners in 2006 and 2007 respectively.
And they war with words
THE competition, no doubt, lived up to its billing, with contestants from Anambra, Kogi, Imo, Enugu, Nassarawa, Lagos, Kaduna, Niger, Jos and Abuja slugging it out for the N100,000 grand price and recording deal at stake for the eventual winner.
It was not an evening to forget in a hurry as the more than 35 contestants gave life to their words to make it more interesting, inviting and participatory.
The poetry, the lyrics, the dramatisation and vocal manipulation on display were remarkable. For the audience, it was a refreshing and fun-filled experience.
The trio of Okpe Roberts, Joseph Liman (Decipher) and Poetic Oracle from Jos shone like morning star. While Okpe and Poetic Oracle tilted more towards the hedonistic gangtsa rapper’s style, Joseph Liman wowed his audience with his pitch and timbre in the ‘flow’ style, which makes use of rhythms and rhymes.
While Rasak Ivori from Kogi State became the toast of the audience with his message, delivered in a mixture of English and Naija Langwej (pidgin), and touching on such prevalent issues like kidnapping, electricity and the amnesty program, his sing-song approach, which allows the audience perform along with him, stood him out. Victoria, one of the youngest participants in the slam, came with so much promise and swagger which, of course, was good enough to earn her the semi-final berth.
Uche Uwadinachi will return to Lagos with his head held high. He held the packed audience spellbound with his dramatised performance. He could best be described as revolutionary, and a good ambassador of Lagos.
The final stage of the contest featured three former champions of the Slam in Simon Abiodun, Lady Fex, Storyteller and Dike Chukwumerije, along with Poetic Oracle (Jos), Uche Uwadinachi (Lagos) and Skye Amajoh (Abuja).
And the winner is...
AFTER three rounds of three minutes each in the first two rounds and two minutes in the final round, former Slam Champion, Dike Chukwumerije, representing Abuja, emerged the first National Poetry Slam Champion, beating the duo of Lady Fex and Uche Uwadinachi to the coveted plaque, a recording deal and N100,000 cash prize.
Interestingly, Nigeria featured prominently at the slam contest, as it became the thematic pre-occupation of more than 80 percent of the poets throughout the three rounds of the contest.
On the way to victory, Chukwumerije presented three poems. ‘Because I’ve Got A Blackberry’, a critique of the erosion of values in the modern world; how technological advancement should not detract from the need for decency, kindness, nobility and commonsense. ‘I Think I Just Lost Something’, a love poem, which speaks to Nigeria and Nigerians.
The third poem, You and Me, is a poem about how Nigerians like to blame the devil for the ills in society and look to God for solutions whereas the causes are man-made. The poem drew warm reaction from both the judges and audience, which, of course, earned him the prize. A loud ovation that came in the wake of his rendition, as the audience trouped out in large numbers to appreciate the poet.
Chukwumerije (or Dike, as he is commonly called) graduated with a law degree from the University of Abuja. He is based in Abuja and is presently a PR practitioner. He published his first collection of poems in 2007, titled The Revolution Has No Tribe and a second collection a year later, titled Ahamefula. He has also published two works of non-fiction, Strategic Love: Simple Rules That Make Love Work (2008) and One Nigeria: The Birth and Evolution of an Idea (2011). He has two works of fiction, The African American (2011) and Urichindere (2012). He is already working on a third collection of poems, On My Way To Azure Shores.
“I started writing at a very young age and enjoys writing poetry, especially. My elder brother, Che, was my inspiration. I copied everything he did, right down to his handwriting! Apart from that, I found that because I was so young, nobody really wanted to hear my thoughts about things! So, I took to writing thems down. And I stuck with it over the years,” he recalled shortly after he was declared winner.
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