For over 13 years now, Brian Oundo alias Janabi Puth Rambaka has known nothing but poetry.
To him, poetry is not just an hobby but a lifestyle.
Janabi, a luo word used to refer to a prophet believes he is sent by God to foretell the future and what has happened through words.
The two faced creative is not only a spoken word artist but also a poet.
I knew I was to be here for only a few days, but when I visited the lake, I fell in love with it and I have never left since that dayJanabii
Who is Janabii?
Janabii was born in Mombasa and bred in Kisumu.
He grew up in Mombasa until he was 3 and then moved with his parents, both chefs, to Nairobi.
He stayed there until form four and later came to Kisumu for a visit.
“I knew I was to be here for only a few days, but when I visited the lake, I fell in love with it and I have never left since that day,” he said.
Is there a meaning to your poetry, something one can listen to and translate at the same time?Janabi
How did you get started as a poet?
Janabii started off as a rapper in 2010.
“When I came to Kisumu, I felt that they would not understand my rap style so I decided to speak my lines instead of rapping them,” he narrates.
That is where it all began.
Unlike the rap world where people were more into rhymes and punchline, in spoken word it was more of people having a chance to listen to one’s art.
Janabii adds: “Is there a meaning to your poetry, something one can listen to and translate at the same time.”
Poetry After Lunch
After finding his niche, together with other poets, Janabii started to create stages for other creative minds.
This gave birth to talent industry, doing open poetry events and later Poetry After Lunch (PAL) in 2013.
“Together with Kenneth B, the founder of PAL Nairobi, we had a session and while jamming, came up with the idea,” he recalls.
According to Janabii, compressing his life in poetry is not easy.
Being the PAL coordinator in Kisumu county, he says they provide a stage for upcoming poets to get mentorship and opportunities.
“People meet, have lunch together and then do poetry,” he said.
When it started, donours used to bring food that they would share having talks with the street kids around the lake area.
Luck finds you along the path, you have to work towards being successfulJanabi
Take us through the process of writing your poems
“I do conscience poetry, which I consider spiritual,” he says.
Poetry to him, he says, is a religion with the stage, being his altar.
While growing up, locally he admired Kitusiwa and Juliani.
He also listened to a lot of Tupac and Bob Marley.
“Most of my legends are in reggae and hiphop music,” he cheerfully recalls.
To achieve much in the industry, he reiterates that it takes time, hardwork and everyday practice.
He furthers: “Luck finds you along the path, you have to work towards being successful.”
Speaking about poetry and employment, Janabii says it pays when the right talent meets hardwork.
Through his career, he has won a number of awards that helped put him in the global map.
In 2013 he won the Lake Basin Award for best poet.
This was followed by the KTCA award in 2014 which he says propelled him into doing better.
In 2016 and 2018, Janabii was awarded the contested UNESCO ambassadorship which he holds todate.
Poetry as a Curriculum
Janbii worked as a teacher of Poetry and Arts at Sapphire academy.
During that period, he used to do trainings for school music and drama festivals.
Right now, he has changed the direction, majoring into writing Luo poems.
“I am trying to figure out a way to engage poetry in schools as an official curriculum,” asserts the PAL coordinator.
Through the new initiative, Janabii hopes he will re-incorporate the use of local poetry in school.
Furthermore he says: “It is sad that in schools when we are taught poetry, we have to read poems from Nigeria and yet we have poets here in Kenya, that, should change.”
Hopefully, he works to seeing the day when in the curriculum, teachers will use likes of Grace Ogot, Oyoo Mboya and Naomi Githinji’s works to teach.
We link them to become brand ambassadors , perform in contest and develop ads for products and in return get paidKennedy Odongo
To what extent do you think talent influence one’s career?
According to Kennedy Odongo, alias Kenneth B, a talent development officer at Kenya Cultural Officer KCC and founder PAL Nairobi, it is time for spoken word industry to be given the limelight it deserves.
Odongo said they work with upcoming spoken word artists, spot them, network them with seasoned poets and link them to connections that push the agenda.
“We have devolved PAL to county levels to help identify local talents hidden outside the vicinity of town centres,” notes Odongo.
Spoken word industry as at now is very much impressed by the younger generation, he says.
Adding: “That is why we don’t want to leave them behind, so we work to ensure that the industry brings money to the pockets of the poets.”
They have partnered with organizations that use poetry to drive their agenda objectively towards economic stability.
“We link them to become brand ambassadors , perform in contest and develop ads for products and in return get paid.”
Together with Kenya National theatre and KCC, PAL movement now covering Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, seeks to identify and support young upcoming artists through regional auditions.
In his remarks, Odongo says: “In spoken word poetry our objective is not focused on the numbers, but the weight of the lyrics.”