But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
His shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
His wings are clipped and his feet are tied
So he opens his throat to sing.
(Maya Angelou; I know why a caged bird sings:)
That is a typical example of thought evoking scenarios when words can trigger the brain to start releasing more chemicals; especially if people are searching for that which is called destiny.
Unfortunately the story of one of Malawi’s greatest living sons, Qabaniso Malewezi, popularly known as Q, is not that of a caged bird, but hypothetically that of a free one which still sings and sings of his freedom in what it has found: poetry.
His, is not just mere page poetry; his is a breathing and living spoken word poetry resonating in the minds and of all ages in Malawi and beyond the seas. Through his poems, Q has shared his thoughts in platforms such as Poetry Africa, AfrWeka Poetry Festival, Harare International Festival of Arts, Word N Sound Poetry Festival and Lake of Stars Arts Festival.
He has also been featured on CNN’s African Voices, BBC Africa, NME Magazine and The Travel Channel just to showcase his international reach. Back home in 2015, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate for his contribution to the creative arts by Mzuzu University.
“It feels great. I am probably the youngest Malawian to receive such an award. It means a lot not just for me personally but for the creative sector. We are finally being celebrated for what we have contributed to this country and beyond,” said he.
And fast forward to 2016, his interaction with his home base fans and people in general made him think of making a poetry album for the people titled “People”. This not only added to his shelf of other two self-published poetry anthologies, The Road Taken, and the second one, a collection of short poems titled Little Discoveries, but also made him connect with people all over the world through his focus and window on the human experience as a whole.
“The title People is also the title of one of the poems on the album. It was simple and straight forward. The album is about the human experience. The good, the bad and the not so good. It simply explores who and what we are as people.
People talks about the obvious things we see every day, we read or watch on the news. The things we experience. I wanted to express the obvious in a simple yet sophisticated way. I also wanted to make poetry accessible to everyone.’’
Q has been also breaking grounds this year; because apart from making history at the Bingu convention Centre(BICC) at the launch of his first poetry album in April, he also shared stage with legendary Malawian poet, Okoma Atani Malunga, the man behind the most famous poem in the post millennia Malawi, Ndidzakutengera Kunyanja Ligineti.
Q has also blended with young bloods in the industry. One of them is the satirical poet Robert Chiwamba,whom he says their “exchange and time together has been ‘an incredible experience seeing both of them grow to household names’.”
That aside, the multi-gifted artist has also collaborated with a lot of musicians in the past and even at present mostly acoustic ones showcasing his multi-talented skill and why chasing dreams can be a reality or when that one has a vision multitasking is almost a myth.
“I featured two of my favorite musicians; Faith Mussa and Marlen Chimombo. They did an amazing job on the poems. I will also be performing at The Rotary International Convention in Atlanta in June next year.”
The spoken word maestro is also a business man, he is an event manager through his QConcept firm which he started with his wife. Though his firm, they have managed to organized some of the memorable entertaining shows in Malawi this year, including one featuring Ugandan celebrated comedian Annie Kansiime.
And talking of people who inspired him to start poetry, Q digs deep into his beginnings in the craft and even talks little of his poetic style.
“Chigo Gondwe-Chokani and Afurakan from SA are the people who really encouraged me to go all out. Each poem will have its own style and rules. I try to focus on both content and context. I try to be relevant and not cryptic unless that’s the intention,” he recalls
A former ,member of the Malawi’s Hip-Hop pioneering acts Real Elements, a cum musical producer Q’s musical humble identifiable character in not crowning himself despite the diamonds ushered upon him throughout his first half of his poetic career, even when criticism of why he mostly does his poetry in English comes through.
“I don’t place myself anywhere. I am an artist who loves his craft and is passionate about developing it. A good number of awards have come my way and I am grateful and deeply honored.”
“I have a long list of poets in Malawi that I admire. Those who stand out are Chris Msosa, Lily Banda, Phindu Banda and I recently came across a young lady from Chanco called Uchizi Manda. Internationally I would say my good friend from SA Vangile Gantsho, late Oscar Brown Jr, Alysia Harris and Joshua Bennet.”
“You can’t do everything so frankly I don’t let such comments affect me. I am a trained musician, songwriter and music producer. I studied that for over 6 years so it influences some of my poetry.’’
No! doubt every artist has best memories, and to a poet who has recited his original works in more than five public events before the Head of State and other dignitaries, he must have some time to reminisce of those moments.
“My Poetry Africa performance, my album launch at BICC and the CHANCO leg of the People Tour. In life I would say becoming a husband and a father, “he says
The poet man even has a message for those wanting to pursue poetry as a career, he says ‘Root your craft in your story, character etc. Only you are the best at being you.’
Plagiarism, piracy and maybe most recently copy/paste are the problems faced by poets who have a website himself: www.qmalewezi.com sells his work mostly on popular online sites like iTunes.
“I haven’t experienced it. I have however come across poets who have been heavily influenced by my work that I can hear myself in their work,” says Malewezi
Qabaniso Malewezi is a genius in spoken word who has a vision for his craft which is –
“To keep on rising, achieving, learning and relearning”
Poets need to appreciate poetry-Q