To celebrate our fifth year in the game, The Word N Sound Live Literature Company is bringing on a couple of changes. First of which is a brand new website. Keep up with all things poetry and what we are up to here.
Over the years the WNS stage has become a bucket list-worthy stage to perform on for poets and musicians alike.
It provides young, up and coming artists have a platform to showcase their unique, sometime eclectic sound to lovers of words and sounds.
We recently spoke to Masai Dabula [WNS Multimedia Manager, shareholder and former King of the Mic], Xongani Maluleka [affectionately known as Xongi, WNS Production Manager and Shareholder] and BlaQ2sday [one of the many awesome artists to have showcase on our stage], about their their individual Word N Sound experiences both on and off the stage.
How did Word N Sound hook you? What made you want to get involved as a shareholder?
Masai: It was a gradual transgression. I had to prove, in various ways, that I was worthy to be part of the team. The support was also immense, not to mention the vision Word N Sound has. The hook was initiated by Word N Sound’s objective to be the voice of Africa when it comes to literature, and why wouldn’t I take the shares… I am Word N Sound!
Xongi: I wanted to get involved as a shareholder because I wanted to form part of the biggest poetry movement in this country. It is a great pleasure to be part of one of a few black owned production companies in South Africa. Well Word N Sound wanted me; it chose me. Word N Sound is hooked on me… 😉
Besides being a poetry, performance and live literature experience like no other, Word N Sound challenges those who step onto its stage and into its boardroom to learn and grow in ways they have not done before.
We spoke to the ever eclectic BlaQ2sday about their Word N Sound experience.
BlaQ2day: Our first performance was intimidating, because Word N Sound was, at that time, the first show that was so on point. From the stage setup at the Market Theatre Lab, to the sound system and band instruments layout on stage, to the lighting and all those fancy things. We walked in there, we were happy, but tense at the same time.
Then over a year later, we did the WNS Rise of The Underdogs. At that stage, we were already used to nice things, so our confidence was already sky high the minute we saw the top class stage setup at the SABC Radio Park. We were just too excited, and we had the nicest of times.
What is different about the Word N Sound stage, compared to different stages you have performed on?
Word N Sound is world class. The trick is that, Word N Sound is open to anyone to step on their stage, whatever calibre the artist. However, as an artist, if you follow Word N Sound, you’ll know that not everybody can step up. The bar is just too high. Even the Open Mic is on flames. So, that should tell you something. We’ve been to shows where the organisers ask us if we have mics by any chance, or a live performance mixer [‘O_o]. So in brief, WNS pioneered a new standard for the arts, they gave artists hope in performance arts.
Since your showcase, what have you been up to?
We’ve had a couple of unfortunate events that disturbed the health of the band, and demotivated the team. So we had to take some time out as a band. This year, we’ll be looking into making more music than anything else, we are also switching up the sound a bit. Without giving away too much, we’ll be adding a new sound to what you already know of BlaQ2sday.
On the up side, on Friday 30 January we were announced the winners for the MTV #KickStartMyBandIntoGear Competition. We won the grand prize of R100 000 worth of band gear from Music Connection, courtesy of MTV, Electric Vines and Music Connection.
Much of what the audience sees is the result of hours of planning, preparations, mini heart attacks and many tantrums, but a collective team effort nonetheless. A lot of connections help the lights come on.
Xongi: When we have festivals it gets really hectic and one really just has to suck it up until the end of the festival. Surprisingly enough it is always hectic, this is one thing I could never get used to. I have accepted this norm and that is how I am able to go into the next festival despite the odds.
A wise man once said, the only constant in life is change, and although Masai came to Word N Sound with no expectations, purely to be part of the experience, he and his vision for the company have changed.
With everything that WNS has done (and not done) over the years, what is your vision now for WNS? How is it different from the WNS you joined, and is that good or bad?
Masai: My vision is basic and simple: poetry must become a credible industry… Where writers will be acknowledged for their craftsmanship. Africa has many stories to tell, and we need to harness those stories for the world at large. My vision for Word N Sound has altered, and I have grown. It has solidified thanks to my team and I can easily say the vision is feasible.
As a former King of the Mic, what is your opinion on the type of performances you have seen on the stage?
Masai: Word N Sound has given a face-lift to poetry! There’s so much stigma attached to poetry. WNS has managed to challenge writers in ways I didn’t imagine when I first stepped on that stage. Our stage adjures writers to challenge the status quo and question conventional thinking. This is the main ingredient to an amazing show and strengthening the movement.
Who was your most hectic adversary?
Nova and Mutle were my greatest foes, but I grew to love them and respect them regardless of our clashes.
What is your advise for all those who are still to step on the mic?
Masai: When one steps on stage, one should have the decency of being honest.
Xongi: To the performers, my advice would have to be that they must always enjoy their moments on stage, because when we as the audience see that you are enjoying yourself, we will, too.
BlaQ2sday: Plain and simple: Our advice to the next artists is – Understand that you’re not dealing with a small time brand, so just to be safe, bring a world class showcase.
What would you like to see from Word N Sound in future?
BlaQ2sday: We would definitely love to see Word N Sound growing to be more than what it already is. Something like a franchise almost. The whole of South Africa needs to be exposed to what Word N Sound is doing for artists. So it would be nice to extend that to other parts of the country, and eventually the world. And a National Festival doesn’t sound bad neither, #InWordNSoundWeTrust!
Xongi: For the company I would like to say that we should never stop! We are a monster of a company and the world is yet to see more amazing things come from us. #INWNSWETRUST #POETRYWINS #ABEAST this thing…
Would you come back to the WNS stage in future? Why?
BlaQ2sday: Is this a trick question?
The more I speak to people about Word N Sound, the more it starts sounding like the pied piper of poetry. All those who hear the Word N Sound story, find their ways to its doors, and never want to leave.
We chat to the Boston Media Graduate about the fine line between hiphop and poetry, her brewing audio tape and why she won’t be defending her title.
“My biggest regret as a writer is that for so many years i neglected the fact that i’m writer”
b) What is the core function of this group in the evolution of the poetry industry today?
Our core function in evolving poetry is to introduce the breaking of boundaries.
We have now brought theatre to our ordinary stages, to ordinary people, that’s a culture that we would like to see grow, to see a lot more poets stepping out of their comfort zones.
c) Where can 1 find a sample of work the group has produced?
We have a Facebook page and all information regarding our work is there, our Women’s day tour was filmed as well as the CLEANSING show we had in December. We hope to avail it to the public soon.
Some people walk though doors, onto stages and find themselves in the middle of a boardroom and never quite leave. This is exactly what happened to these to WNS shareholders.
Word N Sound, like many other movements, started as a desire, a thought. With an initial audience of 5 at it’s inaugural show, the live literature company has come a long way over the past 4 years to hosting sold out monthly shows across the Johannesburg city-scape.
The company has grown from that very first show in 2010 to bringing audiences some of the best young poets South Africa has to offer – to bringing the world’s poets to South African stages, taking South African poets to the world, to a launching a Digital Stores where poets can sell their work.
At the core of it all though, is a little show hosted on the 1st Saturday of every month for those craving a fix of poetry.
Word of mouth is still the most effective way of marketing, which is what led to these two, would be shareholders, walking through our doors a few years ago.
Both Mpho Khosi and Mutle Mothibe first heard about Word N Sound from a friend – so they came, they saw and haven’t left since. They share similar visions, but are informed by different schools of thought.
Q: How did WNS hook you? What was it about the platform that made you want to be a part of it as a shareholder?
Mpho: I was hooked by the idea of being part of a generation that evolved poetry in South Africa, a part of something bigger than just being a poet
Mutle: Their vision for spoken word art, well ART in general. I felt they shared some of the vision I have when it comes to growing this art into an industry and having artists live off their art. The idea that we could spark a movement that could have out children living off of this art is one that is very close to my heart. I felt then that these are people I want to align my energy with towards achieving the goals we have in mind.
Q: Coming in, what were your expectations?
Mpho: Honestly, I came in just looking to break my “in the closet poet” tag. I just needed a platform and found it on the Word N Sound stage. This has all changed as I have come to realise the amount of work that goes into providing the platform.
Mutle: Not really… I came in fully aware that it’s all in me. It’s all about what I can bring to the table to make this endeavour a success. I have always felt that the team concentrates on what every individual can bring to the table and we work hard which in turn makes the bigger picture work more smoothly.
Regardless, both found themselves at home with the WNS family and have accumulated a world of memories and experiences in their hearts and minds.
Q: What was one of your most memorable performances/moments with WNS?
Mpho: The first Word N Sound festival. It was something out of this world, more so as I was part of this rebirth of a super sleeping giant.
Q: With everything that WNS has done (and not done) over the years, what’s your vision now for WNS? How is it different from the WNS you joined when you did, and is that good or bad?
Mutle: Well the vision has not changed really… if anything we still have the same goals but now we are more equipped to meet the challenges that pop up. There are a lot of ideas that have been lying dormant in volts and we are now revisiting them because we have the resources to bring them to fruition.
Word N Sound is not the first poetry collective in the country. Many movements and organisations start with brilliant ideas, passion and drive, and fizzle somewhere along the line, sometimes even before they pick up any pace.
Speaking to the two shareholders, they both seem to attribute the success of Word N Sound, partly, to the connectedness and unity in the collective, despite the challenges that might have come along the way.
Q: Many movements wither and die. What do you think WNS did differently?
Mpho: Word N Sound has found a way of engaging their audience. We have not only provided a platform, but have also helped grow the community of poets
Mutle: I think what has helped WNS’ staying power is a sense of family with which the company shareholders work. Our marketing has evolved over the years and has helped us reach diverse audiences. Another huge factor is that the calibre of art coming out of the WNS league has created a huge shift in the spoken word arena. So much so that people from other provinces, countries and even other continents are engaging us about being part of the league or finding out if we could host the league in their area. We have become a worldwide brand and these factors have helped sustain and promote the growth of the company along with its staying power.
Q: Any advice you would give WNS?
Mpho: Keep your head down, eyes open and always listen to your audience; they know what product they want to invest in.
Thando ‘The Poet’ Buthelezi blazed a remarkable trail through Season 4 of the WordNSound Poetry Slam League in 2014. A feat she brilliantly topped off with stellar performances at the Annual WordNSound International Youth Poetry Festival at the Soweto Theatre in October where she was ultimately crowned the Queen of the Mic.
She says that the endearing lesson she walked away from her yearlong battle on the WNS Slam stage was of discipline, hard-work and commitment to all aspects of her craft. Heading this lesson paid off, as Thando adamantly made her way through to the end not just for herself but for all those who supported her all the way.
What added to her spectacular journey was that Thando strives to write in and incorporates as much isiZulu into her work as possible and says: “Writing in Zulu is actually hard. I had to read, I had to learn, even the accent. I had to work on it because I had gotten used to the English way of writing”.
As the reigning Queen of the Mic Thando ‘The Poet’ Buthelezi will showcase her her witty wordplay and ethnically inspired writing as the feature Poet at the Premier Episode to Season 5 of the WordNSound Poetry League.
In closing Thando’s advice to those who want to slam in this years’ WNS Poetry League would be to take the Word N Sound stage seriously, and to do this for themselves more than to compete.
Video clips of our previous interaction with Thando:
Kicking things off in Season 5’s first Episode of the Poetry League is the reigning Queen Of The Mic, Her Majesty, Thando Buthelezi – whose ethnically infused style of writing coupled with her witty word play creates a body of work unique only to her. She will be accompanied by 20 of Jozi’s dopest poets all gunning for her spot on the throne.
Have you got your eye on the Poetry League Champion title? Make sure you arrive early to sign up for SA’s toughest slam.
So join us for what promises to be the hottest poetry premiere of the calendar, as we anticipate more thrills, more spills, more spoils, more props, more poems and more everything. Episode 1 comes as a welcomed reprieve for most poetry lovers who’ve been starved of poetry thus far, so the only question is: are you ready for this year’s Word N Sound Poetry League?
Join us at the Market Theatre Lab in Newtown, doors will open at 12pm, the League kicks off at 1pm. The Queen of the mic showcases at 4pm.
Tickets will be sold for R50 at the door and space is limited.
…in #WordNSound we trust…
This month, the Word N Sound Live Literature Company launched our digital store in partnership with Bozza Mobile. Poetry lovers can now download their favourite poems with just an SMS.
You released the In_Sense album on CD in 2013, how was it received?
The disc has been well received… I am selling the last few of the batch I had ordered from the printing company. I have had no negative or unfulfilled reviews from the people who bought it so I feel it was a major success with people still wanting to purchase discs till today.
Why have you decided to go the digital route with the album?
I want more people to have access to my work and also to broaden my digital footprint. It’s one thing to have people locally bumping my work but I also want to sell my artworks to people overseas and see my work reaching other continents.
What reviews have you received for your work?
People are happy, some even tripping over how layered the works are when it comes to the amount of research that went into making them. I am quite chuffed with the end product and have not received one negative review.
What went into making this album?
#WOW! Tons of psychological research on themes and concepts that I want explored in art works. Also thinking of ways in which to see these ideas played out in poetry format and also giving people a glimpse into my struggles and triumphs was quite an interesting journey. Inaudible Studios was also mad help when it comes to my producer Mohale Molefe’s expertise and also him very aware of the tone I wanted to carry through out the album.
Why should we buy your work?
Because it’s an honest display of my take on spoken word… it’s a reminder of what can be achieved when hard work meets heart and I think it’s pieces of art that can also remind people that they aren’t alone in this difficult journey of being an artist.
Why did you decide to sell the album through the Word N Sound Digital Store and not going at it on your own?
Word N Sound is home! chuckles. I decided to do so because of the contract we have signed into. It felt right…it felt as though my needs as an artist were being put first. Also it’s one of the many things I am heading and it only made sense that I also put my work in the and show people how good an investment it is in ones career.
If I have never heard of you, which poem should I download first?
#Parkinsons! (Psst…SMS ‘park’ to 37616 to download Parkinsons for R7.50)
You have recorded an album as a member of Inaudible, are you planning on making this also available online?
Yes actually I am busy talking to my group partners in us launching the album on a digital space. A lot of people have been asking for reprints of the original work. So it makes sense that we go global and show people what Inaudible is about.
If you were to start a political party for artists, what would you name it and what would 3 things would appear in your manifesto?
Art needs to be given more importance in the school curriculum and not be part of some insignificant pass time kids have when their school schedule has an opening. The arts department in the government needs to be headed and run by artists. Artists need to become more self-sufficient in their business approach so that we aren’t waiting for hand outs when the going gets tough.
(We see how he just ignored our ‘what would you call your party’ question)
You have been known to put the boundaries of poetry, what can we expect next?
#Merging magic tricks with Poetry.
Who are your favourite artists at the moment?
Philippina “Pina” Bausch (27 July 1940 – 30 June 2009) was a German performer of modern dance, choreographer, dance teacher and ballet director.
My Sun and Daughter Moon.
See Mutle Mothibe’s full profile on Bozza Mobile. To download his poetry, SMS the keyword to 37616. Each poem costs R7.50.
The Broken Men Spoken Word Project is an introspective analysis of the current state and role of the black man in South Africa today. Told through the words and voices of a special generation of young mzansi Spoken Word artists, this journey into “Man-hood” dissects various subjects, beliefs and behaviours associated with being a black man in a post-apartheid South Africa.
Using voice, music and visuals, Broken Men speak directly to the ‘human’ and the ‘human condition’ by unapologetically tearing through controversial themes including politics, love, economics, brotherhood, violence, sexuality, identity and family.
The Broken Men Spoken Word Project will roll out in various formats and stages including live performances, workshops, discussions and debates across South Africa. The project will officially be launched on 13 and 14 December 2014 with Spoken Word performances in QwaQwa and Bloemfontein in partnership with Sicknatcha Poetry and The Archives Poetry.
Hosted by Afurakan, the productions will feature performances by Mutle Mothibe, Makhafula Vilakazi, Elysium Garcia and Xabiso Vili.
The category is inspired by Kojo Baffoe’s poem in which he is “on a quest to find the perfect poem, a gentle balance between word, rhythm and thought …a poem that sends the moon and sun dancing over the skyline hand in hand”.
It’s an opportunity for us to say big up to the poems that really moved us and really stood out this year. “The award is encouragement for poets to constantly improve their writing. There is no such thing as a truly perfect poem, but we must always be in pursuit of it and it is in that spirit that this category was introduced,” says Word N Sound CEO, Thabiso Afurakan Mohare.
Xabiso Vili – Gaza, A Love Story
Zewande Bhengu – CD4 Count
Masai Dabula – Do You Remember Me
Mandi Poefficient Vundla – Mother
Mandi Poefficient Vundla – Ode To Kwaito
Conelius Jones – Seven Moons
Modise Sekgothe – To Die Before You Die
Mutle Mothibe – Nuances of Apollo
1. What is the story behind your poem? What inspired you to write it?
I wrote the poem after I had read a newspaper article a long time ago where the man was accused of “infecting” his wife with HIV but he was saying that she was cheating so he left.
The second part of the poem was a response to how people were addressing this conversation around HIV. It painted this picture that people who are HIV positive are weak and helpless and I was not in agreement having encountered people who were stable, strong willed, hard working despite their status.
2. If your poem had the power to change just one thing, what would it be?
It would be making people a lot more aware and understanding of HIV.
3. Which poem would you like to win…besides your own of course?
“To die before we die” – Modise Sekgothe
4. How do you feel about it being nominated in the Perfect Poem Category?
It fills me with shock and joy at the same time. I thought if I made into this category, it would another poem but it takes nothing away from my joy for it.