Interview: Ian Kamau

Canadian hip-hop artist and poet, Ian Kamau, is back in SA and after he rocked our stage last year, he’s decided to pop in for a visit…and another killer performance tomorrow at Catz Pyjamas.


1. We had the pleasure of having you in South Africa last year, what have you been up to since?
Since last time, I’ve written a first draft of a book about my first time in Africa in 2007. It is about the identity of a non-African African descendant visiting the continent of Africa. I have also been accepted into a renowned theatre residency in Toronto and plan on moving forward on a project relating to mental health in the black community when I return to Toronto this time. I also have begun to produce new music, no words yet, just soundscapes that will evolve into songs as I get more time to record.
2. How did you feel about the crowd’s reaction to your work at Word n Sound last year?
I didn’t know what to expect last time…I came with both poetry and music and was pleasantly surprised that I was accepted more as a writer than a musician. It felt like the audience was very interested in the words, so I stopped the music. I never know what people will respond to.

3. Did your trip to South Africa influence any of your new work?
My South Africa trip last year greatly influenced me as a person and I expect will influence my work going forward, it influenced the book and a theatre work I’ll be doing soon and of course, the new music I plan on working on over the next year.

4. What did you enjoy most during your last trip to South Africa?
I enjoyed the ability to travel throughout the country from Cape Town to Johannesburg and Pretoria; last time I went through Port Elizabeth, East London, Grahamstown, Bloemfontein, Peitermaritzberg and Durban. I was blessed to be able to travel to so many places in South Africa and meet so many people, some of whom I know count among my friends.

5. With reference to your being here before, what are the challenges you faced when putting together a set for your performances?
The challenge is making something that is adaptable enough that I can tailor it to an audience, my ultimate situation is to have a band so we can change anything at anytime.. maybe one day I’ll draw a big enough crowd to warrant bringing three additional people with me. Because I consider myself both a poet and a musician sometimes it’s hard to know what people want from audience to audience or what combination of things people want. It’s hard to tell but I roll with the punches and ask the audience a lot of questions when I’m unsure, it is a participatory experience performing for people.
6. Which cities in South Africa are you looking at visiting?
This time I’ll be in Jo’burg, Pretoria, Durban, East London and Cape Town. I’ve had inquiries about some other places too..,hopping they pan out as well.
7. Rumour has it you plan on traveling beyond the borders of South Africa during this trip. Where will you be visiting?
I just came from Zimbabwe and after I have a performance in Namibia and will be travelling in Ethiopia, not sure if I’ll be doing a show in Addis Ababa but I will be there for while.

8. How was performing at the Shoko Festival in Zimbabwe?
Shoko was great, I enjoyed being in a new place and meeting new people, I didn’t have any expectations, I just did what I thought made sense and I think it worked out well. I was very happy to be able to be in front of an audience in Zimbabwe.
9. What should people look forward to from Ian Kamau in the near future?
More music, more writing, a book and I would love to bring the theatre piece to South Africa if at all possible and of course I’ll be beginning to release new music from the beginning of next year.
10. What was the last thing you ate?
The last thing I ate was a bowl of bran flakes 🙂


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