Tag Archives: slam

Are you ready for SA’s toughest slam?

S5Ep1_7FebFB Get excited for your first dose of poetry, as we unveil our newly branded 5th Season of the Word N Sound Poetry League.

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…

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2014 Open Mic Poetry League standings

It certainly has been an interesting year for the Word N Sound Poetry League. Pretoria came out to play…hard. Xabiso Vili and Nkosinathi Gaar have been giving Joburg poets a run for their money. Women have also been claiming their space in the slam with Bafentse, Monica Fumez and Thando The Poet gunning for the Top 5 spots.

After 7 months of SA’s toughest Slam we are proud to announce the Top 10.

#10 – Soutern Comfort

#9 – Apiwe

#8 – Puleng Zealot

#7 – Monica Fumez

#6 – Zewande #McMora Bhengu

#5 – No Life

#4 – Bafentse Ntlokoa

#3 – Nkosinathi Gaar

#2 – Thando The Poet

#1 – Xabiso Vili

After our last Word N Sound Series show this Saturday, the Top 5 on the league will face each other at the finale at the 4th annual Word N Sound International Youth Poetry and Live Music Festival on 4 October 2014.

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Slam For Your Life Highlights

The Word N Sound Live Literature Company in collaboration with the British Council Connect ZA presented the first annual Slam For Your Life National Slam Poetry Competition, with the finals being held on the last day of the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.

The winner, Koleka Putuma, has a bright year ahead in performance and recording opportunities.

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SFYL: Become a slam poet in five steps

Gayle Danley offers five steps to being a slam poet — while being downright poetic in the process.
Lesson by Gayle Danley, animation by TED-Ed

With enough passion and practice, becoming a slam poet is within your reach. Explore a distant memory on paper, then read it out loud. Edit. Try reading it out loud again, and add your finishing touches.

Who is Gayle Danley?

Gayle was born in New York City, and at age 8 months, moved with her family to Atlanta, Georgia. She won her first public speaking contest in 7th grade and studied broadcast journalism at Howard University’s School of Communications where she graduated cum laude. After working as an assistant magazine editor for the National Rifle Association, she left Washington, DC to study Radio, Television and Film at Syracuse University, earning a Master’s Degree. It was not until after she finished school that she learned about Slam poetry. She embraced it almost immediately won the 1994 National Individual Slam Poet in Ashville, NC just months after being exposed to Slam poetry. In Heidelberg, Germany, she became the 1996 International Slam Poet Champion.

Feeling blessed to be able to share her talent and motivational words with audiences across the country, Gayle launched her one-woman show, “Brilliance,” touching thousands with her Slam Poetry workshops, lectures, performances and speeches. Gayle has published three books: “Naked,” “Soulfull—A Slam Poetry Study Guide,” and “Passionate—Poems You Can Feel.”

In addition to her motivational speaking and college performances, she has maintained a constant tour of elementary and secondary schools, helping students with traumatic experiences and teaching workshops on Slam poetry to all age groups. A feature story on Slam poetry was presented on the CBS show, 60 Minutes in 1999, which spotlighted her classroom work and riveting performance. Her keynote and lecture series fuses her poetry with the ability to touch her audience through real life experiences, leaving a lasting emotional message with her audience.

Gayle’s explosive style combines movement and emotion as she performs her magic on the audience, sweeping them up in her words as she addresses and explores contemporary issues.

Recent clients include: George Washington University, Massachusetts College of Art, University of Texas at San, Antonio, Clemson University, Alonzo Crim HS – Atlanta GA, South Brunswick HS – South Brunswick NJ, “Out of the Box” arts conference for artists and educators under the NYS Alliance in Binghamton NY, Jamestown Community College, University of Baltimore, Delaware Valley Institute for the Arts Teacher Conference, The Rome Art and Community Center artist spotlight and The Kitchen Theatre Presents Women in the Arts Event.

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SFYL: The history of Slam Poetry

In 1984, construction worker and poet Marc Kelly Smith started a poetry reading series at a Chicago jazz club, the Get Me High Lounge, looking for a way to breathe life into the open mike poetry format. The series’ emphasis on performance laid the groundwork for the poetry which will be exhibited in slam.

Smith approached Dave Jemilo in 1986, the owner of the Green Mill (a Chicago jazz club and former haunt of Al Capone), with a plan to host a weekly poetry competition on the club’s slow Sunday nights.

Jemilo welcomed him, and on July 25, the Uptown Poetry Slam was born. Smith draws on baseball and bridge terminology for the name, and instituted the basic features of the competition, including judges chosen from the audience and cash prizes for the winners. The Green Mill evolved into a mecca for performance poets, and the Uptown Poetry Slam still continues nearly 15 years after its inception.

The first National Poetry Slam was held in 1990, and has become an annual event in which teams from cities across the United States compete at events in a host city. Slams have spread all over the world, with slam scenes in Hawaii, Ireland, Nepal, Canada, Germany, Sweden, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Austria, Israel, Ukraine, Russia, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Portugal, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, just to name a few.

Definition of Slam Poetry: A competitive poetry performance in which selected audience members score performers, and winners are determined by total points. Simply put, poetry slam is the competitive art of performance poetry.

In a typical competition, all poets perform one poem in the first round. Based on the scores they receive, the top-scoring poets go on to the second round, and from that pool, a smaller number of the highest-scoring poets in the second round go on to the third and final round.

While the specifics vary from slam to slam, certified slams adhere to this basic structure, insuring that poets must seek to make immediate connections with the audience in order to continue on. Cash prizes or other prizes are offered to the winner as further impetus for performing well. In most cities, the slam series culminates with a final slam at the end of the season to determine which poets will represent the city at the National Poetry Slam.

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Word N Sound heads to the National Arts Festival


We are quite excited to announce our brand new project in partnership with British Council Connect ZA. We will be taking the first ever Slam For Your Life National Poetry Slam to the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown in July.

Slam For Your Life is an innovative and competitive live literature format that is well placed to deliver a positive impact on emerging spoken word poets in South Africa. Through the theme “Life Is What You Write”, SFYL (Slam For Your Life) aims at creating a credible and nationally recognised youth poetry slam, opportunities for professional mentorship and network building through peer to peer interactions.

Four finalists from Gauteng, Western Cape, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu Natal will then travel to Grahamstown in July 2014 where the finals will be held and a national slam champion will be crowned.

How it works
Four poetry organisers/movements will be asked to nominate three poets from each of their province.
The organisers/movements will include;
• Slam Poetry Operation Team (Durban),
• Stellenbosch Literary Network (Stellenbosch),
• Ntsika Tyatya (Port Elizabeth)
• Word N Sound (Johannesburg).

Poetry videos of the 12 finalists will be promoted online and opened to a public vote. A poet with the most votes, from each city, will then qualify for the national finals.

The top 4 finalists will travel to Grahamstown to take part in a workshop with UK poet, Lemn Sissay. They will then compete in the national finals that will form part of the “Remix Lab” component of the National Arts festival 2014.

Watch this space for more info as Word N Sound and British Council Connect ZA partner up to bring you the first ever Slam For Your Life National Poetry Slam at the 2014 National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, Eastern Cape.

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‘I was born for this’ – Mandi

Mandi Poefficient Vundla set a Word N Sound record when she successfully defended her Open Mic Champion title at last year’s Word N Sound International Youth Poetry + Live Music Festival.

Tell us more about this year’s slam. Why did you decide to defend your title, was it harder than last year and who was your toughest competition?
Well…Word N Sound said I couldn’t just walk out on my title, so I actually blame you for my win. Last’s year’s slam was tougher, points went back to zero, it was anyone’s game. Elysium Garcia made me restless though. Winning was affirming though. I was born for this!

Name 3 elements you’ve added or subtracted from you poetry when comparing how you used to write 3 years ago and now.
Things I’ve added: My own voice and a dose of self belief .
Things I’ve removed: Long poems

How many books did you read in 2013 (guestimate) and of those books which one made the most impact on you?
It’s more like how many books have I left unfinished! #Hides The Alchemist though spoke to me, I read it at the right time in my life. I am on track

How do you choose the subject matter you write on?
I write about unsettling issues

What inspires your fashion sense?

Mandi2Photographer: Morne Van Tonder

Name 3 of your all time favourite poems\ Poetry performances?
Whoa! What a tough question! 😦 Only 3! Hmmm…

  • Andrea Gibson – Ashes
  • Mpho Khosi – Nkosi Skelela I-Africa
  • Jasmine Mans – Roses-Little Girls

You’ve traveled quite a bit and got to be on the Poetry Africa stage as a performer…what were the highlights of that festival?
A Godly band called Insurrections. The boat ride on day 1 so we could break the ice. Chilling with the poets after the evening shows and the conversations we had. My performance night, I’ve never felt closer to God than I did on that stage that night. That is my best performance to date.

Name your pre performance rituals? (things you’ve found you do mostly before performing whether before leaving home or before getting on stage)
I sit in silence, then I give thanks for the stage, the art-form and the audience. It is in that moment that I am reminded I’m blessed. I always recite a gratitude prayer. Then I breathe, to silence the nerves and I literally zone out of my surroundings until i hear my name.

What are your thoughts on competitive poetry slams and how some poets feel that it sidelines some performers?
I’m tired of that “what about us/me self pity”! IF YOU WANT TO SLAM, SIGN UP ON THE OPEN MIC AND SLAM! It’s a public domain available to those who arrive early at Word N Sound. If you seek non-competitive poetry platforms, there are stages for you to sign up, just do it!

I feel as though people want to perform but they are too proud to be on an open mic stage. They want to receive a personal invite, yet we’ve never seen you strut your stuff anywhere. Most poetry session commence with an open mic. Use the open mic, you never know whose watching!!

PS: If it wasn’t for the OPEN MIC, no one would know my work!

You find a bottle containing a poetry genie and he grants you 3 wishes …
1 – I need more wishes!
2 – I need acres and acres of land, to build an arts center with all the facilities, we need to be productive.
3 – I’d like to own a broadcasting station, make it happen!

What is one thing you’d change about the current state of poetry?
I’d create main stream platforms just for POETRY and we’d explore various ways of making the truth entertaining.

What is one thing you’d want to instantly perfect in your own abilities as a performer/writer?
I have so many concepts I’d love to incorporate in my performances. I need to write more incredible poems in a shorter space of time. These poems take too long to complete.

What is the one thing you wish all up and coming poets could do or understand when it comes to the art of spoken word?
Respect the art. The poet is not bigger than the poem!

Looking at the Mandi you are now in the poetry circles and looking back at the poet you were when you started out…if you were to meet that past self today, what would you say to her?
Had you been this focused from the get go, it would have taken you 2 years not 3 to be where you are today!!! 🙂

Mandi1Photographer: Philani Hadebe

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So what do Poetry Festivals, Award Shows, Weddings and Fashion Shows have in common?  They’re all events where Andrew Manyika has plied his trade as a Poet, Comedian, and MC.

Sometimes referred to as “the Gentleman of Poetry” due to his penchant for wearing 3-piece suits, Andrew has made quite an impact on the local poetry scene since winning his first ever slam. This was the Gauteng Drama For Life Slam in 2011; and he placed second in the DFL National Grand Slam.

Since venturing into performance poetry and comedy, Andrew has taken to stages including the Johannesburg International Motor Show 2011 (for team Mazda); TEDx Johannesburg 2013; The opening of the LAE Gallery; The UJISS Merit Awards 2013; State Theatre: Night of the Poets 2012. He has been extensively involved in WordNSound since 2012, twice being a finalist in their Open Mic League, MCing several episodes of their series, as well as the Inaugural WNS Poetry Awards (For which he was nominated in the category “Perfect Poem”).

Over the years, Andrew has proven himself to be a capable poet and comedian, having performed at Parkers, The Box, Kitcheners, The Comedy Underground and various private functions. His unique combination of skills (poetry and comedy), allows him to lend a fresh perspective to MCing.

Andrew is born again and endeavours to let this shine through in his art. As the holder of a BCom in Marketing Management; and a BCom (Hons) in Strategic Management, Andrew definitely sees himself as an entrepreneur .

We caught up with Andrew in Soweto recently this is what he had to say:

WNS: What is your biggest pre performance / writing quirk?

AM: I yawn. Like, world-swallowing; breath-leaving-body; drawn-out-sigh type o’ yawning. I think it’s my body trying to manage my nerves before getting on stage. I’m cool by the time I hit the stage though. Also, Pastor Rick Warren, whom I really look up to, once said “Don’t stand before man, without kneeling before God”, so I pray before every show.

My biggest pre-writing quirk? I procrastinate…hard.

WNS: What influence does your poetry have on your comedy or visa versa?

AM: Comedians = storytellers; poets=storytellers. So, I view all stage time as an opportunity to learn. I’m constantly learning technique, delivery, and the dynamics of a crowd and how to create or maintain a certain kind of ambience.

The writing processes are different for me. I write poetry for myself, but by it’s nature, I write comedy for the audience.

WNS: How important is your image as a performer?

AM: It’s very important. As a performer, you become the product and it’s promoter. So there are elements to a “product”, one of which is the packaging. It must be appealing to look at you, and you can achieve that by how you dress, hence this year I’ve been seen wrapped in a suit and tie. Next year we’ll explore other forms of packaging perhaps.

Image is also important in terms of what it is that you purport to stand for. People respond to you if they feel you are being genuine, and they respect you if they can tell you are being consistent.

WNS: Why should one vote for the EFF?

AM: The same reason you’d vote for anybody else: if you believe in their policies.

WNS: Slam vs set performances. Your take?

AM: If I understand the question, you’re contrasting “slam” against “non-competitive performance poetry”? if so, I would say everything has its’ place. In general though I prefer pages to stages (of all kinds); but I understand the capacity of live performance in terms of entertainment value and audience reach, and I enjoy It too. Set performances and slam to me, are very much different sides of one face (on one side of the same coin…& I’m being long-winded again).

WNS: What will the history books say about you?

AM: “Andrew Manyika won souls for Christ. He loved words and story-telling and wrote everything from poems to business proposals. He wrote them well. A family man with a high tailor bill (because he had to get his pants shortened a lot) and dry-cleaning bill (from wearing his heart on his sleeve), he challenged, changed and introduced ideas about things…and he was taller in real life than he looks in the pictures.

WNS: If you were in a slam with God, what would your killer punchline be?

AM: “You literally made time to slam with me | put me in the place of Christ, and said I’m your family | I know you paid the price, for this great life you handed me | made me a branch in the Grapevine | slow matured cause soul-saving takes time | so now my stance when I make rhymes | is to speak the Truth, be no pretender | I get that my victory lies in you, so I surrender. We win”

Those lines were actually kind of nice, so I think I may actually use them.

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#WNSFest Interview: MPHO KHOSI


Mpho_PosterWnS: You are a self published author, how has the response been to your work, and are there more books in the pipeline?

MM: The book has done well, I have however been a bit lazy in marketing it. But, thanks to a friend, I have managed to sell more books and push it a bit more. There are always more books in the pipeline, I just need to give myself time to sit and start working.

WnS: In the contemporary context, where digital and visual media run the roost, do you feel like there’s still a place for poetry in print.

MM: I was fortunate to meet people who still demand to have printed books, so, there is a platform for printed poetry, we just need to make use of it.

WnS: You incorporate Jazz into your performances. Why that genre, and what Jazz stage would you most love to perform on?

MM: I grew up with jazz and reggae being the theme music at home, so; in a way me incorporating jazz into my work is me paying tribute to my dad for introducing me to the music. It would be an honour and blessing to find myself getting on the joy of jazz stage with a live band one day.

WnS :Have you registered to vote?

MM: I have registered, just need to check if my name is still on the roll. I have voted each year since I became old enough to vote.

WnS: 3rd year running with Word N Sound, what’s that journey been like for you?

MM: It has been an awesome one, Word N Sound grows from year to year.

WnS: What is the one question you’d like to be asked most in an interview. Why? And what would your answer be?

MM: Why do you write? And the answer would be, to express and heal myself of my inner-most pains, that I can’t really speak about.

WnS: If you were in a slam with god, what would your killer punchline be?

MM: Ooh. “you claim to be dope, but yet you created me as a perfection of yourself”

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#WNSFest Interview: Pilgrim

Pilgrim, real name Lucas Serei is a poet, visionary and performer. Born in Pretoria, Lucas moved to the Vaal-Triangle in the mid-90’s where he spent most of his childhood under the care of his grandparents. He was coached with nursery rhymes and ghost stories there, and it is also where his love for writing was born.

He has been building quite a formidable a name for himself in the Johannesburg poetry scene by performing at the Word N Sound Poetry and Music league; as well as being featured on the Word N Sound “Next Generation” Project.


We recently caught up with Pilgrim for a quick Q&A regarding his forthcoming appearance at the 3rd Annual Word N Sound International Youth Poetry + Live Music Festival |Open Mic League Finale taking place on the 30th November 2013, and this is what he had to say:

WNS: What have been the pressures/challenges of having to perform on the Word N Sound stage each month?
Pilgrim: For me one of the biggest challenges was the writing process because in this case I was writing specifically for performance and to add on that challenge was ‘how’ I was to present my craft different and uniquely as I can.

WNS: What makes you think you are going to take this slam?
Pilgrim: I believe most people don’t knows a lot about Pilgrim, so my element of surprise will earn me a short in winning the slam, oh  and my poems of course 🙂

WNS: Who has been your toughest contender all year?
Pilgrim: I believe everyone brought their A-game in every slam, but NoLIFE stood out for me as the toughest contender, no lie there.

WNS: What effect has taking part in the slam had on you as a poet?
Pilgrim: It has allowed me to see how broad and diverse poetry is and through that I was able to grow in terms of my skill of writing as well as the concept in which I wrote about, I was more factious when I started writing and now I am able to write about social issues and so forth.

WNS: What would winning the slam mean for you?
Pilgrim: …it will be a big stepping stone in my poetry ‘life span’, it will mean I achieved the goal I set for myself this year and that people heard and understood my truth.

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