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THE TOP 10 OF ‘EVERYTHING UGANDAN POETRY’: Top 10 Ugandan Male Performance Poets

So today, permit me to share with you my second list from my compilation of ‘The Top 10 of Everything Ugandan Poetry’. Everything I write/rate here is based on my meandering experience in poetry, so please take it in good stride. And now I present to you:

The Top 10 Ugandan Male Performance Poets

1. George The Poet

Mr. Kalundi Serumaga is critical of many young Ugandan poets who add the moniker -the poet- to their stage names. He says many of them appropriated it from George the Poet without understanding the context George lived in to be able to carry that title -The Poet. While that may hold true, I would also argue that we also consider the contexts in which these ‘inspired’ poets adopted, understood and performed that moniker. Be that as it may, George the Poet has been an inspiration to a whole generation of great Ugandan spoken-word poets. A true global ambassador of spoken word poetry, his achievements speak for themselves. In Uganda, many poets looked at him and saw how possible it was to have a career in spoken word.

2. Jason Ntaro

Let me tell you a story. One day, on the day of our Lantern Meet recital, we got the news that Jason had been involved in a bodaboda accident and was wounded. Panic. He was our star. But Jason turned up a few hours later at the national theatre limping, his ankles wrapped in bandages, a side of the face swollen, ready to go on stage. That night he performed, what, 3 poems? But even when he was bruised and in excruciating pain, Jason somehow held it together and typically delivered what Ojakol used to call the ‘Jasonic’ experience. He used the limp to his advantage and cracked up the audience. That was on his worst day.  On his best day, Jason is a spirit on stage.

3. Xenson 

According to Senkaaba performance is a ritual, a metaphor that he embodies in his costumes, his language, and overall presence on stage. A poem is a voice of a spirit in his throat. He is a master of the spectacle. He consumes the poem the same way the performance of it consumes him. His Luganda poetry performances are transformative and will not leave you the same. His rhymes clammer at your conscience while his theatricalizations reveal another world to you in his presence. Ask Ssebo Lule if he ever wrote or performed poetry in English again after his eyes saw Xenson perform…

4. Kabubi Herman AKA Slim Emcee Ug The Poet

Slim Emcee always told us not to bother him by asking him to publish a book of his poems. His reason was that every time he got on stage to perform, he was publishing his poetry. On stage, Slim Emcee has the poise of a prophet. The urgency of his pitched tone coupled with the power of his eclectic diction embedded in his body language. He is an electric sight and voice to behold. Also, he was the first poet I knew of in our circles who charged 1m per poem he performed.

5. Ssebo Lule

I was there on the night Lule publicly performed a Luganda poem for the first time. Before that eventful performance, he had been writing and performing poetry in English. However at that Poetry Shrine evening, in front of everyone,  Lule swore to write and perform in Luganda ONLY henceforth. His first Luganda performance was ‘Nze N’owange’. We were all elated at his powerful yet intricate lexicon and delivery. It was clear to everyone present that a star had been born. That decision he took with Luganda has seen him inspire many other young poets to take a similar decision in performing and publishing Luganda poetry.

6. Isabirye Mitch ‘The Manifest’

This son of Isabirye, this bombastic bombardier of ‘poetic childhood nostalgia’, who harvests words that remain standing mu kibuga Kampala, Uganda Tourism Board should look for him and make his poems a ‘conservation site’. Currently Uganda’s number one ‘corporate poet’, Mitch belongs to the golden generation of underground spoken word poets who found their footing at the Makerere University poetry night ‘Kelele at Makerere’. Currently Uganda’s best lyrical poet, his bi-annual spoken word show ‘Mitch’z Manifest’ has become one of the most highly anticipated poetry events this side of town.

7. Mordecai Muriisa

Currently the most ‘trending’ Ugandan performance poet on social media, Mordecai began creating and sharing video content of his various English and Luganda poetry performances on social media during lockdown. Before long, his performances had garnered a huge online following to the extent that some of his performances began featuring on 9 pm news bulletins. His poems and performances mostly critique the actions and actors of popular current affairs. His catchy end-rhyme lines and metaphorical language are infectious to his audiences. I’m sure it helps that he was a news anchor because his readings are impeccably good.

8. GNL Zamba

Take it from the man himself: Mr. Nsamba has rapped about the fact that his lines are poetry. And he has truly delivered to that claim. The first time I heard GNL, I said there goes a poet. But recently he has embraced the role of a poet even more. His latest tracks are typically rap-poetry.

9. Kagimu Joshua AKA Rapoet 

Seated while humming to and strumming at his ntongooli, or tube fiddle, Kagimu Joshua is the modern re-incarnate of a royal court poet. A multi-talented percussionist, in his poetry performance he invokes the regressive refrains that ring like clarion calls to the tunes he plays. Bold and innovative, he once staged a street poetry performance on Kampala road wearing a T-shirt with condoms glued to it.

10. Jungle Da Man Eater 

Jungle made Lusoga poetry popular in Kampala. His performance of ‘Akeyo’ with Milege Band at Serena Hotel is now told like a folktale. Jungle’s rhymes were always delicious and he always made you yearn for more and more of his poems. Jungle rocked poetry stages like no Lusoga poet before and none yet to come. His storytelling style was second to none. Little wonder there has not been another like him.

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Written by Kagayi Ngobi (2)

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