What part are you playing in organizing the first ever Abu Dhabi International Poetry Festival?
It has been an honour to team up with Sana Bagersh of BrandMoxie to found this great initiative with the support of Paris-Sorbonne University of Abu Dhabi, US Embassy of Abu Dhabi, Fatima Bint Hazza Cultural Foundation, Tempo Magazine, and The FLEX. We hope this initiative unites poetry lovers of all cultures while exposing the beautiful art form of creative self-expression to all.
Can you tell me about how your group, Rooftop Rhythms, got started?
I worked for 10 years with a group called Black on Black Rhyme before I moved here in late 2011, so it was only natural to start something here. There was a great, private open mic called ‘Poetry Slammin’ on the Roof’ in Al Ain and periodic events thrown by groups like the Poeticians in Dubai but nothing regular in Abu Dhabi. I was inspired by the roof concept of the Al Ain organizers and got their okay to bring a similar concept of my own to the capital city. Our first night was on March 9, 2012 at Café Arabia and we had an impressive 90 people in attendance. Three years later, we average 250, and although we are no longer on a rooftop, the title, Rooftop Rhythms, is as strong as ever.
How did you become interested in poetry?
I was originally a rapper but after visiting Black on Black Rhyme’s ‘Back Talk!’ Poetry night when I was a first year student at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida, I was hooked. I was blown away by this art form that was so cool and positive.
Can you tell us what slam poetry is?
There are three different terms; poetry, spoken word, and slam, that all fit under the same umbrella. Poetry is the written word. Spoken word is the art of performing poetry. Slam is the competitive form of spoken word in which judges are chosen from the crowd to pick a winner – it’s an exciting form.
Is this region is a natural fit for spoken word given its Bedouin oral traditions?
Spoken word is perfect for this region because of the Bedouin traditions. Much of our crowd and poets are of Arabic descent. It’s beautiful to see how there is a definite bridge from traditional spoken word and modern language.
How has the community received what you do?
It’s been amazing. Our platform has helped to develop the skills and confidence of many of the artists. We have also inspired other open mics and slams in both English and Arabic, which is an honour.
Rooftop Rhythms, every Friday from 9pm. Noche, Rocco Forte Hotel, Airport Road (02 617 0000).