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Feature : Spoken Word Artiste Cynthia Amoah 

“My name is Cynthia Amoah   and I’m a Spoken Word Poet. I put my heart into everything I do so I know you’ve seen it pulsating to the ends of the earth. I view myself as many things: as a poet, as a sister, as a woman. I’m journeying and I’m not afraid to say that I haven’t yet reached my destination, but I’m extremely blessed beyond all understanding. And I thank God for all things.”

The above statement is how the U.S.-based Ghanaian spoken word artist describes herself. An Cynthia Amoahintroduction to the National Recitation Project by her high school English teacher marked the beginning of Amoah’s blossoming career. Competing in the national competition twice and losing out on both occasions taught her the art of recitation, the true essence of spoken word, and also how to overcome defeat.

What influenced the decision to take up Spoken Word as a career?“Spoken word poetry aside from just poetry as an entity is what always resonated with me. There is something about the tune of one’s voice, the tone — its influxes and invasions until it arrives at one thought that always fascinated me. There, in that moment is where I live. On the boundary between what I write on a page and how it sounds when I say it, it always means more. And because I’ve always wanted to mean more to the causes that I find dear to me, I thought it best to speak on them so that they can mean more to people unaware of them. There, lies the answer.

“My poetry is political, and I am its messenger.”

Amoah has been writing and performing on stages for five years and counting. She performed throughout her undergraduate period as a student at several events, from a candle vigil for the victims in Haiti hosted by her Alma Mater, local gigs, and recently at the African Arts Festival.

“I’d like to think of my poetry as political, at times, but also as spiritual pieces that come to life when I discuss topics that hit home for my audience. As a result, I’ve discussed anything from ‘Stop and Frisk’ laws and rape in the Congo to young women who ought to believe in and respect themselves.”

Her most-recent piece is a poem titled “Honam” that discusses the need for brown girls to love themselves, especially with the recent success story of actress Lupita N’yongo. “Honam” raises an anthem and calls for Africans to love each other as well.

Amoah is inspired by the late-Maya AngelouLauryn HillJoshua BennettSaul Williams, and other accomplished spoken word artist.

Born to Ghanaian parents on July 2, 1991, Amoah graduated with a B.A. double major in Political science and Africana Studies and hopes to pursue law sometime in the near future.

Meet Ghanaian fashion Editor , Danielle Kwateng 

Growing up, Danielle Kwateng  , had a connection to magazines focused on lifestyle and entertainment, so it’s no surprise that she’s currently a fashion journalist.

She loved the beautiful escape magazines gave readers and relished in the ability to takereaders to another place through words.

Now as a professional, Kwateng is the senior editor of fashion website StyleBlazer, reporting on fashion and entertainment news, editing copy from freelancers, promoting copy through social media, and attending shows.

Before StyleBlazer, Kwateng wrote for Glamour Magazine, People StyleWatch, Ebony, and Uptown Magazine.

And throughout her career she has interviewed a number of A-list Hollywood celebrities, including actress Tracee Ellis Ross, celebrity hair stylistTed Gibson, model Selita BanksSolange Knowles’ stylist Chuck Amos,singer Miguel, actress Nia Long, rapper Common, filmmakerSpike Lee, and rapper Drake.

Her most-memorable career moment?

 
”Interviewing civil rights activist and American icon Dorothy Height  not long before she passed. [At the time], she gave her unique perspective on the recent election of President Barack Obama in 2009.”

On what motivates her, Kwateng said, ”Honestly, my desire to continue to diversify the fashion world and opens doors for other women of color; there isn’t enough of us representing in the right way. “

Kwateng holds a B.A. from Howard University and a Post Bachelor’s from Columbia University.

Interview with Clara Amfo 

BBC 1Xtra’s Clara Amfo talks  about joining the radio station and hosting the Red Carpet at the MOBO Awards 2013.

Q. When and where did your radio career start?

A. My radio career started at KISS FM UK. I joined as a Marketing assistant and left a presenter.

Q. Was joining BBC Radio 1Xtra a dream come true for you?

A. Absolutely. I’d been a fan of the station for as long as I can remember.

Q.  How many years have you been a radio personality?
A. This is my fifth year.

Q.  Names of celebrities you’ve interviewed?

A. Pharrel Williams , Drake , Nicki Minaj , Mary J Blige ,Taylor Swift , Alicia Keys , Brandy , Gwen Stefani , Jessie J , Neyo , Solange Knowles , to name a few.

Q. You were nominated for ‘Rising Star’ at the Sony Radio Award 2012, what did it mean to you then and now?

A. It meant a lot to me then as it was nice to be recognized by established figures in the industry and even though I didn’t win, the nomination was so appreciated. Today, it still means as much to me probably more as it is a reminder of something great that I never expected to happen as well as a reminder that I have the potential to achieve what I want!

Q. September 2014 is a year since you joined 1xtra, any memorable moment(s) so far?

A. There have been a lot! Obviously my very first show as I had not been on air for three months prior. It was great to push up the fader and get on with it. Interviewing Pharrel Williams was special as he is one of my Top 3 musical heroes … and luckily he was nice.

Q. Name of music festivals that you’ve reported from?

A. LoveBox , Wireless , NASS , SW4 , 1Xtra Live , Radio 1’s Big Weekend

Q. Names of your Voice Over clients?

A. I’ve done work for MTV, London Live, Nike, E4, Motorola, Ariel … a lot!

Q. Describe what it was like hosting the red Carpet at the MOBO Awards 2013?

 

A. I was reporting live from the red carpet for 1Xtra and it was the first live OB (Outside broadcast) I’d done since joining and it was being simulcast on radio 1 so I was a little nervous! Even though, it was pouring with rain, it was so much fun. We managed to get all the interviews from all the nominated artistes so it was a (very wet) success!

Q. You were in Ghana in 2011 for a charity project with Plan UK: do you plan on returning anytime soon?

A. Yes, Ghana is on my mind! I’m hoping to go back in the first quarter next year. I’ve been in touch with the fair trade chocolate company Divine Cholate since last year and hopefully check out their work with the Kuapa Koko Farmers.

Q. Last words/future plans?

A. I just want to keep on doing what I love and not limit myself!

DZYADZORM TACKLES SOCIAL ISSUES WITH SPOKEN WORD

The ever-growing Spoken Word/Poetry community in Ghana boasts of many talented acts. One of these artists is Vanessa Akua Medie . The Ghanaian–Liberian Spoken Word artist goes by the stage name Dzyadzorm, which is an Ewe name meaning, “I am happy.”

Dzyadzorm’s journey as a spoken word artist began with the writing of her own pieces as well as watching performances from J.IvyBlack Ice, and Sunni Peterson, which encouraged her to give Spoken Word a shot.

It’s been a year and few months since her first performance on Y FM’s “Poets on Y FM,” a local radio station.

So far, she’s performed at Jojo Abot and the Phunky Phew concert; Ehalakasa Talk Party’s Pepublikasa; Open Mic Night at N’Daba Music & Acoustic Poetry; Elikplim Akorli’s book launch for A Heart’s Quest, where she has been featured on several episodes of Chorkor Heights’s Live on the Terrance; Live In Accra Jazz festival Cadence; and most recently, at Fashion Fuse’s night of fashion and poetry.

Dzyadzorm’s debut spoken word piece was “Phases,” an expression of self-growth, pain, and a resolve to transform. Then she followed it up with “Hush,” a piece on the confusion that can sometimes surround female sexuality.

What other issues does she address in her pieces?

“Mostly social issues stemming from personal experiences and aspirations. My plan is to expand my horizon as far as themes are concerned in order to be seen as a diver artist rather than a just a romantic one. [To] date, one of my pieces I’m most proud of is ‘War’ and its implications on a body of people.”

Dzyadzorm’s main goal is “to be better. Live better, write better, and perform better. I believe that the opportunities to go beyond Ghana and Africa will present itself.”

Interview with Cinematographer David Nicol - Sey 

Film director and photographer, David Nicol – Sey Jnr., talks about his work ethic and shooting for some of the biggest artistes on the continent.

His 3 year-old production house, North Production LLC, has worked with artistes including Sarkodie, D Black , Dee Moneey, Chase, R2Bees, J Town and Edem.

Have a read

Q. Does being compared to the likes of Gyo Gyimah, Nana Kofi Asihene and the other good directors around for the quality your videos come with, put any kind of pressure on you?’

A. Since we all have very different approaches to cinematography, it really differs on what you as a cinematographer is looking to achieve visually. Pressure is always a constant in a competitive environment, which obviously sets in as a source of motivation.

Q. What is the thought process you go through before deciding on a concept for a video?

A. It differs. Every project has what you envision and your source of inspiration basically.

Q. Do you, based on your experiences working with them, think that Ghanaian artistes appreciate the need to put out quality videos for their songs?

A. That depends on the artiste and how concerned he/she is about their brand image and how far they are willing to sell their brand internationally.

Q. You are the co-founder of mymusicstate.com, why did you start it?

A. As an inception to the Ghanaian entertainment industry. I tried out other avenues such as working with content management and flash based website to share interesting content through blogging and that’s how mymusicstate.com begun.

Q. Has it achieved what you set it out to be?

A. Nope, lost the interest and ran out of patience to continue * laughs*

Q. Any memorable moments as a video director?

A. Every shoot is a memorable one with a different experience.

Q. Is there any international artiste you want to work with? Why?

A. Yeah! I would love to work with Kanye West! Because he is awesome and has a really great sense of creativity.

Q. You’ve worked with both Ghanaian and Nigerian acts, what would you say is the difference between the two countries with specific regards to branding and marketing of music?

A. I’d say they are very similar with respect to marketing and brand identity since they are all internationally recognized.

Jane Odartey Talks Photography , Poetry and Mawusi Label 

Jane Akweley Odartey talks to me about pursuing her passions photography, poetry and being a creative designer.

Q. How did photography start for you?

A. In high school, when I got my first point and shoot camera. My main pleasure was to shoot people and things. I did not care much to be in the picture. In college, a friend told me about the photography lab and gave me a tour of it. I knew immediately that I wanted to learn how to shoot manually, develop my own films and print my own pictures.

So I enrolled in basic photography and was fortunate to have this crazy artist (Joel Lederer), as my professor. He somehow made me realize that I cared about photography, and that I do wish to take it seriously.

Q. What does art photography mean to you?

A. Art photography is a process. It is taking what exists and representing it as you “see” it. It often takes some research, because you do not want to waste your time by creating what already is, and because you want to have an idea of what it is you want to do.

It is art, if you manage to make people look again, and despite familiarity with the image, or lack of familiarity, give them a new sense of the image. Make them forget the symbol to see the real. However, it is my belief that good art cannot be successfully defined, only strongly felt.

Q. How many years have you been doing photography?

A. I have been serious about photography since my junior year in University, about six years now.

Q. When did you become interested in poetry?

A. My poetry lessons actually started in Ghana. When I went to Creator, my class 6 teacher , Mr. Prah had us recite every morning, “The Listeners” by Walter De La Mare, and those popular Shakespearean lines in Julius Caesar: “Cowards die many times before their deaths. The valiant never taste of death but once. Of all the wonders that I yet have heard, It seems to me most strange that men should fear, Seeing that death, a necessary end, Will come when it will come.”

These poems have had a big influence on my life. Not long after I had them memorized, then I was writing my own poems because of De La Mare and Shakespeare, I associated poetry with the melancholic, so I wrote them in my diary mostly as confessions. Later they became my way of trying to explain love, and then just a way to express my mood.

In university , when I switched my major from Business Management to English lit, I was already minoring in photography, so I figured, I might as well take the plunge and seek out my thing with poetry. My professor (Grace Schulman), who is herself a wonderful poet, encouraged me to take my writing seriously. She said I had a way with words. I was thrilled! So I started thinking I ought to write. I soon realized that I really did love writing and sort of need to do it.

Q. Do you have any written pieces out?

A.I have several poems on my photography and poetry blog (http://janeodartey.com).

Q. What issues do you seek to address when you write?

A. Right now I am interested in language, it interests me that we are born with the ability to learn languages, and that the languages we pick-up is more of the world than of the self but I am obsessed with life and death and they remain my key subjects. I think that in learning to fit into the world we forget our selves, and in so doing we take our selves and others for granted.

I am interested in the self when it is aware of its self. I am also interested in focusing on the immediate environment and reducing the familiar into what it actually is, that is the unfamiliar. I am interested in capturing fear and examining it. I think fear and death mocks us, and I believe once we learn to respect and accept them, they cease to mock us, and we can in turn take them lightly.

Q. You are the creative lead at Fashion Label MAWUSI, what exactly do you do?

A.I am everything behind Mawusi , named after my mother who is half Ewe. I design and buy materials for my products, I create the products, photograph and model my work (sometimes I am lucky to have friends model for me), I edit and make them available on my website(http://www.mawusi.us), and when you buy something I write you a lovely thank you note, and send you a postcard if you are outside the USA.

Right now I am working on finishing my fall/winter 2014 collection for Mawusi, which I am very excited about. I am also working on getting my work into some local and international boutiques. It is all very thrilling and scary at the same time.

Q. When did you start designing? Are you self-taught?

A.I have always been into crafting. I enjoy making things for my friends and family. In high school, I used to sketch cloths just for the fun of it. I have never taken any classes in fashion, nor have I ever been interested in going to school for it. In September of 2012, when I began Mawusi, my designing began with it.

Q. What are some of the products by MAWUSI and when did it officially start?

A.I started with accessories like the Happy Koryo yarn bracelets (named after my grandmother) and started making the Happy Koryo multipurpose necklaces. Then in the winter I started with crochet scarves like the Nonitse and Tsapitsapi scarves. Recently, I added clothing like the Koleki cardigan and Wa crop tops.

Q. Which one thing would you say makes the brand MAWUSI unique?

A. My work does not take itself too seriously and most of my designs are statement pieces in their own right: in a sort of minimalist way that renders them timeless.

Q. Photographer, poet and designer, how do you balance all that?

A. I am a willing slave to my passions. You know the saying (supposedly by Confucius): “do what you love and you will never work a day in your life?” Well there are several days when it does feel like work, and there are days when I get depressed because things are not going how I wish them to go, and I am always broke, but most of the time, I am happy and I have an immense sense of purpose and satisfaction.

Even when I am procrastinating, I am working on something else that ought to be done. I am working for myself, and I have crazy expectations of myself, so it is rewarding when I am able to meet these expectations and a learning process when I do not.

Yonah Odoom’s You Only Marry Once (YOMO) Inspired By Family Pressure To Get Married. 

Being a 30-year-old unmarried African woman must be a nerve-racking situation, when parents and family start asking the why aren’t you married or at least dating questions.

Therefore, U.K.-based Ghanaian actress Yonah Odoom  and friend Moshana Khan , a British actress of Bangladeshi descent, put their respective single experiences and family pressures together in the new web series “You Only Marry Once” (YOMO).

YOMO centers around two young women, Yonah & Moshana (Yo & Mo), trying to find husbands in London. Both are fast approaching 30, and the reality of being left on the shelf is becoming just that: a reality. Determined not to grow old as lonely spinsters, with just themselves and a cat for company, they decide to go on an all-out mission to find their future husbands.

For Yo & Mo, marriage is for life. Therefore they are determined to make sure it’s with the right guy, even if it means meeting all the wrong ones!

Speaking on the mounting pressure to get married, Odoom said, “My co-creator Moshana Khan  
and I met nine years ago, when we joined a theatre group and we have pretty much been joined at the hip ever since. Over the years, we have shared many of our acting, dating and cultural experiences, which have often mirrored each other.

“As actors, we can be out of work up to 95 percent of the time, and unfortunately, when opportunities to work do arise, they are not always representative of our truths and our stories, especially coming from a colorful ethnic background.

“When [Moshana and I] approached 30, we also began to have both of our mothers on our backs on when we were going to get married, and [even though we are] from different backgrounds, our mothers were almost identical in their pleas.”

This pressure, though, became fertile ground for “YOMO,” “We decided to merge a bit of life and art to create something new — a fresh and fun story with two females being the main protagonists for a change.

“We also found that whilst we were (and still very much are!) looking for that Mr. Right, each time we told our dating dilemmas to our friends, they would find our scenarios relatable and quite frankly comical. From this, we decided to create some lemonade with those lemons that were constantly being served to us, and we created the concept of a comedy series based around our dating (or should I say, attempted) dating diaries.”

According to Yonah, YOMO is unique compared to other web productions. “A few things set us apart from the current shows out there: firstly, the show is loosely based on actual events within our own experiences of being in our 30s and looking for Mr. Right.

“Moshana is from a Bengali background, and we found through our experiences many of the things we were going through actually mirrored each other, as in when we both turned 30, something clicked, and all of a sudden the ticker for finding a husband was on!

“We also had both of our parents on our case asking when we were getting married, so the similarities within our cultures were very apparent and comical. We wanted to give viewers a chance to see and relate to this. We are also really excited at having two females of ethnic origin as the main protagonists in a romantic comedy, which is currently rarely seen on U.K. television.”

Yonah has been acting for 10 years, playing many roles including “Grace”’s fiesty mother, “Mrs.

Piper,” in ITV’s “Coronation Street” (2013), the challenging role of an abused wife in “Breach,” a Nigerian trafficking victim in “It Felt Empty When the Heart Went At First…” (The Cockpit Theatre), a crack addict in “Cocaine Anonymous” (Worldwide PSA), as well as in several commercials, including the Sony Bravia World Cup ad and Channel 4’s B&Q Idents (2013), which ran across channel 4 and their subsidiary channels.

But her most rewarding role?

“Rosa Parks in ‘We Stand on Giants Shoulders’ (New Bold Theatre).”

The role had a deep and profound effect on Odoom, because she felt a great responsibility portraying Parks’ humble yet indomitable spirit and wanted to do justice to someone who made it possible for many to be able to have a voice in America.

Odoom was also a part of the cast of Indie movie “Faux Depart” (pictured), where she played the role of illegal immigrant “Nana,” which won the award for Best One Shot Movie and was also selected to screen at the BAFTA-recognized London Short Film Festival 2013.

Of all the roles she’s played, the most-challenging one was “playing the role of an abused wife, for a charity video. I had to research cases of domestic violence and was presented with real case studies to get in to the psych of my character. There was a great responsibility of ensuring I was as truthful within my work as you are not only playing the part of someone’s actual experience, but you could also potentially be helping a victim of domestic violence so there is no hiding behind anything. You have to commit to the scene and go to the places it requires you to go to.

“I had an amazing director who would go over what my characters thoughts were and we would discuss how I saw it.  His approach was very organic which allowed me to feel very comfortable committing to the scene, so when I was getting physically attacked I really felt every blow.  It was a physically and emotionally draining time, but one of the opportunities that I am, to this day, most grateful for.”

Yonah Odoom was born on May 22, 1982, in London to Ghanaian parents and has a BA Hons Degree in Media Performance and Marketing.

My new sounds:

Soon! “The Sandra Appiah Show” - Inside For Details

 Co-founder of Face2FaceAfrica, Sandra Appiah, is excited about hosting her self-titled Talk Show‘The Sandra Appiah Show’.

“This is an opportunity I have been looking forward to all my life. There is so much inspiration within this generation, and I am thrilled and humbled for the opportunity to help shed light on those incredible stories,” she says.

The Sandra Appiah Show is an engaging, informative and inspiring show that will feature the stars and architects of Africa’s emerging future, who will share inside stories of their unique journeys.

The first season of the show will be shot and produced in New York City, bringing viewers face-to-face with the pioneers and icons within the diasporan African community.

More here: Sandraappiah.com