Please introduce yourself: name, sex, age, family background, educational background, religion etc.
My name is Bash Sunday Amuneni, male, 34years old. I am the last in a family of 4 children. Growing up was very humble for us, from slapping the streets of Lagos on foot to the native side of Makurdi in Benue State. I had my first degree in Architecture from FUT Minna and my Msc in Facilities Management from ABU, Zaria. My primary school education was at Ewu Titun Pry School in Lagos and I had my Secondary School Education at Air Force Secondary School, in Makurdi Benue State. I am a Christian and a member of Living Faith Church in Abuja. I am a member of the Abuja Literary Society (ALS), Freedom Hall Abuja, a TEDx speaker and a member of the Chattered Institute of Bankers Nigeria (CIBN). I have 7years plus experience as a Banker.
What does “being a poet” mean to you? Please define poetry in your own words.
Being a poet to me is simply being able to express yourself in words which make meaning and literal sense. These words should also move the reader or listener with a certain degree of emotions, whether slight or intense.
Poetry is self-expression within the confines of literary application and technique.
What brought you to poetry, and what has sustained your relationship with poetry? When did you write your first poem? When and where was your first ever poetry performance? How did it go?
Poetry started as a boys admiration for a well written cluster of words that didn’t seem normal. I used to love hymns a lot and liked the way they are written back then in JSS 3. So from admiration, I wanted to write that way. Besides, my elder brother used to write poems and I also wanted to be like him.
What has sustained me is purely love for poetry.
I wrote my first poems in 1996 when I was in JSS 3.
My first performance was at our class end of year party in JSS 3 and I performed “Africa” by David Diop. I think my performance was ok, because I got a reasonable applause after I was done.
Can you describe the time when you first realised that poetry was something you love to do?
I can’t exactly remember the time the realisation hit me, but I think innately, I just moved with it, i.e. the passion, the desire and the life of a poet.
Do you feel education influenced your development as a poet?
Self-education actually did influence my development as a poet. Back then, we (myself and my closest friend) would sort of compete on the first to read from all kinds of novel around. We read a lot of novels then. From the Pace-setters series, African writers series, Readers’ digest to other magazines and materials from abroad. Then, at some point I focused on just African authors and read from a lot of them. I also attempted to acquire a Certificate in Poetry from London School of Journalism of which I am still a student and I almost always attend a literary event every week.
You have a 9 to 5 job that you do, how do you combine it with poetry? Which one do you enjoy the most, your job or poetry?
Combining my normal day job and poetry is simple. When a wave of poetic lines pop, I just punch my keys and write. It may be on my phone or my office system but that’s when I am less busy. Further development of the material and editing can come when I am out of work.
Normally, it would be poetry. It comes more naturally with ease, little boundaries, limitations or supervision. However, I totally enjoy my normal job because it has given my poetry serious leverage!
How is the poetry scene in Abuja? Tell us about the poetry events, the size of audience, main event organisers and poetry event sponsors in Abuja. Is Abuja the headquarters of spoken word poetry in Nigeria? If yes, why? If no, where is and why?
The poetry scene in Abuja is very vibrant. We have Freedom Hall Abuja, which has monthly events which showcases Alternative Music and Poetry. A typical Freedom Hall night has about 150 to 200 people in attendance. Freedom hall Abuja has had sponsors like Airtel, Startimes and Barcelona Hotel.
We also have the Abuja Literary Society (ALS) that has its Open Mic at least twice a month alongside the book club and book jam all within a month. These events are held at various locations like Salamander Café, Transcorp Hilton and Sandralia Hotel. We also have the bi-annual Night of the Spoken Word curated by Dike Chukwumerije and other events. We have the radio stations and TV stations supporting us as well.
I can’t exactly say Abuja is the HQ for spoken word poetry , but the reception is very good. For now, it should be Lagos for clear reason that has to do with size of the city and the dynamics of life there.
You released and launched your spoken word poetry album last year 2015, what motivated you to do an album? How has been the acceptance level and most importantly, sales level? What has been the most satisfying factor of having a poetry album?
The motivation to release “FREEDOM” was two pronged ; I wanted to experiment or express myself in words and music. And also create a larger spread for my works to be heard. The acceptance level has really been encouraging right from the recording stages and the turnout at the album launch. I had some singers and poets in the album: like CEF, Jessica Bongos Ikwue, Anchorman, Aysia, Decipher and Tope Sadiq. We have had good and honest reviews from Newspapers interviews, radio interviews and critics. The album would be the main focus for ALS June Book Jam, 2016 where I would be guest author. Radio stations in Abuja have been playing my works. There is a radio station that has been playing a particular poem in the album (Is this the moment? Ft Aysia) everyday for the past 3 months.
Sales hasn’t been massive when compared to normal commercial albums. But, we have been selling. Most satisfying for me, is the fact that I have added a reference material to the genre of spoken word poetry in Nigeria which we hope to build upon. That is history.
Compared to when you started performing poetry and now, has there been growth? If yes, what has changed? How can it be further improved on?
There has been growth. I started spoken word poetry in 2013 in Jos. Since then, I have performed in places I never thought I would within these few years. However, it can be further improved upon possibly, by writing better, doing more research, increasing visibility and leveraging.
Should Spoken Word Poetry be strictly a tool of social change or done for art sake? Please state why. Should Spoken Word Poetry be mainstream entertainment? Please state why.
Spoken Word Poetry should be and can be both. The essence of art is for self-expression and the emancipation of man. Spoken Word Poetry is already mainstream. We may say it hasn’t been recognised as such yet, but it’s just a matter of time and the recognition would come. Its evolution is a gradual process. Soon enough, it would be given its space in the “so called” mainstream arts sphere.
If you were in a position to make spoken word poetry become recognised as mainstream entertainment thus an income generating industry, what would you do? Please give details.
Build an industry. Industry is the driver of any art form, from visual arts, fashion design or comedy. Put together all the elements that make up an industry and you have created another income generating sector for the artiste and Government. From good contents to regulations, enforceable copyrights laws to the legal side of things, and remember a single individual can not do this alone.
Do you get nervous when you are about to perform your poem? What ritual/ habit do you engage in before you perform?
That initial anxiety is all part of it. I do not exactly have a ritual or habit, but ones in a while I tell myself the audience would love me before I get to perform.
Which biggest stages have you have performed at before? How was the experience?
I really do not consider the size of the stage I perform. I just always hope my performance moves and touches the listener above all. However, I have performed at TEDx Garki and the Birthday of Igho Sanomi (One of the Youngest Billionaires in Africa). I have also performed at Lagos Business School (LBS) Northern Alumni dinner, NTA Independence day special, the Abuja Premier of Steve Gukas’ movie- “A place in the stars” and so many memorable events.
How have your life and/or your relationship with poetry changed since you started performing? What now inspires your poems?
Through the gift of performance poetry, I have been able to share experiences with more people and enjoyed their persons too. I have made more friends and leveraged on relationships
What inspires me is always the dynamics of human condition
As a family man, is any of your family in poetry or other forms of art? What do your wife think about your poetry performances? Any possible duet in the future?
My wife is a fashion designer and an art lover too. She is my number one fan anyday! My sister is also a great fan and my pastor and friend at RCCG Lafia.
There should be a couple of duets to come…hoping to do something with Brymo, I haven’t ask him yet, but I whispered something like that into his ears the last time we met. I would like to do something with Blessing Tangban, Andrew Patience, Aysia, Dike and Leon Echa
How do you handle groupies?
Have ready advice for them and simple instructions too. Above all, pay attention, stay humble and grounded.
Who are some of your favourite poets, both locally and abroad?
Richard Ntiru, David Diop, Odia Ofiemun, Lola Shoneyin, Shittu Fawora, Dike Chukwumerije, Sage Hassan, Leon Echa , Efe Paul Azino, Chinua Achebe, Donna K and off course Tope Sadiq (Torpedo Mascaw)!
Where do you see yourself (as regards Poetry) in the next 5 years? Where do you see Spoken Word Poetry in Nigeria in the next 5 years? Any advice for upcoming poets?
In the next 5 years, I would have more spoken word poetry album out , more books out also and would be a major reference for poetry in Africa. Supporting the arts and being in the forefront as regards the actualisation of a deeply rewarding spoken word poetry industry in Nigeria.
For upcoming poets, read more, write more attend more events and be fearless.
Is there any link, blog or site people can go to to read your writings/ poems or even watch your videos?
You can listen to my works on Sound Cloud at m.soundcloud.com/bash_amuneni and you can search for Bash Amuneni on Youtube to watch some of my random videos for now. We are working on some really cool videos of my works that would be out this year
Any other information you would want us to know about, maybe something personal?
I am a contributing writer for MOTIVATION Magazine edited by Love Idoko.
My collection of poems would be out this year and it’s titled “before the silence of midnight”- it’s a collection of 50 poems on various topics that bothers on the human condition.
…and at the aftermath of knowledge comes the death of ignorance…words have mercy!
Thank you for your time.