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Abu Ibrahim: Touching Hearts With Spoken Word

By Michael Bamidele
12 December 2021   |   6:20 am
Abu Ibrahim is a spoken word poet who has caught the attention of the international audience. With his album, Music Has Failed Us, being submitted for the forthcoming Grammys, he speaks to Guardian Life about influences, his age-long for poetry and what makes his album tick. Who is Abu Ibrahim? Abu Ibrahim, also known as…

Abu Ibrahim: Touching Hearts With Spoken Word

Abu Ibrahim is a spoken word poet who has caught the attention of the international audience. With his album, Music Has Failed Us, being submitted for the forthcoming Grammys, he speaks to Guardian Life about influences, his age-long for poetry and what makes his album tick.

Who is Abu Ibrahim?

Abu Ibrahim, also known as IB, is a spoken word poet, writer and brand strategist. I believe in the transformative power of words and their ability to enrich the human mind. It is an open secret that I enjoy reading, writing and critiquing arts. I also love playing board games, listening to music, travelling and meeting new people.

How did you first become interested in poetry and how did you get started?

I was that child who simply couldn’t get his face out of books. I grew up in a home where academic excellence is hugely encouraged. I would literally fight my mum and dad if they forgot to bring a magazine or national daily home on their way from work. This ritual grew my interest in writing short stories and poetry.

Also, my contact with high school literature teacher Mr Iro was hugely influential. He groomed and opened my mind to the power of words. 

My journey into spoken word poetry began at the University. Influenced by my deep love for rap music, I switched from page poetry to stage poetry and the journey has been amazing ever since.

Walk us through your creative process

My creative process is simple; I research the piece I’m writing on because I know a lot of people are listening and there is nothing as dangerous as an uninformed poet. I also know a poem is never truly finished, so I ask myself, “how deep am I willing to go with a poem?” I also decide what style best suits the delivery of the poem, that is the language, mood and tone. I must say that not all poems have a creative process. Sometimes the inspiration takes over and you are a poem laid on a page.

Abu Ibrahim: Touching Hearts With Spoken Word

Tell us about your spoken word album, Music Has Failed Us?

“Music Has Failed Us” is my debut spoken word album. In my opinion, as a work of sheer artistry, this bodywork is one of the finest to be made. It’s a seven-tracked album. I’m simply going to say everyone deserves to have this album on their playlist. 

We learned the album was accepted by the Grammy’s Recording Academy, how did that happen?

Oh, yes! It did. So I got contacted by a member of the Recording Academy to make a submission to the Grammys this year for the “Best Spoken Word Album” category. He had followed me for some time and believed I could make a strong case for a nomination. I did and my submission was accepted. This means my album stands a chance for a possible nomination at the next Grammys.

No doubt I would love a nomination, but the story is much more than this. The bigger picture is that I was part of a group of spoken word poets who made a push this year so that the Recording Academy would hand the award for the “Best Spoken Word Album” category to spoken word poets.

So whether it happens this year or later in the future, I am deeply satisfied that I was part of this movement.

What issues do you like to explore with your poetry? 

I consider myself a socially conscious poet. That said, I like to explore issues that affect humanity. I am also inspired by the human experience from a collective or individual perspective. So my poems come from daily happenings and explore themes like politics, love, mental health, sex, music, patriarchy, relationships, gender equality, terrorism and more.

What can be done to revitalise the literary culture in Nigeria? 

To revitalise the reading culture in our society, I believe it begins from our homes and schools. Parents and teachers need to reinforce the power of books on the mind. The government should build more libraries and fill them up with relevant books and resources. The scarcity of libraries is very alarming. Also, competitions like debate, quiz and spelling bees that encourage reading with huge incentives and research should be made a priority.

What’s your favourite line from a poem?

“Everything I own I carry through words” it’s the first line from the first poem of my album. I believe this captures my life as a writer and poet.

Who are some of the influences you look up to?

In life: Abu Maliki & Abu Josephine (my parents), Abu Jimoh, Abu Gideon and Oyewole Halima {my siblings} Barack Obama, Ali Baba, Nelson Mandela and more.

In the creative space: The late Chinua Achebe. Wole Soyinka, Philip Asaya, Efe Paul Azino, J-Ivy, Saul Williams Xavier Ighorodje, Kanye West and more.

One book you have read that changed your life?

This is a very tough question, to be honest. I have read too many life-transforming books. Since I have to mention just one book, I will go with “Tribes” by Seth Godin. This is my book of the year.