I first met Qabaniso at Poetry Africa in 2014. He arrived in a suit and was a breath of fresh air because he didn’t take himself too seriously. Also, his poetry just blew my mind and I am a collector of beautiful poetry.
Q is preparing to launch his album People at BICC in Lilongwe on the 2nd of April and I am so pleased to be one of the featured artists. As a build up to #FillUpBICC, I asked Q a few questions so you can get to know him too.
1. Do you remember your first ever poetry experience? Not performance, the first poem to move you. What was it, where were you and what made it memorable?
My first poetry experience was in 1997 when I was in high school in Mafikeng. It was poem by my brother in law titled “This Heap of Bones”. It was about a man’s experiences searching for his rib. The way he described each one he tried was vivid. I was amazed at how he could link the attributes of the ribs to people’s.
2. Do you remember the first poem you ever wrote? If yes, please share it or what it was about.
The first poem I wrote was “Soul Kiss”. It was about a couple with a drinking problem and the hurtful things they would say to each other.
3. Your first poetry performance… When, where and how did it go?
My first poetry performance was in the U.K at the Brighton University. They had an event by the African-Caribbean society. I performed “Dearest Child” which was originally a song we had done as Real Elements, a Malawian hip hop I was part of at the time. It went very well. I got a standing ovation.
4. One poet who has influenced your voice.
One poet who has influenced my voice is late Oscar Brown Junior. I love the impact of his simplicity.
5. I’ve been seeing the hashtag #ZamaZothwe everywhere, what does it mean and (how) is that related to the title of your album?
#ZathuZomwe means “our own”. It is a very common saying in Malawi to express sentiments of ownership and pride.
6. Tell me a bit about your journey to People. The process, the poems, the producing… How did we get here?
The journey “People” has been very interesting. Realising that not every poem that works for performance will work for recording. I have had to write specifically for the recording and also adapt some older poems for the same reason. The title of the album went through so many changes but I eventually arrived at “People” which is also a poem on the album. I am also a music producer and sound engineer and know I know how it feels like to be on the other side of the booth.
7. You’re creating history here, is Malawi ready for a spoken word album release of this magnitude? (Why?)
I don’t know if Malawi is ready or not for an event of this magnitude. There is only one way to find out. It is very ambitious to try to fill a 1400 seat auditorium. It is scary actually but then it wouldn’t be worth it if it didn’t scare me.
8. Why should people come out to BICC on the 2nd? What do you have in store for them?
People should come to BICC on the 2nd of April because it will be a freaking awesome experience. The line-up is out of this world. The stories each poet is bringing are so unique. Some are challenging and some might contradict each other. That’s the point I guess. As a collective we will make a statement about poetry and art in general and hopefully people in Malawi will see poets differently.
9. What should people expect from this album? And where can people get copies after the launch?
People should expect something different. A different “voice” in a way. Not a recorded version of a live performance. I am hoping that the album is a unique experience independent of my stage performances.
10. Tell us 5 interesting things about Qabaniso Malewezi that people don’t know.
1. I made cheesy euro pop music for a living (At this point, I should mention that Q writes these really beautiful “Ahhhhhh poems”. Maybe I’ll get him to send us a podcast of a few in the coming weeks…. Just because… Ahhhhh )
2. I wanted to be a priest
3. I am obsessed with symmetry and exactness
4. I am a nervous wreck before performing (I can compete with Napo on this one)
5. I get nervous flying over water
People will be available from Q’s website qmalewezi.com so please support this rising sun!