Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Talking Story with Imani Woomera

Imani Woomera is a poet who sings her words. She takes a feeling, an idea or message, turns those into a poem, adds flavor and soul and what she creates is called Spoken Word. There is a hint of soul, a splash of rap; a heartbeat, a mixture of yesterday, today, and her dreams of tomorrow's possibility.

Imani spent her first eight years on Maui, but it was about that time that her father moved to Kenya. “It changed everything,” she says. “When I was about eleven I went to Africa for the first time. I started traveling between Kenya and Hawaii and I had to choose where I wanted to live.”

There was something about the freedom in Kenya that made her decide to stay with her dad—-a doctor of soil sciences who at the time worked with the United Nations.

"I was blessed with a lot of opportunities. I was able to travel internationally, and to experience things that in Hawaii I would not have been able to. To get from Kenya to Hawaii you have to travel through Europe, and I am an island girl. It made me feel like more of a citizen of the world.”

She says that she was never completely accepted in any one culture, but that turned out to be okay. “I grew up in an international environment, so I figured out how to create my own culture. My fabric is woven from my diverse experiences.”

Her music is affected by this background. Over the past ten years, Imani focused on her poetry, channeling her love of words into a passion for working with young people. After studying audio production in college, she found work as an after school youth coordinator. She introduced the kids to Spoken Word poetry. “I started to experiment with the kids. I taught them to write poems, to perform. One thing I have worked to do is to teach kids that every life is a story—-a remarkable story because it is your story.”

After that experience she moved back to Kenya and ended up staying for seven years. “It was a pivotal point in my career. There was no spoken word in Kenya. People did poetry readings, but the boring type that put you to sleep. I had the idea to start an event. It blew up to be the biggest event in the city. It went on for about two years after that first one.”

Then Imani co-founded a nonprofit called Slam Africa. It was a platform for youth to express themselves. The winners got something not so easy for artists in that part of the world―publicity. Members of the community—everyday people―found themselves on the covers of magazines. But eventually, Imani found that she was ready for change, so she left the organization in good hands--the hands of that community that she had helped to build around the art of Spoken Word.

She then started writing curriculum to teach Spoken Word in high schools. She had a radio show and traveled a lot―-Brazil, Canada, New York, South Africa. “It was not just about being in Kenya; I was a traveling artist.” She became part of the Arts Alive and Habitat for Humanity, where she traveled to Canada and Thailand.

Her first album, Morning Rain, was released in 2006. In the summer of 2010 Imani chose to leave Kenya officially. She was hired for a three-month job in Ibiza and played at Pacha—-a well-known night club in this, the party capital of the world.

In Ibiza, Imani hooked up with a producer named David Villlefort, who is also a percussionist. He produced several of the songs on Imani Woomera’s new album, Talking Story, and many of the songs were produced in Kenya and Ibiza. “In Hawaii we ‘talk story’ when we get together. It helps me connect to the islands,” Imani says. “This album is really about believing in your dream, letting go of whatever fears and doubts you may have. There’s no way I can move forward unless I honor myself enough to put out what I have worked on.”

Even though Imani found success through all of her endeavors, she admits that there had always been self-induced limitations to what she believed she could do. “I had certain limits of how I saw myself and my talents. There was a lot of self-doubt. All along I had been teaching youth about connecting with themselves―not judging themselves―but here I was doing what I had been teaching kids not to do.

“One of the biggest ways you can empower people is by having the right examples. But if you are living it, you are living the next level of success. A lot of us fear success and push it aside. I am ready for success now in a new way. I am ready now! Finally. Talking Story is about being ready for the next to come.”

If you would like to be on the waiting list to see Imani perform live on Saturday, February 25, please e-mail SHAMc@me.com

We wish you the highest successes, Imani Woomera. Aloha!

To hear Imani Woomera’s music and to purchase her albums, visit her website.

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