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Spotlight: Richard Oduor

Spotlight: Richard Oduor

Spotlight is a monthly series showcasing work by a member (or member emeritus) of Jalada Africa. Each month, we explore poetry, fiction, nonfiction, photo/video essays, comics, films: it could be anything, as long as it’s produced by a Jaladan. We also highlight their past and present contributions to the Collective, whether editorial, managerial, or organizational.

Richard Oduor is a founding member of Jalada Africa. He is a researcher, writer, and editor who studied Biomedical Science and Technology. Richard is also a nonfiction editor at Panorama: The Journal for Intelligent Travel and serves as Treasurer to the Board of Youth on the Move, a Kenyan NGO that empowers persons with epilepsy and ensures their equal participation in the society through lobby and awareness creation in partnership with stakeholders.

Richard was shortlisted for the British Science Fiction Association (BSFA) Awards (2015), Brunel International African Poetry Prize (2017), Brittle Paper Award for Essays/Think Pieces (2017) and Brittle Paper Anniversary Award (2018), for
An African in London and Other Reflections on African Literatures“.

He has also been published widely in spaces within and outside the continent including; Jalada Africa, Saraba Africa, Panorama: The Journal of Intelligent Travel, This is Africa (TIA), Brittle Paper, and The Elephant, among others. He was a columnist for two years with The Star (a national newspaper) and contributed a weekly column focusing on political analyses as part of #MaskaniConversations: an iterative online-to-offline initiative hosted by Maskani Ya Taifa. Richard also carried out interviews with icons in “Beyond the Individual: Redefining Icons in Africa”, published by the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung.

This month, we feature his essay, “Khaligraph Jones and Emerging Hip Hop
Futures in Kenya” recently published by The Elephant.

In Richard’s own words:

“Recorded music is vital to the construction of personal and collective cultural memory. It is a constitutive element of collective identity and cultural heritage. Popular urban music, specifically, the hip hop genre, is pervasive in mainstream media. Understanding the impact of the pervasiveness of the genre on the artists and its grip on the imagination of urban youth, the essay explores the music of Brian Ouko Omollo aka Khaligraph Jones, a young man whose music currently rules the airwaves and who can arguably be considered the most exportable voice from Kenya in recent years. This essay is part of a series exploring urban hip hop music in Kenya, coming after “Ukoo Flani Mau Mau –The Disappearing Act of a Hip Hop Dynasty.”

Khaligraph Jones and Emerging Hip Hop Futures in Kenya

A talent emerged with a vociferous, shrill and piercing cry deep in the heart of Kayole on June 12, 1990. It was an uncertain time. Agitations for multiparty democracy clouded the air amidst arbitrary detentions, torture and killings. Still, a mother – freed from the listlessness of a third trimester – rocked a plump newborn. As the cries of Robert Ouko’s assassination tapered, it was only fitting that the mother in Kayole thought it wise to name her new hope – Brian Ouko Robert – perhaps as a silent resistance against the dictatorial regime. I do not know. I have not asked. But I know we use names to resist erasure.

Brian Ouko Robert – aka Mr. Omollo aka Khaligraph Jones – was welcomed by a troubled country of barely 20 million people. Exactly 28 years later, this baby released a debut album, Testimony 1990, and gives us a chance to look back not only at this baby who has now become a man, but at a country whose population, just like its troubles, has doubled. Let us talk about the music of this prodigious talent.

Read the rest here.

Richard Oduor contributed ““Sex on a Train Wagon” to Jalada 01: Sext Me Poems and Stories (2014), “eNGAGEMENT” and “I Died With the Earth – A Similitude of the Days of the Destroyer” to Jalada 02: Afrofuture(s) (2015), “Masira Mar Sero Jajuok” or “Tribulations of Seducing a Night Runner” to Jalada 04: The Language Issue (2015) and Gima Omiyo Dhano en Ochung’ Tir, a Dholuo translation in Jalada Translation Issue 01: Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o.

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