It Has Been War – Brainbox 

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Good day sir, may we know you?

My name is Valentine Onyeka Ogunaka; an Abuja based spoken word/rap artist, motivational speaker, teacher, actor, information scientist and impact consultant. I have a first degree in Library and Information Science from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.  

Your moniker “Brainbox” it is intriguing, how did you come about the name?

I was that little kid who would attempt everything under God’s eye. So I chased too many dreams, my life in a jumble at some point, until a retired Nigerian Army Major whom I did a ‘good’ job for solved me: Brainbox! And I liked it, took it home, to my friends, my course mates and now the stage.

What/who influenced you to be a spoken word artist?

Writing early, poems and fiction, and when I turned 16 I was rapping, eventually recording a tad of gospel, conscious and motivational music. Then a few times, I did voiceovers for organizations before finding spoken word later on– first on the lips of Spokesman Aluwong, a minister of God’s word and then Moses Audu.  

When did you start spoken word and how has the journey been so far?

I realized I could do it during a ‘Sermon on the Mount’ rap battle some years back in a teen church. However, I set out professionally in 2014 after a friend invited me to perform at her event: Idarenotdread. And the journey has been war. 

What were the challenges you faced or are there any you’re facing in your act?

The major challenge is getting people to listen, that is, building a niche. It’s pretty hard because you’re expected to churn out what fits popular demand. Second, there’s dearth of sponsorship but I’m trying to keep my game on through personal dedication and community support. 

Do you do anything apart from spoken word? If yes, how do you manage both?

There’s quite a lot to do with Spoken Word, so I’m staying focused at this moment. However, I used to be a cab man and so much more. 

What do you think can be done to promote spoken word in Nigeria?

Everyone who understands and appreciates Spoken Word can help with this. They can share the beauty of the art through daily conversations and on their various platforms. Then I think that poets should stop competing. We should carry ourselves as professionals by committing more time and effort to our work. That’s the only way people can respect and promote us. It is equally vital to perform at odd places where Spoken Word will come as mystery to a thankless audience. It’s not impossible to make people appreciate something ‘new’.

You have some spoken word videos what has been the response after you released them?

I will not answer this very question till I release a couple more videos. 

How do you deal with a bad review of your work, that’s if you have any?

I pay more attention to my heart. However, I don’t take bad reviews for granted. I’d revisit my work because someone else has to be right.

What makes a spoken word piece good?

From a personal angle, I think a poem should reflect everything it means to the poet – in writing and performance – but it will be nicer if content is rich. 

About your upcoming event “Summer Of Expression” can you enlighten us on what’s it about?

“Summer of Expressions stands as my biggest test so far in this journey. It’s a youth-teen camp that provides an opportunity for young adults to apply their voices to everything that makes them who they are and what they intend to become. I’m currently hosting the second edition and I expect it to be an icebreaker for everything else that follows. 

What’s the date and venue?

25-27 August, 2016. 9am daily, at the Millennium Park, Maitama. 

What advice do you have for aspiring poets?

Do your thing and don’t change for anyone but give room for improvement. 

©city of poets  

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