I sat down with Altayeb Boggy Osama, a long-time hip hop artist, who conversed about his recent transition from hip hop to writing and performing poetry in Arabic and English.
Dorian: You were born and raised in Abu Dhabi, and your family is from Sudan. How did your upbringing affect you?
Boggy: I’ve lived here for all of my life. Looking back at how the UAE provided for us, it’s only fair that we call ourselves one of the country’s own children. We talk the language, we learned the history, we lived with Emiratis. It feels good to call UAE home just as much as I call Sudan home.
Being of Sudanese descent we had an identity struggle but thanks to our parents we did not lose our dialect. Visiting Sudan during every vacation connected us to our roots until we learned everything about our homeland. We became Sudanese, just as if we were born and raised there.
Dorian: When did you become a hip hop artist?
Boggy: It all started in 2006 right when I got to high school and met few friends who shared my interest in hip hop music. We used to write in class and then share our writing. Sometimes, we used to freestyle and battle each other in the back of the class just to spice up our writing technique.
Dorian: How did you make a name for yourself in Khartoum?
Boggy: I started performing in Khartoum’s music scene between 2009-2010. I targeted Sudan’s scene more than I did to UAE’s as music wasn’t really pushed through radio stations and television. People in Sudan loved my sound and ideas. I introduced them to a whole new sound of hip hop music that was based on hyped up beats, lots of energy on stage, and a catchy flow.
Dorian: What is different about poetry over hip hop?
Boggy: Hip hop and poetry are very similar but there are some subtle differences. Yes, expression is much easier in poetry because you are not limited by a beat. You don’t have to worry about going off beat or coming up with a flow that will distract the listeners. Poetry allows you to make sure the listeners are catching every word you say because they are not distracted by a beat.
One of the main reasons I made the transition is the availability of platforms. Poetry is getting more exposure on the local scene. The start was Rooftop Rhythms where I used to be the one who was always performing original music instead of poetry like everyone else.
Dorian: You also mix English and Arabic in your poetry? Why?
Boggy: I promised myself that I will never write poems that are from love experiences or about a relationship I had. Until that one day I decided to write a poem that is basically wordplay off of a girl’s name. A name that is associated with Arabic love stories.
I was shocked by the positive feedback; by the standing ovation from people who didn’t know that I write in Arabic as well. The mixture attracted both types of listeners, the people who are in love with Arabic poetry and the ones who are in love with English poetry. I’m currently writing my third Arabic-English poem.
Dorian: Where do you see yourself years from now?
Boggy: I see myself named Poet of the Year at the next Rooftop Rhythms 2017 awards and performing internationally in neighboring countries. I see myself as owner of my own poetry based café, which I would like to name The Poetry Hub. It will be an underground New York style poetry café.
Dorian: How do you feel about the poetry scene?
Boggy: It’s an amazing feeling to finally see platforms set out for us to conquer and to share our finest work. Earlier we used to struggle to get our voices heard but now it is easier to participate in events. Every poetry event organizer made sure they built a family before they built a stage.
Dorian: How can people contact you on social media?
Dorian: Any projects you are working on?
Boggy: I’m always trying to come up with new ideas and new movements that have never been seen in the UAE. So just await the greatness, Insha’Allah. Great collaborations are on the way. The name Poetic Justice is going to be huge!
Dorian: Wow! This check is also huge. I didn’t know coffee was expensive at Emirates Palace. Can you pay this time?
Boggy: *stares blankly*