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Inimitable wordsmith and master of spoken word

By Harriet James
Wednesday, October 28th, 2020 00:00 | 3 mins read
MAIN: Crazy Mwanafunzi, a poet. RIGHT: His brother Marvin Ng’ang’a, a football player. Photo/PD/Courtesy

Harriet James @harriet86jim

If you are a poetry lover, you must have witnessed the rise of spoken word in the past decade.

There is a burgeoning population of youth who are increasingly opting for spoken word to talk about various issues ranging from their personal lives to social issues. 

For 28-year-old Anthony Ng’ang’a, aka Crazy Mwanafunzi, poetry began as a joke during his primary school days as he played football with his mates.

Little did he know the hidden talent would soon catapult him into prominence in this field, making him meet the who is who and also win awards. 

“He used to perform in church while with his peers. People would tell him he was talented.

Having that affirmation from people made him seek more opportunities to do this,” narrates his younger brother Marvin Ng’ang’a.

His poems are based on love, inspiration and education themes. The 21-year-old Marvin has always looked up to his brother since childhood.

Though his talent is not in poetry, Marvin plays football with Makadara Junior League as a striker, the first love that his elder brother had before he went into full time spoken word.

The two come from a family of three children — two boys and a girl and were born in the sprawling Dandora slum where their late mother raised them. 

Humble childhood

“Our late mum was a hairdresser. It was tough growing up. We lived in a wooden house that was divided into two.

On one side, it was a charcoal shop so all the dust would come into the other room where we stayed,” says Marvin

They survived on one meal a day. It was the only thing their late mother could afford.

Anthony attended Busara Primary School, Umoja, between 1997 and 2005 and Marvin recalls walking from Dandora to Umoja.

Still, he passed his Kenya Certificate of Primary Education. He got an admission letter for St Dominic Meru High School, but couldn’t enroll because of financial constraints. Anthony, instead, joined Ushirika Secondary School, Dandora. 

In 2008, they lost their mother. “Mum passed  on when Anthony was in Form Three. It was a low moment for us. Our grandmother, Lillian Nyambura, took us in,” he narrates. 

Anthony’s passion for football kept him busy and also gave him cash to sustain himself and pay his fees during that moment. 

“He played his first professional match when he was 15 and even got an opportunity to play for Mathare United in Norway 2006 (Norway Cup).

He is proud that as a captain, his team one time won Copa Cocacola, Norway Cup, Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA) amongst many football tournaments. It is such achievements that made me want to follow in his footsteps,” he says.

After secondary education, Anthony spent his free time with Ukoo Flani together with Juliani and they honed his poetry skills.

Later on, he joined Murang’a University in 2010 to study mechanical engineering.

Here, he continued with poetry, performing at various events even outside school thus making a name for himself. 

“He chose to pursue mechanical engineering since he loved it. After he completed his studies in 2015, Anthony got a job at Chloride Exide,” Marvin reveals.  

Going big

However, Anthony quit his job six months later to follow his passion in poetry. Prior, he had met the legendary music producer, the late Bruce Odhiambo at an event where he was performing. Bruce spotted his talent and that’s how big opportunities began coming through for him. 

It is also after he resigned from his job that he opted to go by the stage name, Crazy Mwanafunzi instead of Tony Tosh, which he was known by. The name was coined from his day-to day life experience.

Anthony also joined Churchill Show in 2017 after auditioning for 10 months with no success. This experience taught him the value of patience. 

“Churchill Show gave him exposure and made him known. He was also able to create a lot of networks in the entertainment industry,” Marvin says.

He adds: “He has performed literally everywhere including for President Uhuru Kenyatta, at Churchill Show, Comedy Arena and other poetry events.

In 2018, Anthony had a project where he toured 40 counties performing spoken art.” Though his journey in the entertainment industry seems rosy, Anthony has had his own fair share of challenges.

For instance, some promoters would want him to perform for free or pay him peanuts as they have a perception that spoken word is an easy task. 

And because of Covid-19, there has been no events and shows following social distance measures to curb the spread of the virus. 

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