Olutunde Chisom Olufemi was born in 1968 into a family setting of West African and American ethnicity. He was the fifth in a family of seven children. In 1993, Baba Olutunde was accepted into the radio\film\theater communications program at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. It was at Temple that he first developed an interest in combing poetry with traditional West African, Cuban, Jazz and New Age drum rhythms.
He is an author of five fully completed books of oral poetry, spoken word, folktales and fables. Baba Olutunde’s first collection of poetry “The Compositions of A Griot” (2007) was published by Roaring Lion Publications, a self-publishing company he founded. Additional titles include but are not limited to “The Son Of A Warrior Griot: A collection of Oral Poetry, Folktales and Fables (2008), “Love Psalms”: A collection of love poems (unreleased), “The Streets Speak Of Blood” (unreleased) and “Redemption Songs” (unreleased).
In 1997, he helped design and hosted a spoken word radio show on WRFG 89.3 FM titled “Reflections”. His other notable community activity and performances include the spoken word program “Word Essence” on PBS television. He has opened for popular spoken word artists like KOFFEE (Miss Georgia), Def Jam Poet “Abyss”, Nukola, Def Jam Poet “Wordsmith”, and “Phillipe” The Philosopher, The Prophet and The Poet”.
He currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia and is an Awo in training to become an Ifa priest.
Five Questions with Olutunde Olufemi:
1. How long have you been writing poetry?
I've known I would write since I was twelve years old. It was at this age I began to write short stories and fables. I received the higher calling when I arrived at college in 1994. Byron Smith and I met as freshmen at Temple University: we lived in the same dorm. A few months later we both spent some time studying the works of "The Last Poets" and Gill Scott. As time went on as a college student I became deeply fascinated with world poetry and traditional African cultures, and began writing poetry and selling my own chapbooks at the age of 21 to help pay for school material and food.
2. Who are your favorite poets? Which poets have most informed and inspired your work?
Early on, Chinua Achebe, Jean-Baptiste Tati-Loutard, Christopher Okigbo were very important to me. Later as I began to take my writing more serious, Paul Laurence Dunbar's literary ambition and social lyrics became my model. As I began to explore poetry from an international perspective, I became strongly influenced by "The Last Poets," Linton Kwesi Johnson and Mutabaruka, particularly for his social, cultural and spiritual views for human justice and his style of adding dub music to his poems. My work lately, I believe, bears witness to my profound respect for the likes of Chinweizu Ibekwe, Eze Ambushie, Kofi Anyidoho, Amatoritsero Ede and Paulin Joachim. And I should also acknowledge my fascination and amazement at Marcus Garvey's entire body of work. Finally, my interest in South African poetry and Caribbean literature has always motivated the way I think about form and narration.
3. What do you hope to accomplish with your poetry?
I attempt to write good oral poetry. It is my highest goal to write a collection of poems that could inspire generations of African writers to come and to create a reputation for myself in the modern African literature world as a respectable writer who's voice, visions and styles reflect the quality of my commitment to literature, humanity and the sense of myself as an African artist with a special and difficult role to fulfill, rather than just another writer who happen to have published a book or two.
4. Have you ever "returned home" for a visit before? Are you serious about potentially making a permanent move?
Yes, I often return to home to Edo at least once every two years. Yes, I am very serious about making a permanent move back home in the next three years to come.
5. Are you working on any new projects or poems that you think our readers might be interested in?
Yes, I am currently finishing the editing work of a collection of poetry, folktales and fables entitled "The Son Of A Warrior Griot", due to be released in the winter of 2009. This book will be a global introduction to the world about me as an inspiring writer who has been subjected to influences by various realism, negritude, structuralism and Igbo oral tradition with straight-forward truths. This book will be a simple exploration of the nature of my poetic idiom, a survey of my universe of creative rhetoric. In other terms, the aim of this book is to expose the way and manner in which my life experience and sensibilities are expressed with oral poetry, folktales and fables that themselves are transformed into a complete fusion of sense, sound, structure and visions that build bridges between the writer and the reader.