Spoken word with Kosal Khiev

On the Thursday that just passed, a friend invited me to Kosal Khiev’s spoken word workshop.

It was very last minute decision but when I checked out his website I was very intrigued by his story. In a nutshell, he was born in a refugee camp in Thailand, got sent to USA on a programme. While growing up there made some bad decisions and ended up doing time. In his one year of solitary confinement during which he got introduced to spoken word, he started to used it as a creative outlet to voice his emotions. When he got deported to Cambodia later he continued his work in spoken word and got discovered to represent Cambodia in a competition in London, then received an award in Berlin. To read more, go to his website. J

So anyway after reading a profile like that, I wanted to meet him in person and understand more about the spoken word.

The location was at Aliwal Arts Centre in Singapore, pretty newly built space that felt more like a school. The room in which the workshop was held was bright and very conducive to hold an intimate workshop for the 20 odd people that were there to attend it.

Deborah Emmanuel, a talented young lady who also performed her work at TEDx Singapore yesterday at Joyden Hall, also was at the workshop as a facilitator.

When everyone arrived, I was really glad that there were some amateurs like me who were just curious to find out more. It was a very mixed group and while everyone didn’t really introduce where they were from, I could roughly guess that there were at least more than 6 nationalities in the room.

The first thing that Kosal asked us to do was to check in with our feelings when we walked into the room, as type of self introduction. No, he didn’t really want to know what we did for a living; he wanted to know how we felt walking into the room. Being self aware was the key to creative inspiration, methinks.

The first exercise required us to pen down something we remembered from our earliest childhood memories, then to adolescence, then to something that happened in the recent past that had an impact on us, then the current feeling, and finally what we wanted for ourselves in the future. Then, we had to put them together into a spoken word piece. Doing this for the first time, I didn’t really complete the exercise very well because I could not gel the memories in a cohesive way. So I just sat through the read-aloud round. There was a young gentleman who immediately volunteered to share his work first, followed by the rest of us who were kind of reluctant to volunteer themselves at first but eventually got persuaded to share a piece of their soul with complete strangers in the room. Kosal also wrote and presented his piece – he made use of rhythm, volume and body movements to recite his spoken word, and it felt like a mix of a poem reading, a rap and a song. Beautiful.

The second exercise involved everyone recording down everyone else’s feeling used in the self introduction at the beginning of class and then string all of them into a spoken word piece. The list was:

Blessed, in-step, distracted, adventurous, bewildered, ambivalent (mine), alright, anxious, excited, uncertain, good, breathless, excited-ish, disorientated, all over the place, excellent, hopeful, relieved, enthusiastic, zen, nervous and human.

This time I could muster up my creative juices to create something that sounded like this (I also shared it with the class):

Blessed I am, on most days
to be excited, in-step and hopefully adventurous;
to be a human being who grew up good and sheltered,
but free to feel nervously uncertain or breathlessly enthusiastic.
Sometimes I overdo it and get disorientated and all over the place
so much so that I get anxious about going back to the state of zen,
to feel alright,
 but mostly I calm myself from bewilderment to ambivalence,
by distracting myself from others’ excellence
and finally finding relief.
Then I start the cycle all over again, excited-ishly

Hope that didn’t sound too bad.

But anyway at the end of the workshop, Kosal finally did his self introduction about his background and agreed to perform 2 of his winning work – Why I write and another one which I didn’t remember the name but it was something about Love.  

I like this artistic channel, it’s very intimate and unpretentious, and allows the writer to not be bound by the usual rules of rapping / poetry writing / song writing.

Visit Kosal Khiev’s website at www.spokenkosal.com

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