As people across the country celebrate Black History Month, one multitalented artist in the Washington, D.C. area is looking to impact the future of African-Americans as well. Kofi Osei Owusu has taken on the task of directing the Diversity Theatre Company’s KKK: Kings of Kulture & Kush showcase. The production will feature interviews, poetry, music, dance, and other performing arts that empower men and boys of African descent.
Owusu’s turn at the helm of Kings of Kulture & Kush is the latest item on the Howard University graduate’s resume of work. He previously directed Sins Of The Father and Bedlam in the Pulpit. As an actor he also appeared in the plays Ecce & The Revolution Will Not Be Televised and Don’t Sing No Blues For Me, and when he’s not contributing to the theater, Kofi’s controlling the wheels of steel as DJ AniKan.
DZI: The Voice connected with Owusu to discuss his upcoming show, the African diaspora’s understanding of manhood versus the Western understanding, Hip Hop culture, and more.
Yohance Kyles: When did you discover your voice as an artist?
Kofi Owusu: I discovered my voice after I learned to embrace my own greatness. I spent 10 years second guessing everything I did as an artist. I wasn’t sure I was good enough. It took a journey for me to like my work – love it, even. Now inspiration is abundant. I’m really grateful.
YK: Can you remember your first experience performing on stage?
KO: (Laughs) Yes, I was a California Raisin.
YK: What was the inspiration for Kings of Kulture & Kush?
KO: I have a background in education. In my experience, I’ve noticed that there is a great disconnect between the generations of men and young boys within the black community, specifically. KKK: Kings of Kulture & Kush is created to ignite conversation and a reconnecting of the black men and young boys. Our aim is to esteem our young men and honor our elders as we inspire a perfected outlook on oneself and each other.
YK: How will the show incorporate all the different artistic mediums that will be part of the production?
KO: This performance piece is a kaleidoscope of artistic expression. It incorporates the art forms of music, video, photo imagery, dance, and spoken word to name a few. There is something for everyone to enjoy and definitely remember.
YK: A tag line for KKK says the show will expound on “understanding manhood from a non-western perspective”. In your opinion, what are the problems with viewing what manhood represents from a Western mindset for men of African descent?
KO: African culture is rich with tradition and a code of honor that permeates generations. Many of these traditions, like the village mindset, integrate with our lifestyle as a people. Still now in present day, many traditions of the African diaspora still have links to the lifestyle of our African people. In them are secrets to unlocking our strength, power, wealth and unity as community.
More and more, as Black men engraft themselves a part of the cultural mindset of Western society, the potency of our African heritage is diluted. This poses a threat to our ancestors’ legacy and leaves us on a path searching for “self” on a cultural level and never truly finding it.
YK: What would you say is currently one of the biggest issues hindering the progress of Black men in this country and what would you suggest can be done to overcome it?
KO: The biggest problem is there isn’t any communication between the generations of Black men. We are allowing thousands of brothers to fall by the wayside or pass on with out the ability to pass on what they have learned; this leaves the youth to beseech their own counsel and/or depend on media outlets to fill in the blanks.
There’s much work to be done to break down the barriers blocking open communication within our community. In my opinion, the arts are an excellent way of inspiring deeper thought and dialogue. Hence, the creation of KKK: Kings of Kulture & Kush. Through this performance, it’s our aim to begin the healing process.
YK: You’ve also participated in Step Afrika. How was that experience?
KO: Working with Step Afrika is one of the highlights of my career to date. I love Step Afrika. I’ve been a huge fan for years. Getting the opportunity to blend my passion for music, step, and acting in one experience was beyond amazing and a dream come true. I still sit back in amazement.
YK: DJs have become highly respected artists in their own right once again. Why do you think the public has embraced the artistry of disc jockeying in today’s music?
KO: The influence of ’80s pop culture in the 21st century has rekindled an old flame of Hip Hop and rightfully so. After all, what would Hip hop be without the DJ?
YK: As a DJ, what’s your take on what’s happening in Hip Hop right now?
KO: Hip Hop is in a new stage of its growth process. It is stretching itself as it pushes other genres which borrow from its influence. Although there is much music being produced which doesn’t fancy me as “Hip Hop”, I’m excited for the re-emergence of the lyricist and a more balanced sound and approach to the genre overall.
YK: What are three tracks you can play that you know will always get the crowd hype?
KO: Montel Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It”. Lil’ Wayne’s “Let The Beat Build”. B.O.B’s “We Still In This Bitch”.
YK: Who are your personal top 5 actors of all time?
KO: 1. Don Cheadle. 2. Will Smith. 3. Jeffrey Wright. 4. Tom Hanks. 5. Idris Elba.
YK: Which do you enjoy more, acting or directing?
KO: I enjoy acting more. I love the intimate nature of the character building process. When I’m directing, I don’t have the time to spend with each actor to help them as they make intricate choices regarding their respective character roles. But, I do enjoy watching them reach their “Ah-ha moments.” Those are always great too.
YK: What’s next for Kofi Owusu?
KO: There is so much more to come from me this year. I’m looking forward to it all. Besides preparing to showcase KKK: Kings of Kulture & Kush at the DC Black Theatre Festival, I anticipate the onset of new opportunities to further the success of my career as a writer, director, actor, and DJ.
Diversity Theater Company’s KKK: Kings of Kulture & Kush is scheduled for February 28th and March 1st at the Adinkra Cultural Art Studio in Mount Rainier, Maryland.
For more info about KKK: Kings of Kulture & Kush click it
For more info about Kofi Owusu aka DJ AniKan click it
To connect with Kofi follow him on Twitter @DjAniKan3
Check out a Kings of Kulture & Kush video presentation about the definition of manhood: