The American poet Baraka Blue came to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia as part of his Art of Remembrance book tour. He used to be a rapper but now he seems to be on the Sufi path with his poetry. I only recently (earlier this year) knew about him via posts on Instagram as I have been actively trying to change my IG algorithm. When this poetry and dinner event at Mukha Cafe was publicised, I thought — why not? Let’s experience something new! It would also be a good opportunity for me to meet new sisters.
Special Vegan Dinner at Mukha ft. Urban Hijau
The 3-course dinner wasn't vegan by default. But there were plant-based options for the mains.
Starter: ulam raja salad with tempeh
The vegetables were fresh from the Urban Hijau farm a few miles away. Low carbon footprint and vegan by default! Everyone had this starter. I was amused that one salad bowl had only one small piece of tempeh. But overall, it was decent!
Main: stuffed cabbage
There were three options for mains and this was the only plant-based one. The stuffed cabbage contained tofu, spinach, mushroom and zucchini. It was floating above a piece of potato patty with some broth. It does look like the stereotypical vegan/vegetarian dish but I was surprised by how flavourful and filling this was.
Dessert: banana bread and fritters
The dessert wasn’t vegan; it was vegetarian. I was ready to just skip this one even though I paid MYR 100 for the whole experience. But the people at Mukha were kind enough to accommodate when I told them earlier that I don’t consume eggs and dairy. So the chef baked the banana bread ✨fresh✨ just for this odd lil vegan! I even shared this with the other sisters and they preferred it to theirs.
Art of Remembrance Poetry with Baraka Blue
Before the dessert, the international guest, Baraka Blue recited two poems — one was an old poem called “Beloved” about the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and the other was “What you seek” from his new book. I appreciate the effort and sincerity he put into his work and it’s admirable how he infused Islamic history, practice, and spirituality into his poems.
I’m not one to provide a level-headed review of poetry, but I felt that Baraka Blue’s poetry is akin to the verbal minimalism of Rupi Kaur’s. Perhaps I’m just biased towards the deeper much older poems of Shakespeare and Emily Brontë, and I know nothing of modern poetry.
What I Wish I Knew About Baraka Blue
I read an article mentioning Baraka Blue’s past in hip hop music. But I never thought of searching for any of his work on YouTube or Spotify. I wish I had.
You can find his Sound Heart album on the Internet and boy is it a banger! The album features various artists that he collaborated with including Mos Def (Yasiin Bey), Tyson and 114, and Doc Zhivago.
I feel like his style of “poetry” fits the vibe of hip hop.
But I guess he has evolved as a person and spiritual soul and needed to ascend the material realm of music towards the mystical path.
During the poetry dinner at Mukha, since it was a relatively small group, we got the chance to interact with Baraka Blue. I wish I had known about his past a bit more so that I could ask him:
“Why did you quit hip hop rap music and only create poetry without the musical element?”
I have an inkling that in order for him to ascend spiritually, he would’ve needed to eliminate distracting elements including music. The ‘music is haram’ debate persists and there can be arguments for and against music within the spiritual Islamic lens.
However, I’d still have liked to get Mr Blue’s insight directly and learn about his personal experience or opinion. His situation seems to resonate with mine as I have knowledge and experience in hip hop music and dance, while also venturing deeper into the Sufi path.
A Night to Remember
Despite that slight regret, the poetry and dinner event at Mukha cafe on 12 June 2023 was wholesome. I achieved my main goal of connecting with sisters of like spirit in Kuala Lumpur. I’m now aware that Mukha is a place that gathers spiritual seekers through coffee, books, and art. I’m glad to have experienced the poetry and dinner event (probably my first ever) and the heartfelt recitation by Baraka Blue (even though the sound system was poor and muffled). I discovered that this event was the first of its kind for Mukha. And the fact they could accommodate my dietary request meant that the setback was of no consequence.