Iyeoka Ivie Okoawo is a Poet and Recording Artist, a 2010 TED Global Fellow, the 2nd place 2009 Individual World Poetry Slam Champion, and a spokesperson for the Amenawon Foundation. Daughter of Nigerian-born parents who both hold Doctorate degrees from Boston University, Iyeoka was a practicing pharmacist before launching her career as a poet, singer, activist and educator. In her native Esan language, Iyeoka means “I want to be respected.” By channeling her culture and ancestral influences, she delivers an authentic and inspiring message of healing through accessing the power of the moment.
Iyeoka began her musical career by founding the group The Rock by Funk Tribe, a collective of musicians that enabled her to interweave her poetry with jazz, blues, funk, and gospel. She released her first solo full length album of poem-songs called “Black and Blues” in 2004 through Phanai Records and then began to tour and make numerous appearances on other artist’s albums, including The Press Project’s “Get Right” album and “Memoirs of the Tempo” by Tempo Valley.
In 2007, Iyeoka released her second album of poetry and music fusion “Hum The Bass Line” again on Phanai Records. In 2008, she recorded a live album in Hawaii called Live @ KTUH – Honolulu. That same year, Iyeoka lent her vocal talent to a cover of U2′s hit song “Desire” for a compilation of U2 covers called “In The Name Of Love: Africa Celebrates U2.” The album featured Grammy Award-winning/nominated African artists including Angelique Kidjo, Les Nubians, Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars, Vieux Farka Toure, Vusi Mahlasela and the Soweto Gospel Choir with proceeds benefiting the Global Fund.
In 2009, Iyeoka decided to transform her sound and songwriting approach and began working with producer David Franz (in collaboration with her original producer, Francis Phan) to create more traditional song forms. Iyeoka released two EPs that year called “This Time Around” and “Run Into the Rain.” The new music infused more pop, R&B, dance, and hip hop into the mix, creating an “electronic soul” sound.
In November of 2010, Iyeoka released her new album, SAY YES, containing nine songs and two poems, through the Underground Sun artist development company. It is the first “Evolving Album(tm)” where purchasers will receive added content for free as the album evolves. Even before the album’s release, the first song “The Yellow Brick Road Song” was featured in an episode of the new hit HBO series “How To Make It In America” and is now the official theme song of the USA Network’s show “Fairly Legal.”
Iyeoka is currently touring in support of the new album and her poetry. In the past, Iyeoka has toured in support of artists such as Femi Kuti, Zap Mama and Soulive, as well as played musical festivals like Bonnaroo. The buzz surrounding her poetry has also garnered her national attention through performances at the TBS Trumpet Awards, the Sullivan Honors Awards at the Kennedy Center and Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry Jam on HBO.
Iyeoka is a powerful songstress whose lyrical prowess and vocal talents invoke the spirit of soul-shakers Nina Simone, Sade, Lauryn Hill and Amy Winehouse. A story teller to the core, Iyeoka’s hope-filled words pour out from within and build momentum based on truth. As the words transform into songs, they reemerge as unique, emotionally complex gifts to her audience, touching on a wide range of issues–love, women, culture, struggle, and relationships, among many others.
“My goal is simple…I just want to move the world one poem at a time.”
Iyeoka Ivie Okoawo is a Poet/Recording Artist, the 2nd place 2009 Individual World Poetry Slam Champion and a 2010 TED Global Fellow. A first-generation Nigerian-American, Iyeoka was a practicing pharmacist before launching her career as a poet, presenter, activist and educator. Among Iyeoka’s individual lists of credits is performing at the Kennedy Center for an award event honoring activist and actress Mia Farrow, being commissioned by Discovery Channel for their 2008 brand campaign, being commissioned by a top-twenty ad agency to write a piece for a diversity training tool, receiving a 2011 Independent Music Award nomination for her R&B song “This Time Around”, a Massachusetts Industry Committee Hip-Hop Award for Spoken Word Artist of the year, and a New England Urban Music Award for the Best Female Spoken Word Poet. She holds the distinction of being the only member of the nationally competing Boston Lizard Lounge Slam team to have earned her position nine years in a row. Iyeoka is currently partnering with selective arts organizations to present her WORD SPEAKING TRIBE’S Professional Development Workshops on a 2010 nationwide tour.
A storyteller to the core, Iyeoka’s hope-filled poems come from within and build momentum with truth transformed into songs that reemerge as unique, emotionally complex gifts to her audience, touching on a wide range of issues-love, women, culture, struggle, relationships, among many others. The buzz surrounding her poem and songs has garnered her national attention through performances at the TBS Trumpet Awards, the CBS hip hop show The Source All Access and Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry Jam airing on HBO. Iyeoka also has opened for the Tony Award winning Def Poetry Jam on Broadway tour at the Colonial Theater in Boston. Sharing the stage with recording artists Chuck D of Public Enemy, Musiq Soul Child and Vivian Greene to poets Gil Scot Heron, Sonia Sanchez, and Amiri Baraka—Iyeoka has held true to her core.
Across the nation, at venues ranging from universities, large concert halls, and neo-soul clubs to venerable spoken word haunts like the Nuyorican Poets Café; Iyeoka’s warm spirit, stirring lyrics and passionate performances leave audiences not only entertained but visibly overcome with emotion. Widely considered one of the top performance poets in the country, Iyeoka has earned her reputation by performing on the National Poetry Slam circuit for well over a decade, with the Jeff Robinson Trio and as a member of the acclaimed Bull Horn Collective and Blackout Arts Collective.
A gifted performer, Iyeoka’s acting prowess has been featured as the title character in a PBS documentary on Harriet Tubman, as well as an off-Broadway play produced by Thema Bryant Davis. Her poem on Rwanda is also featured in a documentary film “Rwanda Rising” that is Executive Produced by Andrew Young the former ambassador to the United Nations.