Cassava Republic acquires Mukoma Wa Ngugi's 'love letter to music'

Cassava Republic acquires Mukoma Wa Ngugi's 'love letter to music'

Cassava Republic is to publish Unbury Our Dead, a literary novel by Mukoma Wa Ngugi, described as "a love letter to beauty, music and the imagination".

World rights were acquired by Bibi Bakare-Yusuf at Cassava Republic from Julia Masnik at the Watkins/Loomis Agency. The novel, which evokes the Tizita, a form of music often referred to as African Blues, will be published in June in the UK. It also comes with a Tizita playlist which can be heard on YouTube.

The synopsis explains: "Four talented musicians are competing to see who can sing the best Tizita. Taking place in an illegal boxing hall in Nairobi, the competition is covered by a US educated Kenyan journalist, John Thandi Manfredi, who writes for a popular tabloid. He follows four musicians home to Ethiopia to learn more about the Tizita and their lives. As he learns more about the Tizita and the multiple meanings of beauty, he uncovers that behind each of the musicians, there are layered lives and secrets.

"The characters could not be more diverse — the Diva (whose humble home life belies her glamorous façade), The Taliban Man (an Ethiopian rapper), the Corporal (with a troubling military history) and Miriam (the oldest bartender in Kenya). His journey takes him from a seedy club in Nairobi to the idyllic Ethiopian countryside and on to raucous parties in Addis Abbaba set to a soundtrack of stirring Tizita performances."

The author is the co-founder of the Mabati-Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature and has been shortlisted for both the Caine Prize and the Penguin Prize for African literature. He has lectured at the Universities of Oxford, Bristol and Exeter in the UK and appeared at literary festivals in Bath, Bristol and London. He has also appeared in conversation events with his father, the author Ngugi Wa Thiong'o.