Interview with dub poet Afua Cooper in Canadian magazine Kick It Over, Winter, 1987.
Ishaka was a Rastafarian from St. Vincnt. He popularized dub poetry in Canada and also gigged in the US. This poem is from his 1983 collection De Word.
I see men seek power
only to raise themselves
above the Laws
of their own creation
Greed was their motive
now fear is their aim
from power they draw
Fed by fear
All the serve
I see them suck dry
the milk of the land
and jingling pockets
murder their senses
they see not the wounds
of the afflicted
they hear not the cries
I see their power
gathered in Arms
Battle with the youths
Amidst the wailing cries
of the new born
Tearing at their
Dennis Scott (1939-1991) was a Jamaican poet who was influential after independence. He often wrote in the vernacular. He was also a playwrite and involved in drama and dance, he even had a role in the Cosby Show.
At first, there’s a thin, bright Rider —
he doesn’t stop at the supermarket, the cool
red meats are not to his taste.
He steals from the tin on the tenement table,
he munches seed from the land
where no rain has fallen, he feeds
in the gutter behind my house.
the bread is covered with sores
when he eats it; the children
have painted his face on their bellies
The second rides slowly, is visiting, watch him, he smiles
through the holes in the roof
of the cardboard houses.
His exhaust sprays pus on the sheets,
he touches the women and teaches them
fever, he puts eggs under the skin —
in the hot days insects will hatch and hide
in the old men’s mouths,
in the bones of the children
And always, behind them, the iceman, quick,
with his shades, the calm oil of his eyes —
when he throttles, the engine
grunts like a killer. I’m afraid,
you said. Then you closed the window
and turned up the radio, the DJ said greetings
to all you lovely people.
But in the street the children coughed like guns.
In the blueblack evenings
they cruise in the corner
giggling. Skenneng! Skenneng!
Lillian Allen at Toronto in 1988 for the WOMAD Festival.
From the 1983 anthology Hard Lines.
They Say They’re Only Doing Their Duty
Them eyes watch you
Till you don’t feel no pride
Them eyes watch you
Nowhere to hide
Them eyes gonna get you
Not much time
Them eyes will catch you
You’re next in line
And when them eyes grab you
It’s useless to attack
Them eyes don’t care nothin’
To them we’re “fucking black”.
From dub poet Lillian Allens’ 1986 album.
This Oku Onuora 12″ came out in 1983.
This conversation was published in Stepping Out, 1976. This was an anthology of writing by nine West Indians from the London Borough of Ealing by the Commonplace Workshop.
Why can’t West Indian talk West Indian?
Meryl If my mum heard me talking like this she’d bust my little ass. Your mum would as as well?
Audrey Yes, she’d say ‘You’re in England now, so talk English.’ My dad’s really got the Jamaican accent.
Meryl If you were to say ‘what a rass hole’ and all this stuff at home would your mum start…
Eleanor But this is swearing isn’t it? I mean if you’re just talking properly like ‘dey’ instead of ‘they’ you know, there’s nothing wrong in that but if you’re swearing and ting you can understand them being angry and frustrated.
Meryl When you say ‘dey’ and ‘tree’ and all that instead of ‘three’, don’t they say it’s not ‘tree’ it’s ‘three’.
Eleanor No because they know what I’m talking about, they’re used to it. The majority of families say ‘tree’ instead of ‘three’. I can’t help saying ‘tree’ instead of ‘three’ because it’s just, I don’t know, it’s just natural.
Meryl My parents talk like that but when I do it they try and stop me.
Eleanor Well I don’t really see why they should stop you because it’s natural. There’s nothing wrong with it.
Meryl No, there’s nothing wrong with it.
Eleanor Well I don’t know…
Sonya Maybe the parents think that if my children go around speaking like that, then all the other people will think bad of them.
Eleanor Maybe the only disadvantage of it is when you’re coming for a job.
Audrey Yeah you’ve got to talk all posh. You can’t really talk West Indies to them because they wouldn’t know what the heck you’re on about. They’d go what, what?
Eleanor Anyway I think West Indian dialect is very good. I like it.
Benjamin Zephaniah’s first time on TV. This was broadcast on Channel 4 in 1983.
Lots of footage of Ben gigging at the White Horse in Brixton where CAST/New Variety put on a lot of gigs.