Tag Archives: reggae

Love Bump

One of my favourite ever records reviewed in the NME, 12 December, 1981 by Richard Grabel.
Ranger is at his best over Rougher Yet.

Lone Ranger: Love Bump
(Studio One)

There’s a new fad among the toasters. They’re all going “hibetty hibetty hibetty hibetty bump.” But Lone Ranger does it best.
Ranger is funny, sexy, sly and smooth on this ode to the joys and pratfally of romance. “Walking down the street and a sexy girl he meet/First me say me like/Then me say me love.” Ranger sure knows how to woo ’em. He takes her to the show where she wanted to go. Later he gets the clap. But it’s all part of getting your love bump. Ranger’s voice is smooth as honey and quite seductive; the backing track is a great, springy, bounce-and-skank mover.
“Love a-that love-love bump.”

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News For Babylon

An anthology of Caribbean British poetry reviewed in Poetry Review, Volume 74, Number 2, from 1984. There is some language in the review that wouldn’t be used today.

News For Babylon: The Chatto Book of Westindian-British Poetry,
edited by James Berry, Chatto, £4.95

‘Educated’ writers whose native speech is a dialect of English rather than the standard variety (itself, ironically, once a regional dialect) are likely to find themselves suspended precariously between two languages, the one vividly experiential, the other conceptually elaborate. Both, to adopt Theodor Adorno’s comment about high and mass culture, ‘are torn halves of an integral freedom, to which however they do not add up’. Exactly how they don’t add up is one of the fascinations of this rich collection. From the calculated burring of William Barnes to the carefully dropped aitches of Rudyard Kipling, mainstream English poetry has dipped condescendingly into dialect from time to time, but such linguistic slumming has usually been firmly distinguished from its more ‘proper’ achievements. Only with a Hardy or a Lawrence does one hear dialect as a kind of resonance of strangeness within formally ‘standard’ speech, inscribed within it as overtone rather than oddity. Contemporary Westindian-British poetry, by contrast, seems to slip unselfconsciously from Creole to standard English between or within poems, creating a dialogue or polyphony of discourses in which the unequal encounter of two cultures is directly enacted.
Grace Nichols’s fine long poem ‘I Is a Long Memoried Woman’, which takes women’s oppression as symbolic of a whole history of Caribbean slavery, starts off in the Creole of its title –

From dih pout
Of mih mouth
from dih
treacherous
calm of mih
smile
you can tell

I is a long memoried woman

– but veers within a page or so into the imagistic notations of a more recognisable English:

belly
an arc
of black moon

I squat over
dry plantain leaves

and command the earth
to receive you

in my name
in my blood

to receive you
my curled bean

my tainted
perfect child.

Linton Kwesi Johnson pushes Nichols’s Creole to a flamboyantly ‘outrageous’ extreme, spontaneously reinverting the graphic appearance of the later Joyce:

it woz in April nineteen eighty-wan
doun inna di ghetto of brixtan
dat di babylan dem cause such a frickshan
an it bring about a great insohreckshan
an it spread all ovah di naeshan
it woz a truly an hisarical okayjan.

The self-parodic feel of this hints at a certain calculation: what Jim Rand defiantly calls ‘nigger talk’ is a conscious political act, an oppositional mode of linguistic identity rather than some nostalgic regression to roots:

Ya dig de funky way to talk
Talk talk?
Dis na white talk:
Na white talk dis.
It is coon, nignog samba wog talk;
Sweetsweet talk.
Na pussyfooting talk dis.

Rudolph Kizerman, sardonically mourning a compatriot hopelessly lost to the high-falutin white intelligentsia, ends on a satirically compassionate note:

Let the brother be;
the cat’s just trying
to find his way
back to the tribe
on a new
word train.

Most poetry of exile and oppression is likely to evince the same, sometimes contradictory spiritual conditions.

Heavy Manners

After years of bloody political violence Jamaica takes a step towards peace. The NME‘s top reggae writer Penny Reel writes up the event for the paper 11 March, 1978.
When reggae songs talk about tribal war they’re referring to the rivalry between the JLP and the PNP. It’s the violence that runs through Marlon James’ book A Brief History of Seven Killings.
In an unrelated article there’s an amusing picture of punks and their mums.


No Pop No Style

No Pop No Style

Through her teeth, she whistled.
In the alley up Cazenove Road
she lifted her skirt, pulled down
blue, white trimmed, knickers
and let it all go. Between her legs
gold, the hopes and dreams
neither of us would ever cash,
ran away into the midnight.
None too gentle, the fine spray
caught the sheen of her brogue.
She whistled ‘Uptown Top Ranking’.
Through her teeth, she whistled.

Tim Wells