Rabbi Samms gets the word out

By Howard Campbell
Observer writer

Thursday, May 16, 2019

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AS a youth in Vineyard, St Elizabeth, Rabbi Samms' heroes were mainly cultural or musical. The message of Louise “Miss Lou” Bennett, Bob Marley, and Linton Kwesi Johnson fed his Afrocentric beliefs, which he longed to record.

Samms, a dub poet, did not get that opportunity until two years ago when he linked with Errol Melbourne of Tamo Music Productions in Birmingham, England. Three of the songs from their partnership, Praises Be, Tell Me That You Care and Love Is my Only Weapon, will released by that company this summer.

While he is relieved to finally get his thoughts on record, Samms bemoans the lack of attention dub poetry receives in the United Kingdom and Jamaica, where the idiom first emerged during the 1970s.

“Dub poetry in the UK is in deep sleep except for Benjamin Zephaniah. Rapping, hip hop, punk rock have taken over the music arena, same scenario as in Jamaica,” he said. “The songs I have done with Tamo are highlighting constitutional misleadings and to love and care for others.”

Praises Be is a Nyahbinghiinspired song, while Tell Me That You Care is driven by the lovers rock feel that remains popular in the UK. Love Is my Only Weapon is a passive, mid-tempo call for peace.

Samms sessions with Tamo Music Productions took place three years after the release of Brainfood, a collection of poems he wrote over the years.

A “poet from birth”, Samms was born Robert Salmon and came of age in the 1970s, a period of black consciousness and social awareness in Jamaica. While he admired spoken word champions like Miss Lou, Johnson and Mutabaruka, his personal playlist also included lovers rock giants John Holt and Gregory Isaacs.

He concedes that the market for dub poetry has dwindled significantly since he discovered it over 40 years ago. But, he says poems like those in Brainfood and the songs he cut for Melbourne, still have a place in music.

“May the ancestors continue to bless us all in the effort to open the eyes of young and old for a humane living,” he said.

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