Dub poetry rebirth required says Yasus Afari

Basil Walters Observer staff reporter

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

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In December of 1976, the French Pen Club, with the backing of UNESCO, organised a two-day conference in Paris that had in attendance more than 100 poets from 16 countries. Some of the questions debated were: What role should the poet play in society?, How should he react to political issues? How can he make himself heard?.


Thirty-four years later, recently a group of dub poets congregated at the Undercroft of the University of the West Indies, Mona, for a reasoning with Yasus Afari and Friends on roots, culture and dub poetry called If Hearts Could Talk.


It was a call in search of a renaissance for dub poetry, the spoken word art form for which Yasus Afari (as John Tom) was one of the pioneers responsible for its birth in the mid-1970s. Other early creators were Oku Onuora, the late Mikey Smith, Mutabaruka, Noel 'Godfather' Walcott, Malachi Smith, Linton 'Kwesi' Johnson, Adugo Onuora, Jean 'Binta' Breeze, Sister Wolette among others.


The purpose of this gathering was to help Jamaican writers-of-the-word find their own voice, realise the power within, and develop ways to utilise its strength. The friends of Yasus Afari on hand were -- Steppa, Cherry Natural, Ras Rod, The M.A.D Poet (aka Melissa A Dean), Neto formerly of Royal African Soldiers, musician Stevie Golding, Gina Rey Forest and many more


Yasus Afari asserted that Jah, the Almighty God is a dub poet, as he is the author and the master of words. Quoting the scripture in St John chapter 1: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God and the words took on flesh and dwelled among man...So right now we a declared and brand Jah, the Almighty God as a dub poet, the author and the master of words as of today..."


Citing the importance of documenting our own experiences, Yasus Afari appealed for greater commitment and sense of purpose from his fellow performance poets.


"We haffi put a seal and a closure pon episodes of our lives. We haffi register, consolidate, institutionalise, immortalise the thoughts and the concepts a wi culture and wi livity, and dreams, and wi visions, and aspirations. That's our ultimate and supreme responsibility of what we are about."


The Rastafarian poet, author and cultural ambassador outlined a raft of creative tools and projects he is working on to advance his chosen art form. "We want to capture this moment and add a kind of permanence to it... I am now declaring something. We want to have the Jamaica Poetry Festival..... And in addition to own poetry awards, our own anthology.... I am willing to invest in a dub poetry anthology where we don't necessarily have to produce the works of each poems, but especially the poets who have been producing their own works and who can produce their work, will come together and have that product," Yasus Afari said to strong endorsement from the gathering.


"There are many other things...we want a poetry website also, we want a periodic publication and we want a sort of consensus with specific aims and objectives and methodologies, and timeline and deliverables...We want to use this event as a catalyst, an agent of change, so we want people who took the time out to be here, to commit themselves to that process....and be a part of Dub Poetry Anthology tentatively entitled Inna You Face."





















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