Entertainment

Looking at the revolutionary wordsmith Linton Kwesi Johnson

BY BASIL WALTERS Observer staff reporter

Sunday, January 03, 2010    

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A staunch activist in the struggle for the empowerment of black people, Linton Kwesi Johnson's (LKJ's) revolutionary weapon is his distinctive dub poetry addressing social issues that never fail to stir one's emotions.

His style of poetry is so distinct, with each word voiced with deep conviction, commitment, precision, clarity and intensity, that one is forced to sit up and give it their undivided attention.

Consistently composing memorable bass lines deeply rooted in the reggae tradition, LKJ's trademark delivery is captured on numerous albums, the first of which was Dread Beat An' Blood, followed by Forces of Victory, Bass Culture, LKJ in Dub, Making History, LKJ Live In Concert, Tings An' Times, LKJ Acappella, Independent Intavenshan, LKJ in Dub Volume 2, LKJ in Dub Volume 3 among others.

He has worked with dub master Dennis Bovell, a highly innovative studio engineer for over two decades, with whom he has formed an enduring professional partnership that has proved beneficial.


Born in Chapelton, in the parish of Clarendon, on August 24, 1952, LKJ left Jamaica for London before he became a teenager. But he has never lost contact with his Jamaican roots. From his home in Brixton in the early 1970s, he emerged as one of the pioneers of dub poetry through which he carved a worldwide following by helping other originators such as Oku Onuora, Mutabaruka, the late Mikey Smith, and Jean Binta-Breeze to take the art form international.

With his poetry having been translated in Italian and German languages, LKJ over the past 30 years has made appearances in countries such as Australia, Belgium,

New Zealand, Switzerland, Scandinavia and Singapore, to name a few.

A former Black Panther member, the revolutionary poet who helped to organise a poetry workshop in that movement also developed his poetry with an English group of poets and drummers called Rasta Love.

In 1974 at age 22, he published his first collection of poetry dubbed Voices of the Living and Dead, with Dread Beat An Blood in the following year which inspired the documentary of the same name in 1978.

Then came his third book in 1980, Inglan Is A Bitch. That same year also saw him venturing into journalism as a contributor to the Brixton-based Race Today magazine, while hosting a 10-part radio series on Jamaican music -- From Mento to Lovers Rock on BBC Radio 1.

In 2002 LKJ became the second living poet and the first black poet to have his work published in the celebrated Penguin's Modern Classic Series with his work titled Mi Revulueshanary Fren: Selected Poems.

It is indeed fitting that Yesterday's Notes begins 2010 with the distinguished international spoken word performer Linton Kwesi Johnson who, in 2005, was honoured in his native Jamaica with the Silver Musgrave Medal, and will this evening be presenting a lecture on "African Consciousness in Reggae Music".

The lecture which will mark the launch of Global Reggae Studies, takes place at 6:00 pm at Villa Ronai, Old Stony Hill Road, St Andrew, Jamaica.

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