Mikey Smith in opera

Mikey Smith in opera

By Basil Walters Observer writer waltersb@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, September 23, 2012

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FIREBRAND poet Mikey Smith is the focus of Reggae Opera Mikey, composed by noted Jamaican musician Peter Ashbourne.

The opera is scheduled to debut next June, but snippets of it will be shown at the Jamaica School of Music, Edna Manley College on October 8.

It will bring the curtain down on a series of activities by MUSIC Unites Jamaica Foundation, in collaboration with the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, located in St Andrew.

The series opens September 30 and comprises special concerts, workshops and master classes. 'Mikey', however, should get a lot of attention.

It pays homage to a pioneer dub poet who died tragically in August, 1983.

Michael 'Mikey' Smith was born September 14, 1954. His most famous poem, Me Cyaan Believe It, earned acclaim in Britain where he was introduced by the Jamaica-born, Brixton-based dub poet, Linton Kwesi Johnson.

Smith performed in London, Paris, Milan, Amsterdam, Venezuela, Cuba and Barbados. At the time of his death, he was preparing for another round of shows in Britain.

He was killed in Stony Hill, St Andrew on August 17, 1983. According to police reports, he was struck on the head with a stone thrown by one of three men with whom he had an argument.

"We wanted to stage the opera this fall, but for several reasons, which we can't explain, the world premiere is postponed to June 2013," said Rosina Moder, Ashbourne's wife.

On October 8, patrons will be treated to a 'pre-listen' of 10 songs from 'Mikey'.

Moder and Ashbourne are directors of the MUSIC Unites Jamaica Foundation.

The concept for the concerts came about when German Ambassador Josef Beck asked Moder to design a joint project to commemorate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Germany and Jamaica.

"Being a post-war child from Austria I happily work with the Germans," Moder explained. "We started the plan that German musicians shall come here to assist us with the orchestra for the Reggae Opera Mikey."

The concert series will feature musicians from the prestigious "Musikhochschule Hanns Eisler" in Berlin, as well as soprano Nastassja Nass. They will take the stage with local musicians and singers such as Michael Sean Harris, June Lawson, Claudja Barry, Terri McLean, Jermaine Blake, Dr Winston Davidson, and the Kingston Philharmonic Orchestra, led by Ashbourne.

Fittingly, the opening concert takes place in Seaford Town, Westmoreland, where Germans first settled in Jamaica.

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