AN unapologetic advocate for Jamaican culture, Yasus Afari has kept the interest the spoken word alive in Jamaica through events like Pomedy and Jamaica Poetry Festival. The latter's 10th staging takes place today at AC Marriott Hotel in Kingston.
Poets from 10 countries are scheduled to perform. There is also a Jamaica 60th Anniversary Dinner — Voice For The Voiceless, proceeds from which will be used to purchase the PlayGate, an apparatus that helps the deaf send text messages to report crime.
The St Elizabeth-born Yasus Afari has been recording since the late 1980s. Inspired by folklorist Louise Bennett-Coverley, and firebrand dub poets Linton Kwesi Johnson and Mikey Smith, he was a leader of the roots-reggae revival of the 1990s.
Recently, he revealed his most influential Jamaican poets during an interview with the Jamaica Observer.
"Every song is a poem set to music. Therefore, we would really have to include Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh, Judy Mowatt, Tanya Stephens, Etana, Marcia Griffiths, Rita Marley, Toots, Bob Andy, Beres Hammond, Garnet Silk, Buju Banton and a host of others, alongside the other poets. Hence, kindly allow me the liberty to name 10 influential Jamaican poets. The order of appearance is random:
(1) Miss Lou, because of her national and Diaspora impact on our Jamaican language, heritage and culture.
(2) Professor Mervyn Morris, because of his impact on academia and influential support of popular Jamaican poets and poetry.
(3) Professor Edward Baugh, because of his brilliance and influence in education and academia.
(4) Oku Onuora, because of his pioneering and self-liberating work in Jamaican poetry, dub poetry.
(5) Mutabaruka, because of his prolific and pioneering work in Jamaican poetry, dub poetry and social activity.
(6) Mikey Smith, because of his profound and lasting impact on dub poetry.
(7) Jean Binta Breeze for her pioneering work, nationally and internationally, in Jamaican poetry and dub poetry.
(8) DYCR and Cherry Natural, for their roles in contemporary Jamaican poetry.
(9) Linton Kwesi Johnson and Benjamin Zephaniah for their international work for Jamaican poetry and dub poetry.
(10) Yours truly, Yasus Afari, for the work for Jamaican poetry, dub poetry, social advocacy, poetry in motion, Jamaica Poetry Festival, Art of Life — Poetry Magazine and edutainment projects in schools, colleges and universities, nationally and internationally."