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Reggae Dread Beat And Dub Part 2

Reggae and Dancehall selectors like their counterparts the Dub Poets are not to be taken lightly, or for granted. They use the microphone to verbalize the frustrations, pain and concerns of their dancehall fraternity, on issues that in their view threaten their existence.

From a distance this might not appear to be so, as the flamboyant clothes along with the “Dare As You Bare” fashion statements literally borders on the outrageous. In some instances the designer threads that are worn by the women leaves literally nothing to one's imagination.

For some their fashion statements are in fact a camouflage, that temporarily hide the hopelessness, the trials and tribulations and frustrations that confronts our inner city folks, especially our youths, on a daily basis.

However, the international appeal of reggae and dancehall music, along with its imaginative dance moves has given birth to a new awareness, and a realization that deliverance from poverty partially lies in their creative ability to become the trend setters in music, dance and fashion.

They are well on the way to revolutionizing the entertainment industry globally, as a result major international fashion houses have from time to time looked at, and have borrowed ideas from Jamaica’s urban trend setting dancehall fraternity.

Hon. Dr. Louise Bennett-Coverley
Hon. Dr. Louise "Ms. Lou" Bennett-Coverley

The fraternity has also produced their fair share of internationally acclaimed models as in the case of Nadine Willis, whose impact on international runways since 2004, is seen as the Jamaican model who will be the successor to Naomi Campbell. Nadine hails from the community of Waterhouse in Kingston.

Don't let the jewellery, clothes or the lack of it dazzle you, these ghetto Princes and Princesses are aware of the power and influence they have on almost every aspect of Jamaican life. Corporate Jamaica has been forced to embrace their lifestyle and culture, in order to sell their products and services to a predominantly youth driven market place.


Reggae and dancehall music over the years, has toppled complacent politicians and governments. Today the dancehall functions as a musical cathedral, and as an informal peoples parliament. The influence of our dancehall selectors is phenomenal. With the right records in hand, they are capable of influencing the social, political, religious and economic mindset of not only their dancehall supporters, but the society at large.

As a result they play a crucial role in determining what the next trend will be, considering that 55% percent of Jamaica’s population is under forty years old, they all to some extent subscribe to dancehall culture. Thus this collective decides what the next hit record will be, and could be called upon by the dancehall "senators" - the selectors, to decide weather a government stays in, or vacates parliament.

The Recognition Of Our Dub Poets

Dub Poets past and present are just getting the respect and recognition that has been long overdue. Poets like Ms. Lou was able to reverse the stigma and contempt that was placed on a peoples language, by the Colonial government of the past, their administrators and their local representatives.

Ms. Lou pointed out that the colonial slave traders inability to converse in, or to understand the language and dialects of their slaves, was not only frustrating, but eventually led to their own demise. Internationally Ms. Lou was revered, she got the trust, respect and global recognition for her precise analysis of a people, their culture and their idiocincracies that were in most instances void of partiality.

Linton Kwesi Johnson is one of two living poets to be given his own volume "My Revalueshanary Fren" in the prestigious Penquin Books Classic Series. LKJ says "language is about identity. When I began to write in verse, I knew I wanted to use the kind of language that could best convey the experiences I wanted to articulate. I know that was not going to be classical English.”

Linton Kwesi Johnson
Linton Kwesi Johnson

Born in Chapelton Clarendon in 1952, Linton and his parents migrated to England in the 1960s. He was schooled in England, and later worked as a journalist for the Brixton based media house "Race Today Collective". He was also a presenter on the popular "Channel 4" TV station whose programme "Bandung file" was extremely popular among Caribbean immigrants.

Linton has had an outstanding recording career, recording for Island Records, Virgin Records and for his own LKJ Records, a company he started in 1981 with two singles "Mi Cyaan Belive It" and "Roots" recorded by the late dub poet Mikey Smith.

His academic achievements has also been outstanding. In 1985 he was made associate fellow of Warwick University, an honorary fellow of Wolverhampton Poly Technic in 1987 and was bestowed with an honorary fellowship from his Alma Mater Goldsmith College in 2004. Linton also became an honorary visiting professor of London’s Middlesex University in 2005.

In 2005 The Institute Of Jamaica awarded Linton Kwesi Johnson the Silver Musgrave Medal, for distinguished eminence in the field of poetry. He joined other artistic Musgrave Medallist such as Lorna Goodison poetry, Dermot Hussey for broadcasting, Clarence “Ben” Brodie for journalism, Mervin Morris poetry Velma Pollard Literature and Guyanese Kamau Brathwaite the 2006 Gold Musgrave Medallist.

In accepting his Gold Musgrave Award Mr. Kamau Brathwaite said the Musgrave Awards should be seen as a time to must cradle, rather than "must grave". He pointed out that the awards should be seen as something that begins to rock us into birth, not bury us in history. Professor Brathwaite said that the concept of gold, silver and bronze system of awards was not conducive to art.

Kamau Brathwaite’s final suggestion was that the colours be changed to red, gold and black, and if this was not possible then all awardees should be given gold medals.

Like the dancehall, Dub Poetry has been steeped in controversy since its inception in the 1970s. The Dub Poet Mutabaruka remains as controversial now as he was then. Muta's ability to expound convincingly on a wide cross–section of issues makes him an exceptional critic.

He demands not only the facts, but seeks to expose the hidden agendas and motives within projects and programs at times, that are eloquently waxed as being the answers to long existing problems. Muta’s radio show the "Cutting Edge" on Irie FM is not only informative, but opinions expressed by both the host and his guest are at times brutally frank.

Discussions about religion often travel over uncharted waters, with heartfelt views being expressed, along with researched facts. These forums often make for interesting and memorable discussions. Based on one's religious beliefs, at times some discussions border on the perimeters of blasphemy.

As a recording artist Muta continues to highlight current issues, his latest single "Toll Road" features Lady G and looks at the controversial Toll Road that has come under criticism from Portmore residents because of the high toll cost.


Extract from forthcoming book by T."Boots" Harris. © 2007.

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