Oku Onuora ‘I’ve Seen’ LP/CD (Fruits) 5/5

The revolutionary dub poet and visionary, Oku Onura, is timeless, so whenever he releases it’s always crucial. One of the founders of dub poetry started writing in 1971, while incarcerated for his revolutionary activities. In 1974 he became the first prisoner to perform ‘inside’ prison accompanied by Cedric Brooks and The Light of Saba band – What I would give to have even been a roadie at that historic event…

So whenever Oku speaks, we listen… As a ‘genre’, dub poetry gained more awareness through Linton Kwesi Johnson and Benjamin Zephaniah in Britain. Linton in particular also turned to Jamaica to link up with a small group of hardened poets who were stirring consciousness and going against the grain of conformity at a time of immense political conflict in 1970s Jamaica. Oku Onora, Michael Smith, Mutabaruka and Yasus Afari, along with LKJ and Benjamin Zephaniah are the founding fathers of what we call dub poetry. Oku is not the most prolific of artists but when he chants, he rocks the Babylonian establishment to its core.

‘I’ve Seen’ is his latest release produced by Fruits Records and Thomas ‘Dr. T’ Lautenbacher out of Switzerland. It must be said, the marriage between poet and the makers of music is great. They give each other ample space for lyrics to breathe and flow and for music to speak which is central to an LPs overall texture as a complete work. The album features full sounding powerful riddims, played by the musicians of The 18th Parallel, to which Dr. T has added a modern electronic touch. From the opening title track this is indeed a matter of conscious dub poetry reflecting on the metaphor of the moon and the hypocrisy of Babylonian mis-teachings. The ‘Dubword Warrior’ track also stands out for its definitive power of the genre, through lyrics like “dub we come to dub…speaking truths and rights…work we come to work…dub out…dub in consciousness…” The feel of the track is lyrically spontaneous, like a freestyle flow of consciousness. ‘Jamaica’ finds the dub poet reflecting in a welcoming way to the subject matter with a wry and defining poignancy “welcome to the land of hospitality, that can change in the blink of an eye, to austerity”. What a line! I also really like the closing piece, ‘Fish Head Story’, with its ambient Jamaican sounds and spoken word story where you can imagine so much in so little time. This release is a testament to the longevity and revolutionary insights of Oku Onura as a poet. Long may he keep chanting down Babylon. 5 Top Ranking Stars

One Love

Haji Mike