|Stylistic origins||Dub - spoken word|
|Cultural origins||1970s, Jamaica|
|Typical instruments||Guitar - bass - drums - organ - keyboard - brass - melodica - synthesizer - vocals|
Dub poetry is a form of performance poetry of West Indian origin, which evolved out of dub music consisting of spoken word over reggae rhythms in Jamaica in the 1970s. Unlike dee jaying (also known as toasting), which also features the use of the spoken word, the dub poet's performance is normally prepared, rather than the extemporized chat of the dancehall dee jay. In musical setting, the dub poet usually appears on stage with a band performing music specifically written to accompany each poem, rather than simply perform over the top of dub plates, or riddims, in the dancehall fashion. Musicality is built into dub poems, yet, dub poets generally perform without backing music, delivering chanted speech with pronounced rhythmic accentuation and dramatic stylization of gesture. Sometimes dub music effects, e.g. echo, reverb, are dubbed spontaneously by a poet into live versions of a poem. Many dub poets also employ call-and-response devices to engage audiences.
Most dub poetry is overtly political and social, with none of the braggadocio often associated with the dancehall. The odd love-song or elegy appears, but dub poetry is predominantly concerned with politics and social justice, commonly voiced through a commentary on current events (thus sharing these elements with dancehall and "conscious" or "roots" reggae music).
Linton Kwesi Johnson (LKJ)'s album Dread Beat an' Blood first appeared in 1978, then Oku Onuora's Reflection In Red in 1979, followed by Benjamin Zephaniah's Rasta, and many others in the early 1980s onwards. Although the genre was most popular in the 1980s and 1990s, many dub poets are still active today; dubstep musician Kode9 works almost exclusively with MC The Spaceape, who MCs in a dread poet style over most tracks on the Memories of the Future album.
Toronto, Canada, has the second highest concentration of dub poets, preceded by Jamaica and followed by England. Lillian Allen, Afua Cooper, and Ahdri Zhina Mandiela are among the founding mothers of the Canadian dub poetry legacy.
LKJ still runs LKJ Records in the UK, a label that publishes both his own books and music, as well as that of other musicians and poets.
Benjamin Zephaniah continues to publish in the UK. He has written novels as well as poetry. He was put forward for the post of Oxford Professor of Poetry in 1989 and British Poet Laureate in 1999, and in 2003 was also offered an OBE, which he declined.
Many of the dub poets have published their work as volumes of written poetry as well as albums of poetry with music.
Notable dub poets
- Anita Stewart, original member of Jamaica's Poets In Unity
- Tommy Ricketts, original member of Jamaica's Poet's In Unity
- Tomlin Ellis, original member of Jamaica's Poet's In Unity
- Shaka Bantuta, original member of Jamaica's Poet's In Unity
- Lillian Allen
- Jean "Binta" Breeze
- Afua Cooper
- Mighty Jah-J! the Furious George AKA George Paul Wielgus
- Linton Kwesi Johnson
- Yasus Afari
- Michael Bailey "Mbala"
- Oku Onuora
- Royal African Soldiers
- Mikey Smith
- Benjamin Zephaniah
- D'bi Young
- No-Maddz ...(Shepherd, Creary, Gordon and Peart)
- Levi Tafari
- Bob Marley
- Ras Atiba
- Chris Roberts, Heavy Words Lightly Thrown: The Reason Behind Rhyme, Thorndike Press, 2006 (ISBN 0-7862-8517-6)
- Dub Poetry, Allmusic last on-line access in 9/17/2012.
- Dave Thompson, "History of Dub Poetry" in roots-archives.com, last on-line access in 9/17/2012.
- "Mighty Jah-J! the Furious George" at MySpace.
- "Artist Bio". Ah Time RAS Productions. Ras Atiba. 2014. Retrieved 2/13/15. Check date values in:
- Mervyn Morris, "Dub Poetry?", in Is English We Speaking and Other Essays (Kingston: Ian Randle Publishers, 1998).
- Kei Miller, "a smaller sound, a lesser fury: A Eulogy for Dub Poetry", Small Axe 14, November 2013.