Woman Talk: Caribbean Dub Poetry
(written by Breeze, Cheryl Byron, Anita Stewart, Louise Bennett, Elaine Thomas, Afua, Mutabaruka and as well as performed by The High Times Players and produced by Mutabaruka)
First off, what a cool find?! Of course, I am the one that pushes for spoken word albums in our catalogue. However, this crate surprise is a pick for Erica and myself. Erica immediately said yes to these talented women as she loves poetry, especially from underrepresented people from all walks of life. In reality, the Jamaican females featured on this recording perform more like reggae singers than poets. Some of the tracks have a kind of generic musicality behind much stronger lyrics, as in Chery Byron’s “Respect” arranged with kaiso (calypso) flavor of her native Trinidad. Her words in particular are bold and clearly purposed for her audience. She definitely gets the point across that the developing feminist consciousness amongst women and men of the Caribbean shall not be forestalled by slack rhetoric of popular Reggae.
Aside from the quality and rarity of this vinyl, it immediately grabbed my attention as it was recorded and mixed at Tuff Gong Studios, Kingston, Jamaica. However, it was printed by Heartbeat Records, One Camp Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts. We already had quite a few Heartbeat Record pressings, which is odd because ‘Woman Talk’ is only the 25th album into their full item list. As it is today and not 29 years ago, all of my Jamaican friends live in Cambridge still. Tragically, the women of modern society still lack equality globally and domestically, not seeming to be shifting in balance very quickly.
Another selling point was that this collection of revolutionary dub poets is produced by Mutabaruka, one of the many epic reggae artists that we have fallen in love with recently. Apparently, this is a follow-up to Heartbeat’s previous release ‘Word Soun’ ‘Ave Power’, which highlighted Jamaican-only, mostly male poets. Mutabaruka wanted something different to feature a sample of the many women active in dub poetry, drawing from different countries as well. He adds percussion and backup vocals too, which is thoughtfully complimentary. ‘Woman Talk’ is a fulfillment of said promise and delivers astounding works, keenly anticipated by all of the people who worked and knew of the project at the time- 1986.
Of worthy note from this recording are the contributions of Louise “Miss Lou” Bennett. Beyond any doubt, this much-loved pioneering figure in the movement will be remembered for her understanding and appreciation of Jamaica’s unique culture. I love that she demonstrates her continued and ever-evolving ability to remain vital and current into her sixties. “Color Bar” is a smooth presentation of this talent.
Overall, the theme of this album is not difficult to comprehend, rather more hard to discuss. Anita Stewart is the standout poet on this record in my opinion. Her two poems, “Politician” and “Beggin’ is a Ting” are my favorite picks for sure. They are amazing on paper and performed with the help of The High Times Players. The public may be more familiar with the artist Breeze, who gifts us with the two opening tracks on both sides. She is so great as well with themes that are a little more diverse than the others.
What can I really say though that wouldn’t potentially taint your impressions of the work? Each of these female poets offer us strong revolutionary poems, backed by a solid foundation from The High Times Players. Mutabaruka put together such an awesome collection that one hopes that it may inspire more and more women and men to join in the cultural work needed to bring about social change forged creatively here. Critics at the time often felt like reggae was in doldrums during the mid 80’s. This proved to be far from that with words filled by conviction and resolution. I know that this important work is probably difficult to find, but at least check out the artists in general because they will bring you at least a small spark of spirit to your day.
– Mr. Richard
Check out the original post HERE.