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Music Poetry and More at Redbones Highlight KBF 13

Christopher John Farley

The Kingston Book Festival unleashed its eclectic side with one of its culminating events at Redbones the Blues Cafe last Friday (March 8, 2013). The event, described in an earlier release as the festival’s mega book jam dubbed Wake the Town and Tell the People, combined music, theory and poetry.

The event combined the skills of ZJ Electra on the wheels of steel as she played music to compliment and punctuate Dr. Sonjah Stanley Niaah and Professor Carolyn Cooper’s discussions of reggae and dancehall music. Stanley Niaah, author of Dancehall from Slaveship to Ghetto, explored the meaning and significance of dancing in the dancehall and her foray into the culture included a special tribute segment on the impact of Gerald ‘Bogle’ Levy. Cooper, in a talk dubbed ‘Small Island, Big Music’, explored reggae’s global footprint using her most recent work Global Reggae (an anthology of essays she ZJ Elektraedited), to outline the music’s international impact.

Writer and journalist Christopher John Farley was the night’s special guest. Farley delivered a talk dubbed ‘The Branch, The Leaf and the Root’ and he too looked at Jamaica’s global imprint, with particular focus on the music’s impact on American popular music.

“If rap wasn’t born here, it was certainly conceived here,” Farley said earning applause from the audience. The author of biographies of Bob Marley, Hale Berry and Aliyah also read an excerpt from Bob Marley: Before the Legend. Following his talk, Farley was interviewed by journalist and poet Mel Cooke. The two exchanged easy banter and then delved into Farley’s life as a writer.
Dr. Sonjah Stanley Niaah
Farley explained that his wife and children, who were in the audience, were his first reviewers. He also revealed that he has an upcoming book Game World which is based on Jamaican myths and legends. The two also discussed how Exodus was picked as Time Album of the Century, as Farley was on staff at Time magazine at the time. “I didn’t have to argue for it. Bob Marley made his own argument,” he said.

At the end of the interview it was time for the more performative elements of the night. First up was Abebe Payne who delivered two poems in tribute to women, in keeping with International Women’s Day. Payne was followed by Tanya Shirley who delighted and shocked the audience with her pieces which interrogated dancehall mythology surrounding women.

Guitarist Samuele VivianThe night’s first musician, Samuele Vivian was next to the stage. The guitarist delivered first a taste of his original homeland, Italy, with ‘Mediterranea’. It was however followed by two pieces which celebrated reggae music in tribute to his current home.

The night then saw a return of Mel Cooke, this time in his guise as poet, and accompanied by guitarist Vernon DaCosta. Alas, the performance was marred by DaCosta’s lack of familiarity with the lyrics of the reggae and dancehall songs. It was nonetheless an interesting experiment even though it did not live up to its potential.

The night of enjoyable and diverse fare culminated with an energizing performance by Nomaddz who treated the audience to their own special renditions of two Jamaican poems Valerie Bloom’s Trouble Deh Yah and Louise Bennett Coverley’s Roast Turkey. As the group attempted to leave the stage at the end of the latter poem, the audience clamored for an encore to which they delivered their signature piece ‘Rise Above Profanity’. Nomaddz

The Kingston Book Festival ended its second staging on Sunday, March 10 at the National Gallery of Jamaica. The festival, which included a major fair on Saturday, March 9 at Devon House, began on March 2, 2013 and featured approximately 24 events spread across the nine days. The 2013 rendition took place under the theme 'Celebrating the Arts'.