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Reggae Rubs Dub at Seh Sup'm

Oku Onuora

Seh Sup’m the Kingston on the Edge edition was a well-balanced offering of music and poetry, providing a decent evening’s fare filled with solid performances. It was a night of reggae and reggae infused poetry epitomized by the night’s final performers Oku Onuora and Kabaka Pyramid.

"I am no poet, no poet. I am just a voice," declared Onuora as he strode onto the stage. The original wailing dub poet, barefooted but decked in a dapper jacket contrasting with his simple red t-shirt, he delivered in his signature style, a combination of wailing, chanting and poetry.

“I a tell no tales,” Onuora declared noting that his poetry is not fictitious but immersed in reality. The poet delivered several pieces from his latest album A Movement which was launched in May, 2013.

However, remarking that nothing much has changed over the past few decades he dropped into his iconic piece 'Dread Times'. Onuora also pointed out that it was important to not simply speak about the need for change, but to also take the necessary actions.

"Words without deeds naa seh nutten," he declared.

Onuora’s performance also included a guest apYashika Grahampearance from Joel Jawara as the two performed ‘Hotta Sketchers’ a piece written by Jawara and inspired by Onuora's earlier piece ‘Sketchers’.

Yet Seh Sup’m opened and closed with music.  Throughout the night interspersed with poetry, largely of the dub persuasion. Infinity, accompanied by Ras I on guitar, opened the evening’s performances with an acoustic version of the ballad 'She's Not in Love', setting an east listening mood, which remained for the night.

Yashika Graham, the night's first featured artist, skipped onto the stage with her hair separated in two and a teddy bear in hand, an image of childhood carefreeness that was soon dispelled by the poem of yearning and a broken family ‘ Straight Fatherless’.

Graham delivered a slate of visually rich poems laden with vibrant imagery. She served up her poetry straight, sans interruptions of introductions, moving from one piece to the next and allowing them to speak for themselves. The majority of the pieces ‘Directions From the Border’, ‘Kitchen’ and ‘My Mother’ rested in the personal domain. However, for her final piece, ‘Con Sequence’ she made a sharp detour, veering off into the political corruption.

Proffering a different style of poetry, and with his social commentary brand blazing, Abbebe Payne then came to the stage. From the moment he stepped on the stage it was evident that what he brought was a Rastafari infused revolution.

"Man a original Fire, The Nyabinghi Ras!" Payne declared opening his set with ‘Pinnacle Roots’, something of a critique of Rastafari while extolling the virtues of revolution and pan-Africanism that the culture should pursue.

Payne’s distinctive style rests at the crux of roots reggae and poetry, using metaphor rich language and a mastery of word play, along with repetition that holds the poems together like the bridge or chorus of a song. His set also included ‘Whirlwind’ and ‘Iyanghi Ras’. Abbebe Payne

Having dealt with the "kings" he then turned his attentions to the "empresses".
"You see the truest empress a warrior," Payne declared beginning the poem ‘Sister Souljah’. He closed his set with ‘Rockers (working title)’.

It was then time for the musicians to return to the stage, as Micah Shemiah, backed by Kenrick Lawrence, Matthias Reulecke and Andre France offered up a healthy serving of roots reggae. The collective of musicians, who all have their individual pursuits, opened with ‘Love From the Soul’ before moving into ‘Jah Live in Africa’ and ‘Talkative’.

The band then made a musical bridge over the generational gap by inviting veteran artist ‘Scratch’ to perform 'Puppy Nose' a song littered with animal based proverbs.  Their set closed with ‘Unknown’.

Rising reggae act Kabaka Pyramid closed the night’s performance, showcasing a solid body of work.

Kabaka Pyramid"We just deh yah a talk some lyrics wha we no hear some people a really talk," he declared. He the linkage of he lineage between Onuora and himself, noting that if more artists spoke like the dub poet then there wouldn't be need for artists like himself at this stage in the country’s history. His semi-acoustic set included ‘No Capitalist’, a ‘Free From Chains’ medley, ‘I alone’, ‘Cyaa Study Me’, ‘No Cliche’ and ‘Warrior’.

"Mi deh pon a journey a try find myself, so don't study me," he said.

Seh Sup’m is produced by Root Cause and had been shifted from its first Saturday roster to squeeze into the 2013 KOTE calendar. KOTE 2013 runs June 21-30.