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Dancehall Meets Poetry at Rhyme & Lyme
Though Dancehall music and poetry are not the most common of bedfellows, it was the combination offered up at Rhyme and Lyme on Monday night. The first in the monthly series featured performances by Mel Cooke, Sabrena McDonald and rising DJ Darrio.
The event took over the Grogge Shoppe, Devon House, Kingston, during the early hours of Monday night. Sabrena MacDonald, a talented actress, did a suite of poetry that varied in form as much as they did in quality. Her poems were sometimes cliched, sometimes cute and occasionally well-crafted and poignant.
McDonald opened her set with one of her poorer choices for the night, a well-intentioned song ‘Lionheart Gyal’ which celebrates the Jamaican woman. Alas, despite decent lyrics the musical bed was far too weak to support it. Fortunately, her repertoire also included delightful pieces such as ‘Bathroom Rituals’. She also delivered several dub poems which she described as her first love.
“The truth is dub poetry is my first artistic boyfriend,” she said, “and that was so until acting came and stole my heart.”
Further down in her set she unsheathed some more potent poetry, dealing love, deception, and putting up appearances. She also read an impressive series of short poems emerging from a writing workshop with Professor Mervyn Morris.
After open mic segment and an intermission, it was time for Dancehall as Darrio came to the stage. Explaining that he would try to modify his set to suite the audience and setting he started out with ‘School Fee’ followed by ‘Fed Up’.
Darrio’s attempt to drop into love (or rather addicted lust) proved far less fruitful and as he sang how he has been hooked by the woman in question, the audience cried out "a stew peas". Realizing this one wasn't working he switched to self-deprecating humour wth ‘Mi Bruk’ the hilarious tale of his encounter with a "fat Dorothy". In opposition to the rules of Dancehall, which says every DJ is required to have olympian sexual stamina’ ‘Mi Bruk’ is about a man who finishes the race far too quickly.
"Mi a go sing one and a half more cause like ow oonu love the bruk song so much it would good if mi end pon da one deh," Darrio told the delighted audience. With that he turned to ‘Gwaan’ and ended with ‘Siddung’ the single he has recorded with Konshens.
Mel Cooke was the last to take the stage, allowing the night to open and close with poetry. Cooke opened with 'The Anthem' and delved into a suite of poems which dealt with male and female sexuality, sex, and police brutality.
With ‘No Forced Entry I and II” he tapped into the sensitive area of homosexuality in the Jamaican contemporary landscape and much of the hypocrisy and mis/information that surrounds the public debate on the issue. He spent much time on women and sex with ‘Schoolaz’, ‘Overheard I’ and ‘Tight’.
It was then time to pay attention to men with ‘House Cleaning’, ‘Men Fake It Too’ and ‘Lying on Men’. In introducing this piece, Cooke noted that while it is always tempting to give into the urge to “string up” those accused of sexual crimes, it has often been found that the accused are not guilty. What Cooke failed to mention however, is the staggering number of rape cases that go un-reported and/or unresolved as well as the social acceptance of statutory rape of teenaged girls. Almost coming full-circle he ended with a look at Jamaica fifty years after independence with ’50-Now’.
Overall, Rhyme and Lyme’s first installment was a worthwhile effort that asks for a repeat visit, assuming they can get their sound system woes under control.