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Oku Onuora reads at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, Arthur Wint Drive, St Andrew, last Tuesday night as he launched his album titled 'A Movement'. - PHOTOS BY Mel Cooke
Oku Onuora reads at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, Arthur Wint Drive, St Andrew, last Tuesday night as he launched his album titled ‘A Movement’. – PHOTOS BY Mel Cooke—–

bY Mel Cooke—-

Pioneering dub poet Oku Onuora chose to present the poems from his new album, A Movement, without their musical accompaniment last Tuesday at the Edna Manley College of Visual and Performing Arts, 1 Arthur Wint Drive, St Andrew.

He was the Poetry Society of Jamaica’s guest performer at their monthly fellowship, held every last Tuesday.

Onuora’s connection with another poetic generation was made through his introduction by (and, later performance with) Joel ‘Jawara’ Ellis, with whom he has collaborated on ‘Hatta Sketches’, a remake of the original ‘Sketches’. And the connection with his next generation was clear as Onuora’s daughter, Shaka Spagnoletti, spoke before he stepped barefooted into the performance area at the School of Drama’s amphitheatre.

He made it clear that he is still committed to the struggle. “We have become complacent,” Onuora said, adding that many seem to believe that the struggle is over because Rastafari have become lawyers and doctors. Acknowledging Jawara, Onuora said, “It was a great honour to hear this youth whe mi know from inna belly being inspired by one of my pieces. Is a movement from one generation to the next”.


And, turning to the pages he was using for the evening, Onuora said, “I’m treating this as a poetry reading. You want to hear the album and the music and them thing, download it.” A Movement was released online on May 21.

The poems he read included ‘Fyah Fi Fyah’, ‘Quiet Storm’ and ‘Just the Thought’, the last dedicated to Barbara Gloudon. There was a dedication to another woman, too – a picture of Onuora’s late wife Adugo Onuora-Ranglin, to whom A Movement is dedicated, was on the stage.

He queried ‘How Do You Unlove?’, asking if part of the process is repeating “I love you not, I love you not”. Onuora said more than once that his poems are short, ‘Full Moon’ following this format. He noted that ‘For Education’ had been done on a previous full-length album. “On this album, have done it with music. It is my work. Mi can do anything with it,” he said.

Oku Onuora

Oku Onuora


Explaining his reworking of Bob Marley’s ‘Running Away’, the first he has done over another writer’s work, Onuora explained, “My inspiration don’t really come from poetry as we know it.” Instead, he looks to the singers, among them Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Burning Spear and Culture among them.

“Bob Marley, for me, is one of the greatest poets,” he said. That apart, Marley had a direct impact on Onuora’s work as, he said, “my first single, Reflections in Red, was on the 56 Hope Road label”.

Onuora said he met Marley through Judy Mowatt and, upon being offered a helping hand by Marley, returned to him with a finished product. “Him make up pure excitement. Him call Tommy Cowan, Diane Jobson … . Him say the man different. Mi tell the man if him want a helping hand and him come with a finished product,” Onuora said, restating his commitment to doing something for himself.


He then read ‘Running Away’, which is on A Movement.

‘Watch Di Moon’ and ‘Ruff Neck’ came before Jawara joined Onuora for ‘Hatta Sketches’, the two moving separately and then standing together, only to move apart again as they delivered the poem, the refrain a whisper and the verses rhythmic and strong. Ellis then did Onuora’s ‘A Slum Dweller’s Lament’, before Onuora gave thanks all around.

Following its accustomed format, Onuora’s launch as guest performer was preceded by the open mic segment. Among those who read in the later stages were Ras Takura, Steppa, Oneil, DYCR, Daniel Brooks, Najira Barnes, Malachi Smith and Tomlin Ellis.


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