What we’re gonna do this morning to start the week at Flea Market Funk is get a bit political. It’s something I like to shy away from in this blog (although I have stated my support for Obama in the past), because everyone is entitled to their own opinion. The political stuff I want to touch on today, has more to do with today’s side and artist more than my own rant on the state of US politics. We’re gonna get into some Reggae this morning with Linton Kwesi Johnson and “Inglan Is A Bitch” on Mango Records from the 1980 record Bass Culture.
Born in 1952 in the rural parish of Clarendon, in the small town of Chapelton, Jamaica, Johnson emigrated to London, England in 1963. Johnson would join the Black Panther Party while still attending school at Goldsmith’s College at the University of London. He would go on to organize a poetry movement within the Panthers, and Rasta Love a group of poets and drummers was born. Winning a C Day Lewis Fellowship in 1977, he would move on as a Library Resources and Education Officer at the Keskidee Center, where it became the first official home of the Black Theater in London. Starting out as a writer and poet way before he was even a musician, he was first published in socialist newspaper Race Today with Voices of the Living and the Dead in 1974. His second group of writings, Dread Beat An ‘ Blood in 1975, would be the title of his first record ( released on Virgin )in 1978. Also in 1978, a documentary on his works and life, also entitled Dread Beat An ‘ Blood would be released. This record was released in 1980, and this side is the title of his third book. There would be three more records released on the Island related label before he would start his own record label, LKJ in 1981. It makes much sense that an activist who was revolting and writing on the treatment of Afro-Brits by the British government would eventually break off from an established corporate label to go out on his own. He had been an activist and doing his own thing all along anyway. Moving closely back to the journalism and writing he started out with, the 1980’s were filled with close affiliations to the Brixton Race Today collective of people. He was also a reporter for Channel 4, and released a 10 part radio series entitled From Mento to Lovers Rock on the BBC. Kwesi Johnson has since toured with other bands, produced artists, and of course written politically and released poems and the like. His academic accolades include an Associate Fellow of Warwick University and Honorary Fellow of Wolverhampton Polytechnic while also receiving he XIII Premo Internazionale Ultimo Novecento from the city of Pisa for music contribution in Italy.
“Inglan Is A Bitch” tells the story of struggle of the Afro-Brits in London. It details how the perception of the Black youth must be changed (dem seh dat black man is very lazy,but if y´u si how mi wok y´u woulda sey mi crazy”), and how the Black man struggles from modern day oppression. Johnson just wasn’t preaching about it, he was living it day in and day out. He was called the Dub Poet for a good reason: his experiences scorched newspapers, news reports, documentaries, radio shows and the like; then were put to music. His involvement with the Black Panther Party is no secret, and the way he moved forward, spreading his word and challenging the British government is commendable. He assembled a great band behind him which was lead by keyboard player Dennis Bovell, who he’d later go on to record with. Kwesi Johnson is the real deal, a man who walks the walk and talks the talk, championing the human rights for the oppressed, and making a difference in the Reggae music world, and in the world in general. Nuff Respect to this man. See You midweek. Keep Diggin’!