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Stabroek News

Big 'BET' on Jamaican poetry
published: Wednesday | August 15, 2007

Mel Cooke, Freelance Writer

Artiste Cherry Natural. - Winston Sill/Freelance Photographer

After a weekend of gloomy skies and heavy showers, the sun came out just in time for a poetry special to be filmed at Boone Hall Oasis, Stony Hill, St. Andrew on Tuesday.

And just as those involved in the project, to be aired on BET J, are taking advantage of the window of good weather, they also had to seize the opportunity to get the programme done in time for it to be aired as scheduled.

"There was a small window to have it done for the fall season," said Clement Hamilton of Root Cause, which is organising the filming.

Producer Aranthes Lewin, a Jamaican who lives in New York, said that the programme, which is the first of what is projected to become a series, based on viewer feedback, said "It will be aired the first week in October. We are coming back to do more. We have about three more shoots to doafter this".


In fact, there should have been more this time around, as Hamilton explained that there had been three locations slated initially, Portland and Port Royal being the other venues. In addition, after a pilot was shot in November and the project was approved, it had been expected that filming would have begun earlier in the year.

Still, Lewin says the location is "great. We are using Boone Hall because of its nature setting and the scenery it carries".

That scenery ties into the network's wishes, as Hamilton said, "BET wants the spin of us showing Jamaica, using poets that they know, giving them a comfort zone, in addition to the up and coming poets".

Those involved in Tuesday's filming included Jamaicans Yasus Afari, Cherry Natural, Shelly-Ann Harris and Diamara Neil, and the poetry groups LSX and Royal African Soldiers. The overseas poets are Roger Bonaire-Agard, Jamaican-born Ainsley Burrowes and M1 of the rap group Dead Presidents fame.

The pilot was done with Leonie Forbes, Yasus Afari and Etanya from Jamaica, along with visitors Andrea Diva and Everton Sylvester.

Poets selected

Dub poet Yasus Afari. - Ian Allen/Staff Photographer

Hamilton said the poets were selected based on what was observed at various poetry gatherings. "You use poets that you know can break the ground," he said. "You need to have poets that have the edge, so when it is aired you have that impact so that you can get another opportunity," Hamilton said.

He pointed out that, with BET J having a viewership of 40 million persons, the objective for the Jamaican poets is to "open access to the stage overseas, putting them in the market". And Lewin, who said the programme is being done in the same style as Def Poetry Jam and involves the use of drums and other percussion instruments, said as far as dub poetry goes, "It has never been done before, never been broadcast like this, all over theworld".

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