'Everytime A Ear di Sound' makes Mutabaruka heard
Published: Sunday | July 12, 2009
Mutabaruka says the first time he performed his poetry onstage ... "The response was so tremendous. Nobody never hear nothing like dat before."
Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
In the early 1980s Mutabaruka adjusted Everytime A Ear di Sound from the printed version that appeared in his debut poetry collection, The First Poems, as he moved it from the literary to the listening space.
And, in the process, the poet became a reggae artiste and moved physically outside of Jamaica, never again being contained by its watery borders.
"It shape a different way," Mutabaruka said about the difference between the presentations of the poems. "When I was going to record it in 1980/81, me haffi go back an revisit the poem," he told The Sunday Gleaner.
That revisiting meant using "a collage of different sounds", gunshots, screams and other sounds employed to emphasise relevant lines. "Is like things whe we hear in the society," he said. "Is different things in the society whe suppress the consciousness of di people."
Moving the poem from one medium also meant a physical movement for Mutabaruka. Rastafarian elder Mortimer Planno, now deceased, had heard him deliver Everytime A Ear di Sound without music, as Mutabaruka was accustomed to doing. When Jimmy Cliff planned a concert in Somerton, St James, he suggested that Mutabaruka perform.
When Mutabaruka went to Somerton for the rehearsal, guitarist Earl 'Chinna' Smith "was like di leader for the band. Him sey me mus sey di poem. Him create di riddim".
Mutabaruka says, "I went on the show, the response was so tremendous. Nobody never hear nothing like dat before." He described how the words and music worked together, saying, "It stop, we comment, then the music start again."
After that, Smith, who ran the High Times store in Kingston Mall, downtown Kingston, asked Mutabaruka to come to Kingston and record Everytime A Ear di Sound, which he did to outstanding results. "It was the first dub poem to go on di charts in Jamaica. I think it went number five," Mutabaruka said.
More than that, though, it was the birth of something new in Jamaica, Mutabaruka saying, "it kinda give that space. This was a new thing happening in di music. Dis wasn't like Big Youth or U-Roy. It was not only a musical ting. A lot of it was me speaking."
And he duly drops into poetry briefly, intoning "yu inna dance a prance ...".
"That help open up di dub poetry recording in Jamaica. We know Linton (Kwesi Johnson) was doing it in England," he said.
And he says that the record led to him becoming a reggae artiste, as "with dat success, Chinna decided we should do a album". That album was the 1983 Check It which included Butta Pan Kulcha and Whiteman Country, a response to Johnson's Inglan' Is a Bitch. Mutabaruka says the latter was the poem that "bus me in terms of the international aspect".
Coming up to 30 years after it was recorded, these days Mutabaruka performs Everytime A Ear di Sound only when he is working with a band. "If me don't have di band me don't do it," he said.