Poetic vibes - Contrasting dub poetry styles from No-Maddz, D'bi Young
Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
Saturday night's poetry session of the Manifesto Jamaica Festival of ART'ical Empowerment presented two strikingly different styles of dub poetry by No-Maddz and D'bi Young.
They were the main performers, coming on stage at the dance studio, Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, back to back before strikingly different audiences as well. For after No-Maddz finished a blistering performance, in which the audience threatened to take the roof off with screams and at one point member Sheldon Shepherd observed that if the 'pull up' did not stop they would be unable to finish a particular poem, about a third of the almost full house left.
What No-Maddz and Young had in common was the use of repetition in their poetry. Totally different was the style, No-Maddz utilising three poetic voices for chorale and sequential delivery, as well as a singer, while Young did it solo.
Young improvised on her first piece, about sexual abuse, with a drummer culled from the audience; No-Maddz had a guitarist (also the singer, Oneil Peart), a bass player and a drummer who used the congas and an electronic set which also facilitated effectively placed sound effects. The No-Maddz often had spaces between lines, Young delivered in a frenetic flow.
It was an uncharacteristically late poetry night, which went into Sunday morning, a music section from the Canadian visitors preceding the spoken word. Motion and Obi were the last of the visitors to perform in the prelude to the poetry, the latter singing competently about love and ghetto life.
Kei Miller's How We Became the Pirates, read by the night's host, was a welcome addition to a near standard poetry fare of only the particular night's presenters. A barefoot Yvonne McCalla Sobers read a single, long poem about the hopes of the underdogs in society that "one day, one day" things will change. The wishes were made more poignant by the basic necessities, often taken for granted, that they asked for - "a bed fe sleep pon, me one", "me ago have food".
The No-Maddz got off to a flying start on their poetic 'trod' and, infusing drama, humour and chorale-speaking techniques into their set to go with the accompanying music, brought the house down again and again and again. They asked 'Wha Dis?' and took all on the merry Trodding Jah Road. But it was their 'easy' flow on a poem about the man-woman sexual connection that they had to stop and restart several times, from the first staccato 'jam' through the rejection of the 'pump action' approach to satisfaction.
Gordon took a theatric run around the stage twice and, along with Creary, took his turn at delivering to especially the ladies' delight, screams spiralling in the enclosed space.
When, at the end of the No-Maddz set, Peart crooned a promise to take a lady to a place she has never ever seen, one woman in the audience said "we reach!" They ended with an ode to the 'ganja stain'.
Young was intense in her incessant opening poem about child abuse, which upped the tempo incrementally from an already quick start. She put tremendous passion into the piece, even as she restricted her movement to a small area of the stage, going back and forth a step or two and sometimes delivering from a crouching stance. Young verbally beat back Misinformation and closed with an appeal to Jamaica around the Tivoli incursion, berating US imperialism and "bogus election with two party".
Raquel Jones, accompanied by two guitarists, was slated to do one poem. After she took on, sized up and dismissed a sexual braggart, the audience, though shrunken after the post No-Maddz exit, hollered for more. Jones was again caustic, dismissing an ex-partner and his current flame ("you did not even look familiar/I had a case of amnesia"). Yashika Graham explored the Dream of all creative persons, in an unaffected, effective single piece.
With the hour getting late, Dexta Malawi took the stage, with Ganja and Charlie Bobus also on the slated list of performers.