The Consciousness of the Pan-African Dub Poet
By Harold Awortwie-Bongo in Germany
Mutabaruka is a self-trained artistic talent who, over the long and hard ways of Jah works, has introduced some reality into his music infusing lyrical vibrations and traditional impulse to catch diverse human attention to the problems facing Africans in the Diaspora worldwide. For a long time, he has devoted a lot of his speeches to general human perceptions where survival has been threatened by a global wave of brutal fanaticism in socio- political spheres, the economic fields and religious associations. A revered international Dub Poet, Muta is also an influential writer and has published the book, ‘The First Poems’.
Nice time Mutabaruka, Akwaaba! What does our African heritage and Africanism mean to you?
“Akwaaba [responding in an African Fanti language tonation!], Africanism is Africans getting together to solve Africa’s problems in Africa. There is much to do and more to tackle as the Aids epidemics and globalisation are destroying our African heritage. We don’t believe these things are in the interest of Africans. Africanism at this time is very much needed. There are desperate moves to mobilise Black Africans worldwide, to say and understand that we all have some contributions to make towards the African development”.
What about the total redemption of Africa and its scratched people in the Diaspora?
“Africanism is like the totality of Black people in the most positive sense. All we need to do is to think developmental but strictly African style. We have to desire to connect physically, socially and spiritual with the Roots of our Africaness. The greatest obstacle impeding the ultimate Africanised civilisation is the mental slavery mechanism which is turning Africans in a vicious cycle of alienated cultural directions with stagnant creative opportunities”.
The desire to repatriate back to Africa for many people on a global scale is attained through the powers of Reggae music. How do you see Reggae in these times?
“Reggae music takes a back bench among the youths because of the Dancehall music. There is an evolution of Reggae and today’s Dancehall music. The main difference is Roots music keeps coming large with the revolutionary vibes whereas the Dancehall lodges off with too much trend, immoral aggression and materialism induce from the American way of life. Reggae music was and is still connecting the Africans worldwide for things to be done in Africa. We can not only depend on the music because the music itself done late already. We don’t have to only depend on the music to carry the message every time because when the music cannot always serve as a medium that carries the message then everybody is going to falter. So we need to go beyond the music, way past the music in livity and develop other things than to only play Reggae music. There are other ways to represent the message and the best is to do something in Africa as the music lyrically tells us to. Many people today are just rushing over to big Reggae dances; buying the latest Reggae albums ... cool off and only listen to the music. But there are some messages in the music and there are messages that need implementation for the betterment of African people worldwide. Instead of dancing to the music rather live the lyrics of the music”.
Muta, your broadcast programme in Jamaica, ‘Cutting Edge’ is acclaimed as the most elite Pan African Roots connective medium for a global audience. You have been granted air time for traditional African music in the Caribbean; can you please elaborate on that?!
“Of course, actually it’s been sixteen years since we first operationalised our ‘Cutting Edge’ radio programming. The main aim is still to open up the minds of our Jamaican folks to things that other Africans are doing internationally. This means bringing positive African messages and mingling them into the cultural music. Usually, you don’t hear African music on many radio stations but, we go out of our way constructively and play Afro-centric music. And, over the years, it has soaked into the minds of our strong African listeners. That is what the media is there to do; you can’t just follow what the people want, you have to be good to present to the listeners what is very exclusive and long term beneficial. Most people on the radio give the people what they want but sometimes, the people do not even know what they want.
You have to develop on a broader horizon to play all kinds of rich African music like Salif Keita, Baba Maal, Youssou N`Dour, Fela Kuti and dem West African music to open the minds of millions of Jamaicans, other Caribbean listeners and through the internet, our global outreach. We are exposing all kinds of positive Black people’s music fusing it with public discussion about important global happenings and the impact on we, as a people. We consciously bring in thought-provoking interviews and phone-in programming so there is a direct feedback communication and free flow of information. We feature book reviews on Black authors, run commentary on events etc. On spiritual topics, we mostly expose the listeners to African traditional religions like the Yoruba tradition; the rights of passage in the Akan ceremonies; the Ashanti enschoolment. Such information shapes a good opinion of our publics”.
Your movie ‘Sankofa’ is a Black blockbuster in many African homes likewise the film ‘Roots’. What has been your relation to that movie, Africa and Jamaica as your homeland?
“Well Sankofa, we did the movie and travelled to Africa but, it is not because of the movie why we travel back to Africa. We went to Africa because of what we say and do. The Sankofa movie puts Mutabaruka into another different light. People saw the development of a poet through to musician and then to films as an actor. This is why when we go to America and Ghana; many people call me ‘Shango Shango’. It is fabulous to see that Pan African recognition has materialised through visual acts! Many a times, I have travelled to South Africa as a poet for Nelson Mandela’s celebrations and read memoirs in the Cape Coast and Elmina slave castle in Ghana which was very spiritual; a high grade spiritual unification feeling of satisfaction in all aspects and the memories lingers on in my life”.