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Dub poetry is a form of performance poetry of West Indian origin,[1] which evolved out of dub music in Kingston, Jamaica, in the 1970s,[2][3] as well as in London, England and Toronto, Canada, both, cities which have large populations of Caribbean immigrants.[4] It consists of spoken word over reggae rhythms. Unlike dee jaying (also known as toasting), which also features the use of the spoken word, the dub poet's performance is normally prepared, rather than the extemporized chat of the dancehall dee jay.[2] In musical setting, the dub poet usually appears on stage with a band performing music specifically written to accompany each poem, rather than simply perform over the top of dub plates, or riddims, in the dancehall fashion. Musicality is built into dub poems, yet, dub poets generally perform without backing music, delivering chanted speech with pronounced rhythmic accentuation and dramatic stylization of gesture. Sometimes dub music effects, e.g. echo, reverb, are dubbed spontaneously by a poet into live versions of a poem. Many dub poets also employ call-and-response devices to engage audiences.


Political natureEdit

Dub poetry has been a vehicle for political and social commentary,[5] with none of the braggadocio often associated with the dancehall. The odd love-song or elegy appears, but dub poetry is predominantly concerned with politics and social justice, commonly voiced through a commentary on current events (thus sharing these elements with dancehall and "conscious" or "roots" reggae music).

Notable albumsEdit

Dub poetry has been established itself as a major form of black popular art and its breakthrough was made through Linton Kwesi Johnson's (LKJ)'s seminal album Dread Beat an' Blood,[6] which was released in the UK in 1978.[7][8] Oku Onuora's Reflection In Red in 1979, was the first Jamaican recording of a dub poem,[5] followed by Lillian Allen's Revolutionary Tea Party[9] and Benjamin Zephaniah's Rasta,[10] both produced in 1983, and many others from the early 1980s onwards.


Toronto, Ontario, Canada, has the second highest concentration of dub poets, preceded by Jamaica and followed by England[citation needed]. Lillian Allen, Afua Cooper, and Ahdri Zhina Mandiela are among the founding mothers of the Canadian dub poetry legacy.

United KingdomEdit

LKJ still runs LKJ Records in the UK, a label that publishes both his own books and music, as well as that of other musicians and poets.

Benjamin Zephaniah continues to publish in the UK. He has written novels as well as poetry. He was put forward for the post of Oxford Professor of Poetry in 1989 and British Poet Laureate in 1999, and in 2003 was also offered an OBE, which he declined.

Many of the dub poets have published their work as volumes of written poetry as well as albums of poetry with music.

Notable dub poetsEdit


  1. ^ Chris Roberts, Heavy Words Lightly Thrown: The Reason Behind Rhyme, Thorndike Press, 2006 (ISBN 0-7862-8517-6)
  2. ^ a b Dub Poetry, Allmusic last on-line access in 9/17/2012.
  3. ^ Dave Thompson, "History of Dub Poetry" Archived 2012-08-30 at the Wayback Machine in, last on-line access in 9/17/2012.
  4. ^ Neigh, Janet (2017). Recalling Recitation in the Americas. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. p. 130. ISBN 978-1487501839. Retrieved 4 December 2017.
  5. ^ a b Habekos, Christian (1993). Verbal Riddim: The Politics and Aesthetics of African-Caribbean Dub Poetry. Brill Rodopi. p. 21. ISBN 978-9051835496. Retrieved 4 December 2017.
  6. ^ Collier, Gordon (1992). Us/them: Translation, Transcription and Identity in Post-colonial Literary Cultures. Rodopi. ISBN 9789051833942.
  7. ^ Zephaniah, Benjamin. "Dread Beat an' Blood". BBC. Retrieved 4 December 2017.
  8. ^ Rawlinson, Nancy. "Linton Kwesi Johnson : Dread Beat An' Blood : Inglan Is A Bitch". Spike Magazine. Retrieved 4 December 2017.
  9. ^ Brennan, Ali. "Sound, Rhythm, and Power: Legends of Dub Poetry". Debate Central. University of Vermont. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  10. ^ Hirsch, Edward (2014). A Poet's Glossary. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 185. ISBN 9780151011957. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  11. ^ "Poet: Lillian Allen". Poetry Foundation. Retrieved 3 December 2017.
  12. ^ "Dub and Difference: A Conversation with Jean "Binta" Breeze". Callaloo. 26 (3): 607–613. 2003. JSTOR 3300706.
  13. ^ a b Knopf, Kerstin. ""Oh Canada": reflections of multiculturalism in the poetry of canadian women dub artists". Revue LISA. Retrieved 6 December 2017.
  14. ^ "Mighty Jah-J! the Furious George" at MySpace.

Further readingEdit

  • Mervyn Morris, "Dub Poetry?", in Is English We Speaking and Other Essays (Kingston: Ian Randle Publishers, 1998).

External linksEdit