If reggae is a rhythm set to a poor man’s cry, then its most esoteric form, dub poetry, is that pain made lyrical. Oku Onuora is the most original dub bard.
Dub poetry is more than just words and music, the melding together of the oral tradition of the African griot with the British love of dramatic recitation. Among the several dub poets performing today, Oku “Fire” Onuora is the most charismatic and passionate articulator of the sufferah’s grief and outrage. Orlando Wong was born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1952. He grew up in the slums of Eastern Kingston’s Franklin Town and received an informal education from Rastafarians. His rebellious nature initially led him to engage in demonstrations against police violence and painting slogans on walls.
He is accredited with being the first to use the phrase dub poetry to describe his poetry and presentation & recording dub poetry in Jamaica. There are countless international articles that have been written listing his impressive and extensive credentials including, his seven years served in the Jamaican penitentiary system.
He began writing poetry in 1971 and became the first inmate to be allowed to perform with a reggae band in 1974 when Cedric Brooks’ band The Light of Saba performed in the prison. However, Oku’s poetry was declared “subversive” and his writing was confiscated from his cell. He considered himself a political prisoner and continued writing, with his poetry finding an audience in the outside world after being smuggled out of prison, coming to the attention of Jamaican writers. While behind bars, Oku focused his rebellious energy in a positive direction by writing “Confrontation”, an award winning play aired by the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation (JBC) and “Echo”, a bestseller collection of poems, published in 1977.
Oku has performed all over the world and has achieved notable success in Jamaica, the US and Europe. With a compelling history, a voice rich with his homeland language and a passion few performers aspire to, he has disturbed and exalted audience with his word bullets. His legendary first album “Pressure Drop” was released in 1984.
After taking an hiatus for over a decade, Oku has been rising occasionally, releasing “A Movement”, the album featuring pianist Monty Alexander and Sly and Robbie (2013) and “Yesterday/Today/Tomorrow” single. 2018 saw the reissue of the classic compilations “I A Tell; Dubwize & Otherwise” and “I A Tell”.
In 2017 Oku linked with Thomas “Doctor T” Lautenbacher, a musician-osteopath based in Switzerland, resulting in “I’ve Seen” album, released in 2019 by Fruits Records. As usual, in his indelible fashion, Oku Onuora is blazing trails, stirring thoughts and quaking hearts. The album alternates between hard hitting socio-political a cappella poems and poems fussed with powerful riddims performed in the purest Jamaican tradition by the musicians of The 18th Parallel, with Doctor’s T adding some modern electronic touch.
Oku Onuora will perform accompanied by Swiss AK8 band and with Doctor T on the live dub mix. It will be his very first time in Poland and the first festival appearance in Europe for 15 years. He will also meet fans at the Reggae University at the festival, to talk about his poetry and his life experience.
Ostróda Reggae Festival, Red Stage, 13.07.2019
Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow
Fuel for Fire feat. Rico Rodriguez
Oku Onuora & Najavibes – I A Tell & Reflection in Red (live 2018)
“Dub Poet: Oku Onuora”, documentary trailer