LAST NIGHT by OKU ONUORA

 

 

 

Sakura’s posting the Mighty Diamonds on Earworms sent me looking for them on youtube, sure enough they are there plus lots more artists from that era. There was one guy, Oku Onuora, he’s a Jamaican poet who initiated the dub poetry concept, poetry performed with reggae; the forerunner of Linton and  Benjamin Zephaniah and Muta and many more. He and I were good friends back then, we usually spent some time together whenever I visited. One day we were sitting in his house in Kingston chatting about this and that and he mentioned that he’d been in jail, that was news to me and perked my interest so asked him ‘for what and when?’ His answer made my jaw drop. ” I was so angry with the oppression and the poverty and the system that I took up a gun!’ he said. ‘I took up a gun’, that phrase has been locked into my memory ever since, ‘To do what’ I asked him, ‘to rob banks to finance the revolution’ he said! Jesus, this was serious revolutionary shit. ‘Give me the details’ I asked , so he did, he told me the story of buying a rifle and holding up banks and living the life of a wanted man on the run, living in the hills, but of course he was caught and tried and sentenced to 15 years in 1970. He was confined in the harshest prison in Jamaica, Fort Augustus, from where he tried to escape twice and where he was shot five times by the warders. He began writing poetry in prison and came up with the dub concept when Cedric Brooks and his band visited the prison and Oku performed with them. His poetry was published and in 1977 the attorney general of Jamaica, a poet himself, pardoned Oku.

He told me of a specific poem he’d written titled ‘Last Night’: he was confined in a single windowless cell in solitary for three years and when he was eventually transferred to a cell with a window he saw the moon for the first time and he wrote this poem, I’d recorded all of our conversations and when I recently played the tape it made me weep.

LAST NIGHT.

got a peek

at the moon

last night

and didn’t think of lovers

got a peek

at the moon

last night

an saw

a man with a load on his back

got a peek

at the moon

last night

an cried

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

why me black brother why  – The Mighty Diamonds

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4 thoughts on “LAST NIGHT by OKU ONUORA

  1. I really like the poem but it is very sad.

    The track is great! ! ! ! I really enjoy your posts about reggae ! ! ! I really want to learn more about it.

    In Japan reggae is really a minority interest but did you know that reggae in Japan started when Bob Marley came to Japan on holiday and met the Japanese percussionist and drummer Pecker. The two of them became friends and Pecker (I do not know his real name) went to Jamaica with some amazing musicians who included the famous classical pianist and composer Ryuuichi Sakamoto and made two albums with The Wailers, Rico Rodriguez, and Sly and Robbie. ? ? ?

    I am happy your friend has given up violence and is now a poet ! ! !

    Here is Japanese Reggae singer Papa U-Gee.

    The video shows photos of him on his tour of Okinawa and the Ryukyu Islands which is where I am from.

    Maybe I will make a post on Japanese reggae one day ! ! !

  2. Sakura: Thank you for that, it confirms my belief about reggae being THE universal music, if it can have that effect on a society like Japan it can take seed anywhere. And I’ve seen and heard that everywhere I’ve travelled, through Africa, Central America, Europe and obviously the Caribbean. Everywhere you go you see red, gold and green and posters of Bob and graffiti with rasta ideas.
    It’s because so much of it is a direct thread to ideas of oppression and rights and love, all things that everyone can relate to.

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