Record of the Day: Linton K. Johnson, "Independant Intavenshan"

Record of the Day: Linton K. Johnson, “Independant Intavenshan”

Linton Kwesi Johnson
Independant Intavenshan (2 Cd Island 524575_2)

One of the most authentic voices of contemporary poetry, Linton Kwesi Johnson, continues to make his voice heard around the world thanks to the many readings carried out together with his group on pounding reggae-dub bases.
Johnson's verses tell of misery, poverty, life in the ghettos, police brutality, social injustice (his invectives against Margaret Thatcher are legendary), through fiery words that cross the audience like sharp darts, punctuated with the obstinate tone of voice of someone he considers himself oppressed but not defeated (he was one of the first artists to join the Black Panthers movement).

These themes run through his entire work since the first book of verses “Voices of the Living and the Dead” in 1974 and continue with discographic masterpieces such as “Dread Beat and Blood”, “Bass Culture” and “Making History”, where the vein Johnson's visionary and sometimes apocalyptic vision has a way of finding an equally effective counterpart in
snappy and rhythmically impeccable performances by his Dub Band, led by trusted collaborator Dennis Bovell.
Although not a pure musician, Johnson composes his songs using the dub technique, a genre in which the songs are enriched by a continuous use of echoes and filters from the mixing desk.

This indispensable anthology collects much of the work Johnson recorded for the Island label, including many hard-to-find alternative versions; the images that this poem offers us do not retreat from anything, including scenes of violence that hit the stomach (although never gratuitous).
Of course, you can listen to this work simply as an excellent example of Jamaican music played with feeling and energy, but missing the nuances of the lyrics would be a real shame and would prevent you from fully understanding the greatness of this artist who influenced entire generations of rappers and poets Anglo-Saxons.

Johnson seems much more at ease on stage than in the halls of the Academy and even if his books are cited in scholastic anthologies and the world of official poetry has showered him with recognition by hosting his volumes in prestigious series, he seems to be better off in front row on the barricades throwing his voice against ignorance, hatred and prejudice.

Carlo Boccadoro, composer and conductor, was born in Macerata in 1963. He lives and works in Milan. He collaborates with soloists and orchestras in different parts of the world. He is the author of numerous books on musical topics.

This text is taken from “Lunario della musica: A record for every day of the year” published by Einaudi, courtesy of the author and the publisher.