Dub poetry

Dub poetry is a form of performance poetry of West Indian origin,[1] which evolved out of dub music consisting of spoken word over reggae rhythms in Jamaica in the 1970s.[2][3] 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 nature

Most dub poetry is overtly political and social, 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 albums

Linton Kwesi Johnson (LKJ)'s album Dread Beat an' Blood first appeared in 1978, then Oku Onuora's Reflection In Red in 1979, followed by Benjamin Zephaniah's Rasta, and many others in 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 Kingdom

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 poets

Malachi Smith

Poets in Unity - Poetry Society of Jamaica (Chris Bailey, Tomlin Ellis, Malachi Smith, Anita Stewart, Hope Blake, Delores Robinson, Buxton Shippy, Oliver Smith).


  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" in roots-archives.com, last on-line access in 9/17/2012.
  4. ^ "Mighty Jah-J! the Furious George" at MySpace.

Malachi is a fellow of the University of Miami’s Mitchner Caribbean Writer’s Institute where he studied poetry under Lorna Goodison and playwriting under Fred D’Aguiar. An alumnus of Florida International University, Miami-Dade College and Jamaica School of Drama, Malachi was one of the founding members of Poets In Unity, a critically acclaimed ensemble that brought dub-poetry to the forefront of reggae music in the late 70s and carried it forward for a decade. Malachi has also performed as an actor and poet, and is an accomplished writer, publishing and performing his own plays and poetry. He has also become known for his performances in other theatrical productions and on radio, television, and live theatre.

Malachi won the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission most outstanding writer in the poetry category for 2009. He headlined the International Dub-Poetry Festival in Toronto and he performed at the Love-In Festival in Miami with Richie Heavens and other greats in Miami. He also made three appearances in New York, and he toured St. Kitts and Nevis in the summer of 2000 to rave reviews. 2012 Malachi tour Colombia for a week representing Jamaica at the International Poetry Festival of Medellin. Malachi represent Jamaica at the International Poetry Festival of Granada, Nicaragua, from February 16 to 23, 2014, International Poetry Festival of Taiwan, 2015, Poetry Africa, Durban, South Africa, October 2016.

Malachi’s latest CD collection “Wiseman” was released on May 18, 2017.

Malachi has a MSCJ from Florida International University (FIU).

    2016 Arkemedia Award – Reggae Category for “How Yuh Mek Har”         2014 JCDC Gold Medal Creative Writing: Jamaica’s Best Adult Poet         2013 JCDC Gold Medal Creative Writing         2012 JCDC Silver Medal Creative Writing         2011 JCDC Gold Medal Creative Writing         2009 JCDC most outstanding writer.         2006 winner dub poet of the year, Joe Higgs Music Awards.         2006 nominee dub poet of the year Reggaesoca Awards.         2006 nominee poet of the year Martin’s International Music Awards         2006 won four awards Jamaica Cultural Development Commission Annual Literary Awards for poetry and playwriting.          2007 world premier of documentary film: DUB POETRY: the life & work of malachi smith  

For more on Malachi:

www.malachismith.com www.reggaeconcepts.com dub poetry www.cdbaby.com/Artist/malachi2

Further reading

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

External links