Mutabaruka

The Mystery Unfolds

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On The Mystery Unfolds, the fourth album proper from Jamaica's Mutabaruka, the dub poet picks up where he left off on Outcry, delivering a fresh set of verses on longstanding concerns. If anything, his antagonism seems even more sharply focused than on previous efforts. Critiques are aimed at both the oppressors and the oppressed, and the lyrics not only examine hard facts but common misconceptions and stereotypes that are equally potent. Unfortunately, Mutabaruka's approach occasionally, almost inevitably, backfires. The subjects of songs like "The Leaders Speak" and "Old Cut Bruk" will be familiar to any fan of reggae music, and the poet manages to imbue their common themes with a certain amount of freshness. Better still is "Bun Dung Babylon," which fuses the somewhat mechanical rhythms associated with Mutabaruka's sound with layers of nyahbingi percussion. Songs like "Revolutionary Words" and "My Great Shun," however, paint an unflattering portrait of an artist with lofty ideals who seems incapable of accepting the possibility of his own fallibility. Dub poetry has never seemed capable of speaking to the people on their own terms the way reggae's DJs can. As a result, when Mutabaruka declares on "Dis Poem" that the words he speaks will not be repeated by poetry enthusiasts, politicians, or men of religion, you can't help suspecting that they will not be uttered by the general populace either.

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