Mutabaruka

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Dub poetry always works best when its practitioners relax. The problem is that when the content is fiery and polemical, it takes a lot of discipline to stay relaxed in delivery. Just ask Linton Kwesi Johnson, whose artistic success has always been roughly proportional to his ability to describe atrocity with smooth understatement (for example, "Sonny's Lettah"). That's why Mutabaruka has made so few really great albums. It's not that he isn't smart and articulate, though his pronouncements do tend to be a bit on the safe and obvious side: "The system is a fraud," "Thousands die and we ask ourselves why," etc. The problem is that he undermines himself by delivering lines like those with the gravity of someone clueing us in to some kind of hidden knowledge (news flash: apartheid is bad, self-confidence is good). What saves him throughout is the rock-solid support of his all-star backing band. Linton Kwesi Johnson knows all about that, too.

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