Life Squared

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Life Squared and philosophy is cubed on this masterpiece from Jamaica's most revered poet/artist. With age comes wisdom, and across this set Mutabaruka shares knowledge, insight, hopes and fears, pain, and pleasure. In the past, the artist's anger at the state of the world pushed his work toward polemic, ferocious pieces of poetry, heavy slabs of condemnation and provocation that inevitably preached only to the choir. Life Squared, while still ofttimes angry, takes a step back and delivers up a more thoughtful commentary on issues. Scattered across the set are a series of tracks titled "Muta Seh," short snippets of philosophy, opinions, and adages, an excellent device for the artist to even more directly express his beliefs. "Time We Realize" puts his philosophy to poem and song on a number that begins by questioning the benefits of religion, but ends with Mutabaruka's own creed, as he gives his views on how to best navigate through life. "The Confusion Today (Wha a Gwan)," set to Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On," eloquently sums up today's turmoil, but again offers solutions, in this case to "awake from the illusion, face the confusion," while "The Monkey" crushingly condemns wayward behavior. Of course larger political questions continue to be raised, notably on "Life and Debt," a song that is also the title track for a documentary on Jamaican life where Mutabaruka skewers the World Bank and globalization. "One People" is a powerful unity song and call to revolution which attacks imperialism past and the marvelous "The Monkey" is an ironic look at Earth's most evolved creature, man. Religion, loss, Mother nature, and patriarchy are also addressed, as Mutabaruka moves toward the more personal, which climaxes on "I Write a Poem," the apotheosis of "Dis Poem," as the poet delves into his own reasons for writing. The set, incidentally, closes with a phenomenal remix of the latter number, a ten-plus-minute musical epic that sweeps across musical genres and finally settles into a tribal-house hybrid. Across the entire album, the musical backing, featuring a shifting aggregate of top island talent, beautifully sets off Mutabaruka's words. From mento to dancehall, reggae to R&B, the styles shift and blend, but each perfectly illuminates the poem's words and atmospheres.

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