The 50th anniversary of the legendary radical poets brings the first LP in twenty years, original members Umar Bin Hassan and Adiodun Oyewole have resurrected the group and doing shows together, UK producer Ben Lamdin contacted them about doing some recording and sent them a few rhythm tracks that he'd got from Prince Fatty, whom he knew from their time in Brighton. Fatty's speciality is old school reggae and dub, which he records using seasoned UK session players such as Horseman and Dub Judah, who play drums and bass respectively. That's how the foundations were laid, at Fatty's Brighton studio on Blackman Street. Ben then added horns arrangements with help from his band Nostalgia 77 and set off for New York where he, Umar and Abiodun met for the first of two recording sessions.
"When they listened to the tracks they were really blown away," says Ben. "I think they were surprised to hear themselves in that context basically, because everything they've done before is resolutely American in terms of the sound and what they've been talking about. What we ended up with was a mixture of American poetry and jazz, Jamaican rhythms and African drums. It was as if Mingus and Duke Ellington had got together and stopped over in Jamaica..." Umar confirms that it was the first time the Poets ever voiced on reggae rhythms. "It's amazing how the music has opened up new avenues and taken us somewhere else," he says. "Reggae is such a deep music because it envelops your words; it closes around them and gives them a whole new meaning." *
The result was the LP ‘Understand What Black Is’ and this was closely followed by a dub version again by Prince Fatty, we feature the track ‘How Many Bullets’ which bridles with defiance as Abiodun works through a litany of injustices suffered by black people in the US. "You tried to blow my brains out with bigotry. Chopped off my wings so I couldn't fly free. Took my drum, broke my hands, yanked my boots right up out of the land and riddled my soul with Jesus." A repetitive chant of, "You can't kill me. Can't you see?" mocks his oppressor, but with no loss of dignity *
*excerpt from bandcamp
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