RAS ATIBA BIOGRAPHY
GENESIS: 'STYLE & PATTERN’ Port more-St. Catherine, Jamaica (1980-1993)
While listening to a cultural program on radio, I heard the riveting words of poet Oku Onuora coming through my speakers. The bass of his voice as he spoke the words “…there will be no peace until equal rights and justice” reverberating and awakening the artist within me. One of my first poetic pieces was entitled, Pollution. It focused on multiple forms of pollution, including speech, garbage, scientific, nuclear, etc. My primary stage was the corners within the community. I was the youngest youth practicing the craft of Dub Poetry while most of my other peers where venturing into the new and more popular genre of Reggae music called Dancehall. It was lonely in my community back home, however my notebook and pencil often carried me beyond my immediate surroundings.
Over the course of my younger years, I would continue to learn and study with the originators of this growing traditional form of expression. As Jamaica endured a period of socio-political uprisings, the role of the poet became all the more vital to the authentic reporting of the conditions we were living through. While dancehall conjured up images of the “pre-bling bling era of decadence”, Dub Poetry became the ‘Food’ that sustained the disenfranchised, who were often pushed outside the Circle. I knew that day, ‘my time’ would come and the Circle would expand. As I prepared to emigrate to the United States, I received the blessings of Oku Onuora, the Father of Dub Poetry to continue and expand the Art Form.
Call n’ Response- Brooklyn, NY (1994-2011)
For over a 15-year period, the Call (draw) and Response (performance) led me to write over 500 poems. Yet, where would I, a Dub Poet fit-in? With little or no places to perform in my immediate community, compounded with the hesitancy of performing in my native tongue, patois, they remained stored in the corners of my mind and the pages of my notebooks. Enter Brooklyn, NYC, a place where on any given day, you can hear reggae melodies coming through the speakers in coffee shops, cars driving by and even the passer-byes are humming their tunes.
As I started to network with other artists, a new poetic landscape, which tailored to the spoken word form of performance, emerged. I chose to fuse the art forms, while maintaining the cultural integrity of my folk traditions.
As an artist, I had to balance my work life with the arrival of my young daughter from Jamaica. It is during this period that I began to sharpen my skills at various Open Mics and Cultural Events. My poems included ‘All Types Of People’, ‘It Was So Nice’, ‘Do You Know What I’m Feelin’, ‘In My Adopted Homeland’ and a crowd favorite, ‘My Time Ah My Time’. After building a network, I decided it was time to launch a platform with ARTS, Roots, Culture as the focal point. This Movement evolved into what Brooklyn knows as Sarabita Mondays.
‘Metaphysical Journey’ is an album about Dub Poetry. It chronicles the life of everyday experiences. The poems are musical food for the mind, body, and soul. ‘Metaphysical Journey’ has provided poetic ammunitions to liberate and protect the free thinkers.
Master’s Circle: Sarabita Movement (2012- Present)
I put out the call and discussions ensued. We created a model entitled ‘ARC’, Arts, Roots and Culture. Arts covers the various mediums (on canvas, on stages, in the streets, etc.); Roots firmly grounded in the expressions and exhibits of our connection to Africa and Rastafari; and Culture, which we celebrate as being the universal acceptance of humanity, or as I call it, “Perfect Love”.
Out of this model, Ah Time Ras Productions launched Sarabita Mondays, a weekly gathering for cultural expression in the heart of our beloved, Brooklyn, a borough that is going through its own process of urban renewal. This event, not only became a benchmark for local and overseas artists, it made our community, a cultural destination for bold, authentic, artistic expression, especially if you love and enjoy reggae, roots and culture. Recently, I was invited to perform at the Historical Woodstock, NY, Reggae by Nature event. My power-filled performance of Dub Poems, Fi Mi Hero, There Is Something Cooking and Bob Marley Ah Fi Mi Hero had the audience on their feet and calling for more.
In 2015, Sarabita Movement embarked on broadening their artistic outputs by forming collaborations with RCK97 Musical Movement of Rockaway in the peninsula of Queens, NY and the African Poetry Theatre in the heart of Jamaica, Queens.
January 2016, I-n-I officially launched the Ras Atiba and Friends ‘Refreshing Dub Poetry’ National Tour. February will find our collective embarking on a journey to Boston, MA bringing forward Rastafari Livity and Reflections on the contributions of Dennis Emmanuel Brown, Crown Prince of Reggae Music and Prince of Mama Afrika.
Most recently, I was a featured writer and poet at the first annual Brooklyn Caribbean Literary Festival, held in September 2019.