Origins of Dub Poetry

Dub poetry is a form of performance poetry of West Indian origin which evolved out of Dub music consisting of spoken word over Reggae rhythms in Jamaica in the 1970s. Unlike deejaying (also known as toasting), which also features the use of the spoken word, the dub poet's performance is normally prepared and rehearsed; compared to extemporized chat of a Dancehall deejay.  In musical setting, the dub poet usually appears on stage with a band performing music specifically written to accompany each poem, rather than simply performing over the top of dub plates or riddim; which is done in the Dancehall fashion. 

Musicality is built into dub poems, yet, dub poets generally perform without backing music, delivering chanted speech with pronounced rhythmic accentuation and dramatic stylization of gesture. Sometimes Dub music effects, such as echo and reverb, are dubbed spontaneously by a poet into live versions of a poem. Many dub poets also employ call-and-response devices to engage audiences.

This kind of poetry emerged in Jamaica and England during the early 1970s, influenced by the rhythms of Reggae music. The term was at first applied to the improvised ‘rapping’ of the Jamaican disc jockeys known as ‘toasters’, who sang or recited their own words over the dub versions of Reggae records. Dub poetry includes lyrics and narrative poems on various subjects including protest against racism and police brutality, the celebration of sex, music, and ganja, and Rastafarian religious themes.

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