Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Kwame Dawes--One Bad Ass Punk Rock Rasta (pt.2)

Kwame Dawes is a bad ass contemporary poet. He was born in Ghana and grew up in Jamaica. He is an open and passionate advocate of reggae music, the Caribbean-born beats of upstrokes and revolution. This year marked the fiftieth anniversary of Jamaican independence from the (former) British Empire, and Kwame edited a book of poetry that celebrates the occasion: Jubilation.

Kwame's poetry, when I discovered it this summer, excited my interest in the history of Jamaica and the culture of the Rastas. I can't recall experiencing such excitement in these things since I discovered Bob Marley when I was 14 (a very long time ago).

From his website: "Anyone seriously interested in understanding contemporary Jamaican life and literature must encounter reggae as a cultural phenomenon that has engaged the spiritual, political, social, erotic, and racial dynamic of Jamaican society. Understanding reggae’s role in the world today is to understanding the complexity and post-modernist reality of the popular culture in the late twentieth century. For Kwame Dawes reggae is a lens through which to examine the cultural, political and social development of Caribbean society and with which to encounter the larger world. As a writer, Dawes has found an aesthetic grounding in reggae music."

I would like to make a similar claim for Punk Rock music. That Punk Rock, minus the religious cohesion of the Rasta spiritual Movement, can still serve the needs just as well for those people, young and old, suffering through the post-modern meaninglessness we all face, especially those of us who find ourselves on the margins of "normal" Western Civilization. The soon-to-be dominant (Left-wing) culture in America--the PC Elite--is no more hospitable to Punk Rock than the WASP folk were and are.  Punk Rock sub-culture, like the Rastas and Reggae, is just as much a threat to the lifestyles of the "Green & Famous" as it was to Jimmy Swaggart's cohort of Rich and Famous hypocrites. (As it should be!) 

It's not as if Punk Rockers and Rastafarian lovers of Reggae should form social clubs together to discuss their mutual hostility to intolerance and domination, or their mutual love of good music. (They already did that with the creation of Ska. Many thanks to the Clash.)

The point is this: Whatever form we take, we subterranean types--we who pose a threat to the current social order--possess the terrifying, ominous power of a black storm crackling in the distance of a warm sunny day. You can feel our encroaching rumbles vibrate through your fingertips. Our clouds will soon envelope you. Our rains will soak your streets, flood your neighborhoods and possibly drown your children. But you're not even safe inside. If we're angry enough, if we're violent enough, we will strike your homes with bolts of fire and burn down every suburban McMansion, every HOA-controlled "community" and every "public-private partnership" of your civilization. You cannot run. Your best bet is to run underground--to taste the sweet air of darkness from which we rose--in the pitch blackness of your basement. Beware our thunderous warnings in the distance. For we shall soon be whirlwinds and tornados. 

I'll just let Kwame Dawes' words paint the picture for you with one of his poems. It's not about Punk Rock, but that doesn't mean it can't be. This is called "Tornado Child": 

Tornado Child

For Rosalie Richardson
I am a tornado child.
         I come like a swirl of black and darken up your day;
         I whip it all into my womb, lift you and your things,
         carry you to where you've never been, and maybe,
         if I feel good, I might bring you back, all warm and scared,
         heart humming wild like a bird after early sudden flight.

I am a tornado child.
         I tremble at the elements. When thunder rolls my womb
         trembles, remembering the tweak of contractions
         that tightened to a wail when my mother pushed me out
         into the black of a tornado night.

I am a tornado child,
         you can tell us from far, by the crazy of our hair;
         couldn't tame it if we tried. Even now I tie a bandanna
         to silence the din of anarchy in these coir-thick plaits.

I am a tornado child
         born in the whirl of clouds; the center crumbled,
         then I came. My lovers know the blast of my chaotic giving;
         they tremble at the whip of my supple thighs;
         you cross me at your peril, I swallow light
         when the warm of anger lashes me into a spin,
         the pine trees bend to me swept in my gyrations.

I am a tornado child.
         When the spirit takes my head, I hurtle into the vacuum
         of white sheets billowing and paint a swirl of color,
         streaked with my many songs.

Lovely, no? And here's what this poem reminded me of specifically: an aggressive dance practiced routinely at punk shows. Below we can see one of these dances being exercised at a Bad Brains concert. Bad Brains, a punk band from D.C., helped spark the hardcore movement in punk during the '70s. They also happen to be black (a rarity for punk rock bands). And Rastafarian. That doesn't hold back the crowd from hopping around in one of those manic tornado-like dances. On the contrary, it compels them to dance with a mystical compulsion that rattles the souls of those who have the ears to listen. 

In other words, if music were a spiritual commandment, this is what you'd hear: fucking slam-dance every moment in the mosh pits of your own lives, mother fuckers! 

Now that's Punk Rock jubilation, baby. 

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