Print this Page

World Music CD Reviews Reggae & Caribbean

LINTON KWESI JOHNSON

By Vikram Patel
Published September 8, 2005

Forces Of Victory
Universal/PolyGram

Linton Kwesi Johnson was born in the small hillside town of Chapelton in Jamaica in 1952, but 10 years later, like so many other Jamaicans of his generation, he emigrated to England and ended up in London’s notorious Brixton neighborhood. There he fell in love with revolutionary poetry and the Black Power movement, and eventually brought both to bear on his other passion in life: reggae music. Beginning in 1978, he released a string of powerful records that set his smoldering dub-poetry against some of arranger Dennis Bovell’s hardest compositions. 1979’s Forces Of Victory remains LKJ’s masterpiece. His patois unfold like lucid, almost lawyerly indictments against the racism of the British establishment, while his deep, bass voice rumbles sonorously, like a distant war-drum. “Fite Dem Back” and “Sonny’s Lettah” take on skinheads and the police (and don’t differentiate much between the two, either). Better still, “Reality Poem” takes the Rastamen to task for muddying up their minds with fanficul notions of “Back to Africa” and exhorts them to focus their energies on fighting for black empowerment in the here and now.