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  • Born: Jamaica
  • Years Active: 1980s, 1990s, 2000s


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All Music Guide:

His poems have given voice to a nation and helped forge an entirely new genre of music, dub/rhythm poetry. Revolutionary, fiery, scathing, and stinging, Mutabaruka's words are as potent on paper as on CD, and so the literary community needed to create a new term just for his works -- meta-dub. Born in Rae Town, Jamaica, on December 12, 1952, Allan Hope first realized the power of the word when he was in his teens. It was the '60s; the Black Power movement was at its height, and numerous radical leaders were putting their thoughts and histories in print. Malcolm X and Eldridge Cleaver formed the roots of Hope's own aspirations, although his initial career choice was far removed from their paths. Leaving school, the young man apprenticed as an electrician, and took a job at the Jamaican Telephone Company. Hope was already writing, however, and in 1971 he quit his job to pursue his craft full-time. He moved away from the hustle and bustle of Kingston out to the quiet of the Potosi hills, in the parish of Saint James. Not long after, one of his poems was accepted by Swing magazine and from that point on, they would regularly publish his work.

In 1973, Hope formed the band Truth, his first attempt to combine his words with music. By now, the poet had converted to Rastafarianism and taken the name Mutabaruka. Not a word, but a phrase, mutabaruka comes from the Rwandan language and translates as "one who is always victorious." Even as roots was taking hold, Truth did not find a following. However, Mutabaruka was finding fans in the literary world after the publication of his collection, Outcry, in 1973. The following year brought further recognition with the poem "Wailin',"dedicated to Bob Marley, and written around Wailers song titles. Two years later, Sun and Moon, a shared volume of poetry with Faybiene, arrived to much acclaim. In 1977, Mutabaruka once again turned to the stage, and gave several live performances. Joined by the nyabinghi-fueled group Light of Saba, the poet recorded a version of his poem "Outcry" the next year, and found himself with a Jamaican hit. Meanwhile, guitarist Earl "Chinna" Smith had launched his own High Times label as a home for deep roots music, and swiftly signed the poet. Mutabaruka's star was rising, and his appearance at the National Stadium in Kingston this same year was a smashing success. Over the next few years, he cut a clutch of singles for High Times, and received even further literary acclaim in 1981 with a new volume of poems, The Book: First Poems. That same year, Mutabaruka had a hit with the single "Everytime a Ear De Soun," while his fiery debut at Reggae Sunsplash was captured for posterity for a live album released in 1982. It was this performance that brought Mutabaruka to international attention, and guaranteed return appearance at the festival over the next two years.

His debut album, Check It, was released in 1983, a dubby classic with the poet accompanied by Smith's exquisitely rootsy guitar. The album was remastered and reissued by the RAS label in 2001. 1985 saw another successful return to Reggae Sunsplash and a project with the American Heartbeat label, overseeing the compilation of the dub poetry album Work Sound 'Ave Power: Dub Poets and Dub. A dub accompaniment followed, remixed by Scientist, along with a second dub poetry set, Woman Talk: Caribbean Dub Poetry, this time exclusively featuring women dub and rapso poets. Mutabaruka also struck a distribution deal with the American RAS label, and cemented the partnership with the ferocious The Mystery Unfolds album in 1986. Self-produced and featuring a host of guest musicians and vocalists, including Marcia Griffiths and Ini Kamoze, Mystery was totally uncompromising. Amidst a host of tough tracks was "Dis Poem," a number meant to puncture not only the listener's expectations, but the poet's pretensions as well. One of Mutabaruka's most entertaining, yet thought-provoking poems, it would later be included in the definitive The Routledge Reader in Caribbean Literature.

Although neither 1987's Outcry nor 1989's Any Which Way...Freedom was quite as radically revolutionary as Mystery, Mutabaruka was quickly establishing himself as both a literary and musical giant, both in Jamaica and abroad. His Reggae Sunsplash appearances in 1987 and 1988 were highly anticipated, and did not disappoint. And while Mutabaruka continued to produce or co-produce his albums, he also occasionally cut singles for other producers, including the hard-hitting "Great Kings of Africa" for Gussie Clarke, which paired him with Dennis Brown. The Blakk Wi Blak...K...K album appeared in 1991, overseen jointly by the poet and Earl "Chinna" Smith, and featured a follow-up to "Kings," "Great Queens of Afrika," with guest vocalists Sharon Forrester and Ini Kamoze. It was a stellar album filled with tough talk, including the scathing "Ecology Poem" and the equally biting "People's Court." That latter number was followed up on Mutabaruka's equally excellent album, Melanin Man, which also boasted the stunning "Garvey." That arrived in 1994, by which time the poet had performed at three more Reggae Sunsplash festivals in 1991, 1993, and 1994; he'd return in both 1995 and 1996. 1994 also saw the launch of Mutabaruka's own Jamaican radio show on the IRIE-FM station. It was wildly popular, but ironically enough that station banned his song "People's Court from the airwaves. Two years later, the poet scored a pair of Jamaican hits, both cut for the Exterminator label. "Wise Up" paired Mutabaruka with DJ Sugar Minott, while "Psalms 24" saw him in collaboration with the deeply religious DJ Luciano. 1996 also brought two albums in its wake, Muta in Dub and Gathering of the Spirits, the latter a spectacular recreation of the roots era, boasting a host of roots stars from the Mighty Diamonds, Sly & Robbie, Culture, and Marcia Griffiths amongst them. That same year, Mutabaruka toured Ethiopia with Tony Rebel, Yasus Afari, and Uton Green.


Allan Hope (born 26 December 1952), better known as Mutabaruka, is a Jamaican Rastafari dub poet, musician, and actor. His name comes from the Rwandan language and translates as "one who is always victorious". Some of his themes include sexism, politics, discrimination, poverty, race, and especially religion.

^ Greene, Jo-Anne "Mutabaruka Biography", Allmusic. Retrieved 21 December 2014^ Some sources, e.g. Thompson (2002) state 1956


Early life[edit]

Born in Rae Town, Kingston, Jamaica, Hope grew up in the slums of Jamaica with his mother, father and two sisters. When he was just 8 his father died. He attended the Kingston Technical High School, where he trained in electronics for four years, going on to work for the Jamaican Telephone Company until quitting in 1971.

In the late 1960s into early 1970s there was an uproaring of Black Awareness in Jamaica. Hope, who was in his late teens at the time, was drawn into that movement. In school he read many "progressive books", including Eldridge Cleaver's Soul on Ice and others that were then illegal in Jamaica, such as The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Raised as a Roman Catholic, while employed by the Jamaican Telephone Company, he began examining and immersing himself in the Rasta lifestyle. He stopped wearing shoes, stopped combing his hair, started growing locks, and altered his diet. Soon after, he converted completely to the movement. He adopted the name Mutabaruka, a Rwandan term meaning "one who is always victorious".

Later life[edit]

Hope left Kingston in 1971, relocating to the Potosi Hills, where he lived with his wife and two children in a house that he built himself. He was among the new wave of Jamaican poets that emerged in the early 1970s. Early work by Hope was first presented in the magazine Swing from 1971. Introducing Outcry (March, 1973), his first collection released as Mutabaruka, John A. L. Golding Jr. wrote: "In July 1971, Swing Magazine published for the first time a poem by Allan Mutabaruka.... Our readers were ecstatic. Since then, and almost in consecutive issues, we have derived much pleasure in further publication of this brother's works.... They tell a story common to most black people born in the ghetto.... And when Muta writes, it's loud and clear". He received attention for "Wailin'" in 1974, a work referencing songs by The Wailers, and in 1976 released the collection Sun and Moon.

In 1977 he began performing live, backed by his band, Truth. He had a hit record in Jamaica the following year with "Outcry", backed by Cedric Brooks' the Light of Saba. After being invited to perform at a Jimmy Cliff concert in the early 1980s, guitarist Earl "Chinna" Smith worked on a backing track for "Every Time a Ear Di Sound", beginning a long working relationship with Smith; Released as a single, it was a hit in Jamaica. He became known internationally after his performance at Reggae Sunsplash in 1981, the first of several performances at the festival. His 1983 release Check It was released on Chicago blues label Alligator Records, and further increased his popularity. He curated the 1983 compilation album Word Sound 'ave Power, released by Heartbeat Records, and in 1984 Shanachie Records released his album The Mystery Unfolds. He went on to record collaborations with both Gregory Isaacs and Dennis Brown, on "Hard Road to Travel" and "Great Kings of Africa" respectively. He continued to record and perform, and in the mid-1990s began presenting a late night talk show on radio station Irie-FM called The Cutting Edge.

He had further hits in the latter half of the 1990s with "Wise Up" (with Sugar Minott) and "Psalm 24" (with Luciano).

Mutabaruka gave a lecture at Stanford University on 18 May 2000, addressed to the Caribbean Students Association. He expressed his views on the difference between education and indoctrination.

In Spring 2007, Mutabaruka had the chance to teach African American studies at Merritt College. He has lectured and performed at several establishments in Jamaica and the United States.

In 2008, Mutabaruka was featured as part of the Jamaica episode of the television program Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations.

On 20 February 2010, he was honored by the National Centre for Youth Development (NCYD) and the Rotaract Club of Mandeville for over 30 years of outstanding work in the field of the arts. Also, later on in 2010, he was recognized by Senegal with a hut built in his honour.

On 28 September 2010, he recited a tribute poem in honour of Lucky Dube, whose music he said sought to "liberate the oppressed". He spoke at the First Jamaica Poetry Festival on 17 August 2011 in honour of Marcus Garvey and Louise Bennett. On the final day of the Rastafari Studies Conference, Mutabaruka was examined as an Icon by the professors of the West Indies.

His outspoken statements on theology have generated controversy, and he has described Rasta as "part of a universal quest which may also be pursued by other routes, such as Hinduism or Buddhism or Christianity". Although he is a Rastafari, Mutabaruka doesn't smoke "ganja"- a Jamaican word for Indian hemp. He plainly stated this in one of his poetry performances. He has, however, campaigned for its legalisation.

^ Thompson, Dave (2002) Reggae & Caribbean Music, Backbeat Books, ISBN 0-87930-655-6, pp. 192–194^ Dunn, Pat & Pamela Mordecai (2004). "Matubaruka". In Encyclopedia of Latin American and Caribbean literature, 1900-2003. Daniel Balderston & Mike Gonzalez, Eds. London: Routledge. p. 374. ISBN 0-415-30687-6, ISBN 978-0-415-30687-4.^ Habekost (1993) Verbal Riddim: Politics and Aesthetics of African-Caribbean Dub Poetry, Editions Bodopi BV, ISBN 978-9051835496, p. 25^ Boyne, Ian (2012) "Mutabaruka For Jamaica 50 Honour", Jamaica Gleaner, 15 July 2012. Retrieved 21 December 2014^ Culture Workers Bureau, CWB. "Ideas need to be explored, not ignored". "Mutabaruka". 1990, p.4.^ Cooke, Mel (2009) "'Everytime A Ear di Sound' makes Mutabaruka heard", Jamaica Gleaner, 12 July 2009. Retrieved 21 December 2014^ Johnson, Linton Kwesi (2005) "Cutting edge of dub: Linton Kwesi Johnson on the spreading influence of Jamaica's poet of protest", The Observer, 27 August 2005. Retrieved 21 December 2014^ Mutbaruka Lecture. mutabaruka.com. "Stanford University".^ Adams, Anne-Marie (2013) "Mutabaruka Comes to Hartford, Gives Lecture on Rastafarianism", The Hartford Guardian, 23 July 2013. Retrieved 21 December 2014^ Cooke, Mel (2011) "'There Is No Rebel'", Jamaica Gleaner, 5 July 2011. Retrieved 21 December 2014^ "Mutabaruka Talks Religion", Jamaica Gleaner, 16 March 2011. Retrieved 21 December 2014^ Walters, Basil (2010) "Muta recognised by Senegal; song on World Cup compilation", Jamaica Observer, 20 May 2010. Retrieved 21 December 2014^ Hewshe, Francis (2010) "Poet Mutabaruka pays homage to slain Dube", Sowetan, 28 September 2010. Retrieved 21 December 2014^ Gleaner, The "Examined as a Icon, A Visionary". 27 August 2010. Article.^ Cooke, Mel (2011) "Mutabaruka Questions Creation Story", Jamaica Gleaner, 27 March 2011. Retrieved 21 December 2014^ Cooke, Mel (2012) "Mutabaruka Dares Deity", Jamaica Gleaner, 27 April 2012. Retrieved 21 December 2014^ Dick, Devon (2011) "Answering Mutabaruka's God Talk", Jamaica Gleaner, 31 March 2011. Retrieved 21 December 2014^ "Jamaican poet urges Gambia to legalize cannabis", StarAfrica, 13 May 2014. Retrieved 21 December 2014


Live at Reggae Sumfest (1993) (VHS/DVD)The Return to the Motherland (2011) (DVD)

Books of poetry[edit]

Outcry (1973)Sun and Moon (1976) - with FaybieneThe Book: First Poems (1980)The Next Poems (2005)


Sankofa (1993) - ShangoOne Love (2003) - Rasta elder
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