On Sunday, IRIE FM gave its annual lifetime achievement award to the one and only Mutabaruka. Previous recipients of the award were Bunny Wailer and Jimmy Cliff. The event was held at Muta’s alma mater Kingston Technical High School (KTHS) and was aired live on IRIE FM from 6 a.m until late evening.
This award to Muta is truly deserved.
He is a poet, Rastafarian, Garveyite, writer, educator, activist, pan Africanist, health guru, political commentator, historian, motivationist, talkshow radio presenter, philanthropist, humanitarian and so much more.
For the past 3 decades Muta has hosted the “Cutting Edge” on IRIE FM, a trailblazing programme for Pan-African discussions. Muta has used his radio shows to discuss issues such as globalism, Chinese investment, religion, corruption, environment, history, African culture, civil rights, food, entrepreneurship and health.
Muta also used both the “Cutting Edge” and his other weekly show on IRIE FM (“Stepping Razor”) to inform the listeners on issues that are hardly raised on any of the other 25+ radio stations in Jamaica. So far in 2019 he has done outside broadcast live from the UK and Ghana.
The first time I came across Muta was in the early 1980s when he released the dub poet track “Every Time a Ear Di Sound” a poem that stuck with me in my teens. Muta’s poems covers a wide range of topical issues and his poem “dis poem” is a masterpiece. It is up there with the key works by some of my favourite poets including Linton Kwesi Johnson, Gil Scot Heron and Camille Yarbrough.
I met Muta roughly 15 years ago at a London book fair at Arsenal’s football stadium and yes, he was, as usual, barefooted. He was a fascinating listen that day.
So Sunday’s celebrations of Muta’s career had guests from all walks of life both local and international. Hosted by Kabu Maat Kheru and Elaine Wint, special guests included Babsy Grange, Earl ‘Chinna” Smith, Capleton, Tony Rebel, Jean Breeze, and Marcia Griffiths.
Ironically when IRIE FM first devised “Cutting Edge” it was meant to be a vehicle hosted by Rita Marley and supported occasionally by her two I-Threes bandmates – Judy Mowatt and Marcia Griffiths. But Griffiths and Mowatt were not keen. Rita Marley presented the first “Cutting Edge” but did not return. Muta replaced Rita and the rest is a blessing for a show that continues to challenge the status quo and educate its listeners.
But one of the telling moments from Muta’s event that will stay me is worth sharing. The story was told by Robert Gregory, chairman of KTHS and himself a past student.
Gregory did some research on Muta’s (then known as Allan Hope) school days. He found out that in 1970 Muta wore a badge on the school compound that had the face of Pan-Africanist Marcus Mosiah Garvey. The principal at the time – E.G. Roper- confiscated the badge from Muta.
Now Garvey’s son, Marcus jr, was then a teacher at KTHS and went to Roper’s office to find out if his dad’s badge was indeed banned by the school. Roper confirmed the ban but Garvey jr warned anyone to dare remove the badge from his attire. Remember now, in 1964 the Jamaican government declared Marcus Mosiah Garvey a National Hero. But the attitude by some of Jamaica’s influential and powerful figures aka de system was – for decades – preventing Garvey’s philosophies from being discussed at educational institutions or in the media.
At the end of Gregory’s story he returned that same badge from 49 years ago to Muta.
Fullgratulations Muta, a stepping razor who continues to slice through the bs to educate and empower his listening audience. Well done IRIE. Raspect.