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Natural Mysticism: Towards a new Reggae Aesthetic

Kwame Dawes speaks for all those for whom reggae is a major part of life. He describes how reggae has been central to his sense of selfhood, his consciousness of place and society in Jamaica, his development as a writer - and why the singer Ken Boothe should be inseparably connected to his discovery of the erotic.

£14.99

Author(s)
Kwame Dawes
ISBN
9781900715225
Pages
216
Price
£14.99
Classification
Memoir, Music, Cultural Studies, Literary Criticism
Setting
Jamaica
Date published
8 Aug 1999

Kwame Dawes speaks for all those for whom reggae is a major part of life. He describes how reggae has been central to his sense of selfhood, his consciousness of place and society in Jamaica, his development as a writer - and why the singer Ken Boothe should be inseparably connected to his discovery of the erotic.

Natural Mysticism is also a work of acute cultural analysis. Dawes argues that in the rise of roots reggae in the 1970s, Jamaica produced a form which was both wholly of the region and universal in its concerns. He contrasts this with the mainstream of Caribbean literature which, whilst anticolonial in sentiment was frequently conservative and colonial in form. Dawes finds in reggae's international appeal more than just an encouraging example. In the work of artists such as Don Drummond, Bob Marley, Winston Rodney and Lee 'Scratch' Perry, he finds a complex aesthetic whose inner structure points in a genuinely contemporary and postcolonial direction. He identifies this aesthetic as being both original and eclectic, as feeling free to borrow, but transforming what it takes in a subversive way. He sees it as embracing both the traditional and the postmodern, the former in the complex subordination of the lyric, melodic and rhythmic elements to the collective whole, and the latter in the dubmaster's deconstructive play with presences and absences. Above all, he shows that it is an aesthetic which unites body, emotions and intellect and brings into a single focus the political, the spiritual and the erotic.

In constructing this reggae aesthetic, Kwame Dawes both creates a rationale for the development of his own writing and brings a new and original critical method to the discussion of the work of other contemporary Caribbean authors.
Natural Mysticism has the rare merit of combining rigorous theoretical argument with a personal narrative which is often wickedly funny. Here is a paradigm shifting work of Caribbean cultural and literary criticism with the added bonus of conveying an infectious enthusiasm for reggae which will drive readers back to their own collections or even to go out and extend them!

Michael Kuelker writes in The Beat: 'Dawes is an ideal grammarian for the reggae aesthetic, his voice the estuary where his energies as a poet, professor and one-time musician are poured. He bears a gift, rarer than it should be in academia, for intellectually processing his subject and still yielding enlivening writing...

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Kwame Dawes

Kwame Dawes is the author of twenty-two books of poetry and numerous other books of fiction, criticism, and essays. He is Glenna Luschei Editor-in-Chief of Prairie Schooner and George W. Holmes University Professor at the University of Nebraska. Dawes is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. His awards include an Emmy, the Felix Dennis (Forward) Prize for Poetry, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the PEN/Nora Magid Award for Magazine Editing, and the Windham Campbell Prize for poetry.

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