art in all its forms

art in all its forms


Poet Anthony Joseph traces his ‘Caribbean Roots’

The album's cover is by painter Che Lovelace, son of novelist Earl Lovelace.

By Andre Bagoo

THE TITLE track of Anthony Joseph’s latest album ends with a statement from Earl Lovelace.

“Our history is not colonialism and slavery,” Lovelace says. “Our history is our struggle against enslavement and colonialism.” This is central to the album and Joseph’s work generally.

Joseph is a Trinidadian/British poet, novelist, musician and lecturer resident in London. Not quite calypso, not quite soca, not quite rapso, not quite extempo, not quite blues, his latest album is, simply, poetry.

In Caribbean Roots, Joseph is evangelical. His spoken word sings. At times he is direct. Occasionally, the music seems unnecessary. But more often than not, it wraps itself around the words, reflecting the complex history which Joseph addresses. This work is a paean to the Caribbean.

“You realise that you rooted in the muck of history,” Joseph says in the title track. “And you begin to look around the majesty of old Europe and the citadels of its power, and its grand architecture set in old stone. And you begin to ask yourself where are my monuments? How come all these monuments – even the ones in the islands – were built by those who colonise and enslaved me?” He continues, “You need to set yourself in the soil / of these Caribbean roots”. The poet roams Europe, bringing news of the Antilles. From first to last, this work is an assertion of his identity, as complex as that may be.

The opening piece references Derek Walcott’s famous Nobel Lecture, ‘The Antilles: Fragments of Epic Memory’, with a kora becoming part of “a complex science of sound”. The personal and political mix, the poet voyages alongside the, “memory ghost of my father, memory ghost of my mother.”

The saxophones of Shabaka Hutchings (The Heliocentrics) and Jason Yarde, the trumpet of Yvon Guillard (Magma), the bass of Mike Clinton (Salif Keita), the trombone of Pierre Chabrèle (Creole Jazz Orchestra), meld seamlessly with the steel pans of Andy Narrell. Each track proceeds like the section of a Carnival band. David Rudder makes a guest appearance, tribute is paid to the Mighty Sparrow, there is homage to Lord Kitchener.

In 1993, Lovelace also said, “This world doesn’t belong to somebody else and it doesn’t belong to just me either. It belongs to me too. I say that sets the terms of my writing: I deal not particularly with a little group of people somewhere on the periphery of existence, but at the very center of existence.” So too, Anthony Joseph.


May 21, 2016,