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Isis Semaj-Hall. April 2019 / Lee Scratch Perry's Black Ark Studio

Isis Semaj-Hall / Riddim Writer


Dub is what happens when time collapses. But it is not the collapse of all time, just the collapse of their time. Dub is the collapse of their time and the rise of fi wi time. Do you follow me? Or do you prefer to see where I’m going?  

Remember when Miss Lou voiced feigned dismay over how her fellow Jamaicans were colonizing England in reverse? What a laugh so many had at the idea of the hopeful colonial subjects flooding out of the tropics by the “ship-load” and “plane-load” to “turn history upside dung.”[i] With a spoonful of Caribbean cane sugar, Miss Lou was always able to report our reality in a way that could make us think and laugh same-time. The way Miss Lou teased the boastful colonial subjects for feeling so entitled, so deserving of an equal chance in England, made Louise Bennett’s radio audiences of the 1950s and 60s double-over with laughter. And readers of Bennett in print version, laughed no less heartily at the idea of this overseas gossip with the fictional Miss Mattie. But what happens if we dub that poem today? Who can find laughter in the right now of the Windrush Generation being re-colonized and reversed back to Jamaica, back to Trinidad, and back to Barbados after a lifetime abroad?

This dub is getting too heavy. Pull it up. Dub it again.

I remember in March, my good friend travelled from Ghana through Europe in order to get back home to Jamaica. She made it out of Africa just as the Western world’s borders were closing in response to the pandemic. At a cruising altitude of 40,000 feet in the air, she sailed home on Air Zong Dub, seated figuratively in a sky-ward ghost ship bound by the cartographies of colonialism that we, in the twenty-first century, accept as normal global South travel itineraries.  Can you imagine? Can you see it? Can you hear it?  A full dub flight out of Europe. A dub flight full of fear. Hundreds of passengers sick with worry and seated amongst them, was one lonely, inconsolable young man. He, a deportee, had to be sedated to quiet his cries.  Could Miss Lou have foreseen the Middle Passage in reverse too? 

The dub is getting too heavy. Pull it up. Dub it again. 

The Home Office is the UK’s government department responsible for immigration. On December 2, 2020, the Home Office “returned” thirteen Jamaicans.  Thirteen is the reduced number, reduced from the nearly 50 Jamaican nationals who were scheduled for deportation. Reports in the Guardian tell us that some were spared because they “may have been victims of modern slavery.”[ii] Modern slavery in 2020.

This dub is way too heavy. Pull it up. Dub it again. 

I sit on my veranda, sheltered but outside, and I remember that this is Christmas time. Winter in the tropics is cool as the breeze. But when I hear the wind rushing through these December leaves, I hear a dub of Brixton calling in whispered goodbyes. Tier 1, 2, 3, 4, gets dubbed way past COVID-19 to 2020 and the eve of 2021. Who would have thought that Air Zong would be running more Christmas flights than Caribbean Airlines? Everybody wants to go home but only some are reminded that they have no home at all. Flight #442876 is full of dread. 

The dub is much too heavy. Pull it up. Dub it again. Dub it again and again because we can. 

Dub is accumulation and subtraction. When it doesn’t feel right, fix it. When it feels good, do more.  Dub is deconstruction and reconstruction. Dub is not completion; it’s a continued search for satisfaction. Going back by going forward. It is loops. Dub is rhythm in blues. Dub is a ghost. Dub is riddle and recipe.

Dub is the smell of curry that tells us dinner is on the table. It’s the sound of bass that tells us the dance is not quite full yet. Dub is deleting a word and adding a comma for inflection. Dub is knowing that parts represent holes. Not the whole, but the footprint, the ripple, the possibilities, the stories, the memories, and even the memories of places we’ve never been to, and even the memories of homes we never inhabited. Dub is that deportee on Air Zong.   

Pull up these PREE selections. Pull them up again and again for their dub aesthetics. Pull it up because we’re now boarding this PREE dub flight into fiction, non-fiction, poetry, ART-icles, and sound contributions to the Rub-A-Dub. 

[i] Louise Bennett. Selected Poems. 1983.

[ii] Diane Taylor. “Home Office proceeds with disputed Jamaica deportation flight.” 2 December 2020.

Image credit: Isis Semaj-Hall. April 2019 / Lee Scratch Perry’s Black Ark Studio

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