With anthems like this coming through the radio in the 1970s and 1980s it is hard not to develop a poetics of rebellion. This is Burning Spear in a song whose lyric, as strangely elliptical as it may seem, remains profoundly rooted in the fittingly contradictory idea of a creation rebel--one grounded in creation, in the fact of creation, in everything that creation suggests, and yet one who is shifting the norm and trying to evoke something new. His rebellion comes from the quest to sing his own sing in a world that will continue to disappoint. From the alienation of shouting out loud for bread and hearing no response, the artist must sing his song. It is a rebellion towards hopefulness. I understand this intimately, understand it as the instinct that I want in me--a creation rebel poet. Man, you have to love this reggae business!
CREATION REBEL
I travel all the whole of Rome
to find my bread,
to find my bread.
Call so loud,
search all around;
no one to hear my cry
but what am I to do?
I don’t know, that’s why
they call me, now, creation rebel don;
they call me, creation rebel don, rebel don.
Creation rebel they call me.
Creation rebel they call me.
They call me.
They call me.
They call me.
They call me.
One ting more for I to tell you,
for I to tell you,
for I, for I to tell you.
One ting more for I to tell you:
One shoe on my feet,
one pants to me waist,
one shirt on my back;
its gone, its gone,
what am I to do?
I don’t know.
That’s why
they call me,
creation rebel don,
that’s why they call me
creation rebel don, rebel don.
Rebels in the morning.
Rebels in the evening.
Rebels inivershally.
Rebels was from a dat time,
until this time
I made up my mind
to go on,
sing my song.
Maybe,
maybe,
I will find good round the other side;
and that’s why they call me,
creation rebel they call me;
they call me creation rebel;
is they who call me,
creation, creation rebel,
creation
they call me,
its they who call me.
Winston Rodney, The Burning Spear

Originally Published: August 22nd, 2007

Born in Ghana in 1962, Kwame Dawes spent most of his childhood in Jamaica. As a poet, he is profoundly influenced by the rhythms and textures of the country, citing in a recent interview his “spiritual, intellectual, and emotional engagement with reggae music.” His book Bob Marley: Lyrical Genius (2007)...