The name of Oku Onuora, Jamaica's best known dub poet, a notorious radical, criminal, and proud subversive, literally translates as fire in the desert and symbolizes the voice of the people.
Considered the father of dubetry, a combination of haunting dub melodies and spoken word, Oku Onora was born Orlando Wong. During his youth, he joined the fight against the racist, oppressive policies of the post-colonialists. A disciple of Negus, young Wong was known for his many wall slogans and his demonstratinons against police violence. Eventually mere protest was not enough for Wong and so he decided that he must use force to help things change. After arming himself with a gun, Onuroa became a "revolutionary adventurer." After receiving a conviction for the armed robbery of a post office (he did this with the intent to use the money to help a struggling alternative school), Wong was sentenced to seven years in Jamaica's General Penitentiary in 1970. But before they could send him there, Wong escaped by leaping out of a second story window. As he fled, he was shot five times in the arms, legs and chest by the police. A few days later he was captured. While in prison, Wong began lobbying for prison reform and thereby earning the label of agitator and security risk. It was there he began writing his poetry, something the prison officials considered subversive. Though the tried to ban his writing, it leaked out and was published in 1977 as Echo by Sangster books. The book caused a stir and inspired Wong to change his name to Oku Onura.
His first dub-poetry album, Reflection in Red on 56 Hope Road, came out in 1979 and was the first LP of its kind. He followed this up in 1984 with Pressure Drop, a full-length album that many consider a classic. It would be his last spoken-word album for nine years. In between then and 1993, he concentrated on writing plays and directing a drama company. He also performed live and toured. In 1990, Onura recorded New Jerusalem Dub a concept album that he called "poetry without words." It was a slickly produced, high-tech, and somewhat experimental work that sought to expand the bounds of what constitutes reggae music. With 1993's Bus Out Onuora returned to dub-poetry. This too was a themed work that decried racism and provided a strong call to immediate action against injustice and oppression. Though for him, it was a personally painful album to make, critics hailed it as revolutionary and one of his finest works. ~ Sandra Brennan