Michael St George
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Michael St George

Hamilton, ON, Canada | Established. Jan 01, 1985 | INDIE

Hamilton, ON, Canada | INDIE
Established on Jan, 1985
Solo Spoken Word Reggae


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The best kept secret in music


Farrin Jamaicans

Migration has long been an elemental part of the development of Jamaican artists, and while many have lamented the departure of Jamaicans to other parts of the world to pursue lives as writers, it should be noted that Jamaica is not unique in this regard. People migrate for various reasons, and while some may have a great deal to do with the lack of opportunities for publishing and training in Jamaica for writers, some reasons have also to do with general economical and educational opportunities that travel has provided. Over the years, it is is clear that Jamaican poets have either lived abroad for much of their lives or have actually settled in other countries to write. In many instances, they have done so while still embarked on the great enterprise of writing a Jamaican poetry even as they have expanded their subject range to include the worlds in which they life. Poets like James Berry, who began writing while in London, would continue to make his career as a poet in the UK. His work remains important to Jamaican writing. The same may be said for Linton Kwesi Johnson, whose influence has been even more far-reaching for Jamaican writers. In Canada, Lillian Allen and Afua Cooper along with spoken word poets like Michael St. George among many others, have found ways to locate in that country an immigrant poetics rooted in Jamaican sensibilities. In the US, the Pulitzer Prize winning poet Louis Simpson seemed less interested in the "Jamaican project", if you will, but was fully engaged in the poetics of modern America. But this should make him no less interesting to readers of Jamaican poetry. Of the poets based abroad today, few could be said to have as strong a reputation as Claudia Rankine who is recognized today as one of the leading poets working in the US. Her "Jamaican" perspective permeates all of early work and she considers Jamaica a part of her sensibility. The same could also be said for the DC-based poet Mark McMorris who grew up in Jamaica and who has built up a sophisticated body of poetry that should be seen as a proud part of the Jamaican poetry tradition. - The Gleaner

Our exploration of one hundred years of Jamaican poetry continues, with a look at developments in the decades since independence from Britain in 1962.

The little island of Jamaica has an ardently oral culture in which the spoken word is given great weight, where critical expression and verbal dexterity are the norm, and where a unique local dialect flavours daily life. Bridging popular music, written poetry and the performative art of dub poetry, this second part of our feature on Jamaican poetry includes some of the country (and the Jamaican diaspora's) leading contemporary poets of page, stage and studio.

List of poems and tracks:

'The Ark by "Scratch"' Ishion Hutchinson

'Piece in Parts (Fi Tosh R.I.P.)' A-dZiko Simba

'Where We . . ' Makesha Evans

'A Prayer for My Children' Geoffrey Philp, from Dub Wise (Peepal Tree Press, 2010)

'Roads (Remembering Aimé Césaire)' Velma Pollard, from And Caret Bay Again: New and Selected Poems (Peepal Tree Press, 2013)
(all of the above collected in Jubilation! Poems Celebrating 50 Years of Jamaican Independence, Kwame Dawes (ed.), published by Peepal Tree Press)

'Our Jamaican Heroes' Hopeton Gray

'The System' Vybz Kartel Suncyle Digital download

'Jamaica Language' Louise Bennett, from Yes M'Dear - Miss Lou Live Island Records
'A So' Michael St. George, from Fight Your Fears or Die Fullstride Sounds

'Dis Poem' Mutabaruka, from The Mystery Unfolds Shanachie - ABC Radio National (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

There was an intertwining of music and poetry at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, 1 Arthur Wint Drive, St Andrew, last Tuesday, as Michael St George launched his fourth poetry album. Not that the fusion of poetry and music is unusual, but the extent to which St George used melody in much of the poetry he delivered, going along with rhythms provided by the three-person band, was striking.

St George's Jamaican launch of Fight Your Fears or Die closed off the Poetry Society of Jamaica's 2014 fellowships, which marked its 25th anniversary.

His opening was unusual - an invitation for a critical response from the audience. "At the end of the day, we can only get stronger if we work collectively and challenge each other to do better work," St George said.

And before the poetry of lines and stanzas came sonic syllables without distinctive words - smacking of the lips which eventually led to the verse, along with the fusion of the sung and spoken word. It did not hurt that there were two female harmony singers, carrying the refrain that "life is special".

The general optimism about existence was followed by a specific look at one of the travels of hope, in search of a better way of life. "Is really a immigrant situation," St George said, to introduce One Suitcase. That single carrier of belongings to a strange land was not for someone on a "Plymouth Rock journey".


In body movement, St George was as musical as his poetry and he upped the musical level by strapping on a drum, going back to a previous album to do Root To Fruit, playing along with Congo Billy. Then it was back to the album with a look at Doom and Gloom, which St George said someone had suggested should be named Trust in Jah. The reason was immediately clear, as the phrase featured heavily in the piece.

The album's title track was enhanced especially by Tioma's dance steps, M'Bala adding his drum to the band.

And there was another look back at poems from previous times, St George satisfying calls for an encore with Black Man Tiad Fi Bow from the times he was writing about apartheid in South Africa to close off the launch, the night and the Poetry Society of Jamaica's 25th anniversary fellowships. - The Gleaner

Michael St George plans a mixture of poetry done ital - without musical accompaniment - and with the input of instruments at the Jamaican launch of his fourth album next Tuesday. Fight Your Fears will make its official Jamaican debut at the Drama School Amphitheatre, Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, during the monthly Poetry Society of Jamaica Fellowship.

It has already had a summer launch in Canada at the Irie Music Festival in Toronto and before that, there was an online launch in April.

"The album is very musical," St George said. "I have always been musical. My thing is how we can move this thing in an area where there is a fully complementary relationship between the poetry and the music, not compromising one or the other."

So for the launch, St George said, "I am trying to represent the album as best as I can." That does not mean, though, that he will be doing material exclusively from Fight Your Fears. "There are a couple poems not on it that I want to do," St George said.

However, there is one on the album that he feels compelled to do. It is One Suitcase, which reflects not only his journey to Canada over two decades ago, but also his most recent trip (of many) to Jamaica. "I left with one suitcase and I came back with one suitcase. It is an immigrant's journey," St George said, clarifying that he actually returned to Jamaica this time around with two suitcases, but one contained items for other people.

In a similar vein, the cover art and title for Fight Your Fears are related to St George's life journey. The picture of him with a jackhammer was actually taken in the basement of his house, in the process of making space for his Full Stride Studio where most of the work for Fight Your Fears was recorded (work was also done in Jamaica at Beres Hammond's Harmony House studio and England).

"For me, the album is a departure from a lot of things. It is different from other albums I have done. I did not feel I had to use the typical music packaging. I had to represent the journey of the album. I literally had to fight my fears and other things," St George said. And that fight is work.

In this context, the cover image "represents work. It has grit, dirt".

Relating his experience to life in general, St George said it is important for persons to grow, to face their fears in order to accomplish a vision or a dream. "Fears are very real," he emphasised. "If you do not face those fears bit by bit, you will lose the light you came into the world to shine. You will die. Incrementally, you will die."

Face Your Fears was about three years in the making, three of the poems which did not make the previous set were reworked and included.

Targeting Young People

St George's work as an artist connects with the Turnaround Project, targeting young people, which is conducted mainly in Portland at the College of Agriculture, Science and Education. For the recent International Day of Women Entrepreneurs he performed with two young ladies who were a part of the project and are now teaching in Mandeville, Manchester.

While the Turnaround Project has been active in Portland for seven years, St George said young people from the urbanised areas of August Town, Spanish Town, Fletcher's Land, Grants Pen and parts of Papine have been recruited for the programme. "We take them to country and intersperse them with rural youth and Canadian educators," St George said.

"The programme is arts-based - video, film and photography, creative writing, music, visual arts, theatre. We teach leadership and transferrable skills through the arts," St George said. There is also an education fund.

Noting the programme's development, St George said there is now a thrust to fully establish a Jamaican arm, with its own board, logo, mandate, and other requirements. - The Gleaner

Dubbed 'Seh Sup'm Poetry and Live Music - Returning from the Cold', the October rendition promised to bring some top acts back from a brief poetic break, to deliver some good entertainment last Saturday.

Perhaps the competition between entertainment events on the month-end weekend contributed to the weak turnout at Seh Sup'm, but nevertheless, the show went on as scheduled.

Held at its usual home on the grounds of the Redbones Blues Café, the event got off to a late start. This might have aggravated some patrons who turned out early had it not been for the musical selections from the night's DJ Iset Sankofa.

Smooth instrumentals

Ensuring that the audience remained occupied until the show got started, the DJ kept bad tempers at bay with some smooth instrumentals, before kicking things up a notch with some energetic African music. The infectious beat of the drums were enough to get the small audience rocking into a good mood just before showtime.

When host Izemi Clem took the stage, it signalled the beginning of a night, marrying the spoken word with live music. The night began with the open mic segment, which featured a Seh Sup'm regular, Jamel Hall. Though his appearance was brief, it was not without impact as Hall delivered some thought-provoking pieces, undoubtedly captivating the minds of the few who gathered before making way for the first featured poet of the night.

If the audience thought Hall's poems were food for thought, then Akinsanya's (Lloyd Palmer) pieces would leave one pondering for days on end. Recognised worldwide for his musical skills as a keyboard player in the Uprising Roots band, Akinsanya showed he was just as talented in the spoken word genre.

Poetic prowess

Proving his poetic prowess, the performer tackled many social issues currently being faced by the country. Taking aim at politics, in particular, Akinsanya discussed the power of leadership or the lack thereof, before taking aim at the 'bleachers', discussing African pride and what it meant to be truly black and proud. He made way for up-and-coming singer Christina Alisia, who provided a good musical break.

Another notable performance came from Sage and U Reverse and the Head Cornerstone band. Sage paid tribute to dub master Lynch who passed on earlier this year, by reciting one of Lynch's well-known pieces, and earned himself a good response from the audience, who took time to remember Lynch for his immense talent. U Reverse and his band also delivered good performances, fusing music and poetry together beautifully.

It was now time for Jamaica-born Canadian poet Michael St George to grace the stage. Returning from a two-year performance break on local soil, the poet teamed up with M'Balla to bring the night to a climax. Though it was a night for the spoken word, perhaps the duo's best performance came when they performed Jambalashi. It had no words but the sound of the drums said it all as the audience rocked and swayed in appreciation.

Emerging roots-reggae singer Kazam Davis, featured in the night's acoustic segment and brought the curtain down on another staging of Seh Sup'm. - The Gleaner

On a rainy street covered in wet litter, a few blocks away from a long-vacant commercial strip on Barton Street East, sits Michael St. George.

He's just opened Fullstride Sounds, a new studio and rehearsal space on Sanford Avenue North next to a home with an overturned couch on the front lawn. Across the street, crews are demolishing a former school.

The location doesn't faze the renowed dub poet and performance artist.

"My real estate agent advised that I should not buy anything north of King Street," he says, then smiles. "But I went ahead and did it."

St. George has always been inspired by unpolished neighbourhoods. He grew up in August Town, Jamaica, a "painful and sad" community ravaged by poverty, crime and gun violence. Despite that, many of its residents have gone on to international recognition, particularly in the arts.

"In any neighbourhood, things can happen," he said.

St. George purchased the three-storey house at the corner of Sanford Avenue North and Bristol Street in 2008. When he took over the former convenience store and rental property, he found "a lot of garbage," he said. "I was like 'gosh.' But I'm happy."

He has extensively renovated the property, filling the interior with lively colours and rehearsal space, as well as lounging and writing areas for artists to use. It has recording and mixing equipment for bands, choirs and individuals. He's renovating the second floor so musicians can spend the night when they're working. He lives on the third floor.

When St. George moved to Canada 23 years ago, he settled in Toronto, but he relocated to Hamilton a year ago. He is a published writer who has released three albums and is working on a fourth.

A former teacher at Brock University, he also established the Turn Around Project (TAP) there in 2007. Students have traveled to Jamaica, Japan and India with TAP, mingling creative projects with community service. St. George's Sanford Avenue office is also TAP's headquarters.

St. George is humble in his approach to his new city. It will take a while for people to get to know him, he said, and he is "just getting to the pulse of Hamilton."

He is working on a compilation of Canadian and international artists — some from Hamilton — to showcase the music and his studio. He will release it in April. He'd also like to expand TAP to Hamilton schools and eventually offer mentoring and lessons for young aspiring performers.

It's the kind of presence that benefits the whole neighbourhood, said Glen Norton, manager of urban renewal in the city's planning and economic development department. Artists tend to create momentum, he said.

"It reminds me of when the Tiger Group put an art studio on Barton."

The city has budgeted $100,000 this year to develop a master plan for Barton Street, he said. It will hire a consultant and get public input to develop a vision for the street. - CBC Hamilton (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)


  • Fight Your Fears or Die, recorded album, Fullstride Sounds Studio, 2014

  • Fly Away Compilation, recorded album, Fullstride Sounds Studio, 2013
    (13 Canadian artists plus Dennis Bovell from England, co-produced by
    Ifield Joseph)

  • Ital Suite, recorded EP, Burna Base Records, 2007

  • In Absence of the Father, theatre production, 2006

  • Dubbin de Vibes, recorded album, 2004

  • Domestic Science, theatre production, 2004

  • De-compartmentalize-I, recorded single, produced by DJ Asif, London,

  • Night Spin, book of poetry, 2001

  • Dun Virus Spreading, CD of young writers in Ontario schools, 2001

  • Prophesy, recorded single with Prince Everald, 1999

  • Root 2 Fruit, recorded album, 1998

  • Self-Assession, recorded album, 1993

  • Political Fanatic & Black
    , recorded singles, 1990



Michael St. George is a multi-media performance dub artiste whose conscious verse and fresh musical sound have earned him international industry awards and peer recognition. A native of Jamaica and inspired by his working-class upbringing, his work primarily focuses on themes of justice, social equity, inter-generational relations and current relevant issues of the day. He has been performing live and recording his music and poetry since 1990. Michael's unique performances and workshops interweave languages and rhythm in a dynamic blend that is inspirational, thought provoking, catalytic and incite constructive conscious change. 

Band Members