Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Muhammad Muwakil - "4.00 am in Belmont" (Jamaican Spoken Word)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post showcases the Jamaican spoken word composition "4.00 am in Belmont" by Muhammad Muwakil.

A video of Muhammad Muwakil sharing that composition and a transcription of that composition is found in this post. Excerpts from an online article on Muhammad Muwakil & selected comments from that video's YouTube comment thread are also included in this post.

The content of this post is provided for historical, folkloric, motivational, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

4.00 am in Belmont - Muhammad Muwakil

Christopherlaird, Uploaded on Oct 22, 2007

Young Trinidadian poet performs on Gayelle
Here are 3 comments from this video's viewer comment thread

jazzbwoym 2009
"Wow...a powerful truth...I grew up in Belmont Port of Spain so I familiar wit the scenes u describe bruh. Keep up the good work.

wirechair, 2009
"yeh fo' real this man does jus set a certain atmosphere when he reciting."
navidhendrix, 2011
"Hands down one of the BEST descriptions I have ever heard about the crime and poverty situation in Trinidad and Tobago.

This stroke of brilliance should actually be studied in schools.

I heard him perform this piece a few times and the silence of the crowd is palpable as they absorb and understand the meaning of these words.

Beautiful, just beautiful."

(Muhammad Muwakil)
It’s 4:00 am.
Amen. I still alive.
Belmont didn’t take my life last night.
I jump up twice out my sleep.
I thought a man was in my house.
‘Cause where I from we don’t sleep easy.
In the house is just granny and me
and she always ‘fraid someone gonna ‘tief she things
but it really she life she fraid for.
“Go back in your bed, son. The sun she start risin.”
Gosh, granny, I writtin.”
“But son, it’s half past 1.
“No granny, it’s 4 am.
Can’t you smell de blood?
Can’t you hear that one persistent dog that has been
barkin since yesterday?
He’s just happy to be alive this morning.”
Instead of barkin I prayin ‘cause I understand exactly
what that dog feelin.
Demons prowlin, cocaine itchin under their skin
So they sinnin to sniff other people’s sweat and tears away.
Cocaine no have no friend,
Especially in Belmont when it’s 4 am.
And it’s almost like I can hear the scrap of a spoon
at the bottom of an empty content milk as mothers
in the valley road try to make miracles before de babies wake up.
It’s de second day of school and de lunch kit new
but it have nothing to put in it.
And the school book fresh off the de shelf
but de ‘fraid to even look in it.
De afraid to have de heart broken by assumptions de made before.
Too many over educated cocaine dealers under street lamps.
Our futures are not secure.
And tomorrow is not promised to beast or men
especially in Belmont when it’s 4 am.
Roosters screamin their lungs out tryin to call de sun up
But aqui he is not listenin.
And it’s gonna take more than the blarin of cocks to wake my people up.
And I have 19 locks on my house, not countin de ones on de windows
Because in those few hours before sun rise, gunshots usher souls away from
the realm of men.
A way to understand me when I say it’s 4 am.
So buy a dream from a crackhead and stitch it to de fabric of your being to begin to understand de meaning of mayhem.
Pray for your life, forever and ever, amen
in Belmont when it’s 4 am.

*Transcription by Azizi Powell from the video.
Note: I'm not Jamaican and I don't speak Jamaican Patois. As sucn, my transcription is incomplete and some words may be wrong.
Italics mean that I'm not sure of the transcription.

I'm not sure if I correctly placed the quotation marks around the comments that the speaker had with his granny.

I think that the phrase that I heard as "content of milk" means containers of milk.

Even though I'm not the best person to transcribe this composition, I think that its words are so powerful, so insightful, and so significant that it should be documented in text form online. My hope is that someone from Jamaica, or otherwise knowledgeable about Jamaican patoise will correct this attempt at transcription.

From Caribbean Beat, Nazma Muller, September, October 2012
“Listening to Muhammad Muwakil can be painful. And it’s not because of his singing. Even when he does spoken-word poetry you want to cover your ears and run away. Those who hear his musings on “4 am in Belmont” reel at images of over-educated cocaine dealers under streetlamps, and the sound of gunshots that “usher souls away from the realm of men.” Unrelenting, Muwakil unleashes lines like: “buy a dream from a crackhead and stitch it to the fabric of your being to begin to understand the meaning of mayhem.”...

Muhammad Abdul Quddus Muwakil is the quintessential Trini: a mélange of cultures, histories, and genes. Although he often wears the colours and emblems of Rastafari, he is a practising Muslim, fluent in Arabic. His father named him after the Prophet, and Abdul Quddus translates as “slave of the Most High.”...

“Islam has influenced the core of my being, the way I live,” Muwakil says. “It has taught me to be respectful to others, to be truthful, and to give to the less fortunate.” This doesn’t prevent him from having questions, though. He challenges the Muslim belief that music is haram (forbidden). After all, he plays the guitar, flute, harmonica, and African djembe drums, and music reaches the audience that he most wants to reach: the youth.

He’s often invited to run workshops and give talks in secondary schools. He even gave an inspiring and earnest talk to University of the West Indies students about why he switched from chemical engineering to theatre and literature.

An historian for his twenty-first-century generation — he turns twenty-nine this year — Muwakil organised and performed at a fundraiser for the Memory Project, which will document the contribution of Black Muslims in Trinidad and Tobago, including their role in the 1990 coup attempt. As a UWI undergraduate, not content with battling the university authorities to recognise his performances in four major theatre productions as credits towards his degree (he won a national acting award for his role in Bitter Cassava in 2008), Muwakil started UWI Speak, an open-mic series that brought the spark of live student performances back to the campus.

Over the last five years, he has performed mainly spoken-word poetry, sharing the stage at one benefit concert with the most famous dub poet ever, Jamaica’s Mutabaruka...

With his Freetown brothers, Muwakil is part of a new wave of conscious young people from Trinidad and Tobago who want to stay in the Caribbean and rediscover their lost history — while making a little history of their own."

Thanks to Muhammad Muwakil for the power, beauty, and creativity of this composition and of his other spoken word compositions.

Thanks also to the commenters and the author of the article that are quoted in this post. My thanks also to the uploader of this video.

Thank you for visiting pancocojams.

Viewer comments are welcome.

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