LKJ Contour
April 13

Linton Kwesi Johnson + Contour

Seated concert and lecture. Reading of Linton Kwesi Johnson in English.

The Bourse de Commerce has invited cult dub reggae poet and activist Linton Kwesi Johnson (born in Jamaica in 1952 and living in England) to read a selection of his poems. April 2023 will see Linton Kwesi Johnson’s publication of Times Come, a selection of reviews of books and records written over several decades that bear witness to his political commitment and powerful voice. The evening will open with a set by American R&B musician Contour. For his second live performance in France, he will present his album Onwards!.

Linton Kwesi Johnson

Linton Kwesi Johnson (LKJ) is a musician, activist, and dub reggae poet who was born in 1952 in Chapelton, Jamaica. He arrived in London in 1963 and joined the Black Panthers movement. At 22, he became the head of the poetry and then the visual arts sections of the monthly political magazine Race Today, launched in 1969 by the Institute of Race Relations. It was here that he published his first writings, which were collected in the 1974 anthology Voices of the Living and the Dead. In 1975 he published Dread Beat an’Blood with Bogle-L’Ouverture Publications, one of the first publishers to make room for the voices of Afro-Caribbean writers. Linton Kwesi Johnson described the daily lives of people from the Caribbean living in London, between police brutality and racism. He also wrote biographical liner notes for reggae albums released by Virgin Records. Virgin’s founder, Richard Branson, financed him to record his first demo and then the album Dread Beat an’Blood, which was made in collaboration with dub reggae producer Dennis Bovell. Together, they gave birth to dub poetry, a mix of hard-driving rhythms and monotone phrasings. In 1980, LKJ released the album Bass Culture, whose cult track Ingland is a Bitch describes the precariousness of everyday life for immigrants in England. In the 1980s, he launched his own label, LKJ Records, to which he signed other artists. He then also became a radio and print journalist. In 2012, he received the Golden Pen Award for his contributions to English literature. And in 2020, he was awarded the PEN Pinter Prize, which is devoted to freedom of expression. That same year, British director Steve McQueen recounted the presumed arson of a house in New Cross, London in 1981 in one of the episodes of his series Small Axe. He invited Linton Kwesi Johnson to read his famous poem New Craas Massakah, an elegy to the thirteen teenagers who died in the fire, as a screen projected black and white images of the incident highlighting the tensions between British blacks and the police, which led to the Brixton uprising in 1981.


Khari Lucas, originally from Charleston, South Carolina, assumed the alias of Contour in 2014, an allusion to the form that a song’s sound waves take when traced on paper. His music lies at the forefront of contemporary R&B, infused with jazz, soul, and psycho-rock. In 2021, he released the intimate neo-soul Love Suite. The next year, he released the acclaimed Onwards! on the label Touching Bass, with its ample and sinuous grooves, blurring the border between sampled sounds and instruments. The softness of Contour’s voice adds to the delicate, mysterious quality of his music. Throughout the album, voices emerge from movies made by the film movement L.A. Rebellion, which was founded in the 1960s to denounce how black people were living in the United States at the time. Contour draws his inspiration from poets, artists, and musicians involved in the Black Arts Movement.