Anthony Joseph

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About Anthony Joseph

Anthony Joseph is a poet, novelist, musician, vocalist, and frontman for the Spasm Band. His music combines Caribbean and African rhythms with jazz, funk, and spoken word. Joseph was born in Trinidad and raised by his grandparents. His earliest musical influences were his grandfather's calypso records, particularly those of Mighty Sparrow and Lord Kitchener. He was initially moved by the use of poetry and patois in their recordings. As a result, he began to write. During his teens he also started collecting the newest reggae sounds, which arrived by boat weekly from Jamaica. His writing ability allowed him to emigrate to the United Kingdom in 1989. He attended Goldsmiths College at the University of London where he obtained a Master's degree in literature. Joseph discovered the music and writings of Gil Scott-Heron as a student. He was particularly moved by the album Winter in America. His first collection of poems, Desafinado, was published in 1994, followed by Teragaton in 1997. Joseph spent years writing and lecturing at various colleges and universities. In 2005, he was selected by the Arts Council of England and Renaissance One as one of 50 Black and Asian writers who have made major contributions to contemporary British literature. His debut novel, The African Origins of UFOs, was published in 2006 and won praise from dub poet and scholar Linton Kwesi Johnson; it was widely reviewed in the U.K. After playing and working with a group of musicians from his south London neighborhood, Joseph founded the Spasm Band and was signed by Kindred Spirits. The album Leggo Di Lion, billed to Anthony Joseph & the Spasm Band, was issued in 2007. His third poetry collection, Bird Head Son, was followed by a Spasm Band album of the same name in 2009 on the Parisian label Heavenly Sweetness. Joseph & the Spasm Band became regulars on the European touring circuit. The album Rubber Orchestras followed in 2011. The songs branched out from strictly biographical material to offer taut insights about immigrant culture in London. While playing a music festival, Joseph was asked to fill in for Heron, who had failed to show due to rapidly declining health -- he would die a few months later. Joseph's reputation grew; he was regularly interviewed on European radio and television. Live in Bremen saw release in 2013 and was followed in 2014 by Time, his debut solo album. The latter was produced by Meshel Ndegeocello. She played bass on the date and hired an all-star studio band that included guitarist Chris Bruce. Joseph & the Spasm Band toured to support the recording and it gained notice not only in Europe but in Asia and the United States as well. The poet also appeared on the Belgium unit BRZZVLL's album, Engines. In January 2015, he presented Kitch, a BBC documentary based on his research for a post-doctoral thesis about Lord Kitchener. Joseph also collaborated with Polish jazz saxophonist Adam Pieronczyk's quartet on the album Migratory Poets. In December, the solo single "Neckbones" was released with an appearance by Sly Johnson. Joseph began a recording collaboration with percussionist Roger Raspail (Cesaria Evora, Papa Wemba). Originally conceived as a small project, it grew in scope and volume and gathered together many more players, all of whom had either Caribbean origins or direct connections. They included saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings, Trinidadian calypso icon David Rudder, and pan steel master Andy Narrell, to name a few. The finished album, Caribbean Roots, was released jointly by Heavenly Sweetness and Strut in June 2016. ~ Thom Jurek

Port Of Spain, Trinidad
November 12, 1966

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