south is north

by nth digri

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south is north flips the orientation, with beat-driven dub-poetic instrumentation, heartpound like a hand-drum re-creation, plus a capella to slam home points of contention

when home is, from one angle of vision, fields of sugar cane and tropical paradise. And from another viewpoint, despite divisions, going strong through long days and longer nights

and viewed differently, El Dorado looks less shiny than rusting, cuz the matrix don't work. and it's safe to say that power is a dream, a bait and switch, or maybe worse.

so breathe deep and rebel against mercator inna zone, located south of meroe inna round the globe roam


released August 7, 2013

composed and spoken by the nth digri
with a remix from tariq
and nick knox in the producer seat




nth digri Ottawa, Ontario

nth digri is inspired by his Caribbean-Canadian heritage, hip hop culture, and the African griot tradition. His LP Tales of the North Coast was nominated for a Canadian Urban Music Award. His poem Sugar Cane was selected for the Best of the National Poetry Slam Anthology. He was the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word 2010 Male Poet of Honour. He has performed in Canada, the Caribbean, and the US. ... more

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Track Name: sugar cane
sugar cane, sugar cane, sweet sugar cane
sugar cane cane sweet sugar cane

as a young boy, I chewed the sugar cane
suck pure sugar juice drip from the cane
down in central, they grow the sugar cane
down in caroni, cut the sugar cane
now, sugar cane sweet, stick between your teeth
cutlass a chop down stalk of sugar cane
sugar cane burn, and sugar cane slash
boil and burn in the burning cane trash

this pome wrote 400 years ago
in the sugar cane plantations of tobgao
in demerara, and barbados
down in jamaica, santo domingo
cut cane cripple man, work in the field
woman and child in the killing cane field
burn sugar, work slave, cut sugar cane
cut down lives full of sorrow and pain

sugar muscovado package on the shelf
there on the package is a man with no wealth
and no land, maracas in he hand
jus dance on the package on the planation
sway on the package mark 'plantation'
black girl, bright clothes, happy in the land
there in the picture, on the pack of the sugar
with the black man and woman on the plantation

there in the supermart, white in the pack
is sugar refined in this here land
lantic take cane that break back
make money, thief money. also redpath
on the backs of the blacks who was kidnapped
and die in the fields for the white sugar pack
stir in the coffee, stir in the eta
sugar cane blood money, sugar cane sweet

sugar cane, sugar cane, sweet sugar cane
sugar cane cane sweet sugar cane
Track Name: breathe deep
breathe deep
bring forth the word from the depth of the intellect,
name the world, and draw breath
and breathe the rhythms that interweave and seethe
with the force of vitality, word is the seed
sown in the song of the griot who hails
the deeds eternal, breathe deep and inhale
and bring forth the sound to the sign inscribed
breathe out the sign pronounced in your mind
the word, the seed, the breeze in your chords
strums a note in your throat, corresponds with your thoughts
and aaahhhh... breathe yourself a drum
to the rhythmic oxygenic flex of the lungs
as word is to seed, breath is to the wind
sound to the sign, let the dance begin
name every last member of the tribe
sign the memory immortal in the song of the scribe
by the vertical gateway of a tree trunk rise
and fall, the breath, the chest, the sighs
the pattern of voices, of drums multiplied
each in its own time, but fully synchronized
span ages, song is the soil and the seed
of the word takes root, as the name is decreed
breathe deep, the invocation, the phrase lips shape in
soul intonation cross nation
as the chorus calls, innermost core resonates
aaahhhh... as the percussion detonates
the broken kola, notes of the kora
celebrate life like a soul makossa
breathe deep
breathe deep
Track Name: daylight
Daylight come, and me want go home

I’ve been working that graveyard shift, and I can’t hardly stand no more
It’s the break of dawn, so looks like I can finally go
And I’ve got to stop at the grocery store
I got mouths to feed, and supplies are running low
But first I got to get to the bank
See if I can increase my rank
Cuz I need my lights and heat, but they’re about to cut off the hydro and gas
Rent’s due, too, and my kids just got a filling in his tooth, so I got to pay for that
Plus a whole bunch of bills like water and phone
So I was thinking of asking for an emergency loan
Either that or get two jobs, maybe get myself cloned!
I’m trying to get something that pays more, but every time I get my foot in the door
And get an interview, I don’t get hired no matter how well I think I do
Or how much experience and qualifications I show
So, I finally asked, “What’s going on?”
And they told me if I don’t like it, I can just go… back…

Daylight come, and me want go home

24 hours in which to earn a living wage
And there’s no lack of manpower, just a concentration of power
Loss of laws for equal pay
Means lack of women-power, even though they’re doing the hardest labour
And all around the globe, many people are enslaved, and some are even slave traders
Kids in despair in sweatshops when they should be in the care of educators
And with every bite of a banana or purchase of a brand name bandana
I am a collaborator
A consumer of Big Oil, or Big Sugar
From Ghana to Guyana, Delhi to Manilla
But I heard a fella say that Massa day done
Dat dey have he on de run
And that the time soon come
For the dream that one day
We will let freedom reign
But we must have slipped back like reconstruction cuz
Many are still living in de facto debt bondage
Struggling to get by on single income or EI, or minimum wage
Working part time for something with no future
That make no use of they skills and brains
Tired like a dog
Tired of running in the rat race
Of always being thirsty when they look around and see there’s water for days
Of going two steps backwards for every one forward they take
They want chance to move at a more human pace
Have a little time to hang out with family and friends
Break bread with a familiar face
We all want time to be at the place that we… call…

Daylight come, and me want go home

And a bunch of ripe bananas might look and smell and taste real beautiful
And I might be entertaining and have a gift that’s lyrical or musical
And my style be classic even though I’m not considered classical
But underneath it all, under this laid-back exterior
There’s a tarantula
That when cornered could be deadly
And there’s no inoculation for this venom cuz it’s foreign plus tricky
More like Anansi than Peter Parker
Came out from the crossing even stronger, a born survivor
Who could work all night on a drink of red bull or coffee, but no money for rum
No fervour, but I’m working up a fever like H-one-en-one
No raise in wages, but they keep the prices raising
And must I make payments, so I got to lift and tote till morning come
And some end up in the streets and they call them bums
But they ain’t go beg for crumbs
They go collect cans in the alley
So come Mr. Tallyman, tally, man, come!
Come with your visa schemes to plant hopes and dreams
For vegetable pickers and taxi drivers that can only afford kraft dinners
Who still recall the taste of planatos or casava pone
Who still send barrels home to take care of their own
And run through countless calling cards to touch base by telephone
And feel that, even though they have staked their claim in this zone
Deep down, a part of them just don’t know
If they could ever… be…

Daylight come, and me want go home
Track Name: Matrix Don't Work
They reloaded, klik klak
a binary sneak attack
digital mirage like holograph
hallucinogenic mindtrap
But the matrix don't work on Blacks
Gets tangled in the naps
Ultramagnetic pulsations emanating from
helical coils causing sentinels to recoil and
malfunction in the rhythmic junction of handclap and fingersnaps
Klik Krak They shootin?
Aw made you look, but don't mind that
Cuz the matrix don't work on Blacks
Rip the socket out my cortex cuz my melanocytes swirl
mad genetic algorithms into a vortex of proportions
similar to afros on panthers, the blackest of cats
graceful like breakdancers, with moves to fool an IBM Big Blue in a chess match
Checkmate sucker, so take that
Do the math, gorgeous like the mind of Morpheus
the metamorphoses of pharaohs like Thutmoses into
street geniuses that resonate to choruses sung to
time-travelling drums like that old boombap
true dat, underground treasures like rhyme notebooks
buried Zion deep, in the bottom of backpacks
rare grooves and hot wax, the energy crackling
from a mic, two turntables and a 4 track
graphic like a flashback to grandmaster flash
with the fury to deflect laser rays
and reject implants and alla dat, it's a fact
Cuz the matrix don't work on Blacks
Suffers tricknological setbacks and short term memory loss
Like heads blunted in bonnets knotted with dreads and turban headwraps
Circuitry sizzled and seized up broken like brittle teeth of afro picks
From the tightly frizzled cornrows and braids of unknown tribes
From the favelas of Rio to the ghettos of LA saying fa shizzle
While grizzled elders in Soweto teach neo bandeleros how to survive
and buss rhymes to the basslines of township jive
and tear down posters selling skin cream and Big Macs
Sold by Samurai legends in the guise of Tom Cruise or Tom Hanks
Staring through infrared night goggles from tanks
that visualize the world as green data like DOS screens
with flashing blips of collateral casualties
that get deleted without the sound of screams,
but detailed endlessly on videophone playback
Go way back to pioneer wetdreams represented in shifts in so-called reality
Historical anomalies, like David Carradine
impersonating Bruce Lee, remember that?
Artificial constructs like Lawrence of Arabia or Prester John on camelback
Get killed softly by the soul sounds of Roberta Flack
Or the funk from a Car Wash sound track played on beta max
Obsolete and incomplete, say a throwback
Don’t you know dat? The matrix don’t work on Blacks
Architects cannot comprehend so do not respect
The arithmetic that could erect timeless monuments
at Ghiza, Kush, or Karnak
I say Ye Krick, you say Ye Krak
Ye Krik (Ye Krak) YE KRIK! (YE KRAK!)
Alright then, let’s take the night back
So long as the rich keep getting richer
on the poor people’s backs
We ain’t paying no fucking income tax
Life has become so stressful there’s no way to relax
So programmed to go frenetically from residentially designated zones that
Are segregated economically to roll like clones off assembly lines into bus lines
And park and rides to stand in ten-lane wide highway traffic single file for miles
To pile into cubicle pens and stare at screens till the day ends and then
Gasoline our way slowly through the grid maze of street arteries till we reach the Capillaries of subdivisions and wolf down pre-packaged nutrition
Before plugging into televisions and drifting into nightmares of alien invasions
With special effects anticipating matrices planned in small print in appendices
Of medical encyclopaedia speaking of green monkeys and leafed through anxiously
By hypochondriacs
But the Matrix don’t work on Blacks
Bush teas are the antitheses of replicating agents dressed like men in Black
Of corrupt cardinals that plot inquisition under the cover of red skullcaps
Of beasts programmed and licensed to kill at will and flex a nightstick to bus kneecaps
Of conditioning mechanisms masquerading as school systems
leaving kids intellectually handicapped
Of flying dropkicks and shoot-em-up blockbusters flicks
sequeled endlessly to fill time and blow minds with car chases and fiery impacts
But the matrix don’t work on Blacks
Don’t work on Blacks!
Don’t work on Blacks!!
Don’t it?
Track Name: round the globe
initially free-styled, these lyrics so far live only in human memory
Track Name: inna zone
Did you ever feel like you were in a zone
zoned out, stressed out, feeling all alone
Ever feel that you was about to lose control
Can’t face the fever that you burning in your soul
(soul) solo as in sole, another face in the crowd
left out, kinda on your own
As if you had to solve (solve) every problem ever posed
Now suppose, that every mystery could unfold
Or suppose, with no fortune ever foretold
You could just freefall into the void and lose control
Could you ever in your span of a time (time)
Just leave it all behind, the regret in your mind, self-imposed

When you moving through these zones, and uh
Trying to keep your self composed, and uh
Trying keep up with the jones , it’s uh
Crazy when you’re on your own

It’s a solo mission that you gotta make it on your own
But every time you think you’re in a zone
You get dragged down, like you bout to drown
You start to rise, catch your breath, then you sink once again and
Down you go, seems for miles
And its been so long that you forgot how to smile
And when you look up, it’s like it’s right in front your face
And reaching for that carrot’s got you back into the race

You ever let yourself lose control
Ever think that you were maybe in a zone
Ever think that you could make it on your own
Huh…. Yeh
As the crowd-out-the-sounds roll
Did you ever try to make it on your own
Did you wonder on expression of a soul
Huh, think that you were in a zone

But maybe its’ not always bout finding a solution
Posing, and answer to a problem
Producing, a plan to respond to a calling (calling)
Move the crowd, and alla dem
Make you feel like your sum total: occupation
But inside: conflagration
It’s like you were imploding
Did you ever feel like surrendering and free-falling
But instead, say you balling
Let me tell you something:

Did you ever think that you were in a zone
Maybe lose everything that you own
Give up your own soul, expression of a soul
Ever think that you was in a zone
When they axe if you got the plans
To make the whole damn thing fit together understand
Everything that you had to mission on this earth
Ever wonder why, the reason for your birth
Of your own self… was it the wealth
Was it pursuit of happiness, or of health
Was it the way that you direct on the move
Was it the way that you slowed with the groove
Was it the way that you smile inside
Was it the way that you smoothed out glide

Now, did you ever situate yourself, wonder pon a roll
Lose the feeling that you could take control
Did you ever if you wonder in a zone
In control… in full control
Make it on your own, and
wasteland is the way you got to roam, and
Every problem faced is full blown
But say that you is full grown
Did you ever wonder why you inna zone
Ever wonder if you could lose control
Maybe lose face, maybe slow pace
maybe even never find a way
To give birth to yourself on this earth
Is what come first, before your in a hearse
You could never of imagine being under tombstone
No self left inna crumbling bones
As if you, could ever ask for evidence
… as if the question as heaven sent
Think the soul float around the ether in the sky
Did you ever think there might not be a reason why
Did there ever have to be (have to be) rationale
Did you see your enemy (enemy) on the prowl
Did they let past the gate or make you, wait around
Did it take you off the beat (off the beat), beaten down

But did you ever situate that there wonder was a way
Emerge in a surge that you ever breakaway
Words that you curved into all the last days
That never had any actions ever to reclaim
But maybe it don’t have to be about signification
Lost in abandon, not a mission
… intention drift in imprecision
Heart pound (pound) ground down to the rhythm

Did you ever think that you could lose control
Did you ever wonder if you in a zone
Did you ever think that you could lose it all
Did you ever wonder if you could jus fall
Track Name: allagadda do
too simple to list
but then, that's exactly it
Track Name: going strong
From the past to the future to the present beyond
See we at 50, going strong!

If the Taino never cross the Bocas
Arima won’t have they cultural focus
And if you don’t have the ships of the Spanish
Christmas won’t have a parang chorus

I am from the blood of Guinea, Ashanti
I am drumbeat and tales of Anansi
I rise from the graveyard trans-Atlantic
Rise like Maroon from the cane I planting

If the French never come and settle
Would we play mas for Carnival?
And if you don’t have Indian arrival
No roti or cultivation in Central

T&T is where the people mingling
Making sugar for the tea that they love in England
But after the war, the movement building
In man like Butler, James and Williams

Why the dream still going strong?
Why the beauty of the pan and the kaiso song?
How we could laugh even when things going wrong?
Why the road so sweet but the journey hard and long?
Track Name: back
I have pain in my back
I'd say it's a pain in the ass, but it's worse than that
Also, it's jus North of that
Which might not seem like much on the surface
But it's got me bent up, breathless, and nervous
Namely, it's a damn pain
Not that I want to complain
Cuz there are worse kinds of physical curses
That can leave you horribly disfigured, disabled, or in a hearse
But I can't think relatively speaking
In fact, I'm having trouble thinking at all
Cuz of this freaking
Pain, my spine needs more than jus tweaking
I've had morphine, acupuncture
Chiropractics practice advanced techniques and
Still my lower back keeps on weakening
Something about an L4 and L5, lumbar joints and
Compression on the SI
That's a nerve
Makes my posture swerve
And sends tingles and burns down to my ankles
I've had more doctor's opinions than West Indians eat mangos
I'm chained to my pain like a leash
Gotta strain every day to make it to work
Cuz I need the pay
But I don't know how much more of this I can take
I need some peace, painkillers won't make it cease
I've gotten all these prescriptions in scribblings
I can't for the life of me read
Pumped with pills so various, I'm starting to fee like Elvis
And the pharmacists are staring to suspect me
Of peddling my meds on the street
They make me show ID and give me grief
And after all that, I still can't get nor relief, no release
Sometimes I think I'd be better off deceased!

So this one's for those of you that got chronic pain
The kind that messes with your brain
That makes your hope drain, makes you feel like a stain
On the good name of humanity
Because when something's that wrong with you
You wonder, "Why is God so mad at me?"
And wonder what people are thinking exactly
Because pain is so often accompanied by blame
As if you have done something wrong to deserve your calamity
Or maybe someone has worked obeah
And you forgot what your specialist told you
Something about needles and incisions
And surgical decisions that
Take months to recover from
And the horror stories you hear from
Everyone who saw that episode of 60 Minutes
Where a guy went in for a tonsilectomy
And never walked again
But, dammit, the pain!
The electrical impulses like daggers shooting down
Your muscles, arteries, and veins
Driving you damn near insane
That lame pillar that props up
Your pathetic semi-vertical self
Tilted like an incarnation of the Tower of Pisa
A visible symbol of ill health
And you can't get decent treatment unless you got insurance
With extended coverage, or you're a superstar athlete
But I don't have that kind of clout, nor wealth
I'm trying to take one morning a week off for physio
But I gotta do it in stealth
Cuz I don't want to get laid off
Workman's comp won't pay off
And I can't even get one lousy day off
I gotta be tough and keep a tight grill
Play it cool, still
But damn, I mean, how much steel can a brother be made of?!

And when I stand, it pains
And when I sit, it pains
And when I kneel, it's OK for a minute
And then it pains again
And when I lie on my back, it pains
On my stomach with ice packs
Laid out across my back
Is about the only way I can relax
I don't even know who I am anymore
I am identified by pain
That makes me stoop and feel so sore
It dominates my day-to-day
The person I knew I was before
Now does not exist, and looks like he may never exist again
I should probably change my name!
If I was an actor, I'd be William Hurt
If I was a Disney move, it would be the Hunchback of Notre Dame
If I was a football star, I would be Troy Aikman
And if I was a biblical figure
It would be Job, Jonah, or Abraham
I feel so tribulated and Godforsaken
Like my tailbone is breaking
My whole foundations shaking
My hope’s taking a beating
I can remember happier days
But now those moments seem so fleeting
I know I get melodramatic
But I tell you, I can't stand it
I guess who knows it go feel it
So I can't really explain or otherwise reveal it
But it's very deep-seated
So forgive me if I repeat it
But I feel like I'm about to snap
See, I have pain in my back!
Track Name: dreams of power
Cold sweat in the zero hour, dreams of power, erased upon waking, no relaxation, muscles twitching and shaking
Face the day like any other, dreams of power, money-making and reality overtaking, and
Walking to the corner got you looking over your shoulder in the night time
That's the wrong time
The wrong face in the wrong place, for floorwalkers, in the guise of camera's hidden eyes, and nightstalkers
And security crews, dreams of power haunt them too, radioed the news, who they spied out in full view
A no-good, down-low, low-down attempts at ascending, to fit the format's demands, no dissenting
Locks-out, trimmed nice and neat and natty, paranoia ties a knot in the throat, the rope
Dreams of power, application rejected, can't be that dejected, stamped and inspected, And destined for the underworld of judges, wardens, lawyers
That's soul-assassination for confused warriors, and soldiers are
Put through their paces, the street corner's home to a world of dislocated faces, some guy steps up and speaks of races
But can't deal with technology, redundancy, and dreams of power
Black steel in the hour
And the griots talk of riots and tell the unofficial tales of exonerated cops and how they got off, but it soon come, like Genghis from the steppes of Asia
Hitting harder than the combined blows of Ali and Frasier
From the glacier, dreams of power, and glass shatter, verdicts that don't matter, contracts ain't worth the paper they're written on
As dictators of local notoriety play at celebrity, dreams of power, anxiety
Now, who's trying me? Duress and second-guessing, who's denying me, and why
And what underlies a cold reply
And how to neutralize, change from the inside, clenches up a free and easy stride
Like a fist raised halfway, or a latter-day radical verse reworked and shaken in a soft drink ad to spray doubt and dismay, and
Dreams of power, star-gazed and gold-crazed dreams of jeeps and mercedes
From old to new school days, get-rich-quick games
From numbers games to fake brand names, cocaine to Amway, and
Dreams of power, night terrors, fear-breeders, hope-cheaters, day dreamers, mind-drifters, time-shifters, the innocence-takers, the non-wakers
Dreams of power
Dreams of power
Track Name: strong remix
despite the mid-age aches and pains
when you wake up in the morning
your body's way of filing a complaint
the result of a previous day’s game that you ran soca warrior hard
with pressure like the whole world looking on, instead of
the more carefree and seminal play of, say, a maple squad
down by the savannah, in your younger days
or the brashness of a man name hasely
when it felt like you could run for days
without the same stress and strain
the tendons, muscles and bones all tending to work together
without so much need to persuade and train
despite the occasional growth pain
which you less self-consciously took in stride
looking back to when you took your first steps
with wide-open dreams flying high
like kites in the sky at easter time
woven of a will to not just survive, but thrive
a will for independence made cocoyea strong
so that it won’t break, but could flex
openly debating ideas in a square and an unfair state of affairs
that get you and your peers vex
so you challenge and test
like a world class cricket achievement
declaring you are not merely content
to stand your ground with the best of the best
but even best them at their own game
mining your own resources and resourcefulness
to stake a claim

with a riot of carnival colour aflame
and extemporaneous ingeniousness
with sharp arrangements
as you walked tall like a moko jumbie on the world stage
matured to play orchestral notes on your pan
to international acclaim
invading parkways and avenues, too
with an electrifying mix, slippery and eclectic like callaloo stew
with an all-star swagger, and the abandon of a desperado
braving ten-to-one odds with the might of a sparrow
in exuberant flight
despite rudderless scamps escaping to panama
in the dead of night
despite the grip of desperation and fright
of a riot of flame and anger burnt red
in the dead of night
these trials by fire: bring water, plenty water!
like the flow in your veins says you this to the bone
you unrestful, cynical, but loving your home
in crisis cuz you wonder if it’s all gone to waste
in frustration that simmers like a stchups on your face
as you in-digest fast food that make your heart race
and clogs veins like traffic-laced streets driven in haste
so you work out the pace, try and trim down your waste

still you strong, never mind depression or hairline recession
still you strong, with the hope of an illinois congressman
with a wisdom tempered by a long, circular style
indigenous to your own soul, plus simultaneously universal
giving birth to yourself like a new world musa, yere wolo
so that every day you forge a new way to recreate your arrival
and recognize that combined as well as in parallel
you can progress with those who at first seemed rivals
festive like parang, with an uncommon twang
that sings your words to the world
a melody that invites hips to twirl
with a passion powerful as a pharaoh
cacique, raj, khan or sheikh
reborn to rebel like belled pierrot
brave enough to fight for freedom with sticks versus guns
and come out victorious chanting massa day done
with a big clear heart pound that resounds proud
like a tassa, tamboo bamboo or bass drum
urged on with a blast of a conch shell, marshaling all your energies to recharge
and come, nuh, come let we move on
signaling a brighter sun after the storm
brilliant as an ibis or the sea bathed in a bacchanal of scarlet sun rays
by the dawn
from the past to the future and beyond
You see you? At 50, going strong!