ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


Home    ChickenBones Store (Books, DVDs, Music, and more)


Keane started concentrating on playing music -- mambo, kaiso, highlife, and “free form” jazz. . . .

Some of his early poetry, probably because of his music, shows some of the first signs of the jazz

inflections that would come to significantly influence Caribbean freestyle and dub poetry decades later.



Shake Keane – The St. Vincent Connection 

in Modern Caribbean Literature



A House of Nehesi Caribbean Author Feature

News Release

Ellsworth McGranahan “Shake” Keane was born in 1927, in St. Vincent. He completed his early schooling on the island and worked at the St. Vincent Grammar School as a teaching assistant of Music, French, and English literature.

Keane was taught to play the trumpet by his father, Charles, and had his first public recital when he was six years old. At age 14 -- a year after his father’s death -- he led a musical band made up of his brothers.

In the 1940s, with his mother Dorcas working to raise six children, the teenager joined the Ted Lawrence and His Silvertone Orchestra and the horn-playing of Keane became a feature of the annual Vincentian carnival, better known as “Vincie mas’.”

Keane’s complimentary passion to music was poetry, which he had been writing since childhood. Before leaving for England in 1952, to study English literature at London University, Keane’s first two books, L’Oubli (1950, self-published) and Ixion (1952) were published.

He did not complete his formal studies in Europe, but went on to recite poetry and prose for, and eventually became a producer at Caribbean Voices, the influential BBC General Overseas Service program.

Keane started concentrating on playing music -- mambo, kaiso, highlife, and “free form” jazz. By the late 1950s and into the 1960s, he was considered one of the best flugel horn players in Europe and became known in international jazz circles.

Some of his early poetry, probably because of his music, shows some of the first signs of the jazz inflections that would come to significantly influence Caribbean freestyle and dub poetry decades later.

In 1972, the musician who had played with the likes of Lord Kitchener, the Joe Harriot Quintet, and Kurt Edelhagen, was back in the region, reciting his poetry at the first Caribbean Festival of the Arts (CARIFESTA) in Guyana.

In 1973, Keane accepted an invitation from the government in St. Vincent to serve as director of culture in Kingstown, capital of the island. In 1975, the department was closed after a change in the colony’s government administration.

In 1979, when of St. Vincent and the Grenadines became an independent country, Keane self-published The Volcano Suite - A series of five poems. That same year he won the prestigious pan-Caribbean literary prize, Cuba’s Premio Casa De Las Americas. Casa published the winning collection, One A Week With Water, concurrently in Havana.

In 1981, he attended CARIFESTA IV in Barbados and emigrated to the USA, where he was unable to find immediate work because of his immigrant status. But in Brooklyn, New York, where he settled with his third wife Margaret, Keane intensified his poetry writing and attended less to his music.

His poems have appeared in the literary journals Bim, Kyk-over-al, Savacou, and Caribbean Quarterly and have been anthologized in Caribbean Voices, Caribbean Verse, and You Better Believe It. The only CD of his music, Real Keen: Reggae into Jazz, was released in 1991 in London.

His contemporaries, literary giants, revolutionary poets, scholars, and admirers such as George Lamming, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Gordon Rohlehr, Philip Nanton, Val Wilmer, and Cecil Blazer Williams are among those who hail Shake Keane as one of the innovative fathers of modern Caribbean literature.

At age 70, ailing with stomach cancer, the gray-bearded giant who towered at six-foot-four, died in Oslo, Norway, in 1997--at the start of a jazz tour.

In 2003, Shake Keane, poet, musician, educator, was honored by his country with the unveiling of a life-size bust at the Peace Memorial Hall in Kingstown. Keane’s authoritative collection of six unpublished manuscripts is scheduled for publication in 2005.

OES Editor Note: Article courtesy House of Nehesi Publishers, © 2005. Sources: Margaret Bynoe. George Lamming. Nanton, Philip.  “In Memoriam - Ellsworth McGranahan ‘Shake’ Keane, 1927-1997,” Wasafiri Spring 1998: 40+. Nanton, Philip.  “Real Keane,” Caribbean Beat Mar.-Apr. 2004. Nanton, Philip.  “Shake Keane’s Poetic Legacy,” The Society For Caribbean Studies Annual Conference Papers. Ed. by Sandra Courtman. 2000: 1. Rohlehr, Gordon. “The Problem of the Problem of Form,” The Shape of That Hurt and other Essays. Port of Spain: Longman, 1992: 28. Val, Wilmer.  “Shake Keane - The anger behind a free form of jazz” (Obituaries), The Guardian 13 Nov. 1997: 18.

Photo Credits (above) Shake Keane, St. Vincent author and national hero with his trademark beard and beloved horn. (Courtesy M. Bynoe)


Lasana M. Sekou

542.4435 P.O. Box 460

Philipsburg, St. Martin


Tel/Fax (599) 542-4435


posted  11 April 2005

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

*   *   *   *   *

Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.”

Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.WashingtonPost

*   *   *   *   *

Sovereignty of the Imagination

Language and the Politics of Ethnicity - Conversations III

By George Lamming


Political philosophy, Literature, Caribbean history, Language studies. According to Prof. Anthony Bogues, The Sovereignty of the Imagination gives us that capacity for language and therefore the ability to name and establish categories. But this is not just a literary capacity; it allows us to define freedom. George Lamming recognizes the centrality of the quest for freedom for the social group that he calls 'this world of men and women from down below.'

George Lamming is an illustrious Caribbean novelist and cultural critic from Barbados. His novels and volumes of essays and literary criticism offer insightful analyses on history, western philosophy, racism, colonization, education, literature and Caribbean independence.

*   *   *   *   *

My First Coup d'Etat

And Other True Stories from the Lost Decades of Africa

By John Dramani Mahama

Though the colonies of sub-Saharan Africa began to claim independence in the late 1950s and ’60s, autocratic and capricious leadership soon caused initial hope to fade, and Africa descended into its “lost decades,” a period of stagnation and despondency from which much of the continent has yet to recover. Mahama, vice president of the Republic of Ghana, grew up alongside his nascent country and experienced this roller-coaster of fortunes. In this memoir, Mahama, the son of a member of parliament, recounts how affairs of state became real in his young mind on the day in 1966 when no one came to collect him from boarding school—the government had been overthrown, his father arrested, and his house confiscated.

In fluid, unpretentious style, Mahama unspools Ghana’s recent history via entertaining and enlightening personal anecdotes: spying on his uncle impersonating a deity in order to cajole offerings of soup from the villagers hints at the power of religion; discussions with his schoolmates about confronting a bully form the nucleus of his political awakening. As he writes: “The key to Africa’s survival has always been . . . in the story of its people, the paradoxical simplicity and complexity of our lives.” The book draws to a close as the author’s professional life begins. Publishers Weekly

*   *   *   *   *

Greenback Planet: How the Dollar Conquered

the World and Threatened Civilization as We Know It

By H. W. Brands

In Greenback Planet, acclaimed historian H. W. Brands charts the dollar's astonishing rise to become the world's principal currency. Telling the story with the verve of a novelist, he recounts key episodes in U.S. monetary history, from the Civil War debate over fiat money (greenbacks) to the recent worldwide financial crisis. Brands explores the dollar's changing relations to gold and silver and to other currencies and cogently explains how America's economic might made the dollar the fundamental standard of value in world finance. He vividly describes the 1869 Black Friday attempt to corner the gold market, banker J. P. Morgan's bailout of the U.S. treasury, the creation of the Federal Reserve, and President Franklin Roosevelt's handling of the bank panic of 1933. Brands shows how lessons learned (and not learned) in the Great Depression have influenced subsequent U.S. monetary policy, and how the dollar's dominance helped transform economies in countries ranging from Germany and Japan after World War II to Russia and China today.

*   *   *   *   *

Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice.

"Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."Lisa Adkins, University of London

*   *   *   *   *

The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

*   *   *   *   *

Ancient African Nations

*   *   *   *   *

If you like this page consider making a donation

online through PayPal

*   *   *   *   *

Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        


*   *   *   *   *

The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

*   *   *   *   *

The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

*   *   *   *   *

*   *   *   *   *

ChickenBones Store (Books, DVDs, Music, and more)






update 2 August 2012



Home  Inside the Caribbean  Lasana Sekou

Related files: MAWA 2003  West Indian Narrative-- Part One  Part Two   Part Three  Part Four  Experiment in Haiti  West Indian Narrative

George Lamming and New World Imagination  Eric Roach and Flowering Rock  Kam Williams Interviews Colin Roach