Sat | Aug 19, 2017

The conversion of St Hall

Published:Sunday | January 17, 2016 | 1:00 AM

The truth is, Lady Saw had long ago indicated that her mind was more on the metaphysical than the physical: "Mi worry bout the coming of God, not the coming of man" (Man A Di Least Ah Mi Problem). I don't think she could have put it more pointedly, or given a clearer indication.

All the same, I give Lady Saw credit for the public conversion at her career's peak and not, as is far more common, when at death's door, or when the career is flagging. Not that I would have looked down on a late conversion either.

But, so often we hear of converts suddenly seeing the light when they're pretty much already inside Damascus. Some people find it hypocritical and amusing, whereas I find it amusing but also understandable. Why take any chances?

It reminds me of the story of the deathbed reconversion of Voltaire, who supposedly responded to his confessor's inquiry about whether he "rejects Satan" with the quip, "This is no time to be making new enemies." I mean: Voltaire had a point.

But there are also troubles with late-life conversions, when all the pleasures of sin are already naturally waning. St Augustine noted that "to abstain from sin when one can no longer sin is to be forsaken by sin, not to forsake it". Of course, he was writing in the pre-Viagra era, because now, thanks to the miracle of modern medicine, the 'sinning' years have been extended dramatically.

 

'NEW LIVING TRANSLATION'

 

Anyhow, when you get the call, you get the call. Sister Hall sent me back to the very latest translation of Acts 22: 6-7:

6 "Now it happened, as she journeyed and came near Back Road at about noon, suddenly a great light from heaven shone around her. 7 And she fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to her, 'Saw, Saw, why are you persecuting Me?'

Of course, the scriptures also say, "There will be more rejoicing in Heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent." (Luke 15:7)

But in another sense, I sorta feel like Lady Saw is putting me through a typical relationship's fact pattern. When Marion Hall was courting and seducing us, nothing was off the table. She took the boundaries of what could be said on stage and flushed it unceremoniously down the toilet.

But once Jamaica's male population fell in love and gave her the ring as the undisputed Queen of the Dancehall, its only preaching, Sunday School, and 'mother Mary'. Apparently, the children could come in at any moment, even in the dancehall.

So yes, I intend to complain about Lady Saw abandoning us out here, but, ultimately, I have to wish her well.

Truthfully, I had a sneaking suspicion that something like this was going to happen. It was in New York just over two years ago that I realised the great Lady Saw was see-sawing with the demands of dancehall. Remember, in dancehall as well, small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

She was stalking around the stage at the Barclay's Center in downtown Brooklyn, and I was trying to see her through the haze of ganja smoke that my countrymen had brought with them into the indoor venue. The second-hand smoke was giving me an aggravated case of the munchies, so it was difficult to concentrate.

But if I recall correctly, her performance brought out the homely and traditional staples of If Him Leff, Backshot, Heels On, and the eternal and singular Stab Out the Meat.

 

Onstage commentary

 

She also delivered an interesting talk about what kinds of women it is appropriate for her man to cheat on her with, and encouraged the women in the audience to always keep two men. This led into a song, "Mi man ah gimme bun but ah two man mi have!", that left me and the other male attendees feeling confused and vulnerable. But the women loved it. Sigh!

However, her commentary on stage left no doubt that her act had a limited lifespan and was essentially on life support. She was very clear that she was considering giving it all to Jesus.

You can imagine how jarring it is to move, in one performance, from Stab Out the Meat to religious matters, but it is the genius of Saint Hall to have been able to accomplish that. However that may be, by the end of her set, and without the slightest sense that there was some contradiction, she was singing gospel tunes and promising that she was on the Road to Damascus.

Naturally, I found this alarming and worrisome. I concluded that it was just a matter of time before Lady Saw would defect to the Church and seek diplomatic immunity and insurance coverage for some of the most memorable raunch in the history of dancehall.

I resolved to rescue dancehall by introducing to her a more liberal interpretation of Christian requirements, but sadly, I wasn't able to get to speak to her, much less to convince her that she might want to (if only for the sake of her fans) introduce some more complexity into the interpretation of her calling. So I failed.

I conclude with the thought that Jamaica is a special place, and we are a special set of people. Without skipping a beat, and with no loss of credibility, the most reliably raunchy dancehall performer can announce her conversion, and we're like: "I wonder if she gwine deejay from de pulpit?" We believe in conversion.

- Daniel Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.