Michael Abrahams | Jamaica ... boom!
The Billboard Hot 100 is the official singles chart for America’s music industry. Rankings are based on radio play, online streaming, and physical and digital sales. Two weeks ago, I took a look at the chart and made some interesting observations.
Three of the songs in the top 10 contained components of Jamaican music genres. The number one song was Cheap Thrills by Sia, featuring Sean Paul. At number two was a former number one, One Dance by Drake featuring WizKid and Kyla. Both songs feature dancehall elements. At number seven was Ride, a reggae song by the duo Twenty One Pilots. Drake’s songs at numbers 20 and 21, Too Good (featuring Rihanna) and Controlla, respectively, contain traces of dancehall, with the latter sampling Beenie Man’s Tear Off Mi Garment, while the number 24 song, All In My Head (Flex) by Fifth Harmony, featuring Fetty Wap, utilises some of the melody and lyrics of Mad Cobra’s Flex.
In addition, former number one songs Work by Rihanna, featuring Drake, and Sorry, by Justin Bieber, were still on the chart, at numbers 34 and 50, respectively, and are dancehall-flavoured songs. After perusing the chart, I marvelled at how a country as small as ours can produce a culture with such a strong global influence.
Then I noticed what was taking place at the Rio Olympics. Jamaica has been dubbed the sprint factory of the world, and the exploits of athletes representing our country have been well documented. Indeed, at the recently concluded Olympics, we witnessed Usain Bolt achieve the historic triple-triple, mining gold in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay, and Elaine Thompson becoming the first woman in decades to win the sprint double, as well as Omar McLeod becoming the first Jamaican man to win a gold medal in the sprint hurdles at a major global event. Jamaica won 11 medals at the Rio Olympics - six gold, three silver and two bronze, finishing at number 15 on the medal table.
But what is even more remarkable is the presence of Jamaican DNA in athletes representing other countries. Natasha Hastings, who ran for the United States of America and won gold as a member of the 4x400m relay quartet, and came fourth in the 400m final, has a Jamaican father.
Nethaneel Joseph Mitchell-Blake competed for Great Britain and reached the semi-final of the 200m. He was born in England, of Jamaican parents, and lived in Jamaica for a while during his adolescence, where he represented Jamaica College at the ISSA Boys and Girls’ Championships. In 2013, Mitchell-Blake was the European Junior champion, and his personal best time of 19.95 seconds is the second fastest ever for a British sprinter.
But what is even more remarkable is the presence of Jamaican blood in the men’s 100m sprinting pool. Usain Bolt completed the sprint double, and the quartet of Asafa Powell, Yohan Blake, Nickel Ashmeade and Bolt won the sprint relay final, with Kemar Bailey-Cole and Jevaughn Minzie being gold medallists as well, as they ran in the semi-final. But, in addition to these men, there were several others who were born in Jamaica or are of Jamaican parentage who graced the track.
Jak Ali Harvey, formerly Jacques Montgomery Harvey, who was born in Hanover, competed for Turkey and reached the semi-final of the men’s 100m event. At the 2016 European Athletics Championships, he won a silver, becoming the first Turkish athlete ever to claim a medal at that event. Emre Zafer Barnes, formerly Winston Barnes, is also Jamaica-born, and along with Harvey ran a Turkish record of 38.30 as part of the 4x100m men’s relay team during the first round in Rio.
Andrew Fisher and Ashani Kemarley Brown, Jamaica-born athletes who have represented the land of their birth, now represent Bahrain, and both qualified for the 100m semi-finals. While attending Merritt College in California, Brown twice won the California Community College title in the 100m, clocking 9.93 seconds for his second title, the fastest ever 100m by a junior college athlete.
Akeem Haynes, who was born in Westmoreland, now represents Canada, and was eliminated in the first round of the men’s 100m, but was part of the 4x100m relay final quartet that won bronze. Aaron Brown and Brendon Rodney, who are of Jamaican parentage, were also included in the team, with Rodney also competing in the first round of the 200m.
Then there is Asuka ‘Aska’ Antonio Cambridge, born here to a Jamaican father and Japanese mother. Cambridge reached the semi-final of the 100m and won a silver medal in the 4×100m relay for Japan, while helping to set a new Asian record of 37.60 seconds. Cambridge is so connected to his Jamaican roots that he ran the sprint relay final with an image of the Jamaican flag on his left spike.
So, in the sprint relay final, the first two men to cross the finish line were born in the same country, and at the medal ceremony, of the 12 men standing on the podium, eight were either born in Jamaica or of Jamaican parentage.
How we good so?