Sat | Jan 20, 2018

Brian-Paul Welsh | Everything scatter

Published:Monday | January 16, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Brian-Paul Welsh

Nigerian musician Fela Kuti created pulsing soundscapes vividly depicting the gripping social conditions in the Africa of his experience at the time. He swung his sonic brush, illumining imagination while weaving tall tales of instruction. Painting tapestries with instrument, melody and lyric, Kuti wittingly teleported listeners to the Third World in a time of strife, with themes ranging from subversive to explosive.

This was not dissimilar to the contemporaneous soundings of his musical brothers in Jamaica, griots from the same tribe torn apart by the raging machine but reunited through the fulfilment of purpose to continue the fight.

In an atmospheric limerick titled Everything Scatter, released in 1976, he confronts the status quo of his homeland and the incendiary potential of gossipy yapping in the public space. A similar lamentation is found in Lovindeer's Blinking Bus to amusing effect, but in Fela Kuti's iteration, there is a distinct sense of pending doom as the yapping comes bearing down on him and his band on a bus.

I stumbled upon this track as I struggled to find the words to express my discomfort with aspects of this latest salacious cycle, wherein the gatekeepers openly jostled to see who could expose more 'ray-ray' in the first scandal of the year. As we have so often observed, this bolt for first place is quite often at the expense of good sense.

We satiate our lust for flesh and blood by splashing all the gory details in the rag sheets, the bloody cloths that document the history of this nation and its people. Then we yap our gums for a few days before disposing of the issue. Nowadays, there is viral potential in good gossip, and this has proven quite lucrative for those with savvy in such schemes; and so they bait the debates and then capitalise on the ensuing strife.

Whenever this nation gets into another of its sporadic fits of pious indignation caused by the bite of the week, it usually borders on the frivolous, eliciting some obligatory cynicism from those accustomed to the regular humdrum. But this week, we faced some real moral and ethical dilemmas, and the press reflected how we value fairness in representation of people, issues and facts, and the complexities found therein.




The social power of the media is so great that even how we communicate with each other in this global community is now moving almost entirely into new dimensions of social media, a space in which we are not necessarily bound by the rules of regular reality. With this newfound ease in sharing information, we have become flippant with the things of fodder, salivating on the juicy tales of the vulnerable, making them the objects of further shame and judgement in the volatile court of public opinion, where fact and fiction are scattered carelessly about the trough.

In the midst of these pressing concerns of a sensitive nature came some comedic relief when Jamaica's last remaining bastion of moral virtue, Ian Boyne, penned a column to culminate three decades of frustration with our collective failure to arrest and contain our crime monster. Short of calling for the state machinery to obliterate the underclass, in a refreshing twist to his weekly standard, he expressed a sentiment often quipped within so-called polite society while tipsy at brunch.

Such seemingly uncharacteristic deviation from rational gentility by one never thought to be vulnerable to such indiscretions prompted days of jibber-jabber among the residents of the hog pen in which he lobbed his rhetorical bombshell.

For some, like me, this was the important historical moment when Pastor Boyne finally went bonkers, outlining a crime plan straight from the book of Kartel: "Kill dem all and done!"

Meanwhile, the prosperity posse's grand illusions have been rapidly losing lustre in light of the steadily escalating mayhem and increasingly exasperating conditions we have been enduring in the few days of this brand new year.

As we have observed, frustration with the inexplicable preservation of the status quo over the past 50 years is prompting strong reactions from some of those who have spent just as long contemplating supposedly sensible solutions.

The time for chatter has ended and we have now entered the epoch for action, but given our penchant for big chat and addiction to the excitement of the weekly moral panic, it remains to be seen whether we will break this cycle.

Though, as Fela Kuti poignantly observed: "That is how this country be, that is why everything dey scatter scatter."

- Brian-Paul Welsh is a writer and public affairs commentator. Email feedback to and or tweet @islandcynic.