Sun | Jul 22, 2018

Melville Cooke | What the hell police can do? - Love and murder in the land of Pay Dung Pon It

Published:Sunday | March 12, 2017 | 12:00 AM


Jamaican popular music songs give us some insight into domestic violence in Jamaica. I cannot say to what extent the songs represent the performers' views and behaviour, so there is no personal criticism involved.

Also, it is not a matter of ignoring the financial dependency of women, which may have occurred through deep-rooted gender inequalities, but looking at the common situation of transactional sex in intimate relationships and how it is represented in our popular music.

As the police currently wage a Love Unto Life campaign, I am reminded of a 1980s song by Jamaican singer Echo Minott. In 'What The Hell the Police Can Do?', Minott sings about a man who batters a woman he has provided for materially and she cheats on him. In the introduction, he says:

"Me and my girl was fighting

It happens to be a misunderstanding

I accidentally tump har in she face

And she face black and blue

She run to the police station

To tell the police fe true."

He then sings:

"Gal after me feed an me clothes you

Give you everything you have fi comfort you

Leave de house gone look money fi me an' you

When me come back, yu gone wid Bwoy Blue

Tump yu inna yu eye an it black an' blue

Run go to de police go tell dem fi true

But what de police can do?"

At this stage, the police can take statements and start the legal process. However, in tackling the causes of domestic violence, I have to echo Minott and ask what the hell the police can do?

Lovindeer has a reply to the song, outlining 'What Police Can Do', in which Constable Brown uses his baton on Echo Minott's jawbone, boxes him, and breaks his nose. It may sound like good payback, but it is not a solution.

Much of the problem lies in the transaction that forms the backdrop to Minott's song - the exchange of money or items from a man for sex from a woman. Not in open prostitution along 'Back Road' and sundry places, but within a relationship. And it has a lot to do with what we believe a man has to do in order to be a real man, to be a provider.

So we must address entrenched patriarchy, which in our context is fostered by Christianity, where the mother is excluded from the triumvirate of Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

The introduction to Shabba Ranks' 1980s song 'Pay Dung Pon It' refers to domestic violence, as he says, "If I get bun, nobody won't have fun. Cry, or take a black eye." (And there is the sound of a woman wailing). Then he deejays:

"Hear dis

If a man want it, make him pay dung pon it ...

If yu want a house, yu haffi pay dung pon it

Mi say if yu want a gal, yu hafi pay dung"

He then invites "gyal jump aroun' if yu man a pay dung/him nah pay dung, yu nah let off none."

In 'Gone Up', Shabba instructs women to keep pace with inflation. In the introduction, he says: "Everything is going up, bully beef, rice. Ooman, whe oonu a do fi oonu loving." A woman then says, "Me a raise it, too," and Shabba says, "Step up de money pace, yah hear, girl" before deejaying:

"Woman everyting a raise

So whey oonu a do

Yu nah raise de price a yu loving, too?

Bully beef gone up, gone up

Rice, stepping up, stepping up ..."

In 'Tek' from about seven years ago, Kartel deejays, "Yu tek mi tings an yu tek mi money, too" and then outlines a number of appliances and furnishings (including the door knob) that he is collecting for in specific numbers of sexual positions.

In the 1990s, deejay Frisco Kid does name a price in Tink We Nice:

"Barrel come, so Nicky have new dress

See har up de road, she dress to impress

Me beg har an she say she a deal wid progress

But she gimme when me promise har hundred US"

In the 1980s reggae song Money Girl, Culture sings, "What a greedy girl," and then sings, "Everywhere she see Iyah, she want money." She is absent from his life from Monday to Thursday. But when "Friday evening come an me about to get me pay/When me look, har foot stretch out inna de way."

And going back to ska, in the fifth of his Ten Commandments of Man given to woman, Prince Buster says, "Thou shalt not provoke me to anger, or my wrath will descend upon you heavily." The ninth commandment says, "Thou shalt not commit adultery, for the world will not hold me guilty if I commit murder."

There are recent songs that speak out against domestic violence, among them Cut it Off by Yeshwa, which advises men in bad relationships to not be violent and let go, and Start Anew by Tarrus Riley, that tells battered women to leave the relationship, asking, "How him fi beat you an waan take yu clothes off?"

Iceman and Ikaya's No Violence in Love has just been released, the song advising just that.

However, there is a limit to what these songs and the legal system can do. As we ask what the hell the police can do, I suggest that we must address the matter of a man paying dung pon it. In some cases, that role comes with an assumption of property rights, the most extreme expression of which is murder.

- Melville Cooke is a poet and entertainment journalist. Email feedback to and