Min' Jah lick yu wid diseases!
Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
Inevitably, there have been chikungunya songs coming out of the woodwork. If the output continues, the situation may be a bit like a puddle of water with writhing larvae - so many near-identical items there that none really stand out.
That said, Wayne J's track seems to be making its mark. Time will tell if it is a lasting one or, like most people who have been hit by the illness have found out, it does not last.
Still, it is always heartening to see Jamaican popular music reacting to a recording for musical posterity, something that is happening in the country. And, in this case, there is a connection with a previous rapid musical response to illness sweeping the land.
Beenie Man begins his part of the chikungunya song he has done with The Astronauts by utilising Michigan and Smiley's Diseases, a song that has become a staple of the retro selections, chances are without much reference to its origins. However, those who lived through the extended poliomyelitis scare in Jamaica (and there are many Jamaicans with the inoculation mark on their upper arms) will have a different reaction from just unfettered glee when they hear:
'Min' Jah lick yu wid diseases
The most dangerous diseases
I talking like the elephantitis
The other one is the poliomyelitis
Arthritis and the one diabetes'
However, the women tended to be annoyed by the reference to their dress code and angering Jah Jah in the first verse:
'Every day the girls dress up inna trousers
Wha happen to yu skirts and blouses
Why can't I man see you in your dresses?
'Cause these things unto Jah Jah not pleases'
Ninja Man's Hong Kong Flu is a reminder of an infectious disease that did not leave a lasting mark in Jamaica, but the disease he compares it to has. After announcing the year 1992, the Don Gorgon deejayed:
'The Hong Kong Flu
Wickedest sickness when it a pass through
Them a talk 'bout AIDS what AIDS can do
Them a talk 'bout VD what VD can do
VD come and it pass through
Syphilis come and it run way too ...'
AIDS has had extensive musical treatment in Jamaica with dancehall in the mix, naturally. In the combination of Peter Metro (yardie) and Dominic (cockney), the latter asks in Who Seh Dominic Favour Boy George, "Mi no wear frock an mi no use lipstick ... AIDS is a disease me no waan ketch it".
The notion of the woman infecting the male and not the other way around was expressed in humorous fashion by Admiral Bailey, coming up to the end of the 1980s, in Don' Wan No Kiss, which also spoke to oral sex, saying, women "down on dem knees an' dem want to kiss".
Admiral continued: "But di ting call AIDS mek me don' wan' no kiss/syphilis an' gonorrhea mek me don' wan' no kiss."
However, Buju Banton made it clear that the 'gallis' was at risk when he cautioned, "Ragamuffin, don't be silly/put some rubbers on yu willy/AIDS a go roun' an we don' wan' ketch it." The song was backed up by his 'Operation Willy', a support programme for HIV-positive children.
The message of protection in dancehall music was consistent subsequently, with Lady Saw advising, 'Condom can save yu life', complete with a video showing her as a school teacher instructing willing pupils in sexual safety. Importantly, though, Saw looked from the female perspective, identifying male promiscuity as a factor in the spread of HIV/AIDS, urging, "Use it all wid yu wife."