Different attitudes towards grandma
Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
There is no shortage of musical compliments to mothers in Jamaican popular music. Probably the epitome of the focus on 'Mama' is singer Richie Stephens' song Shine, done with his Mama Carmen.
However, the blanket love is not extended to the female generation which precedes the mother. There are some humorous references to 'granny' which focus on a physical feature (Lieutenant Stitchie, in his secular days, spoke about a visit to his toothless granny in Lover Boy Cess) or attire (Beenie Man has a matie dismissing a rival in her granny fashion).
Still, there is concern for the grandmother in her older years (even as she complains that "we tiad a da sup'm ya" and demands "we want some fun inna we life"). Queen Ifrica asks "a so you want me granny go to har maker?" And in his classic Inna De Bus, Professor Nuts speaks about the grandmother who stands up in the bus, with much younger people unwilling to stand and let her have a seat.
But it is in two recordings, General Degree's humorous Granny and poet DYCR's much more serious Delroy (also popularly known as Yes Grandma by its strident refrain), that ambivalence towards the grandmother really comes out.
In the first, General Degree changes his voice to alternate between being himself and being grandma, to rib-tickling effect. So the response to being called is "yu calling me name in vain", among other sharp replies. And General Degree warns, "if yu grow with yu granny yu wi tun granny too". After all, as he says, "granny cuss fi everything".
Still, throughout the song, there seems to be no anger towards grandma. The same cannot be said of DYCR's track, the woeful tale of a youngster who is 'given away', the common term for informal adoption where a child goes to live with a relative or even someone outside their family without the legal formalities being done.
Delroy finds himself in the unfortunate position of being sent to live with his grandma, who not only treats him as a lesser being in the family (while others get the meaty part of the chicken, he gets the 'ribsy dibsy' sections and the very tips of the wings), but is also set to work constantly. From being sent out for eggs to chopping wood, there is no break for Delroy.
Even worse than the physical labour, it seems, is the nagging voice of grandma, whose tone is particularly annoying as she calls "Delroy, Delroy". In replying, throughout the poem, Delroy's reply of "yes grandma" becomes increasingly exasperated until the final snarl of "yes, grandma!", which audiences invariably howl at.
But while listeners find it funny, it does not seem that the poet is amused.