Mon | Oct 23, 2017

To market with Supercat

Published:Sunday | November 16, 2014 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
File Super Cat performing at Sting 2013 at Jam World in Portmore on Boxing Day.
Buju Banton
File Sizzla
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To market with Super Cat

There was a time when Coronation Market was a trading and distribution point for vinyl recordings, especially of Jamaican popular music. These days, the audiovisual material sold there tends to be more of the type that the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO) is interested in having seized and destroyed.

Legal or illegal, it is appropriate that the market should be central to the matter of music in Jamaica, as a plantation society where the market has long been a focal point, especially for those from the lower socioeconomic class that is engaged heavily in food and music production.

Naturally, then, the market makes its way into the lyrics that are put on record. There is Mr Perfect's Handcart Bwoy, in which he rejoices in the unexpected liaison with a lovely lass across social boundaries ("she get a whole heap a love an' joy from the handcart bwoy/A de same likkle bobo yute whe name Fitzroy/Roun a market me juggle pap choy).

In working his way up to meeting the Empress, Perfect is laden with cabbage, banana and peanuts, among other produce, a handcart with the food shown in the accompanying video.

While the handcart moves with food, in his song about the Zekes Riots of 1999, Beenie Man notes the movement (though temporary) of the entire market facility from downtown Kingston to Cross Roads as sellers and buyers avoided the shooting.

PROCESSOFFARMING

Sizzla does not speak about the produce or the venue, but the process of farming, including in two lines of No Time to Gaze, negative perceptions of farming as he deejays "...me nah lef de farm/I till di dirt den wha make dem a scorn?".

However, in the very popular Vineyard Party (popularly known as 'Vineyard Style' after the refrain), Super Cat takes the connection between farming and music to the limit, making the produce not only persons, but persona in the session.

The venue is Tom Vineyard. The sound system is Fruit Hi-Power; cool cucumber is the selector; and ripe, sweet guava the deejay; and the promoter is sweet potato; while Irish potato takes care of the bar. There has to be a gatekeeper - a strong one - so the job goes to Scotch bonnet pepper, "wid him matic pon him hip an bag ova him shoulda".

It gets better as throughout the song, Super Cat names the different fruit and produce enjoying themselves, combining snippets of descriptions with the natural properties of the produce to make striking images. The first dancing pair is "yellow yam and sweet yam a dem a dance together/Dem jack up inna de dance inna one corner". There are couplings across types, though, as Super Cat deejays, "Look how bredda came tall and maaga/an a fling sweet wine unda ripe banana".

While onion wines on tomato and cho-cho does the same "under okro", there is a solo dancer in coco, who "a dance pon him han and him a dance pon him toe/the style whe him a do a dem a call it limbo".

He even manages to work in part of a popular saying, which fits the song's theme, as when pumpkin (a woman) complains about the dance not being good, it is because "she cyaa hear de style whe fi rock har body/It name how water walk go a pumpkin belly".

Where does Sexy Grape come from? Foreign, of course.

For his part, Buju requests support for the sellers of fruit in ICI (the acronym for informal commercial importers, the term that the State employs to give some dignity to higglers.) And he uses sellers' terminology in urging "no feel up, feel up" because "a jus' taste an buy".