Wed | Jan 16, 2019

Strong songs with few words

Published:Sunday | December 7, 2014 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
Super Cat
File Stranger Cole
Mr Lexx
Contribued Bounty Killer
File Burning Spear

There is one school of thought that in writing, less is more - the better the person wielding the pen can pack their thoughts, intentions and message into fewer and less words and lines, the better it is.

However, there are those who take the sparing approach to lyrics to a new level, whether generally or in a specific song (Burning Spear's Recall Some Great Men and Mi Gi Dem fall into the latter category, while, As It Is, is among those in which he uses words more liberally.) And, whether it is a remix or the song in its originally recorded form, there are a few tracks that utilise a word or two to very good effect.

Stranger (later Strange Jah) Cole's Bangarang, has one line, literally, "Moma no want no bangarang", in the 1967 release Bangarang. In a previous interview with The Sunday Gleaner, Cole outlined the genesis of one of the very earliest reggae songs.

Cole was living in Denham Town and he went to Treasure Isle on Bond Street, downtown Kingston, without being specifically asked to go there for a recording session. When he got there, he was told that producer Bunny 'Striker' Lee was running a session upstairs, and he naturally went up.

Lee was happy to see Cole, saying, "Pro, you are the right man I am looking for. I have a song called Bongo Chant. I want to do it Jamaican style with Lester Sterling". "He played it for me with his mouth," Cole said, humming the melody for The Sunday Gleaner, much slower than the hit Jamaican version. As Lee finished humming, Cole picked up on the melody and sang the line, "Moma no want no bangarang".

And they went into the studio to record.

Explaining the line's meaning, he said, "'Bangarang' means problems, so to break it down, it is 'mother no want no problems'." He points out that many people sing "woman no want no bangarang", but he actually said Moma. "The reason is she don't want the children to give her any problem," Cole said.

Full hundred

Deejay Mr Lexx (or Lexxus, or Lexx) uses more than one line in Full Hundred, recorded close to the turn of the century, but he repeats the title words so often that the other words become peripheral. As he says, "Have a new style whe dem call it, full hundred ... fi di whole 2,000 we a gi dem full hundred."

There are two remixes which rely on a few words from popular songs, which made particularly strong impressions on the listening public and have gone on to become more than novelties. One has Super Cat repeating Wild Apache and then Jamaica on the rhythm to Mud Up (as well as Chakademus' Young Gal Business and Little Harry's Annorexol Body). When it came out, it set radio and dancehall on fire - this at a time in the mid-to late 1980s when double turntable wizardry was creeping into dancehall.

The other few words remixed to take the place by storm were released the following decade and, like the Super Cat track, continue to be a retro favourite, It has Bounty Killer repeating, "dem leave de worl inna suspense" and is guaranteed to have the party in a tizzy.