Chuck Fenda sparks a mighty blaze
With smoke from the fire at Riverton dominating life in the capital and parts of St Catherine, as well as the brutality meted out to two pregnant 14 year-olds, it is a good time to revisit one of the standout songs about sparking a flame.
"A big man like you rape off a
A big man like you pop off yu
gun an' put nine pon a little
A big man like you bun down
a school an' a talk bout you
mad sick and crazy
But when God hol' you no if
or no but no tell the Almighty
Gash dem an light dem
For all the negative vibes whe
dem a bring
Gash dem an light dem
Me come fe mash up an wreck
up dem senseless killing ... "
Chuck Fenda, also known as The Living Fire, was livid when he went into Big Yard Studios one evening in 2006 to record Gash Dem and Light Dem for Jukeboxx Records.
"Them time, me upset. Them time them a rape de children an' every day you hear bout one missing. Me say we really have to step pon the crime and violence," he said. "That song come up to crush out them ting deh."
It also came at a crucial time in Fenda's career. He already had a number of popular songs, among them I Swear and Oh My Lord, but he had just parted with Fifth Element Records. "Dem time, me deh pon me own. Me a gwaan pray an' say me waan Jah bless me with a song, put me back pon a level," Fenda said.
Those prayers were answered with Gash Dem and Light Dem, Fenda saying, "that song come to me as a gift still".
It was a gift that was misplaced at first. Producer Shane Brown gave Fenda the rhythm for the song in Japan. When they met again in Jamaica and Brown gave him another copy of the rhythm, Fenda says he immediately put it in his car's CD player and started listening to it as he drove off.
"The next morning, me tell him say me have a song. Him say deejay it pon the phone," Fenda said. On hearing it, Brown was enthused and called studio time for the following day. Fenda said Black Pearl from Drewsland had significant input into the song's lyrics.
It was a good session - and the place where a critical 'h' was added to adjust 'gas' to 'gash', and move the song away from vigilante justice. Fendah said, "When me record the song, the vibes did right. When the song done, them a say we cyan really say 'gas'. So me say 'gash'."
"Me did feel a way to what a gwaan out deh," Fenda said, explaining the depth of his emotions. "How could a man rape a child, all six years old, an' cut them throat?"
So, he says, in saying 'gash', "me a say spiritual judgement on a man who do dat. Not me, Fendah himself, but the Almighty". In that vein, he points to the words in the second verse:
"So me haffi draw fe de
Eye fe a eye a dat nuff a oonu
Oonu a push it till blood start
All the wrongs bway you have to pay for"
However, although there is no commercially available version of the song with "gas dem and light dem", Fenda says, when he does dubplate versions of the song for individual sound systems, they ask that he say 'gas'. And, at shows, the members of the audience "take it a different way. People take it and name it how them feel it in themselves".
Fenda said he first performed Gash Dem and Light Dem on Sting and "the whole Jam World lif' up". It went on to top charts across the Caribbean. However, he says it also caught the attention of the Broadcasting Commission.
"I had to explain to them it was a spiritual fire. Is not me Chuck Fenda a tell anybody fe gas anybody," he said.
Still, there was a literal fire burning at Sumfest 2007, when he said "people light a big fire in the middle of the venue, them had to call fire truck."