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Cocoa Tea records Barack Obama ahead of first win

Published:Sunday | April 12, 2015 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
Cocoa Tea

Jamaica has a storied history of political activism - or at least commentary - in song, from Peter Tosh's determination to "fight, fight, fight 'gainst apartheid" through to Supercat's off-hand "we no 'fraid a Ronald Reagan who a run America" in Under Pressure.

By and large, however, the amplified voices of the people were quiet about the events leading up to the Democratic landslide which changed Barack Obama's 'Yes, We Can' message to a collective 'Yes, We Have' worldwide in 2008.

There was one voice, though, which stated its preference for Obama in typically melodious manner. And unlike many public endorsements of the Democratic candidate outside America when the result was almost a given, Cocoa Tea put his endorsement of Obama on record in January 2008.

In Barack Obama, he sings:

"Well this is not about class

No colour, race or creed

Make no mistake it's the change

Whe de people them need

Them say Barack Obama."

He injects some humour into his choice of Democratic candidate:

"It is not Hilary Clinton

It is not John Wayne

It is not Chuck Norris."

And Cocoa Tea puts his certainty of Obama's victory in racial context:

"Nuff cyaa believe a true

Black come fe run de red, white and blue."

Politics of America

"I wrote the song about late January (2008)," Cocoa Tea told The Sunday Gleaner. "Me is a man sit down and watch CNN all the time.

"Why me is so interested in the politics of America is that it affects I and I. I was in touch with the primaries from it start. The only message that speak to I was from Obama," he said. And that message was change.

"A message like this is a winning message," Cocoa Tea said. In addition, as a Rastafarian, "According to prophesy, it was the right time for a black man come to power in the United States of America (USA)."

Barack Obama was conceived and recorded in short order, as it was done at Cocoa Tea's own Roaring Lion recording facility in Hayes, Clarendon. "I man is an artiste who no write with no paper. Me just go in the studio and sing," he said. He tried the lyrics and melody on a rhythm that had already been done, which proved a good choice although it had to be adjusted slightly. "I thought it was the right rhythm - right tempo, right melody and something people could dance to," he told The Sunday Gleaner.

Barack Obama was recorded in the late afternoon, the session wrapped up at about 6:30 p.m. There was no delay in getting it on the road, as it was mixed at Bobby Digital's Kingston studio the following day. Culture Lion does the 'Obama' response to Cocoa Tea's call and members of Beres Hammond's band are among the musicians who played on the track. The Step by Step band from Mandeville did some overdubs.

And just as Cocoa Tea was sure that Obama would be the next president of the USA, "When I make the tune and call some brethren to hear it them say this gone. It hit."

And it has. Not only was Barack Obama very popular on radio, but it has also hit the pole position on the charts in New York and Florida and stayed there for nine and eight weeks, respectively. More important for Cocoa Tea, "a lot of people, when this tune started playing, they did not really know who Barack Obama is. I open the ears of the people."

He first performed it at Louie Culture's 2008 Portland Splash, held in February, when it was already getting some airplay and he had done some television promotion. "They were singing it word for word," Cocoa Tea said. Then he went to Europe in August that year, performing at Summerjam in Germany, Rototom in Italy and Sundance in Holland. "When I did the song, I was blown away by the reaction of the people. Everyone a sing the song, white people," he said.

However, with the USA being much closer to home and the Bush regime's 'with us or against us' mentality clear, Cocoa Tea naturally had some concerns about potential fallout from Barack Obama. "I man think about them ting deh. It have to cross your mind. Once you a start deal with politics, you know the ramification," he said.

Quite a few people put the song up on YouTube and among the numerous plaudits were some negative reactions. "I an I is Rasta. I don't endorse politics," Cocoa Tea said, quoting Marcus Garvey on confidence. "The conviction I man have in knowing Barack Obama going to win this election, it mean nothing to me," Cocoa Tea said in dismissing the criticism. "The Bush thing never get to my head."

"When the Iowa primary run and I see the landslide victory the people give Obama, I felt vindicated," he said.

He did a promotional trip to New York after Obama's 2008 victory.