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Cocoa Tea uses Obama rally cry

Published:Sunday | April 19, 2015 | 4:00 AMMel Cooke
Cocoa Tea
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In the aftermath of Barack Obama's whirlwind visit to Jamaica, The Sunday Gleaner revisits a set on which Cocoa Tea utilised the United States president's clarion call to his nation and the world.

On the cover of his 2009 - and as he put it then, "'bout the 22nd, could be more, but no less" - album, Calvin 'Cocoa Tea' Scott stands with hands in his pockets among a montage of faces which represent different races. And the cover is bordered by the flags of a host of nations.

The images reflect the character of the title song, Yes We Can, which, although it is grounded in the rallying cry made popular by Barack Obama's US presidential campaign, urges on people around the world - including the opposing US political groupings, Democrats and Republicans, with:

We can make this world a better place for all to live

Show them that we've got love to give

Too long we've been separated

Man minds filled with war and hatred

Turn away now from the things of the past

Find a common place where love is going to last ..."

Also on the album is Barack Obama, the very popular song in support of the then president-elect's campaign. Still, despite its immense popularity, Barack Obama was not chosen as the title track of the 14-track set, which is a blend of social commentary and lovers' rock.

"The title track was chosen after the Obama song took off. I thought that many people would have seen the Obama song as sort of political. Democrat and Republican buy music. We wanted to balance the equation of the thing," Cocoa Tea said.

 

LONGTIME IN THE MAKING

 

The album, the latest in consistent full-length output dating back to his first in 1985 with hits such as Rocking Dolly and Lost My Sonia, for Volcano producer Henry 'Junjo' Lawes, was some time in the making. Cocoa Tea said some of the tracks go back to 1997, the closing lovers' rock, I Swear, coming a little later and War War, done after the 9/11 attacks on the US. The combination with Marcia Griffiths, Real Man, was done before a remix closing off the current set.

Among the musicians who worked on the album are Kirk Bennett, Trevor and Bowie, along with members of the Step by Step band Cocoa Tea tours with. All the songs were recorded at his Hayes, Clarendon, Roaring Lion studio, except The Time Is Bad, a combination with Shabba Ranks, which was done at Bobby Digital's studio.

The track 9/11 speaks not to the plane attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, but violence in "Jamaica as a whole, Clarendon included". He points out that violent crime is increasing worldwide, but because Jamaica is so small, the effect is magnified.

As Cocoa Tea puts it, "Not Guilty is a very serious song." It is based on a personal experience, after being denied entry into the US in 2007 because of a marijuana conviction in Barbados nine years earlier (Cocoa Tea points out that a 'spliff tail' was taken from the ground, not his hand). The conviction was subsequently expunged from his record, but still he had trouble entering the US and had to take the letter confirming that his record was now clear to the US Embassy before being allowed access to Uncle Sam's country again.

Cocoa Tea chuckles when The Sunday Gleaner asked if the love songs I Swear and Stand Up in Love are also personal, and he says they are, although he gives no names as "you can't talk personal things".

On Yes We Can, he remakes You and Your Smiling Face, but flipping the lyrics to honour the lady with the 'smiling face' instead of condemning her for her trickery.

 

NOTJUST A SMILING FACE

 

"I thought I would give the ladies with the smiling face and good character something. You have the smiling face, but is not the only thing; you have everything," Cocoa Tea said.

And, with the lyrics of Yes We Can and Barack Obama (Culture Lion does the 'Obama' refrain) in English and Chinese on the CD's insert, Cocoa Tea is trying to give the world's most populous nation and Jamaican music something as well.

"Right now, marketing of Jamaican music is concentrated in Europe and North America and places like England and Japan, but seeing what Usain Bolt has done in China, Jamaican people are being recognised further than we think.

"I said if I put it in Chinese and they can relate to the thing, we can break into another market. For us to sell the amount of records that we want to sell, we have to break into new markets," he said.

Kevin Friths of Image Plus, who executed the artwork for Yes We Can, also handled the translation.