Labour Day, work and Dudus
Just over a mere half-decade ago, in Jamaica, this time period meant solely a national focus on projects that involved physical exertion, each collective effort meant to benefit a geographic community or a community of persons. Then there was the intensified partying of course.
While the parties and projects remain (and this year's main project means a lot to matters of culture as it is the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre on Hope Road, St Andrew), since 2010, Labour Day has had an additional meaning. It was at this time of year that battle lines were drawn between the forces of the law and those of the lawless. It was a battle that had been a long time in coming as a perhaps inevitable stage in the development of 'gangsterism' in Jamaica, with the extradition of Christopher 'Dudus' Coke as the immediate trigger of The State establishing its superiority by force of arms in no uncertain way.
So what we have now is a dominant observance of Labour Day, and to a much lesser extent, the acknowledgement of one more year since the bloodshed in West Kingston, in particular Tivoli Gardens.
And we have songs for both of them.
On the Tivoli incursion side, the Twin of Twins asked, "Which Dudus?" in a song that came out just before things reached a bloody peak in 2010. While the song has long faded from its immense popularity at the time (as often happens with art that is made exclusively about a particular moment), it remains as a marker of pro-Dudus sentiment at the time. Starting with a US agent asking for a certain 'Dudus', in its chorus, the song asks:
"A which Dudus you a talk a no Mikey?
A coulden short man, highly unlikely
A which Dudus you a talk a no de President
A lie dem a tell show me de evidence"
when the helicopter came
Eventually, the US did. In loads. And, even before that, in real life, the level of defiance to the government's forces was not met with the level of resistance which the performers had predicted. In the song, the Twins ask rhetorically, "Yu tink de man deh a go run when helicopter come dung?"
Not too far into the shooting, they did.
Considering the meaning of posse, which the US applied to Jamaican criminals in Uncle Sam's land, it is noteworthy that Barrington Levy uses the term in his track about working. In the chorus, he sings, "Every posse must work, work harder."
And he also sings, "If you're not working, then you got to be loafing/and if you're loafing then you got to be joking." Sometimes it seems that Jigsy King gets left out of the memories about the song, but he does have significant input as he rasps, "lazy body got to work" and castigates those who would sit and wait for the much-vaunted barrel to come in with goods packed by relatives and friends overseas.
Still, the main figures in the accompanying music video include Willie Haggart and Bogle (of dancing fame) - both of whom were murdered.