From landline to cellular
With the proliferation of cellular phones in the country, it seems hard to believe that less than 15 years ago, the mobile handset was only for the very few. The privileged few at that - needless to add. Then came Digicel, and in short order, all and sundry had a 'circular'.
Before that, Cable and Wireless was the only telecommunications game in town, and even having the landline in a household, was something to be remarked on. For not only was the waiting time for installation after application notoriously long, but the potential applicant had to wait until lines were being run in the area of their home in the first place.
Communication is at the core of dancehall - communication between the performer and the audience in the first place, as well as communication of the event's content beyond the immediate performance space and time through audiovisual recordings. It is not surprising, then, that telecommunications has fascinated dancehall artistes, with a slew of songs about the cellular phone, from Kiprich bemoaning how telephone ting mash up him life, to Kartel boasting how his Samsung cellular get gal regular, and Busy Signal chortling, "Gal a Whatsapp, an a send text ..."
Long before that, though, dancehall was in the thick of things, putting the transition from landline to cell phone on record. It was not intentional, of course, but a few songs in the early 1990s put the communication change in (what else) a sexual context.
Before giving out a phone number in Stamina Daddy, Buju Banton speaks about how one lady had to reach for his instrument (as in the telephone, that is) when the pressure got hot:
"A no de stone
Whe make she moan an groan
Den a wha?
A jus de lent of the Banton tone
Make she dig up de sheet an de pillow say she waan fi go home
Push me off de bed an a go reach fi me
Ding di gi ding ding
Who she call, no har fren name Joan"
For those who would request the same - or better, or worse - treatment, Buju makes access possible:
"Girls, here is my line
If yu waan fin de Banton call anytime
If yu want a good man fi gi you a good grin'
Fi twis' yu wom' an shif yu belly an move up yu spine."
Of course, they cannot say they had not been warned.
In the video for the original Telephone Love, JC Lodge actually has a green house phone handset (with the cord, too) on the beach. It seemed
natural at the time, but is pretty funny now. In the makeover with Shabba, a house phone-style ring is at the song's start. Shabba barks "Woman, practise what you preach! This bag a telephone love a dying fi reach, face-to-face we mus meet, man, if is pon de beach!"
Not to be left out, also in the early 1990s, there was Carlene Davis with Dial My Number, in which she gives a phone number with a different area code from the 876 that we now know Jamaica for but appears to be a landline nonetheless. She actually sings the number 8-09-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 (as in counting backwards from seven for the last seven digits), urging, "Call me on the phone and make we have some fun."
In short order, though, it was cellie time, Bounty Killer's Cellular Phone, among the very early dancehall records to have the name and the instrument as in the song's beginning he says he needs to make a special call and instructs, "Hand me mi telephone." A young lady duly does this in the back of a limousine, and they are off driving, Killer deejaying:
"Excuse, pass me cellular phone
Make me call Antoinette an Simone
Tell dem no move a muscle I'm coming home
To take a trip dung inna dem love zone."
One of the all-time favourites with a cell phone is General Degree's When I Hold You Tonight. The song starts with a phone ringing, Degree answering, and a girl saying she wants to see him tonight as she has something she plans to teach him.
"Jus whe day something me discover
Pon de phone me a chat to me lover
Two a we argument saucy like pepper
A tell we one anedda which one a we badder"
He is in the process of getting ready for the encounter when the phone interrupts. He has to answer, of course.
"Me jus' hang up an rush fe de shower
Get meself together
everything well cover
Fi go check har in de nex' half hour
Hol on make a answer