Tunes Of Politricks
Elections are in the air once again and Jamaican popular music has a history of commenting on the process.
In the late 1980s to early 1990s, Ninja Man did, Nah Go Love It, urging peace between supporters of the two major political parties, the People's National Party (PNP) and Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).
He started in true Don Gorgon fashion:
"Well ear dis!
Dis no stop play
All monts an years afta election
Now all politician remember
Vote, no fight
Don't do it!"
With the very violent 1980 election almost a decade behind at the time of the record's release and the now-commonplace pictures of green and orange-clad party faithful hugging and dancing in the streets a rarity then, Ninja Man said:
"I want it to be de firs' happen
inna my country
On de days of election
Labourite shake han' wid PNP."
The anti-violence stance in the chorus is definitive:
"Nah go love it, nah go love it
Yu know de politics business nah
go love it ..."
And the naming of the political leaders dates the song:
"If you get up every day an kill
yu black bredda
A talk bout yu a fight fe Manley
Pity yu no know yu commit col'
Buju Banton zeroed in on the heart of the political process, the casting of the ballot, in Politics Time Again. He asked:
"Well it's politics time again, are
you gonna vote now?"
He advocates for a boycott of the
voting process, saying:
"Fed up of promises and
hopeless hope/ballot box must
be empty, vote house closed."
It was a personal stance which Anthony B took in the ska song Nah Vote Again, singing:
"All dem a enumerate nah
And he observed:
"All we get a election a death an
In his famous 1976 Peace Concert speech, Peter Tosh underscored the personal disenfranchisement from the process, saying:
"I am not a politician, but I
suffer the consequences."
Still, the electorate may be well advised to remember the words of Bob Marley in Revolution (and Buju Banton puts a few lines of Marley's Heathen into Politics Time Again):
"Never let a politician grant you
They will always want to control
Current radio advertisements advise the public not to sell their vote to anyone; Damian 'Junior Gong' Marley has long done this in Khaki Suit, which appears on the 2005 Welcome to Jamrock album. He includes the currency of liquor in the exchange of favours for votes:
"An politician a drive dem cyar tell dem no steer ova here
When dem touch dung pon de ends yu ongly hear say war declare.
Man a clap it inna town an man a clap it inna square
An whole heap a skull a bore an den whole heap a skin a tear... .
An a so me get fi know say heads a govament no care
Cause de money whe dem a share
An crate a Guinness crate a beer
Cannot pay yu likkle pickney school fee come to en a year".
Around the time of the last general election, performing at Sting, Bounty Killer warned to not let this seasonal largesse interrupt longstanding bonds of common penury, saying "don make dem steak mash up yu chicken back relationship."
Cham in Ghetto Story ("I remember bout '80 Jamaica explode/When a Trinity an Tony Hewitt dem a run road") and Beenie Man in Trendz ("Back in the days of 1981/is jus' after 1980 election/After Bob Marley dead an is bare bangarang/Manley an Seaga inna competition") reference the notoriously bloody 1980 general election. Even the ballot box gets its due - Josey Wales and Admiral Bailey did an entire song around the questions "who say de Colonel tief de ballot box?/who say de Admiral tief de ballot box?"
Wales says the only box he wants is the strong box, Bailey requires only the King Jammys Superpower sound box. Humorously, Josey says, "look how me big, look how me fat/How me jump fence wid ballot box?"
Cham, on the other hand, claims the election day infringement in Ghetto Story:
"I remember when we stick the poll clerks
And dump the ballot box pon Tivoli outskirts"
And in Ghetto Red Hot, Super Cat recalls the effect of political violence on children in the inner city, deejaying about "whe de politics fliction drop/When de bomb a drop pon house top/An every morning a dead man on spot/An de yute dem go school tru shot/Make me tell yu dem ben dung flat/And school book man it deh pon dem back."
Let Them Fight It, appears on Daweh Congo's superb 1999 album - Militancy, put out by RUNNetherlands. It starts with a series of questions about the social conditions of those who find themselves in the heat of political battle:
"How many empty buckets, broken standpipe?
How many homeless people, how many sleepless night?
When will those who have nothing pay the price
For services the system never provide?"
Then he observes the inherent imbalance of the political process:
"Politics is a trick...
An no poor no benefit, only rich get rich
I can see the economic prejudice
My advice is this, don' put yu life at risk."
And he concludes in the chorus that it is they who direct the conflict who should take up arms:
"Make dem fight it rude bwoy
Don't be dem sidekick
Make dem fight it
Dem alone mus' fight it
Make dem fight it
A dem organize
Dis ya world crisis"
This includes the "big neck guys," divesting themselves of their trappings of clothing, to "...take off dem tie, take off jacket/Make dem roll up dem sleeve, knock fis' to fis'/Make dem draw fi pipe iron an pick axe stick."
In all of this, though, Daweh Congo does not remove responsibility from the human tools of political wars, commanding the youths, "no more politically motivated offence