Wed | May 22, 2019

Getting a kick out of music

Published:Sunday | February 21, 2016 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke

The martial arts hold an enduring fascination on the big screen, with 'kickers', a genre all on its own. Jackie Chan is the comic standout, Jet Li the classic expressionless bad man, Bolo the only muscular Chinese and Bruce Lee the undisputed legend.

That intense interest in the discipline of martial arts, beauty of the moves and level playing field it facilitates in physical combat between persons of different physical stature continues not only in martial arts-related movies like The Matrix series, and more recently, the animated Kung Fu Panda 2.

However, martial arts has also had an effect on music, the 1974 disco track, Kung Fu Fighting (Carl Douglas) was a huge hit for the genre. In the land where Bruce Lee was known by generations of schoolchildren as 'Brucie Lee', kung fu also features in the early 1990s Future Troubles song which had feet flying in dancehall.

For good measure, Sizzla's Karate also has a martial arts bent, mixed in with homage to Haile Selassie.

Both Douglas and, close to two decades after him, Future Troubles (who became Future Fambo) have parts in their songs which are not actually words. Douglas' song begins with the refrain "ho oh oh oh", while Future Troubles chants "hi ya hi yah hoo" in his chorus. This after intoning "oos" in the introduction and delivering an extended "hiyaaaaah!" before the lyrics start.




However, the musical points of view differ. Douglas seems to be watching a movie - or at least trained martial artists - as he sings:

"Everybody was kung fu fighting

Those kicks were fast as lightning

In fact it was a little bit frightening

But they fought with expert timing."

That level of expertise does not seem to be present in Future Troubles' song, as he advises the dancehall massive how to move as they follow him and "dance the kung fu":

"It's not hard it's easy to do

Gal kick tree time like yu name John Lu ...

Drink an drunk

Make all a pose like a Shaolin monk"

There is some danger to the equipment, if not the people at the event, as Future Troubles observes "watch how de gal dem a dance an perform / Man a spen money an a come inna de lawn / Lissen kung fu kick tru de steel horn."

Carl Douglas looks at the persons in action and sums up what was happening with "they were chopping them up / They were chopping them down / It's an ancient Chinese art / And everybody knew their part."

For Future Troubles, though, it is all amateur hour, as he deejays about "gal a kick an a jump an a wine dem rump / Look how de gal dem a wine an jump."

Douglas sings about a slip or two from the hip, which seems inevitable in Future Troubles' approach.

Sizzla actually says "martial arts' in the introduction to Karate, chanting "a rock me a rock", and delivers some fire, before going into the 'kickers' chorus where he blends the moves with the divine:

"Dem get me rahtid, slew dem wid karate

Praise King Selassie him a de ancient monarchy."

And he combines the images of martial arts and Rastafari, creating the image of walking with "mi sword an mi full suit a khaki".

Late in the song, the target of the martial arts moves is revealed, as Sizzla rasps "diss de ghetto yute yu get pure kick an tump".