Mon | Sep 25, 2017

Two Ways Across The Water

Published:Sunday | April 24, 2016 | 4:00 AMMel Cooke
Sizzla

In 1970, Art Garfunkel and Paul Simon, performing as Simon and Garfunkel, released their fifth studio album, Bridge over Troubled Water, which turned out to be their last. The title track (which is Bridge over Troubled Water and not Bridge over Troubled Waters, as is commonly sung in Jamaica) opened the set. It included the ironically uptempo Cecilia, which is about heartache, and the emotionally bruising The Boxer.

Twenty-seven years after that, in Jamaica, Sizzla's Black Woman and Child album was released. The title track is also the first song and the set includes Guide over Us, in which Sizzla deejays about bridges. However, unlike Simon and Garfunkel, who offer themselves as safe conduits over turbulent waters, Sizzla's focus is on the determination which carries him across to the other side despite the best efforts of those who would see him fail.

Bridge over Troubled Water is a perennial inclusion in graduation ceremonies and other situations where there are public declarations of fealty. It is a statement of consistent support:

When you're weary, feeling small

When tears are in your eyes, I'll dry them all

I'm on your side

Oh, when times get rough

And friends just can't be found

Like a bridge over troubled water

I will lay me down

When you're down and out

When you're on the street

When evening falls so hard

I will comfort you

I'll take your part

Oh, when darkness comes

And pain is all around

Like a bridge over troubled water

I will lay me down"

By the third verse, though, the song moves from support over the waters to loyalty upon its surface, although Simon and Garfunkel still retain being the person's bridge of safe passage:

"Sail on silver girl

Sail on by

Your time has come to shine

All your dreams are on their way

See how they shine

Oh, if you need a friend

I'm sailing right behind

Like a bridge over troubled water

I will ease your mind"

In Guide over Us, Sizzla relies on his strength and endurance to reach his objective, appealing to a higher power with "Jah Jah dem bun dem bridge, spiting me big." That does not stop him, though, as Sizzla states, "I swim across to my victory."

Resilience in the face of adversity is a theme which Sizzla revisits at intervals, giving more extended treatment than the few lines of Guide over Us. On his 2003 album, Da Real Thing, the song Solid as a Rock, is a public statement of personal strength, Sizzla deejaying that he "always keep a smile when they want me to frown" and "they will never ever take my crown."

Rise to the Occasion, is also the first track of an album released in 2003 by a prolific Sizzla.

While Solid as a Rock, is personal, in Rise to the Occasion, Sizzla is the voice of encouragement.

Sizzla's resilience in lyrics requires more extensive treatment, which we will do next week in songs like Aint Gonna See Us Fall, Holding Firm and Dem A Wonder.