Wed | Aug 23, 2017

Story of the song | Real estate in rhythm

Published:Sunday | May 15, 2016 | 5:00 AMMel Cooke
Eric Donaldson
Chronixx
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Land of My Birth, written by Winston Wallace and sung by Eric Donaldson, is one of the Festival Song Competition winners which has transcended the annual Independence celebrations and endured past the year it won (1978).

The ultra-patriotic song came out at a time when internecine conflict was resulting in bloodshed and migration, hence the lines,

"I will never leave her shores/I will never run away/I will always believe in the black, the green, the gold, I say."

The chorus lays personal claim to the country in its entirety, proposing nationalism as Donaldson sings,

"This is the land of my birth/I say this is the land of my birth/I say this is Jamaica, my Jamaica/The land of my birth."

However, general loyalty to the land of one's birth and actually owning a piece of Jamaica which one can lay legal claim to are two different things. The 2001 Population and Housing Census showed there were 21,798 squatter households in Jamaica. This increased to 31,439 in the 2011 study. These were detached units, so the actual number of landless is even higher than those figures indicate.

In Homeless, the third track on his 1997 album, Praise Ye Jah, Sizzla addresses the landless (although he does not explicitly say squatting):

"The ghetto youth them homeless

Who is to be blamed?

Question mark is their surname

Homeless, who bears their pain?"

He offers some comfort to those who do not possess papers of ownership, implying that those who do still cannot lay claim to creation

as "me call up pon de ghetto yute dem fi stay strong/Dem no have title fe de earth only fe de lan'."

 

BIG NAMES

 

One of the names associated with large-scale housing development in Jamaica is Matalon, with Issa a well-known name in the hotel industry. Anthony B calls both names in the first verse of Fire Pon Rome:

"Well did is my question

To Issa an' de one Matalon

How oonu get fi own so much black people lan?

After dem slave achieve

nutten inna han"

A community which was then being developed extensively for residential housing came in for specific mention, Anthony B disparaging the price at which the 'one room' was being sold:

"Check out Greater Portmore

Braeton

One room oonu buil a sell fi

one million

Dem deh studio house no wut a

hundred gran'"

Worth it or not, the houses were snapped up by persons who wanted a place of their own and in 2011, Joy Douglas, then general manager of the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) told The Gleaner, "Portmore has pretty much reached its capacity, in terms of the municipality. Apart from some filling in from West Indies Home Contractors (WIHCON), it is pretty much done."

I-Wayne also speaks about the combination of Portmore and Matalon in, Living in Love, but he speaks specifically about squatters:

"I see Kasha Heights

whe dem call it squatta lan'

Some say fi govament

Some say fi Matalon

Still no wan share although dem got a lot a lan'."

Chronixx's Capture Land (another name for squatter

communities) labels many

well-known places as

stolen property, effectively

commenting on colonialism and slavery.

The land of his birth is the second nation he names as captured land, as Chronixx sings, "America a capture land/De whole a Jamaica a capture land."

Further in the song, Chronixx brings up the matter of papers, singing:

"Some a de place whe yu waan go live sweet

A tiefin lan' there's no title fi it

Some a these places whe you wanna go live nice

A tief dem tief it in de name of Christ".