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Story of the song | Dogs, fowls and pets

Published:Sunday | June 26, 2016 | 6:00 AMMel Cooke
Peter Tosh
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In painting an engaging canvas of sound, anything that can be recorded is fair game. While dub music is renowned for the range of its sonic scope, there are Jamaican songs which emphasise the vocals as much as the music, which include sounds meant to add to the track's impact.

A famous example is Big Youth's early 1970s S 90 Skank, a tribute to the motor-cycle, and caution also goes to the riders that "though you ride like lightning, you crash like thunder". Although the S90 has long been replaced by a succession of motorcycles which give especially males in the lower socio-economic bracket a means of transportation and income, the lesson remains the same. A Jamco or Jialing crashes as thunderously when driven like lightning.

There are times, though, when the performer makes the sound and, in the case of deejay Silvercat, it is the crow of a chicken. Goofy (now Mr G) in another 1990s track does a dog sound. This is a different approach from Peter Tosh, who utilises both fowl and canine sound effects, but it is imitations of the real thing which are put in his recordings. The bird is at the end of Creation (which is a mush-mash of Bible verses) where a rooster crows three times, reminiscent of Peter fulfilling the Christ's prophecy of his betrayal.

Tosh uses the sound of a hound in Maga Dog, his song built upon the Jamaican proverb about ingratitude and treachery, Tosh singing, "sorry fi maaga dog, him tun roun' bite you". As he sings, the dog interrupts with a bark and Tosh, "same r....s ting me tell yu".

 

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Goofy is the subject of the dog's unwanted attention as he tries to make a move at a woman's home. There he is outside in the yard, waiting for the moment to move in, when "woof woof a so de damn dog bark". Silvercat's use of the rooster is also sexually related, but much further along in the liaison process as he complains in Fowl Affair: "Me have two fowl a me yard/One a cock an one a hen, but de cock a put me inna problem."

While the song is replete with chicken references, Silvercat imitates the sound when he deejays that "the cock rr rr rr an wake up Karen".

Singer Tenor Saw has the female of the fowl family making the sound in Golden Hen. When the hen lays eggs for gentlemen ("sometimes nine and sometimes 10"), Saw sings, "whenever she sing she make an alarm/cock cock cock cock me play oh".

Burning Spear makes the sounds of birds that are capable of sustained flight in Man In The Hills, the bird calls coming after he sings "this is the sound of the hill". As engaging as they are on record, they seem to have even greater impact when done live.