Wed | Aug 23, 2017

Lovindeer finds humour in 'Wild Gilbert'

Published:Sunday | September 11, 2016 | 9:00 AMMel Cooke
Lloyd Lovindeer
Lovindeer
A community in Lucea, following Hurricane Gilbert back in 1988.
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Tomorrow marks 28 years since Hurricane Gilbert struck Jamaica. There has been many a 'breeze blow' (including Hurricane Ivan, which affected Jamaica from September 11-12, 2004) and near miss (Tropical Storm Earl in August 2016) affecting Jamaica since the category five tempest ravaged the island.

But there has been no hurricane song like Lloyd Lovindeer's Wild Gilbert, a jolly track which puts a side-splitting twist on the hurricane and its aftermath.

Lovindeer pointed out, though, that Wild Gilbert was not the first song released about the storm.

"Some people have it that it came out the day after, but it didn't," he told The Sunday Gleaner.

It was released on his own TSOJ (The Sounds of Jamaica) label about three weeks after Gilbert had passed. Lovindeer explained that Dynamic Sounds, where Wild Gilbert had been recorded, had been flooded and was closed for about two weeks. Lovindeer had his song ready when they were back in business, and along with the Riddim Kings Band, did an early afternoon session that produced a song that took Jamaica by storm. Lovindeer sang:

"Well, Gilbert, yuh gone, ha ha,

Now wi can chat behind yuh back ...

Water come inna mi room

Mi sweep out some with mi broom

Di likkle dog laugh to see such fun

And di dish run away with the spoon

Unno si mi dish? Unno si mi dish?

Anybody, unno si mi satellite

d-d- dish? ...

Dish tek off like flying saucer

Mi roof migrate without a visa ..."

Lovindeer said that unlike others who rushed to have a Gilbert song out first, he took his time.

"I had confidence in my lyrics," he said.

Lovindeer wrote about what he witnessed, what he was told, and what he imagined from reading reports. He visited friends in Shortwood, Maxfield Avenue, and Constant Spring, hearing their tales. He told The Sunday Gleaner that he had a slab roof, so it was not his that migrated, although his dish fell. He laughs as he said it did not have a visa, so it only went as far as his backyard.

In Lovindeer's community, though, there were several people with satellite dishes, and in his post-hurricane community canvassing, "you see some dish lean up in some tree".

"You did not have to see them flying through the air," he said. "When you write songs like that, you have a vivid imagination."

 

RASTA SAGA

 

One particularly renowned verse from the song surrounds the saga of a Rastafarian. Lovindeer sings:

"Natty dreadlocks siddung inside

A look how Gilbert a gwaan outside

When breeze lick dung Mr Chin restaurant

Natty dread jump up and chant

Lick dem, Jah! Gwaan go dweet

A dem did gi di dread pork fi eat

Jook dem, Jah, with storm and thunder

Tear off dem roof and bruk dem window

Two sheet a zinc blow off a Joe house

Dread flash him locks and start to shout

Selassie Jah! King of Kings, Show dem seh a we run tings

Blow weh dem house but mek dem survive

So when dem si I

Dem will realise

Is true I merciful why dem alive

Likkle after that Gilbert turn back

Lift off di roof offa natty dread shack

Him seh blouse and skirt

Jah must a never know

Seh I and I live right ya so."

The dialogue came out of Lovindeer's imagination, but there really was a Rastaman he knew whose roof was blown off. He remarked to Lovindeer that life is unfair, because the houses of some wicked people were still intact, while his roof was gone.

Of course, there were those Rastafarians who took offence, and Lovindeer recalls being outside Skateland in Half-Way Tree one day when one angry Rastaman said that he was making fun of them.

The late Gregory Isaacs was there and said the man should leave Lovindeer alone as "all Rasta roof fly off, too, so a nuh nutten".

"I make fun of everybody in the song - myself, too," Lovindeer pointed out.

Taking a walk in the eye of the storm, he did see the young men with their loot on Constant Spring Road. Plus, "after the storm you heard about places being broken into and stuff taken out. You did not have to witness everything, but based on reports, you know what happened".

So he wrote:

"Di youth dem a loot in the raging storm

We thank di Lord we never get hurt

Dem seh thank yuh, Lord, for Mr Gilbert

'Cause yuh si mi fridge?

A Gilbert gimme

Yuh si mi colour TV?

A Gilbert gimme

Yuh si mi new stereo?

A Gilbert gimme

Yuh si mi new video?

A Gilbert gimme"

When performing Wild Gilbert, Lovindeer said he always laughed at the line about a cold beer costing $10, the price - which seems ridiculously low now - jacked up because cold drinks were scarce on the ground in the widespread post-Gilbert power outages.

 

REASON FORLONGEVITY

 

Lovindeer credits the song's longevity to the perspective it took.

"It was a feel-good song in the midst of disaster. After you go through that and survive, you want to celebrate. It's not 'woe, woe'," Lovindeer explained.

"It was danceable and everybody could relate. It was fun for everybody. You find the man from uptown couldn't get ice either. The man from ghetto couldn't get no ice. Everybody was one at the time until the light come back and everybody go them separate ways."

Lovindeer is surprised that Wild Gilbert is still wildly popular and said that sometimes when he is going to perform and makes up his song list, he leaves it out. Then when he gets to the event, there are requests for the song. This happens especially overseas, where for those who did not experience it personally, Wild Gilbert was their report on the hurricane.

 

CORRUPTION STALLS

 

 

NO. 1 POSITION

 

When Lovindeer did Wild Gilbert on his TSOJ, he was doing his own distribution. He told The Sunday Gleaner that at one point, the demand was so high that the record was being pressed at Dynamic and Sonic Sounds simultaneously.

However, it took a while for the wild popularity to be translated into number-one chart status.

"As you know, in Jamaica, the charts are corrupt. It did not hit the top of the charts until about 10 weeks after [it was released]," Lovindeer said.

Lovindeer laughs as he said the names of stores from which record sales data was collected were written at the bottom of the charts. Among them was a particular record store which had been looted during the hurricane and did not open until a month after. Still, the person composing the charts was stating that he was getting reports from them.

"He was the laughing stock of the place," Lovindeer said.

When the song's popularity could no longer be restrained and it was officially made number one, the ranking for the year was still sorely affected. Lovindeer said Wild Gilbert ended up somewhere between 10 and 15 as "it was not on the charts when it was selling fast fast more than anything else". The next year, Lovindeer said, Wild Gilbert was also in the top 100, making it "the only song in Jamaican history that was in the top 100 for two years".

As the distributor, Lovindeer said he can personally account for about 80,000 copies of Wild Gilbert sold, while there was piracy of the record.

melville.cooke@gleanerjm.com