Four-minute service for Prince Buster
Before Saturday morning's funeral service for the late Muhammad Yusuf Ali, the Muslim name of Cecil Bustamante Campbell, who performed as Prince Buster, it was made clear that it would end quickly.
And it was, with the actual service at the Islamic Council of Jamaica, 24 Camp Road, Kingston, officiated by Sheikh Musa Tijani, taking four minutes. However, it was preceded by 14 minutes of reinforcing Ali's right to choose the manner in which his final official service would be conducted.
"We have come here today for one purpose only, to say farewell to our beloved Muslim brother Muhammad Yusuf Ali that we knew as Prince Buster," Tijani said. The sheikh added that Ali made his choice to be a Muslim, live the life of a Muslim, and go to God the Muslim way. Ali died in Miami, USA, on September 8, 2016.
"We are not going to add anything to it and we are not going to take anything away from it," Tijani said. "We want to bury him in the Muslim way. We want everybody to respect that."
Scores of pairs of shoes outside the door to the building indicated this respect as it was asked that footwear be removed before entering (this did not include socks). Males and females were separated by a passage between two sets of chairs. The simple coffin with Ali's body was placed at the front of the room, lengthwise to the wall, Muslim males standing beside each other facing the wall with their backs to those observing.
Tijani said: "We have to serve God the way God wants," He reinforced that it was an Islamic burial. Tijani said that when the service was over, they would not wait on anyone to go to the May Pen Cemetery. "When we arrive there, we do not wait on anyone," he said.
With that, the two lines of men were put in order and there was a chant and response between the sheikh and the males, who raised their hands, palms up and fingers extended, as they spoke in chorus. Four minutes later, it was over, and the coffin was taken out and placed in the hearse as a quartet of horn players on the sidewalk across the road played Africa Blood and Mighty Like a Rose.
Both are Prince Buster productions.
However, the solemnity of the occasion was disturbed when there was a commotion just inside the council's gates, where a male voice bellowed that he was Prince Buster's real son, the declaration emphasised with a Jamaican epithet. The man was quickly ushered out on to the road and there was a gathering at the intersection with South Camp Road.
Ali's sons, who had carried their father's casket, came out on to the road clearly very angry. However, persons intervened and there was no physical confrontation, although the hearse was briefly delayed on its journey to May Pen Cemetery.
At the cemetery on Spanish Town Road, where Prince Buster's dirt grave was parallel to the wall separating the burial ground from the sidewalk, the ceremony was also brief. Buster's coffin was placed on planks and lowered on to the ground, dust rising as it settled into place. Handfuls of dirt were thrown on the coffin and an attempt to include a wreath was denied, in accordance with the manner of the burial.
After the ritual handfuls of dirt, Buster's son, Jameel Ali, used a shovel to scoop the first significant amount of earth on to his father's coffin before the task was taken over by men with wheelbarrows. Initially, the coffin was hardly visible through wraiths of dust, which subsided as the coffin was soon covered and the hole gradually filled.
Although there was no official singing at the Islamic burial, where once again the sheikh led Muslim men in very brief rites, the voice of Jamaican popular music was not to be denied at the send-off for one of its creators. An impromptu chorale sang Prince Buster's Hard Man Fe Dead, accompanied by clapping, Wash Wash and Oh Carolina (the last song at the May Pen Cemetery) included in the selections delivered, though not directly at the graveside.
Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia Grange did not mention the flare-up at South Camp Road when she spoke at the music tribute to Prince Buster which followed his interment. However, the emphasis on unity was clear at the lecture hall of the Institute of Jamaica (IOJ), East Street, when she said: "I must acknowledge the family - and when I say family, the entire family. We are here to put our differences aside and celebrate a man ... ."
Grange asked that the family members stand, which they did. Jameel Ali was invited to say thanks on behalf of Prince Buster's family members.
The concert, hosted by Mutabaruka, included performances by Ernie Smith, Strangejah Cole and Patsy, Errol Dunkley, Dennis Alcapone, Lloyd Parkes' band, Tappa Zukie and Mystic Revelation of Rastafari.