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The Music Diaries | Handcart from pleasant position to death

Published:Sunday | March 12, 2017 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
Elephant Man
Lady Saw
Buju Banton

The handcart is one of the most basic means of transportation, powered by sheer human muscle and willpower to ferry goods and sometimes people over short distances where it is impractical or impossible for motor vehicles to reach. The handcart is poor people's small truck and it pops up in songs from a Jamaican popular music that has roots in the lower socioeconomic class.

From being a sexual position in Lady Saw's Good Wuk to a marker of social status in Perfect's Handcart Bwoy, transportation for the freshly deceased in Buju's Me an Oonu to an impediment for lively dancers in Elephant Man's Blase, the handcart has multiple musical uses.

Lady Saw's offers the handcart style as one of the offerings to her man, deejaying,


"Sweets for my sweets

Good wuk fi mi honey

Any style yu want e

Bway yu gwine get e

Wheelbarrow, handcart, stan up Maas Charley ..."

Deejay Perfect's Handcart Bwoy makes also maks a connection between men and women, though not as literal as Good Wuk. He portrays himself as a man who sells food from a handcart, with whom a woman from a different socioeconomic class falls in love. He deejays:

"She get whole heap a love and joy from the handcart bwoy

A de same likkle Bobo Yute whe name Fitzroy

Round a market mi juggle pepper and pak choi

She never know she woulda deh wid I"

It is not produce from the ground, which is on the handcart, that appears in Buju Banton's We and Oonu, but a body that will go under the ground in short order. The reference is the result of conflict that could escalate as Buju deejays:

"Hey! One whole heap a man

Like oonu tink sey mi sof

Sen dem tret who dem a talk ?

Who dem a try extort?

Oonu rememba di days when life less body get push out pon handcart?

Now on life dem a deal we, joy man a deal we,

Do no mek me wrath"

The body on the handcart cannot move by itself, but in Blase Elephant Man requests that the handcarts be moved out of the way of some very lively people. It is a dance that is included in a number of tracks the Energy God deejays:

"We have a new dance weh name Blase

Rock away, rock away, rock away when yu see yu enemy

Propeller, propeller, who nuh like wi go ...

Handcart, handcart, Make way when di dancer dem a pass

Shake dem off, shake dem off

Shake dem off, dem a work witchcraft,Elbow dem, elbow dem, dem nuh like yu and yu nuh like dem

We head gawn ..."

For good measure, there is also a Handcart reggae band, which an Internet search shows has worked with Pablo Moses and The Mighty Diamonds, among others.