Sat | Aug 24, 2019

When reggae goes to church

Published:Saturday | June 3, 2017 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
Lieutenant Stitchie
It was a joyous celebration during the funeral for John Holt, held at Holy Trinity Cathedral Church on November 17, 2014.
Minister Marion Hall, formerly Lady Saw.

It was not so long ago that dancehall gospel had its run-in with the section of the church which frowned upon the secular beats being used to transmit the Word of God. While I expect that there are still some who look askance at persons such as Stitchie, Papa San and Goddy Goddy (and, most recently, Lady Saw) in their midst, the level of public discontent has declined dramatically.

Those performers are alive and well, but there is another way in which the riddims of Jamaican popular music get into the sanctuary of the church - when popular entertainers die and their final services are held in a place of Christian worship. I was not at John Holt's 2014 send-off, although it took place close to The Gleaner, at Holy Trinity Cathedral. However, based on the reports and the images from the function, there was a good reggae party time had by all who wanted to.

So now it is time for Frankie Paul's funeral. Next Saturday, the man who sang Kushumpeng, and also ended his performances with a medley of gospel songs, will be laid to rest at the Church of God on Hope Road. The programme has not yet been worked out, but doubtless there will be lots of music involved and, chances are, not all of it of the gospel persuasion.




This time around, though, there is a plan to use the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre, which is just across Hope Road from the church, for a concert and traditional repast (as in eat and drink in honour of the dead) after those celebrating Frankie Paul's life have returned from Dovecot in St Catherine, where he will be buried. This may just turn out to be a compromise between the content at the church and that at the stage show, and there is no escaping the delightful proximity of the venues.

Peter Tosh's Creation and Ernie Smith's All For Jesus have been accepted as church songs, but there is still a long way to go for the gap between the secular and the sacred to be closed in the church hall. Ironically, this is not so in the dancehall, where God business rests very easily alongside gal and god business.

Some might call it a misfit, but there are others who will call it harmony.