Wed | Jul 17, 2019

No Trump tune yet (that I have heard, at least)

Published:Saturday | October 28, 2017 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
David Rodigan
US President Donald Trump.

A couple days ago I was reading an interview (published in February) with selector David Rodigan in The Guardian, about his autobiography, My Life in Reggae.

The article ends with Rodigan saying "I'm just waiting for the Jamaican artistes to start making records about Trump. If that doesn't happen, there's something wrong with our music. Because that's what our music does: in its essence, in its purity, in its driving force, it speaks out for the defenceless, it speaks for the underprivileged."

I am waiting on that record too, as I waited for a song about Bush the younger (and dumber) and Blair in their Afghanistan and Iraq forays that we are seeing the echoes of in bomb blasts. I waited in vain, or maybe I just did not hear the songs. Similarly, I feel I am waiting in vain for a song about Trump - or, at the very least, the kneeling protests by black athletes when the US, Anthem is played.

Ahead of the election which Trump won over Hilary Clinton, with or without a Russian boost, there was one popular reggae singer who adjusted a lyric during a major performance to declare Trump a skunk. There were a few other statements about Trump during performances, but no records by Jamaican performers that came to my ears. Of course, there are many recordings which pass me by so if there is a song about Trump or Bush (the second) by a Jamaican performer, please send it to the e-mail address at the end of this article. (We should note, though, that Damian 'Jr Gong' Marley does speak about the killings of black youth by the police and trigger happy civilians in Slave Mill from his Stony Hill album.)

It is a disappointment and I cannot but compare it to the slew of songs against apartheid. But, when I think about it, apartheid South Africa did not want many black visitors (top West Indies cricketers an exception), to be denied the opportunity of being a honorary white was no big thing. It is a very different thing to be denied a visa to the USA, for not only is it a major market for Jamaican popular music, but it is also the major transportation hub that we can reach in about the same time it takes to drive from Kingston to MoBay.

It is possible to make a decent living from Jamaican popular music without going there, as Jah Cure and, to a lesser extent, entertainers who have has their US visas revoked intermittently, have shown us. However, the thought of having to make do without one may be a major concern which trumps the urge to be musically rebellious.

And there is another factor as well, the political savvy of the audience. People felt really strongly about apartheid but, despite some disagreement with how the US, is progressing, or not, do they really feel moved by Trump to consistently support a performer who speaks against him? This could be the era of feel good when you are in the musical moment and so much for caring about what is happening in the world.

And hence no Trump songs in Jamaican popular music.