Fri | Jul 20, 2018

Story of the Song | Four bars of reggae in the National Anthem - Bradshaw puts J'can beat to "justice, truth..."

Published:Sunday | March 4, 2018 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
Sonny Bradshaw

Dr Myrna Hague makes it clear that her late husband, Cecil 'Sonny' Bradshaw's arrangement of Jamaica's National Anthem is not a reggae version.

"He positioned four bars of reggae rhythm at (the lyrics) 'justice, truth, be ours forever, Jamaica land we love'," the singer told The Sunday Gleaner. "It is not a reggae anthem. It is a Jamaican national anthem, written to give the Jamaican people something they could relate to, not something given to them by their colonial masters."

Bradshaw's arrangement of the national anthem's music - not the lyrics - sprang from the trumpeter's nationalist stance, which Hague notes. But that commitment to Jamaica was focused on the song that sums up the nation's desires and ethos by a request ahead of an event at the Carib cinema, where the Jamaica Big Band (which Bradshaw led) was slated to play. Buddy Pouyatt was the event's producer. Hague said that Bradshaw threw the suggestion out to the band's members, but ended up doing it himself after there were no takers.

"He decided to write something that would reflect the Jamaican people," Hague said.

It worked, as she said. "When the anthem was played that night, people applauded. Every time it was played since then, people applauded the Big Band."

However, there were the detractors because of the four bars of reggae, as Hague said, "some people were upset. In their colonial mindset, they thought it was disrespectful to play reggae in the national anthem". Some of that negative opinion has continued. "When you think about the European hegemony that has stifled our thinking for so long, it is not surprising," Hague told The Sunday Gleaner. "Sonny was ahead of his time."

Hague gave recordings of the Jamaica Big Band playing Bradshaw's arrangement of the national anthem to the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) and a number of radio stations in Jamaica. And when the band plays, she makes sure that Bradshaw's arrangement of the national anthem is played.

 

WEEK AFTER WEEK

 

In a story published on June 3, 2009, The Gleaner noted the response to Bradshaw's arrangement of the anthem at Redbones Blues CafÈ, New Kingston. That story read in part:

"As Jamaica's national anthem was played at Redbones Blues CafÈ, Braemar Avenue, New Kingston, on Monday night, Fae Ellington and Keith Brown stood at attention on the small stage. But when the horns that carried the melody hit the line 'Jamaica, Jamaica ...', Ellington's right hand tapped against her thigh to the reggae beat in Sonny Bradshaw's arrangement of what she had called the prayer when she was invited onstage by Keith Brown."

Before the arrangement was played, Ellington said that about two years ago, she attended yet another function and the Big Band played Bradshaw's arrangement of the 'prayer'. "I thought it was full time we had that prayer recorded," Ellington said, saying that she hounded producer Mikey Bennett week after week.

Then, after the outstanding performance of the Jamaican track and field team at the Olympics in Beijing last year, they had a conversation and lamented, "if only we had the prayer, what a difference it would make".

The efforts were redoubled, and Bradshaw's arrangement of the national anthem, first done in the early 1980s, was finally recorded at Bennett's Grafton Studios with Dean Fraser as the producer and one of the saxophonists.

On the recording, Desi Jones plays drums, Dale Aslam is on bass, and Maurice Gordon is the guitarist. The trumpeters are Dwight Richards, Vivian Scott, Everton 'Sting' Wray, and Hopeton Williams. Fraser, Everton Gayle, Tafawee 'Tafanie' Buchsaecab, and Nicholas Larock play saxophone, while Barry Bailey, Nambo Robinson, Everton Pessoa, and Romeo Grey are on trombone.

Alvin 'Vinny' Haughton and Denver 'Denvo' Smith are the percussionists, while Romeo Gray is the recording and mixing engineer."