Mel Cooke, Freelance Writer
Sinead O'Connor (centre) sits with Rhythm Twins Sly (right) and Robbie at the launch of her album, 'Throw Down Your Arms', held at the Liguanea Club, Knutsford Boulevard, New Kingston, on Monday night. - WINSTON SILL/FREELANCE PHOTOGRAPHER
HAIR CUT low, 'Ireland' in letters on the front of her burgundy T-Shirt and in speech on her tongue, Sinead O'Connor made her intentions clear at the Liguanea Club, New Kingston, on Monday evening.
"To me I have not made a reggae record, but a Rasta record," she said.
However, she also made it clear that "my intention is not to exploit the teachings of Rastafari, but to pass on the message to some who might not know that God and religion are two separate things."
That Rasta record is her latest album, Throw Down Your Arms, which was officially launched by musician Ibo Cooper, with Mutabaruka being the guest speaker.
The album's title is taken from a Burning Spear song - and appropriately so, as Spear's music dominates the set of cover versions, with He Prayed, Jah No Dead among the handful of remakes. Lee 'Scratch' Perry's Vampire, Peter Tosh's Downpresser Man, Buju Banton's Untold Stories, The Abyssinians Y Mas Gan, the Haile Selassie speech turned into song War and Junior Byles' Curly Locks also made the album.
Musicians and engineers in the all-Jamaican cast who worked on Throw Down Your Arms are Sly and Robbie, Robbie Lyn, Mikey Chung, Dean Frazer, Nambo Robinson, Chico Chin, Sticky Thompson, Keisha Patterson, Pam Hall, Bulby, Roland and Fatta.
With red, green and gold around the tent under which the official proceedings took place and thick joints of sugar cane in a similarly coloured cart in the area where the members of the audience could have a bite, O'Connor confirmed in words what was obvious to the eye, beginning her brief address with a reading from the book of the prophet Micah:
"In the last days it shall come to pass, that the house of the Lord shall be established on the top of the mountain... The law shall go forth from Zion and the word of the Lord from Zion... Nation shall not lift up sword against nation... And each nation shall worship its own God and we will walk in the name of our God, Jah Rastafari."
O'Connor thanked Rastafarians for telling people that God and religion are separate, as well as having touched and saved individual lives. I would not be alive on this earth today if not for the teachings of Rastafari. When somebody saves your life, you owe them. I dedicate my life entirely to the teachings of Rastafari," she said.
In the end she had kudos for Jamaica as "the most incredible country, with the most incredible people in the world. So thank you Jamaica for everything and Jah, Rastafari!"
O'Connor told The Gleaner that she does not plan to do a reggae album with original songs and that the tour for Throw Down Your Arms starts in August and continues until next summer, with a stop in Jamaica either before or after doing the US in 2006.
Mutabaruka pointed out that when O'Connor had publicly torn up a picture of the Pope, she had been wearing a red, green and gold sash.
He said that "there is something that the Rastaman is saying that is seeping into the mind of radicalism. The children of the oppressors might see the necessity to react to a certain state and condition that the Rasta man has been saying exist for a long time".
Sinead O'Connor is reacting to a system that is pushing a dogma on the people," he said.
He also gave credit to Sly and Robbie for passing "the borders of boxing music into boxes".
And Ibo Cooper recalled a time when "not even radio in Jamaica did want to play reggae. That's why we had to have a reggae radio station. We pass that stage, but we have to remember."