Peace Ambassador Abijah (centre, with microphone) with students at the PALS Jamaica special Peace Day assembly at the Denham Town Primary School on Tuesday, March 1, 2005. Also present was Leader of Opposition, Bruce Golding (second right), and partly hidden is the school's principal Everton Jones. Abijah sings on the 'Heal Jamaica' record.
Kavelle Anglin-Christie, Staff Reporter
PAUSE AND try to think of how many songs promoting peace you know every word of. It's been 10 minutes and you have only come up with one, maybe. Maybe you, like many persons, do not see the significance of these songs, so you wouldn't know - or care - that there is a new one out called Heal Jamaica. The artistes on this track include Anthony B, Ernie Smith and Abijah.
Over the years there have been many of these 'peace songs', including the remake of John Lennon's Give Peace A Chance, Remember The Days, Together We All, What Jamaica Needs Now and Join Hands Across Jamaica, but we are yet to see the harmony harmonised about being effected.
Still there are the believers. Reynardo Lewis of the group To-Isis says these songs are important, but enough emphasis isn't placed them.
"I definitely believe there is a place for these songs. The problem is what people are willing to accept is what they are being fed continuously. No one is willing to say 'this song is positive and I like it so I will play it'. Instead, they play what everyone else is playing. As a result people gravitate toward that," Lewis said.
Lewis says some persons in media harp more on the negatives instead of playing a part in promoting positive lyrics.
"Radio stations need to give positive music more time. Sometimes (they) dedicate a half hour to dancehall and reggae, then the rest is R&B and rap," he said. "These songs are not being played and promoted properly; after the conceptualisation, that is it. They get all these artistes to come together to show unity in music, but if people are not seeing the videos or hearing the songs until 6:30 p.m. or 7:00 p.m. right before the news, then they start to see them as commercials. Frankly, I don't know anybody that is going to bounce to a commercial, so they have to make peace seem cool because violence is always being promoted and glorified in other songs."
Jeffery Williams, a business operator, says he is familiar with some of the peace songs and enjoys them. "Very much so, because they are sending the right message and they are songs that everyone can listen to. They don't target one particular group and they are in between as far as being categorised as Christian or non-Christian because of the message in them," he said.
Like Lewis, Williams says negative lyrics are being unnecessarily elevated: "I do not think they are being recognised enough. I think the rubbish is outdoing the positive and I want to know why the positive songs can't get the airplay like some of the negative ones," he said.
Another fan of these positive tunes, Tanikka Ukkyuellyue, a university student, says they work 'to an extent'.
"A lot of times we listen to them and agree momentarily, but after the song is finished we don't focus long enough to really change. We don't implement policies that will perpetuate the values in the songs, because for many people, after they finish listening to the songs, it's like 'OK, I still don't have a job even though I'm singing this peace song'. Many of them then choose illegal means to get the money to survive," she said.
According to Cleveland Browne, popularly known as 'Clevie' of the hit-making duo, Steelie and Clevie, these songs are important. He also says he got the inspiration to write and produce the popular Remember The Days, which featured Bushman and others, when he reminisced on his childhood.
"The lyrics of the song express the sentiments of my heart. I remember the days of growing up and what my grandmother used to talk about 'the good old days when people from the east side could go over to the west side and live in peace'. The song is basically an expression of the good old days," he said.
Browne says the idea for the song came in a dream.
"I get a lot of my songs from what I have dreamt, but I've lost many of them that way as well because when I wake up in the mornings I always forget. But this one I remembered vividly. I got up and jotted down the idea and added the lyrics and developed the melody further," he said.
Jotting down the idea was the first step, getting the artistes and musicians together was the next.
"At the time we had opened Studio 2000 a few years before and we were still developing the 2000 crew and we had artistes who the public was not that familiar with, so we decided to give everyone a piece of the action to introduce them to the public. You had like Daddy Screw, Bush Man, Don Yute and some others," he said. Others on the track included Delly Ranks, Sharon Forrester and Sasha.
"At the time Steelie was in England and I needed someone to play bass, because I don't, I provide the backing, so I asked Benjy Myaz to play for me. He played some songs and I liked the style, but in my dream I heard a guitar and he said he had a guitarist friend," he said.
Myaz, who also sang on the track, says though the song did not propel his career, he believes it serves a higher purpose. "It is just another song in the Benjy Myaz catalogue. To collaborate with other artistes always good, but it is not about that, it is about bringing across a message," Myaz said.
This message, he says, is being stifled by those unwilling to play the records. "Some of these artistes, instead of doing these songs about sex and having it echoed in the dancehall, should do more positive songs," he said.
Browne said the song was so successful he is considering re-releasing it. "People are still requesting that song," he said.
"The artistes internalise the lyrics and when you see how they react it could be a reflection of how John Public is responding to the song. One song alone can't make a change and it will also take more producers to do songs promoting peace. Another thing is some of our artistes, instead of just saying we want peace, we should be peacemakers ourselves. Many of our artistes are warmongers over the years and they need to be advocates of peace," he said.
Singer Nadine Sutherland has been a part of a number of songs promoting peace, including Give Peace a Chance and Together We All.
Sutherland says the reason she has been heavily involved in these songs is because she believes in their purpose.
"My vehicle is music, so if I can use it to make life a little better for anyone, then I'm happy ... Music affects people on a deeper level, more than anything else, so people will listen and be affected by it," she said. "People will look at it and say it will not change society, but when I do my music I don't think about it changing society, but if I can say that I reached one person then I am happy. So if these songs leave an impact on one person, then it has done a lot."