Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
Yesterday, the Festival Song for Jamaica's landmark 50th year of Independence was announced at the National Arena. While the popularity of winners outside of the immediate euphoria of the contest has been more down than up over the last few years, there is no doubt about the lasting impact of the first one, Bam Bam by the Maytals.
In a 2006 interview with The Gleaner, Toots Hibbert, the longstanding Maytal, explained that it was the writing aspect of the contest that caught his attention, "but if you can sing, it so happen to be better". The Maytals - Toots, Jerry Matthias and Raleigh Gordon - won the 1966 contest, Hibbert saying in the song it was like he was writing about himself with "I am the man who fight for the right and not the wrong". Bam Bam has had an enduring influence, lyrically and with its music. In the early 1980s, Sister Nancy did her version on a rub-a-dub version of the rhythm, reworking the chorus and the declaration "this man I don't trouble no one/but if you should trouble this man" to "this woman never trouble no one/I am a lady not a man".
The rhythm to Bam Bam made a dancehall style return with Murder She Wrote by Chakademus and Pliers, the video featuring a memorable golden outfit and dancing by Dancehall Queen Carlene.
In November 2007, Chakademus and Pliers performed Murder She Wrote with Alicia Keys at the American Music Awards.
Nardo Ranks also had a crack at the Bam Bam beat in the 1990s, doing Dem a Bleach in which he referenced Buju Banton's Browning. He deejayed:
Dem a bleach
Dem a bleach out dem skin
Dem a bleach fi look like a
He showed respect to the dark-skinned women who stayed true to their hue:
Gal mi honour yu
Yu no bleach out yu skin
Yu no use no chemical fi look
like a browning.
Cutty Ranks' Wait Deh Man utilises the Bam Bam music in deejay combat mode, tackling the Gargamel ("Buju Banton come offa mi right/Mi have two stick a dandemite) and Admiral Bailey ("Admiral come offa di lef'/before mi use de bomber an box yu til yu deaf").
One of the mixes of perennial rivals Bounty Killer and Beenie Man songs used the music as well, for Beenie's Blackboard and Bounty's instruction to "model ya mi gal make it bun dem".
While Bam Bam has had the biggest influence, the music of Eric Donaldson's 1971 winner Cherry Oh Baby is the foundation of one of Jamaica's beloved patriotic popular songs, Tony Rebel's Sweet Jamaica.