Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
Singer 'Jah Bouks' Angola has been hot musical property this summer and, from opening for Cocoa Tea at Usain Bolt's Tracks and Records to performing at the Wray and Nephew Contender finals at the National Indoor Sports Centre, the Rastafarian has the performances to match.
However, while Angola has caught on as a party favourite, the jury is out in whether there is a deeper connection with the African country, much less apartheid and Angola. And there is a specific battle in the long-running civil war in that country, the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale, from late 1987 to early 1988.
With help from Cuba, the Angolan government forces repelled repeated attacks on the town. Within three years of the South African Defence Force withdrawing from Angola, apartheid ended in South Africa.
There are other mentions of Angola in Jamaican popular music, notably in Bob Marley and the Wailers' adaptation of Haile Selassie's speech, War, and poet Mutabaruka's lament that "dem invade Angola again".
It has been a physical movement from Winchester, St Thomas, where Jah Bouks is from, to Portmore, St Catherine, where his mother relocated to in about 1980. And from there it has been a leap of the imagination to Angola - which is not as new as the current wave of popularity would suggest.
"Some ones even hear Angola recently and check say is a young song. Da song deh bout seven years old," Jah Bouks said. "A long time da song deh a move roun' black people, Rasta." It was done as a demo and got airplay on Portmore-based radio station Sun City FM. However, his mother (who is integral to Jah Bouks' music) said "she cyaa manage di demo vibes, so make we go in the studio and get a riddim make and voice it".
Angola was also performed live several times before it saw the light of day in its current format, and even before Jah Bouks entered the most recent edition of the Magnum Kings and Queens of Dancehall Competition. He did not win, but he was immensely popular. "It get good response," he says of those pre-radio and sound system popularity days. "People listen it, feel a vibes and when them hear the song again them can remember a favourite part them like."
Angola has references to other countries, including Lebanon, and there seems to be mention of the most recent war on Iraq. However, Jah Bouks said, "I not even really write it for the Iraqi invasion. I jus' know say certain ones a move like say a them alone want everything an I an I no feget nutten. Anything them want them make sure make a war, so a one feel say them people bad. So the ones jus' create some things and jus' do what them want."
And in terms of choosing an African country to sing about, Jah Bouks said he did not consciously choose Angola. "Is like Angola jus' beat inna me," he said. "When me a vibes that music that was the only thing me coulda think fe call upon, as a African country. Mi not even dig no history bout Angola, before mi even say me a call Angola. Suppen jus' say somewhere inna Africa name Angola an a it you haffi say. I guess a jus' the ancestors tell me say suppen great bout Angola, whe nuff ones never get fe know. Probably not even you know yusself, but jus' say Angola. Not even bodda question me."
In the song, Jah Bouks is adamantly opposed to those who want to "take Mama Africa from me again". He told The Sunday Gleaner, "I can see it even right now, how dem waa take time go roun' deh, make dem talk say you fi agree wid dis. A jus' secretly dem waan come take it from we again, 'cause dem did take it already".
And he identifies as African. "Me a live da life ya, say if a goat go inna hog pen go have kid, the kid still remain a goat kid. No true him deh inna de pen him ago name 'goat-hog'."