It’s back-to-school time again
The saying 'free paper bun', is especially popular at this time of year as the long summer holiday period draws to a close and preparations for the new academic year peak. The figurative burning of the 'free paper' (certification of manumission in previous times) indicates that it is back to the grind as the happy times of not having much to do are over.
With its consistent tendency towards 'reasoning' - communication on current or consistently relevant topics - in the dancehall space, which remains the initial site of deployment for Jamaican popular music, it is natural that the school figures significantly in that music.
It got to the point where Vybz Kartel could take on an additional moniker of 'Di Teacha', which became as popular as his initial performance name - so popular that the short-lived reality show in which a number of hot chicks competed for his attention was named Teacha's Pet.
Although these are days when electric systems have replaced the age-old device with a tongue in many institutions, the school bell still symbolises regulation of the educational institution. Deejay Shabba Ranks uses the school bell in Ting A Ling, which also has a video in which there is a classroom scene and a schoolteacher who lets her hair down to transform into a dancehall enthusiast. Shabba deejays:
"Ting a ling a ling
Dancehall in swing
Deejay aise cock up when dem hear boom riddim"
Dennis Alcapone puts the bell in the hands of the classroom authority in Teach The Children:
"Teacher teacher, I beg you ring the bell
Teach the children
Teach them how to spell
Look at that, look at that
You got to learn that
You got to graduate
Before you go through the gate
Ting a ling ting a ling
I hear the children sing"
Buju Banton's famed Untold Stories encourages industry in the classroom, demanding that persons take full advantage of the opportunities education affords, so "when Mama spen har las' sen' yu go class/Never you ever play".
However, there will always be those who are sent to school but end up somewhere else. Boys do it, but it is the girl who tends to be the focus of attention for 'skulling' school as she ends up in a sexual encounter. General B sets the scene in the introduction:
"Nicky, look how yu mother sen yu go a school
An yu a gwaan like a fool"
Then he deejays:
"Mummy sen she Nicky go a school Missa Solomon
Nicky gone a man yard, mi Lord
Anything de man say do Nicky do
Nicky she a gwaan like she rude
Wine Nicky wine
De man a say turn Nicky turn
De man a say twis' Nicky twis'
De man a say sit Nicky sit, mix
True Nicky nah listen
Nah learn har lesson
Mummy sen Nicky go school
An she nah learn nutten
Look in har book har book clean like whistle
Gone ova man yard gone full up har vessel ..."
The gender inequity in matters of sexuality also applies to the schoolchildren - in Gallis Anthem, Specialist names a number of secondary-level
A pare gallis go a Eltham High,
A pare gallis go a Jonathan Grant
A pare gallis go a Compre
So de gal dem love we
A pare gallis go a KC
A pare gallis go a JC
A pare gallis go a Calabar..."
Calabar is a popular lyrical place (and not because of Di Teacha), as Jr Gong names the Red Hills Road school in Khaki Suit (a combination with Bounty Killer and Eek a Mouse, deejaying "... Clarkie boot an khaki suit yu tink me go a Calabar".
The classroom factors in a popular Nitty Gritty special for Stone Love Movements, in which the late singer welcomes an opponent with:
"Good morning soundboy long time Stone Love reach ya
Student come a dance now fi learn from di teacha
Stone Love yes a him a de teacha"
And Spragga Benz finds another use for 'free paper bun':
"Matey free paper bun
So get wil' when yu see har a come
A she yu man trick
Gi har a biscuit
An use har fi one night a fun"
So does Ninja Man with, "free paper bun, pop off mi gun".
Still, the bell remains an enduring symbol of regimentation, as Bunny Wailer sings in Back to School:
"Ting a ling a ling
School bell ring
And it's back to school again
And it's ABC, 1-2-3 ...".