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Music and More | Dial my number (without the 876)

Published:Thursday | July 12, 2018 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke/Gleaner Writer
Freddie McGregor
Carlene Davis
Buju Banton
JC Lodge

Since JC Lodge's performance at Rebel Salute earlier this year and then the reports of her not-so-pleasant experience at the recent Groovin' in the Park in New York, my thoughts about the connection between Jamaican music and the telephone have taken another turn. Of course, the song that has spurred this is Telephone Love, which appears on her 1990 Selfish Lover album on Greensleeves Records.

In an era when we are now mandated to include the area code when making local calls, it is fascinating to look at the Telephone Love video and see JC Lodge using a landline on the beach. Yup, the cord from the handset is not connected to anything, but Lodge is crooning her lyrics into the mouthpiece, parts of her light, loose outfit wafting in the sea breeze. Remember, though, that this was 11 years before Digicel came to Jamaica and, distributing its handsets through Courts Ja Ltd, made the 'cellie' accessible on a scale that it had never been before in Jamaica.


Banton's song


Having to include the area code would have spoilt the line in Buju Banton's Stamina Daddy where he advises the ladies to give him a ring if they want to access and assess said long-staying ability. He deejays:

"Girls, here is my line,


If yu waan fin' de Banton, call anytime

If yu want a good man fi gi yu a good grin'

Fi twis yu womb an shif yu belly and move up yu spine

Call de Banton Buju anytime."

So, anticipating that some persons would have called the number, I tried it (with the area code inserted) - hoping I would get a church, a morgue, an ambulance service or something else deliciously incongruous. And what did I get? A recording from FLOW that "the number you are dialling is temporarily out of service".

For good measure, I tried another number that is in a song, Carlene Davis' Dial My Number. I did not expect much from following her advisory "8097564321, call me on my number let me have some fun". But, for fun, I gave it a ring. First, I got the recording that 10-digit dialling is now in effect, then another that my party is unable to accept my call at this time. So, I put a '1' at the front and tapped send again. What did I get? A connection and a female voice that sounded remarkably Jamaican saying "hello". I said "wrong number" and hung up. But when I checked, 809 is a Dominican Republic area code, and there is also something online about the 809 scam affecting people in the USA and Canada.

Freddie McGregor's Push Come to Shove does not have a telephone number, but it refers to something that number storage on the device - even a 'banger', but the smartphone is even better - has made obsolete. He sings, "I have your number in my diary, but as soon as I get home it has been changed". So not only did he have a digits book, but he has to go home to make the link - no mobile here.

These songs about phone communication before the cell-phone era in Jamaica, and now the 10-digit dialling requirement, say a lot about where we had been in this matter of communication by telephone, digital ages ago before WhatsApp, the iPhone and Samsung cellulars that "get gal regular."