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Story of the Song | 'Entertainment' to stop fighting in dancehall

Published:Friday | January 11, 2019 | 12:00 AMMelville Cooke
Jah Thomas
Triston Palma
Triston Palma

"Lots of people keep on skanking while the prophecy fulfilling

Entertainment is a form of enjoyment

No bother fight inna de dance

We come fe enjoy weself

While the music playing

And me idren skanking

Me sistren dancin

If me see a man, a dance with me woman

Me nah go get jealous

Me nah go make no fuss ..."


Entertainment, the 1981 Triston Palma song on the 'Heavenless' rhythm about not breaking the peace in the dancehall, was written specifically to calm dancehall tension in the rub-a-dub era, where the music encouraged close contact, which often caused jealousy.

Recorded by Triston Palma (commonly called 'Palmer' as his surname has been misspelt by producers), the lyrics for Entertainment were written by deejay Jah Thomas and the song released on his Midnight Rock label.

Palma had done popular songs before, including, A Class Girl (covered by Big Mountain) and Spliff Tail (tossed out by the music charts jury for its marijuana content but reinstated by dint of sheer popularity). Unknown to Palma, those songs were having an effect in another time zone that would result in an early morning wake-up call.

Palma says that TADS Records' Ted Dawkins heard his songs in New York and asked Jah Thomas, who was also in the Big Apple, if he knew a singer named Triston Palma as he wanted a recording from him. So Jah Thomas came calling early one Monday morning. The two knew each other by sight but had not had much interaction.

"Him wake me up and say, 'Singer, me have a song a go mash up the place.' Him have some tape and say if me available to sing the song same time," Palma said.

They went to King Tubby's Waterhouse studio, where Jah Thomas told him the lyrics. "From thereso me take it on, and it turns out to be one of my biggest seller," Palma said.

It was the beginning of fruitful teamwork in a productive period for Palma. Joker Smoker was also done for Jah Thomas and What a Bubbling for Ossie Thomas, who also produced I'm Ready. The love song Take My Hand was done for Barry Clarke.

Jah Thomas had the concept of writing a dancehall peace song in mind for some time before the actual incident that crystallised the lyrics. "Me is a man go dance for years," Thomas said. With the rub-a-dub music, and accompanying hip grinding dance in vogue, there was a lot of jealousy from both men and women as their partners danced with other persons. That led to fights, which sent people scattering.

Thomas said at the time, "We need a anthem fi say no fight inna de dance." Then, in New York, he went to a dance with Ted 'TADS' Dawkins, who remarked that it was the kind of event at which a "man tun on him gun". This reinforced Thomas' determination to write a dancehall peace song.

When he returned to Jamaica, Jah Thomas went to a Saturday night dance with King Jammy's sound system on Solitaire Road, promoted by Beardy the Sherriff. When he got there before midnight, the dance was already over - there had been a confrontation between police officers and 'rude boy'.

The Sunday morning, Jah Thomas came up with the first line, "entertainment means enjoyment". But his girlfriend adjusted it, saying, "entertainment is a form of enjoyment." "Me say a dat me want," Thomas recalled. "From she say that, me no need nutten more. Me did have the picture already."

The cut of the 'Heavenless' rhythm, composed by Don Drummond, for Studio One, was done by Roots Radics band at Channel One, with Dean Fraser, Nambo Robinson, Junior 'Chico' Chin, and David Madden playing the horn line. "A orchestra me go fa," Thomas said. There was a power cut when the vocals were to be recorded at Tubby's, and "to get Tubby turn on him Delco, you did have to pay extra." It was mixed at Channel One, with Barnabas as the engineer.

Entertainment was first played on Virgo sound system at Skateland in Half-Way Tree in a session with Jammy's and Black Scorpio and was a hit. Palma says he first performed the song at the Scouts Headquarters on Camp Road. From the studio reaction to the dance and feedback from live performance, Entertainment was quickly a hit and remains a dancehall standout approaching 40 years after it was recorded.