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The 'spirituality' of Mavado

Published:Thursday | November 18, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Recently, the police claimed that David 'Mavado' Brooks, renowned reggae artiste, was named as a person of interest along with Adidja 'Vybz Kartel' Palmer. This is not the first time Mavado has been associated publicly with things unsavoury.

There are times when Mavado will sing some very spiritual and inspirational songs. Take, for example, his song Messiah, in which he claims the only person he is afraid of is the Messiah. He goes on to sing, "Mi a bwoy, believe inna prayer." And he has no fear; stating, "Dem rise against mi valley of the shadow of death, I shall never fret." This is a song of assurance, of good overcoming evil, and a faith in a Supreme Being who is able to guide and protect. The words invoke memory of Psalm 23, a psalm of protection and provision.

But then there is the 'gangsta' lyrics of Touch de Road, which glorifies the gun, violence and killings, "Send bwoy to dem resting place, Askell shot in a face." And the gory details, "Brain touch di cloud, I am very proud" and "Gunshot bun dem skin like the song mi sing, When mi done with him not even drankcrow want him," and ends on a gruesome note: "Mi license fi kill so from a pagan mi shot dat ... . You violate Mavado your skull mi will crack dat." It is even set as a spiritual warfare of destroying the pagan. How do we reconcile these two sets of lyrics?

It could be argued that other persons write these songs for him, which would mean he is a paid piper. He is a mouthpiece for someone else. Nevertheless, he sings with passion and meaning. Therefore, the answer is not in a story of "the hand of Esau, but the voice of Jacob" melody.

No consistent confrontation

It could be a reflection of what the Mavados of this world are experiencing in their communities, wherein violence and the Church peacefully coexist in volatile inner-city areas. And there is no concerted and consistent confrontation of the religious establishment with merchants of death. There is also no persistent challenge to the systemic violence of the State and status quo against persons who are poor, and it is the same state and members of the status quo who chant for a 'fresh start' and correct 'values and attitudes'.

In addition, it could be due to the high tolerance level we have for violence why such violent lyrics flourish. Furthermore, the religious community seems to exist comfortably within the context of violence without any meaningful strategies to curb the violence, or where the strategies exist not enough courage to implement what is necessary to ameliorate this scourge on this island.

In fact, one of the grave consequences of the allegations against popular clergyman, Al Miller, as obstructing justice and harbouring a fugitive, is that, in the eyes of some Jamaicans, it gives substance to the link between violence and the Church.

The Jamaican political culture sanitises and sanctions violence and intimidation as means of political campaigning and strategy. For example, in the recent Jamaica Labour Party internal elections, it seems these monsters tried to rear their ugly heads. Therefore, for some, violence appears as a legitimate means to get a good end result.

The Mavado lyrics could have emanated from an understanding of the Old Testament, which seems to glorify the destruction of enemies in the name of God and on behalf of the godly. There is, therefore, no appreciation of the model to love enemies.

Apparently, in the spirituality of Mavado and others, there is no dissonance between songs of inspiration and songs that incite violence.

Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church and author of 'The Cross and the Machete: Native Baptists of Jamaica - Identity, Ministry and Legacy'. Feedback may be sent to