Thursday, November 12, 2015


I grew up loving REGGAE under the influence of BOB MARLEY songs and still do, following it up with offshoots such as RAGA, then DANCEHALL, though Reggae never lost its pride of place with me. Dancehall doesn't cut it for me most times because of the lyrics, which unfortunately seem to be the foundation 'pon which it is built, or if not but apparently so because of the direction of the purveyors of the game. The beats of dancehall and the miracle the DJ's are wont to perform with the beats usually is what draws me to the genre once a while, and seriously you don't want to see me in the club when any of those become the choice of the DJ for the night.

VYBZ KARTEL (Real names, Adidja Azim Palmer) is one of those I took a liking for and actually still pay some attention to in the Dancehall genre, alongside others like Bennie Man, Bounty Killer, Mavado etc. Although, many times I'd rather not hear the lyrics of most of his songs because of their explicitness (for which his songs have at various times received bans across much of the Caribbean), but each time I heard any of his songs devoid of the trademark luridity I do my best to enjoy them to the fullest. Indeed, while at it I followed his meteoric rise from the days of collaborations with already established acts like Bounty Killer back in the day, to equal collaborations with Mavado before they fell out, and their reconciliation involving even the Jamaican government at the time, and how that also broke down. I was intrigued at how government at the highest level could be involved with street battles amongst dancehall artistes, juxtaposing that with how Bob Marley intervened between politicians when he was alive to calm tensions ahead of national elections in the late seventies.


I haven't been to Jamaica before and stories like that make me wonder if that Island of a country is so small as to require the Prime Ministers' involvement in such trivia (but sounds more reasonable in the light of the fact that lives have been lost, blood shed, innocents and others alike maimed, and property worth millions of dollars destroyed in such duels, and negatively impacting on Jamaica's tourism industry), even including that of the extradition of the drug dealer Christopher Dudus Coke, whose attempt at arrest by the Jamaican forces led to days of standoff between his loyalists and government troops. With what I gathered back then, it appears that there's an unholy alliance among street gangs, musicians/artistes and the government, as highlighted by a BBC documentary I was privileged to see months back, at the time Vybz Kartel's murder trial was ongoing, and it was stressed that the situation had always been such, so much so that even Jimmy Cliffs movie debut highlighted it in the 1972 movie, "THE HARDER THEY COME".

Vybz Kartel's "LIFE" remains to this day for me, the best of his songs. As it ministers to the youth of Jamaica, and indeed the world to do the right things to especially make ends meet and survive. Many times, as today it has come up as my SONG OF THE DAY, or NOW PLAYING, not only on my social media platforms but most importantly from my earphones to my ears, and days that I am less busy, the whole day it is 'pon dah replay! It is disheartening how it is, that someone who managed to articulate such life impacting message in his own rudebwai/street way in LIFE still managed to get himself in so much trouble as two counts of murder (apart from other cases mainly involving drugs and the likes) for which he is now serving a LIFE SENTENCE for one, i.e. the murder of a former associate Clive "Lizard" William, and now due for parole in thirty-five years, with possibility to record from incarceration amongst other freedoms he may be able to afford.

I suppose that jail time for him may be slightly different from that of his compatriot BUJU BANTON (who didn't even help himself with his 2007 "DRIVER A" offering, which glorified drug trafficking) held for drug trafficking in the U.S. as he may be allowed some freedoms that the latter will definitely not have, though it appeared like Buju's cameo for the remix of Steve Marley's "JAH ARMY" was done from jail. Regardless of how "free" Vybz Kartel can be in jail, it doesn't remove from the fact that he's a convict and for a crime as murder which isn't so good considering that many youths see him as a model (regardless of what you think of him).

With Buju Banton (doing 10 years for drugs) and Vybz Kartel (at least 35 years for murder), and a host of others out of circulation for one offense or the other, and easily replaced (though sometimes with less artistry and mastery of the dancehall genre, for which they get better later) by new kids on the block. It has become pertinent that the industry do some soul searching so that situations where the best that Jamaica's music industry has to offer, as well as their biggest exports are whisked away to jail, in or outside of the country for one offence or the other, are either  drastically reduced or nipped in the bud to make such a thing of the past. The BAD BOY image of the dancehall genre must be shed, if that brand of music is not to face impending doom and extinction. It isn't enough to just put out a good one like "LIFE" and live a life that suggests to ones' fans that they are to live as one says but not as one does. Na my two cents be dat.



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