religion for the non-believer
May 8, 2007
in spite of being an actor, i hate makeup. i only ever wear it onstage and even then, it’s minimal, unless i can avoid it altogether. so when i ran into afrobella (sidebar) i checked it out because i know her from highschool, but didn’t expect to become a regular reader, since beauty products and cosmetics in general are not my thing and i don’t care enough to spend time reading about them. but my girl is excellent- the blog covers more than just products (music, interviews, organic remedies, things-trini) and i find myself reading every post, whether it’s about makeup or not. so when i decided to get caught up i went all the way back to her november 2006 archives because i didn’t want to miss anything- needless to say, she’s also very prolific, so i’ve been catching up on her blog for days. literally. and am only up to february…
but so worthwhile.
today i big-up and link this afrobella post (3months old, to the date) addressing an aspect of trini music that i’ve had a hard time explaining in dc- religious party music. after you read here, i suggest you take the time to watch all the videos she’s linked.
now i’m completely irreligious, myself. i’d call myself a lapsed catholic, but wouldn’t want to give my mother hope of my return to the church. so let’s say i don’t care about god(s)- i try to do the right thing and enjoy the gift of life, and assume that any deity in charge of shit will respect my good life in its aftermath, regardless of beliefs or lack thereof. so i don’t really think about anything but energy- cannot be created or destroyed but only changed from one form into another- sounds pretty omnipotent to me.
but trinis are a traditionally religious people, in the way that every post-slavery society i know of is, except that we’re more encompassing and don’t stick to variations on christianity because of our very mixed culture. much of the music i listen and dance to references jah, right alongside deities considered part of the orisa/shango/hindu/other canons because of our multireligious nature- the country gets public holidays for not just christmas, but divali, eid-ul-fitr, shouter baptist day, etc. and many of us celebrate them all. religious content is often heard in the dancehall to varying degrees, and the phenomenon afrobella mentions, of a whole crowd at a huge, loud concert with drinks in hands swaying to david rudder’s high mas in a seemingly religious experience is something i experienced (and still do) @ every rudder show i went to (and i went to every one i possibly could), every andre tanker show (not leaving out contraband who i hope to find still playing, in spite of our losing tanker), every time i heard ella andall’s voice live- it’s the closest i ever feel to any god of any sort, which brings me to the featured video in her post: isaac blackman.
isaac is the younger brother of sheldon blackman (also on left sidebar) and their family is near+dear to my heart- wife (claudette) and children of the late great ras shorty i, who left the carnality of soca to make music dedicated to jah.
i’m pausing for a second to apologise for any disjointedness in this post- i often forget how just thoughts of shorty bring tears, and i feel them rising (we lost him the same year that we lost lord kitchener and john isaacs) so i cannot vouch for the coherence of the rest of this post but it’s important to me to post it before tonight, which i’ll explain shortly, so i’ll come back tomorrow and fix anything that’s a mess.
in bishops, scrawn briefly called me ras shorty i because i’m short with glasses and dreadlocks, but that was well behind me by the time i met him. i actually met sheldon 1st and he took me home to piparo (in the bush, as we say- we’d also say “behind god back” but in this case it seems inappropriate) where i met the rest of the family (23 kids; i know about 10, i think) who immediately adopted me- ironically, i look like i could be part of their family; when i go anywhere with them, others assume that i am. they brought me home, fed me, let me sit in while they rehearsed and created music, and i became a fan+friend for life. i don’t know anybody like them (their family stage name is the love circle and most of the youths also make their own music- each of them sings hauntingly, writes and plays at least 1 instrument, some play many)- they’re beautiful, amazing, welcoming, strong, god-loving people and their almost-entirely-religious music (called jamoo, for jah music) is always on my favourites-list. i know every single lyric and sing along with them about god’s love and how important it is in their lives and i come so close to believing- the part of me that doesn’t cross the line into religious belief is still rewarded and made to feel loved as i dance. my lack of belief does nothing to dilute the impact the lyrics have, i never feel left out, and quite frankly, i’m happy to consider the music itself my religion. they’re so good live, too, i dance from start to stop. when i met isaac (the baby) he was making bamboo jewellery (which i still wear) as well as music, and way too cute for one still underage, but like i said, they’re all beautiful- if i could look like mom claudette after having that many children…but i digress- i’ve watched isaac grow into a confident and successful young man and his music has grown with him. the last time i saw him in trini my jaw dropped at how mannish he’d become while i was in dc, and i love knowing that he’s making a name for himself the way sheldon did (you should use the sidebar to listen to sheldon’s album- he’s incredible and deserves a post of his own) while being pleased to see him stay true to his roots- most of the people in that video are his family, and the black+white shirt you see in some shots is part of the jamoo clothing line started by older sister and bass player avion. (my jamoo dress is about 10years old, and still every time i wear it people ask where they can get one. while in parentheses, another aside: i noticed the name “rembunction” @ the bottom of the video screen and swear i saw my boy remy in the video, so big-up remy for working with the best and bringing our talent into the open for others to see/hear.)
there are few things that move me the way ras shorty i’s who god bless does, except perhaps hearing sheldon/love circle sing it, or mavis john sing it, or ataklan’s rapso remake featuring sheldon singing it…
i wanted to link afrobella’s post and throw in my few words about the idea that music can be religious and still be partied to because tonight i go to the stephen+damian “jr.gong” marley concert, where i will dance for personal deities.
the workers of iniquity
dig a pit for me
now they waiting for me to fall in
trying to take mih bread an butter
with lies and propaganda
but they foolin
they only foolin
i shall not be afraid of what man can do to me
man you see is only vanity
who god bless no man curse
he shall never hunger or thirst
who god bless no man shall ever curse
he shall be first…
who god bless, ras shorty i
ps: afrobella also mentions that david rudder is often considered the trini bob marley, which is true, but in keeping with the theme, i admit that i call him by his other title, the high priest of calypso/soca. the sound on the high mas video (her post) isn’t great, but i recommend listening to (if you can find) hallelujah, the ganges and the nile, the hammer, haiti, song for a lonely soul, calypso rising, 1990, another day in paradise, trini 2 de bone– and anything else he’s done- they’re not all jah-referential, but all amazing tunes.
and on that tip, anything by andre tanker (check out the youthful photo of him with that link) especially bassment party, forward home– actually, there’s way too many to list, but anything by tanker will make you dance and bring you closer to that supreme energy. trust.
(this post is also @ sweet trini’s urban folk tales, and all references to the sidebar are for that blog, not the junction blog)