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SONGWRITERS MERELY RECORDING THEIR EXPERIENCES


There is no arguing against the views regarding the lyrical content of what is being presented by the current generation of singers/songwriters in Jamaica today. The truth be told, songwriters are merely mirroring in their lyrical content, the experiences they are having within their communities. After all, a song is merely a story that has been synopsized.


Since the mid-1960s when Jamaicans began to take ownership of the music they were putting out, that music was always influenced by the personal and or community experiences of the singer or songwriter. It was these lyrics about oppression, economic hardships, social degradation, police brutality, sectarian violence, political exploitation and divisiveness, as well as gun violence that made our music the potent force that it was back in the day. It was the commonality of those experiences expressed by the lyricist with listeners in Europe and North America that made Jamaican music popular in those markets. These were shared experiences of people everywhere. Jamaican artistes were simply braver and expressed them in song.


As times became even more harsh, those times gave rise to more strident gender exploitation. What transpired in homes became more commonplace as youngsters who grew up watching their mothers and sisters being sexually and physically assaulted by either their fathers or a pass-through consort, embraced this as normal and these experiences soon transferred into lyrics that became staples within the inner-city dancehalls.


Jamaica is a country that has been built on exploitation. The sugar barons successfully beat the acceptance of that physical and mental exploitation into the majority Black population for more than 300 years. It continued under British governed Colonialism, and we were taught to respect the authority and continuation of that system in the personage of the Governor General, a relic of which remains to this day.


Independence in 1962 changed nothing as all we succeeded in doing was to swap exploiters. Instead of answering directly to the white British exploiter, we exchanged them for a less white-looking Bustamante, Manley(s) and Seaga. Our later empaneling of darker hued political leadership equally changed nothing. Look at where we are today. For 60 years we have only succeeded in localizing the origin of our exploitation. Instead of committing to a program of developing the island's human capital, our local political leadership have only succeeded in creating policies that will enrich themselves and their backers. Investments in education and the provision of social services such as healthcare have been reduced to almost nothing. They have increased the size of the police force, provided them with more guns and ammunition to kill poor people who are corralled within the created garrisons that exist- without investment or maintenance.


The only constant that this has produced over the last six decades is material that makes it onto records as the youth of these communities record their experiences and or frustrations...their aspirations even if all it tells them is that their best bet at making it is to be a gunman or a scammer. That is their wont...their experiences and like their predecessors of the late 1960s, 1970s, 80s and 1990s, they are turning them into lyrics of the songs that so many of us abhor. It is a pity that we are not listening keenly enough to understand that it isn't that we should hate the lyrical content of these songs. What we should hate is the continued state of affairs that are represented by those lyrics. For if you change people's circumstances you change not only the lyrics of the songs, but you also change your country's history.

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