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IT IS SUMMER…AND THE SUN SHINES IN REGGAE MUSIC!

Duane Stephenson
Duane Stephenson—

By Melville Cooke—

It is the season of summer, when the heat is always a factor during the day and sometimes in the night. Fascination with the greatest light-giving and life-fostering orb has been a constant with human beings and, in reggae, the sun has come in for some attention.

There is the obvious sunrise and sunset, the unavoidable Bob Marley delivering the memorable line “rise up this morning, smile with the risingsun/three little birds, sat by my doorstep“, in the optimistic Three LittleBirds. On the other side of the sun’s daily trek is Cottage in Negril, the superb Tyrone Taylor song done over in equally superb fashion by Duane Stephenson.

ThreeLittleBirds

A famous sunset view and famed venue are invoked, as the song speaks about those people who “… go west, to watch sunset at Rick’s Cafe“.

But it is not only a matter of watching the sun come up or go down. There is what happens at points in its trajectory. Turning to Marley again, he delivers a somewhat cryptic message around the sun in Sun is Shining:

 

Sun is shining

The weather is sweet

Makes you want to move

Your dancing feet

To the rescue

Here I am

It is an eminently danceable track, as Sun is Shining makes the connection between the weather suitable for moving, and the music it is almost impossible not to move to.

Burning Spear

Burning Spear

On the other hand, in The Sun, Winston ‘Burning Spear’ Rodney uses the daily fading of sunlight as a marker for going to see someone:

 

So when the sun goes down

And we move along

I will call on you

Call on you

It is not a given that the person is prepared, as Spear goes on to ask, “Are you ready?”

 

Peter Tosh

Peter Tosh

Peter Tosh’s version of The Beatles’ Here Comes the Sun, as in the original, captures the optimism of a change in weather – even if there is no Jamaican equivalent of a dreary English winter. For, as HD Carberry wrote in Nature and numerous schoolchildren have recited with heads inclined at just the right angle:

We have neither summer nor winter

neither autumn nor spring

We have instead the days

when the gold sun shines

on the lush canefields – magnificently.”

It took the Danish duo Laid Back to put the beat and the source of light and heat together in a song title, with the early 1980s Sunshine Reggae. That was a gentle beat, but there was nothing gentle about Mavado’s welcome to Vybz Kartel during their 2008 Sting clash, as he semi-sang “bleacher bway fraid a di sun, like how him fraid a mi gun”.

melville.cooke@gleanerjm.com

 

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