Monday August 6th is Jamaica's 45th Independence Day and I want to wish a hearty and heartfelt happy Independence Day to all the Jamaicans living at home or abroad.
People usually find it odd that a "white guy" living in the middle of America's Suburbia, far removed from the Caribbean would make such a big deal about Jamaica's Independence. But if you happen by my house over the next three days you'll see the Jamaican green black and gold gracing the spot where the stars and stripes usually hang. Thankfully I've have a chance to celebrate Independence Weekend today with some jerk chicken on the grill, a couple Red Stripes and of course a continuous mix of Jamaican music being played at high volume throughout the entire house all day. Tomorrow I'm planning on attending the Independence Sunday Market sponsored by the Jamaican Embassy in Washington DC which is featuring a performance by Bob Andy!
I love Jamaica, its people, its history, its culture and obviously its music more than I have ever been able to explain and I feel an overwhelming sense of unexplainable yet sincere admiration and pride for this little island thousands of miles away from my home and even further from my everyday reality. But enough about me... let's get to the music.
I decided to start the Independence Day mix appropriately with the Jamaican National Anthem which was composed by Robert Lightbourne with lyrics by Hugh Sherlock. Originally the song's two components were not related until pianist/bandleader Mapletoft Poulle, who incidentally went on to contribute his talents to a 1960's WIRL release called Jamaica Mento, did the arrangement. The song was written and chosen as the new national anthem in a contest just before Independence in 1962. I searched for a good vocal version of the anthem but unfortunately either the sound quality was lacking or the instrumentation didn't do it justice. So I chose a stirring orchestral rendition by the New Japan Philharmonic Orchestra and included the lyrics from the first verse so that you can sing along at home.
Eternal Father, Bless our land
Guard us with thy mighty hand
Keep us free from evil powers
Be our light through countless hours
To our leaders, Great Defender,
Grant true wisdom from above
Justice, truth be ours forever
Jamaica, land we love
Jamaica, Jamaica, Jamaica, land we love
An interesting note... the word Guard in the second line was a cause for dispute in 2003 when it was discovered that the lyric originally printed had been inadvertently changed to what was actually being sung... "Guard us with thy mighty hand" was now "Guide us with thy mighty hand." And though the public was encouraged to make the lyrical correction it's been so ingrained in so many minds for so long that the incorrect word is still commonly used.
Now before this post turns into another epic we're going to do the "semi-lazy man's" tracklisting with the rest of the tracks and call it a day. I could easily deviate from the task at hand of providing you a soundtrack for your Jamaican Independence Weekend festivities and don't want to spend the rest of said weekend doing little write-ups about every song in the mix so I won't.
Following the national anthem we have a calypso styled tune from Count Lasher called "Jump Independently", taken from the excellent Trojan Jamaica Box Set. A perfect song to get the celebration off on an upbeat note!
Max Romeo is next with the song called "We Love Jamaica" from an essential CD set, again from Trojan, called Wet Dream: The Best Of Max Romeo. A rather touching tribute to Jamaica from the early reggae era.
Next up is Eric Donaldson with a tribute to his homeland called "Proud To Be Jamaican" taken from a 7" on the Stage Records label from 1984 when Jamaican was then celebrating its 22nd Independence.
The "Big Belly Man" Admiral Bailey kicks it up a notch with the scorching "Jamaica Way" from a 7" on the Jammys label. This one didn't really go with a lot of the other tracks era-wise but the is too good to pass up.
Al T. Joe, whose real name was Trevor Alijoe, gives us "Rise Jamaica (Independence Time Is Here)" originally from 1962 and now available on the Trojan Jamaica set. Like Stephen Nye explains in the liner notes Al T. Joe... "cleverly spells out the benefits of independence." This is a great song!
Again from the aforementioned box set, is Lloyd Charmers and his track called "Jamaica Song." A smooth track which starts off on its own and becomes a medley of two of the best known Jamaican oldies; "Island In The Sun" and "Jamaica Farewell"
Yellowman and Fathead give us "Jamaica A Fi We Country" from the Junjo Lawes produced album Just Cool on the Jah Guidance label. A little pinch of rub-a-dub to give it some spice!
Freddie Notes & The Rudies are up next with "Montego Bay" the title track from the 1995 CD re-release of the group's 1970 album of the same name, again on the Trojan label.
The next song is by Basil Gabbidon and it's called "Going Back To JA" from the excellent VP Records CD release called The Skatalites & Friends At Randy's. A great ska tune to keep things rolling along!
The late great Joseph Hill and Culture continue the mix with a tune called "Down In Jamaica" from their 1979 release called Cumbolo, produced by Sonia Pottinger and released on the High Note label in Jamaica and Virgin and Shanachie abroad. I love this one, besides it's Culture... what's not to like?
Going back to mento we've got the next tune courtesy of the man Lord Lebby, it's called "Sweet Jamaica" and is lifted from the Dip & Fall Back - Classic Jamaican Mento compilation CD set from Trojan Records... man I'm starting to think I should have prefaced this post with a short ad for Trojan, "This Distinctly Jamaican Sounds mix is brought to you today by Trojan Records... that's T.R.O.J.A.N. Your number one source for Jamaican music, available directly online or through finer retailers near you." There... now we can move on.
Jumping back inna rub-a-dub style...Billy Boyo gives us "Jamaica Nice" from the 2002 release of an album originally recorded in 1983 called Zim Zim on the Connecticut based Silver Camel label.
Here we go again with another Trojan release... from the Trojan Club Reggae Box Set is "I Love Jamaica" by Neville Willoughby who was a veteran broadcaster, actor, author and obviously a singer as well. Sadly, Willoughby who spent 5 decades in broadcasting with both the Radio Jamaica and the now defunct JBC, died of injuries sustained in a car accident last December. A good song and a fitting tribute to a man who devoted his life's work to his homeland.
Falsetto master Junior Murvin is up next with a tribute to the girls of Jamaica called oddly enough "Jamaican Girls." Go figure... Odd thing is that he did the chorus without the high octaves. This one comes to us from a Junjo produced 7" on his Volcano label.
The late great, Desmond Dekker gives us the next Independence tune called "Happy Birthday Jamaica" from the double CD set called Israelites - Anthology 1963-1999 on a label called Silverline. Not one of my favorite songs in the mix but it works to well to not include it.
The Voice Of Thunder, Prince Far I is up with his tune called "Jamaican Heros" from his 1980 Trojan release of the same name. Aside from discussing the historical relevance of Jamaica's heroes, this song is pretty odd because you actually get to hear the Prince singing in his distinctively familiar baritone. Wait'll you hear this one.
John Holt follows up Far I with the classic song "Jamaica Farewell" originally written by Irving Burgie and made popular internationally by Harry Belafonte on his 1956 album Calypso. Interestingly enough Belafonte's Calypso was the first record in history to sell a million copies and was number one on the Billboard chart for 32 weeks. Anyway this reggae version, courtesy of Mr. Holt is again from the Trojan Jamaica Box Set.
Eric Donaldson is next in the mix with "Land Of My Birth" from the CD called "The Very Best Of Eric Donaldson" released on the Rhino label. "Land Of My Birth" not surprisingly won the 1978 Jamaican Song Contest; a great proud, patriotic song.
The Gaylads give us another tribute to the girls of Jamaica with "My Jamaican Girl" from the CD called Over The Rainbow's End - Best Of The Gaylads released by our friends at Trojan in 1995.
We end the mix with a rollicking ska instrumental from Baba Brooks & His Band from the 2001 various artists compilation CD called Street Corner - Ska Classics And The Original Rude By Sound on the Metro Music label.
Bob Andy at the Jamaican Independence Market yesterday - awesome!