This is another top-notch tune that has been waiting patiently in the Spooktacular bin for many years and is finally getting the much-deserved recognition it so rightly deserves! The eighth track in our fearsome foray into Jamaican spookiness is "Hard Man Fe Dead" from Prince Buster and comes to us from a 1964 7" on the Prince Buster label.
"Hard Man Fe Dead" tells the tale of a man who won't stay dead. Unlike a domestic house cat that only has nine lives, this cat has ninety-nine lives! What makes this song so distinctively Jamaican, aside from the smoking hot ska beat, is its reference to nine-night which is a funerary custom practiced throughout much of the Caribbean. Nine-night, which is rooted in African tradition, was originally an extended wake that lasted for nine nights and where friends and loved-ones would gather at the home of the deceased to share condolences, sing hymns and eat together. But, as time as passed, this tradition has become less mournful and more celebratory. These days attendees don't just arrive with sad expressions and heart-felt remembrances, they arrive with food, drink and music.
It is believed that on the ninth night, right before the bodies procession to the church service the next morning, that the spirit of the deceased will pass through the party, gather food and say their final goodbyes before continuing on to its final resting-place. Customarily the food (usually fried fish, bammy and 100 proof rum) are set up under a tent and must remain undisturbed until after midnight when the spirit has eaten their fill. It is also customary that the bed and mattress of the deceased will be turned on their side against the wall in order to discourage the duppy from staying around and encourage them to proceed to the grave.
Buster touches on many of these funerary traditions in "Hard Man Fe Dead" and makes it a worthy and educational addition to the Spooktacular!