Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Chi Chi Man Fi Ded! A Gay Jamaican's Lament

Challenging the Gender Binary,
Signing Your Own Death Warrant

Jamaica is the proud and resolute, self-proclaimed most homophobic country in the world. Walking through the streets, it is common to hear, (whether on the radio, or from individuals), the following exclamations at the mention of homosexuality, in any context: ‘Wi no waahn no bati man bout ya’ (we do not want homosexuals here), ‘faiya bon fi a batibwaai’, (burn homosexuals), ‘dem fi ded’ (they must be killed). The popular 90’s song by Buju Banton still rings out at nightclubs, to popular appeal:

Eni taim Buju Bantan kom
Batibwaai git op ahn ron
Bum bai bai iina batibwaai hed
Ruud bwaai no promuot no naasi man, dem a fi ded
Sen fi di matik an di Uzi insted
Shuut dem, no kom ef wi shat dem.
Gai kom nier mi den im skin mos piil
Bon im op bad laik uol taiya wiil.

Whenever Buju Banton comes
Faggots get up and run
Boom bai bai (the sounds from a gun) in a faggot’s head
Rude boys don’t promote nasty men, they have to die
Send for the automatic and the Uzi instead
Shoot them, don’t come if we shot them
If a guy comes near me then his skin must peel*

Burn him up badly, like an old tire wheel.
*from acid thrown on him

Violence against homosexuals (‘batiman’, as we call them) is a recurrent theme in the Jamaican Danceheall, as we use our music to promote traditional Jamaican values, and the rejection of debased western lifestyles, which are now corrupting the minds of our youth, as noted by the perceived increased prevalence of homosexuality in our Christian country.

We rock to the cool sea breezes of our Caribbean paradise, while listening to songs like TOK’s Chi chi man (faggot):

My kruu, my daagz, set ruulz, set laaz
Far wii riprizent di laads av yaads
A gyal aluon a fiil op mi baalz.

Fram dem a paar iina chi chi man kyaar
Bliez di faiya mek wi bon dem! Bon dem!
Fram dem a jrink iina chi chi man baar
Bliez di faiya mek we don dem! Don dem!

So mi go so, yu si we ai si?
Nigaz wen yu duiin dat
Nof a dem a friik, dem a kyari aal dem doti ak
Tog niga wana-biiz, nof a dem a lik I bak
Ef dem bring it tu wi, huol on, nof kapa a shat
Kapa shat raiz op, evri kyaliko go rat-tat-tat
Rat-tat-tat, evri chi-chi man dem ha fi get flat.
Get flat! Mi ahn mai niggas a go mek a pak
Chi-chi man fi ded ahn das a fak.

So mi go so la la la la la la la la la
Na go mek no chi-chi man waak rait ya so
Fram a bwaai a duiit wi a go don dem rait nou

Lef im huol faambli dem a blou wou.

My crew, my dogs, set rules, set laws
For we represent the lords of yards
Only girls feel up my balls.
If they're hanging in a queer man’s car
Blaze the fire, let’s burn them! Burn them!
If they're drinking in a queer bar

Blaze the fire, let’s finish them! Finish them!

That's how I go, do you see what I see?
Niggas when you are doing that
Many are freaks, they bring all their dirty acts
Thug nigga wannabees, lots of them are doing it
If they approach us, hold on, much copper shots
Copper shots fly, every calico ( gun ) goes rat-tat-tat
Rat-tat-tat, every queer has to run for cover.
Hit the floor! Me and my niggas will make a pact
Faggots must die and that’s a fact.

That's how I go, la la la la la la la la
Not going to let any faggot go by right here
If a boy is doing it we're going to finish him right now
Leaving his family behind.

How refreshing it is to hear the assertion of true Christian values in Jamaican popular culture. That is what Jamaica needs more of, and precisely what secular societies are trying to snatch from us. I have traveled to America, and let me tell you, there is nothing but moral depravity being paraded around as normality. Men trying to be women, women trying to be men, and the like, which God explicitly condemns in good old King James. That must never be witnessed in Jamaican society, for we know better. The high murder, and rape rates we have are bad enough already; having homosexuals parade around freely would only hasten society’s moral degeneration. Our children would suddenly be at risk, for fags believe that everyone is gay, and so their mission is to convert as many as they can. That is what I heard anyway. Thank God buggery is still illegal in my country- men having sex with men is against all that I know to be natural. I don’t know any homosexuals personally, but my good friend, Keisha, was telling me about a male coworker who was excessively effeminate. He stared at the boss once, for a tad too long, as she put it, and was fired immediately. How presumptuous of him! Those people need to be kept in their place. Fortunately, there is no place for them, here in Jamaica.


My name is F, and I hail from Jamaica, a beautiful island in the middle of the Caribbean Sea. During my formative years, I was often bombarded with questions challenging various elements of my being: ‘Why do you look like a girl?’ ‘Why do you walk and talk like your sister?’ ‘Why won’t you play football?’ ‘Why can’t you change?’ Immeasurably perturbed by how different everyone perceived me to be, I experienced numerous identity crises. I had heard enough, from my family, my friends, and the world at large- I had to try to change. Fortunately, as fate would have it, the pressures exerted by the different forces around me were insufficient to produce any irreversible changes to the boy that ultramasculine Jamaican norms tried to obliterate.

The jeers were hard to ignore; there was no escape, no enclave of solace for someone of my nature. Only in the realm of the unconscious could I get tender relief, but even then my otherness haunted me, with each malicious criticism progressively lacerating the very core of my humanity. I woke each morning unsettled, wondering, ‘would today hold anything different for me to experience?’ I was constantly trying to reinvent myself, to be less effeminate. Each new school year presented a new opportunity, for I had been away for two months, and surely, people would understand, and even appreciate, if I changed radically from my effeminate self. Year after year, I failed. I was fully aware of the ideal, which was all around me, but I was never possessed of the substance needed to be the ideal.

My last relapse occurred when I was sixteen years old. I convinced myself that the fruits of change would be much sweeter than those borne from my unyielding stance against societal norms. I can vividly remember strutting home with a gangster twitch in my steps, while singing a dancehall song; my speech was slurred and I was resolute in the profound need for a transformation. I awoke the following morning with the sentinel of my soul shining through from my core; I looked into a mirror and all I could see was a lonely little boy- not a ‘batiman,’ not a sissy, but a young Jamaican. The scales of my repeated attempts at metamorphosis were instantaneously shed. Whether it was the futility of my efforts to gain acceptance, or my inability to face the world as a teen desperately crying out to be loved, I stopped wishing I was like everyone else.

Thereafter I began to challenge all those values that had shaped the way I thought gender. Why was effeminacy a vice? Women were not different from men when the relevant aspects of an individual’s contribution to the world were measured, I reasoned. Why was there a force in society that legitimized conformity? The progression of humankind over generations depended on the dynamism and uniqueness of individuals who believed there was a need for change, so why should modern Jamaica be stagnant in its understanding of gender identity? My reaction to the world thenceforth created even more upheaval in the society, but I was unfaltering. Unless those who criticized me could rationally expl
ain why the peculiarity of my personality necessitated a change, I refused to make any compromises to who I was. No more was I living for those around me, my life belonged to me.

My personality is not independent of the influence of Jamaican society, but I am not characteristic of an individual who was nurtured by its traditional values. I am now a liberated man; the chains representative of Jamaican society, which strangulate those who attempt to express an individual position outside of the norm, have been broken. Changes to the society dynamic are warranted, and my desires for such demand my return to Jamaica in the near future.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Regulating Dancehall Airplay

BAN THEM!!! A desperate cry for a more stringent application of the regulations in the Children’s Code for Programming as outlined by the Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica.

Jamaican youth fighting against the sexualization of our children, the objectification and commodification of our women, and the trivialization of violence embodied in the themes of modern Dancehall lyrics

For far too long we have indiscriminately allowed crude, deleterious lyrics to clog our airwaves and infiltrate the minds of our children. The popularity of Dancehall today speaks volumes to the influence it now wields in Jamaican society, and though it is by no means the cause of any of Jamaica’s problems, it cannot escape all blame. UWI academics and many diehard dancehall fans continue to exoticize the music as a means of cultural expression and a metaphor for life. Furthermore, they assert the lack of empirical evidence to support the claim that Dancehall promotes sexism, belligerence, homophobia and other retrograde persuasions. However, we do not need empirical evidence to know that if you hear something often enough, in the absence of critical thought, it eventually becomes verity. How often do you hear people chanting dancehall mantras in justifying their actions or reproaching other’s? “Man a gyalis” (I am a player), “Man a bad man” (I am a gangster), “Man fi main uman” (Men must financially support their women), or even “Bwai fi get gon shat” (He needs to be shot). We need take our future into our own hands. There is no longer any ‘them’ and ‘us’. We are all witnessing the unraveling of a social fabric that was built through centuries of oppression and struggle. It will take a very long time to rebuild it, but if each of us grabs some thread and a needle now, we may be able to stitch together the pieces. Dancehall is a potent socializing force, which desensitizes our children to the use of violence, sexualizes our young girls and makes them targets for predators, and on the whole glorifies the objectification of our women. Once our greatest pride and showpiece to the world, our music and the influence it has had on the psyche of Jamaicans is now a cancer threatening to envelop Jamaica’s prospects of being a prosperous nation.

The Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica has the following policy outlined in its Children’s Code for Programming:
Programming that contains any of the specified content elements that would qualify it for a NFT (Not for Transmission) rating may be edited to either eliminate or obscure the specific references, terms, or depictions before transmission. If the decision is taken by the media house to use an obscuring mechanism e.g. beeping of lyrics or blurring, after editing the elements must not be recognizable to the normal viewer or listener.

Now this approach works well for songs in English, but is completely inadequate for tackling songs sung primarily in Jamaican Creole. Besides the established ‘bad words’ that color our language, which these regulations would omit, all other mature themes go untouched. Whether this arises out of a general disregard for the first language of most Jamaicans, or an inability to censor lyrical expression is unknown to me, but something needs to change. The mere obscuration of a few objectionable terms does little to dilute the excessive sexual and violent references and the crude language. Further, the programming code is inappropriate for songs in Jamaican Creole, because regulators are far more tolerant of the views expressed in the language for the reason that “a jos so Jamiekan piipl stie” (That is just the way Jamaicans are). This is the only reason I can come up with for justifying why more songs are not banned don Jamaican radio. Is this a good enough reason? Hardly.

Besides objectifying women, many Dancehall songs glorify sexual aggression towards and the abuse of women. Many argue that people are able to distinguish literal from metaphorical, and do not actually act on the teachings of Dancehall artistes. Yet, Jamaica has in recent months been plagued by the manifestations of this demeaning tolerance. The current spate of abductions, rapes and murders, terms now synonymous, cannot be separated from the tolerant attitudes towards sexual aggression that our music embodies. music. Jamaican women, heads of many households, the stalwarts of the informal economy, and the nurturers of the values that define us as Jamaicans are no longer accorded much respect. We preach equality of the sexes; yet speak of our women as if they are commodities- objects of men’s debauched sexual fantasies. Many will tell you that Dancehall music reveres women, ‘kaaz a bie uman wi sing bout,’ but let us consider the song ‘Squeeze Breast’ by Mavado- an established ‘lyrical genius’ in Dancehall, and make that decision for ourselves:

Original Version
Shi se shi waahn mi skwiiz ar bres dem laik di triga af ma gon,
Ton ar bak wie ahn fok ar aad ahn mek shi kom,
Outa di bedruum shi ron, mi no nuo a we shi ton,
Di pusi kech a faiya an di pusi staat bon

Vors 1
Dem gyal ya waahn stif kak,
So mi fok ar out aad wen shi pozishan fram bak
Worse di gyal skin kliin, yes an di pum pum fat

Mi fok ar tu di maks

Vors 2
Its a fokin afier…
Gyal sidong pon mi kaki laik chier,
Gyal no yuu did a se dat de no fier,
Nou yu a baal se di pusi jaa tier,
Waahn mek a ron bot mi grab ina di ier,
Fling ar pan i grong ahn put I fut ina di ier
Kaki ina beli plos I buuts don pripier
pier naiz a mek aal di nieba a ier
Gyangsta no kier.

English Translation
She said she wanted me to, squeeze her breasts like the trigger of my gun,
Turn her backwards and f*ck her hard until she cums,
Out of the bedroom she runs, I do not know where she turned,
The vagina caught on fire and started to burn.

Verse 1
These girls want stiff cocks,
So I f*cked her our hard, when she positioned from that back,
Even better her skin is smooth, and her vagina is fat

I fucked her to the max

Verse 2
This is a f*cking affair,
Chick, sit down on my cock as though it is a chair,
Chick, aren’t you the one who claimed that it wasn’t fair,
Now you are crying that your pussy wall tore,
Wanted to make a run, but I grabbed her in the hair
Violently threw her on the floor and tossed her feet in the air,
C*ck in her belly, and the condom is in place,
She’s making lots of noise, even the neighbors can hear,
Gagsters don’t care.

Lyrical masterpiece or literary non-fiction? I think the latter, because the song graphically describes a horrific scene in which a girl is raped at the hands of a most callous man. We have a society where women are abducted, raped, and murdered like nowhere else. We cry, we try to understand why, but the answer is never forthcoming... we never realize that it is through our own negligence, that such abuses are allowed to happen in the first place. Jamaicans are too passive when it comes to rejecting influences- we should stop pretending as if we didn't have all this crime /barbarism / disregard for our women and children coming- A manifestation of the blind eye we turned to the media to which we exposed our children

Adults have- or should have, the intelligence to separate ‘metaphor’ from reality, but children cannot. For this reason, our tolerance of dancehall is helping to create a new generation of heartless, ignoramuses who will only perpetuate the negative themes in Dancehall. The glorification of violence in Dancehall music now goes unnoticed, because the retaliative stance taken against ‘offenders’ is now entrenched in our value systems. We are so desensitized to savagery that shooting, stabbing and the like are considered just action by many Jamaicans- so long as the situation warrants such action. We show descent by actively through violence, because reaching a common understanding and working through one’s problems is not a valid course to take anymore. How often we hear about delinquent students, with aggression problems wreaking havoc in our schools. Surely many socio-economic factors contribute to this kind of deviant behavior; but the fact that such attitudes are tolerated and even glorified in popular culture cannot help.

Your company/organization has vowed to protect the interests of our children, and the Broadcasting Commission has created the Children’s Code for Programming to regulate material for television and radio productions. It is very disheartening however, that you have taken a seemingly lax approach to censoring objectionable lyrics. Criteria that qualify songs for NFT (Not for Transmission) as defined in the Programming Code, are omnipresent in Jamaican Dancehall music. Here is a reminder of some of them:

Excessive Violence – V4

B) There may be express or implied encouragement of violent activity against persons according to demographic characteristics e.g. gender, or race. D) Violence is portrayed as the primary means of resolving all problems. It is also portrayed or described as a heroic, glamorous activity, and the real, negative consequences of resort to violence are not included.

Excessive sexual content S3

A) Sexual portrayals or discussion are highly pervasive and an integral part of the programming.

B) There is explicit sexual content including characters simulating sexual activity frontal nudity, and description or portrayal of male and /or female genitals.

C) The programming includes frank sexual dialogue or discussion.

D) The portrayals, discussion, or descriptions are not meant for scientific, educational or journalistic purposes but meant to titillate the viewer or listener.

Excessive language L3

A) Obscene, sexually explicit or profane language is pervasive throughout the programming.

B) Obscene gestures are depicted, described or discussed.

C) Graphic verbal expletives in either English or Jamaican Creole are included e.g. “fuck”, “battyhole”.

D) Language is used to abuse and denigrate.

Dancehall artistes now belch out the very same mature themes that the regulations in the Children’s Code for Programming were meant to protect our children from. When are we going to take a stand? The inhumanity of our lyrical declarations is an embarrassment to the foundations of the reggae movement in Jamaica. This is not what our music used to be, and it does not have to remain this way. How much longer will we sit by and create a society of immoral savages who perpetuate such a degrading worldview? These songs preach that the sexual exploitation of our women is okay. I cannot be convinced that these songs do not fuel the sadistic intentions of rapists! The rapists must surely be empowered by the fact that they live in a society it is entrenched that men are superior to women and have the authority to do as they please, by whatever means. Our feeble attempts at regulating the content of the music on our airwaves must improve. Albeit a small change in the grand scheme of things, and only one of many wrongs in Jamaica that need to be corrected, we can do something now to effect change in Jamaica- ahn wi kyaahn tari no langga.

If Vybz Kartel or any of the popular artistes was to sing, 'mek mi baks ar, a we shi tek dis fa,’ it would not be out of context, because our women are treated much worse in vile illustrations of the sex act they often describe. Singing about sexual intercourse is fine, but describing intercourse in the manner that is typical (as in Vybz Kartel and Spice’s new song Rampin Shap), is illegal or it should be. Unfortunately, objectifying and commodifying our women is allowable, as is inciting violence against others whether homosexuals or rival gang members ‘pan di goli said’. There is no self-respecting woman who would gyrate to these lyrics. The fact that so many enjoy these lecherous excuses for music speaks volumes to the tolerance of sexism in our society. Worst of all, our young females hear these songs and soon accept this debased view of them in society. They are not equals, they are inanimate, and without feeling, ready to be exploited by perverted neighbors, fathers, and strangers. As Mavado reminds us in his song, “shi se shi wahn mi skwiiz ar bres dem laik di triga af ma gon.” Dancehall’s portrayal of the woman is fully embraced, so now the women ask to be treated like objects. What has our country come to?

I am not na├»ve enough to think that banning these songs in their entirety will lessen the demand for such crude lyrics, or adversely affect the careers of the DJ’s- surely not in the short term. Regardless though, those who know better need to do better. If you were to unanimously refuse to play the music of artistes notorious for promoting these depraved behaviours, you could put enormous pressure on them and their producers to clean up their act. We need to send a very strong message that Jamaican ears and brains are being eaten out by maggots which fester in the lyrics they spew, and that we will no longer support it. These men and women are lyrical geniuses; they can do better. This positive feedback loop wherein popular demand for such degrading lyrics increases the production of it, which then increases our love and demand for the music needs to be intercepted. I lack the benefit of proof that this system is as destructive as I claim it to be, but my concern should warrant a full psycho-sociological evaluation of Dancehall culture’s contribution to the moral degradation of Jamaican society and its effect on our children. Regulations that are more inflexible need to be put in place; or the Broadcasting commission must be given increased authority to patrol our airwaves and ban certain songs permanently. I love Dancehall music. The beats are intoxicating, and they stir within me a desire to express myself through movement. I hope for the music to evolve and regain its crown as one of Jamaica’s signature cultural forms. As is now though, whose best interests is the music serving- the consumers? The beats can remain, but the lyrics must go!

I am an avid supporter of our native language, Jamaican Creole, and have taken it upon myself to translate into English our literature, and our music, so that I can share them with the greater world. Shock and disgust are the two reactions I get most frequently, after sharing the interpretation of today’s popular dancehall songs. Many cannot believe that the main themes explored in Dancehall music could ever be played over loud speakers in one’s home, much less on national radio. Our immune response to detest filth has apparently been suppressed as we have become desensitized to issues that others easily identify as pressing in other nations. I am a concerned Jamaica looking out for the interest of our children. Your company/ organization has mandated to do the same, and it is time you step fully to the plate. The acquiescence with which we approach the unraveling elements of Jamaican’s moribund social fabric must be done away with. Let us act now to reclaim the Jamaica we love and miss- if only for future generations.