There are Questions and There are Questions
So let me get this straight!!!!!! What did Lady Saw get paid for winning the well-executed clash against Macka Diamond who was compared to a Jackass last year by Spice? Is it only the men who get paid in dancehall for winning? Let me answer this question and say why it is a question that matters right now by way of a personal (not academic!) review.
Never mind that there are veteran artists keeping alive the longstanding debate about whether there is any such music as dancehall, versus reggae as the descriptor for the genre of music. Never mind that the theatrical and the ridiculous often go hand in hand in Jamaica where L.A. Lewis, a most delusional Jamaican, has been able to command undeserved attention way more than the government has invested in Jamaica’s entertainment industry over the last fifty years, with his latest being an intention to audition for the Voice in 2014.
Never mind that people are questioning the judgement of the Jamaica Tourist Board’s decision to allocate financial support for Sting, based on the character of the lyrical no-holds-barred blood-letting clash character of the event and what 2013 brought. Entertainment gurus such as Lloyd Standbury have even gotten in on the act asking alongside the picture of Ninja Man responding to a spread-eagled D’Angel stage right, ‘is this what the Jamaican government ministers of Tourism, Entertainment and Culture endorsed and sponsored?” Never mind that Ministers such as Lisa Hanna or former ministers such as ‘Babsy’ Grange understand and thoroughly enjoyed the Sting product on show this year. I submit that such arguments / questions border on hypocrisy, moral grand standing and a lack of understanding of the role of governments in facilitating cultural development. However, they are not my focus in this post. Let me get back to the meat of the matter.
As I walked into the Sting venue around 12:25am at their 30th milestone, I was pregnant with excitement, anticipating the show of the year! Under no circumstances could I have missed Sting! Not after my review last year and follow-up questions recently. I was keen to see what the Boxing Day staple event had to offer. Apart from seeing the dancehall insiders, people and fashion watching, I was keen to observe the way the show unfolded, see Mavado and Wyclef Jean, and of course one of my personal favourites – the real Don Dada and Wild Apache himself (the very first DJ I saw live at my high school way back in 1985). It was my last event of the evening having attended Ellis International’s 10th Christmas Comedy Cook-up and premiere of Dahlia Harris’ moving theatrical production To the Finish Line.
Rap and The Refugee
The Sting bill was uncharacteristically inclusive because of the attempt to appeal to a wider audience. This year the show offered rappers and… Well Wyclef and rapper 2 Chainz didn’t bring it for many. Some contend Wyclef was really selecting and was more animated enjoying performances by Mavado at the front of the Sting stage. We are all still trying to figure out whether 2 Chainz’s appearance impacted either the Sting audience via pay per view or those present at Jamworld.
Let me begin with Super Cat. He was not on top form with a hoarse throat but the characteristically dapper dude delivered his hits many were looking forward to hearing. ‘Si Boops Deh’, ‘Dolly My Baby’ and ‘Tan So Back’ were among the litany of hits from the Apache-style liturgy. While it was nothing reminiscent of the Don Dada at his height in the Sting 1991 clash with Ninja Man, the performance along with those of Brigadier Jerry, Josey Wales, Burru Banton, and Major Mackerel sealed it for me as foundation dancehall music ultimately won at Sting. A taste of such stalwarts was well worth it.
Beenie Man, Aidonia and Mavado were definitely worth seeing, Beenie Man retaining his signature performance style and making clear that as the King of the Dancehall he can ‘Dweet Again’ anytime. Mavado who played with his own band connected with the audience through lyrics and the snazzy pair of designer shoes he threw into the crowd. He gave of his hits including ‘Give it all to me’ with Nicki Minaj, and ably reminding viewers that ‘at the top its just us’. I was also looking forward to Harry Toddler, Sizzla, and I-Wayne but none of them really held the audience’s attention like Sizzla did. Elephant Man was absent with no explanation.
Dancehall animates itself in performance modes such as the clash of which Sting remains the last bastion. Performance, props, timing, temper and temperance, skill and style are all uniquely critical to this enterprise and many still don’t understand that it is a fundamental part of our present and our past. The significance of this entrenched working class celebration is taken to various levels by characters such as Ninja, Samurai or Demon in what is now a commercial Christmas event in the tradition of Christmas dances that took place even on the slave plantations centuries ago. These characters can be seen as effigies of traditions such as Burru drummers who walked neighbourhoods singing about community folk at year end with wit and often embarrassing wisdom. Dancehall is Jamaica’s premier street theatre and Sting is the heavily anticipated premier one night event.
Now, as Senior Journalist Janet Silvera has rightfully declared on her Facebook page in Bulletin #6, “Sting 2013 was much more than Saw, Macka and D’Angel…” Indeed it was much more than what eyes beheld at all, especially the innovative international reach to over 30 million via pay per view deals negotiated by newest of the Sting partners, Joe Bogdanovich of Downsound Records. My attempts to stay away from such comments have been largely successful but I must dwell a little on some.
So let me get straight to it! With the preceding media hype, the longstanding feud and the stage set for clashing for a fee of US$30,000 Muma Saw, the dancehall lyrical queen, came hot, hyped and hyper-prepared.
2013: The Year of ‘Saw’
After riding rough in heels on top of Shaggy in fine erotica style into 2013, Lady Saw sealed her longstanding place and resurgence in the dancehall business in true ‘chat to mi back’ form. The ‘Heel’s On’ rough ride, and remix with Flo Rida, gave Saw a comeback which shocked fans because of her age and stage in a highly dynamic male-dominated business. She came, she saw and she conquered! The ritual of final transition for all ‘chatti mout’ gyal finally came. As she transitioned from the erotica of ‘Heels On’ into combat mode, guided ably by veteran band Ruff Kutt, she donned the requisite trappings of attitude, costume and champion lyrics to bury her opponent in the ‘6 ft. 6’ resting place she ably created. So masterful was the blow-free encounter that adrenaline levels of the crowd shot through the sky reaching planet Jupiter which could be seen thanks to Jerome Hamilton’s snazzy App I was introduced to on entering the venue.
Without lifting a leg, lying on the floor or begging school fee money in D’Angel style, Saw gave an enraged but lyrically sound
perfomance. As Mel Cooke, senior entertainment writer at the Gleaner put it here,
“…[the crowd] got enough musical guts and blood to last a while in the earlier going, as an enraged Lady Saw, who still kept her lyrical wits about her, gutted a hapless Macka Diamond.”
By the time Lady Saw said ‘line up mi money too….send out di mongrel’ it was really all over because Macka’s immediate retort was ‘A wha do some dutty gyal?’ with her only other interesting intervention being about Saw’s Hummer apparently auctioned because of tax evasion, and Saw’s ‘heel’ being broken. When she touched on John John with whom Saw, otherwise known as Marion Hall, has had a troubled relationship, Saw responded to Macka’s advice about ‘being a lover rather than a stalker’ with the fact that Macka has never been seen with a man.
All in all it was a tracing match in which Lady Saw tried her best to keep the lyrics as the focus instead of the tracing. Eventually, Macka said she died trying and proved she wasn’t a coward. Emphasis on Macka’s sexual orientation consumed the end of the clash but then again, this is a preoccupation for Lady Saw who along with Beenie Man are the only two decrying the pleasures of oral sex in 2013. It says a lot about sexual conservatism in Jamaica, sexual hypocrisy and the transitioning norms around sexuality and sexual orientation. But this is not my focus.
The long and short of it is that Lady Saw, who used to help Macka write for clashes, anticipated that the Money O queen was going to forget her lyrics, that fear would take over and she would buckle under the pressure of the onslaught. As Lady Saw said in her interview with Boomshots.com, ‘Macka Demon is a liar…a mix-up girl…who she stepped away from…someone who she was never friends with’. Its finished for now. Let’s see if Lady Saw will ever get her wish to properly use the lyrics she prepared in a full length clash with Macka.
Stay tuned for Sting 30 – Part II.