NYU Black Renaissance Noire Spring 2015 - Page 157

OCCUPATION When he says he signed up out of Christian duty, there’s a twitch in the lid of his dead glass eye, A flash perhaps of what had worried him when independence came in ’62. As I leave he says we lost our music and the country went along. Says Busta shoulda built a camp until the country bought some boats. Give them the Black Star Liner! Working-class, dark, and ambitious, but scarred in ways he didn’t know, he saw the new country as a Canaan, land of sweet promise with a flag, an anthem, and not to be discounted, the ska, clean pop played by qualified sheet readers, black men from humble backgrounds dressed in loafers, ties and suits, the melodies so near exactly like the jazz arrangers borrowed, the solos rich with Cuban licks, the very set-up so orchestral, seating in rows, classy negroes, black but modern, separating us and them — the conga beating natives of the world. Imagine a Jamaica he says, creaking, where we still had ska, if not ska then rock steady, cover singing, good music, guys in outfits like Motown. shave clean, looking decent. Imagine the discipline round here if them damn reggae rascals didn’t overthrow the music and have rasta represent Jamaica round the world. Cho! Run for cover, run for cover, Rebel is taking over, taking over. He says once he heard the rasta drumming underneath Oh Carolina, mongrelizing with the pop, he got urgent. Signed up. 155 BLACK RENAISSANCE NOIRE The old campaigner finger calls another Appleton, bites air before the sip, blows out after gulping. Ahhhhhhhhhh. Fire out and in. Gets quiet. Blinks his good eye plenty, while the dead one goes adrift as he begins to boast of cordons, raids, all-out assaults. Pinnacle. Coral Gardens, Back O’ Wall. Machetes confiscated, the many caches of illegal books, and people, strange people, like the dread who rather had his elbow broken than to leggo off his ital pot. By then the rum had soaked his tongue enough to slow it, change its pace, grace it with the cadence of requiem. BRN-SPRING-2015.indb 155 3/29/15 11:42 AM