Conscientious Lyrics

People think that when you’re being entertaining, you can’t send a message; and when you’re sending a message, you can’t be entertaining.

There’s an entire saga of viral Youtube videos about regular people complaining about socio-economic issues. But because these people are so dramatic in front of the camera, viewers tend to focus on their antics rather than their message.

I think it started with Antoine Dodson who appeared on U.S. national news when an intruder broke into his sister’s apartment and attempted to rob/rape her. Then it was Clifton Brown from Mavis Bank, JA who tried to raise awareness about the dysfunctional bridge in his community and the dangers of flooding in the rainy season. Soon after that, Kimberly Wilkins (aka Sweet Brown from the U.S.) was interviewed after her apartment building caught fire, adding that she was concerned for her safety due to pre-existing bronchitis. Brigette Bailey (aka Rosie) from Maxfield, JA became the latest Youtube sensation when she asked for some kind of assistance/remuneration after flooding in her community caused significant property damage.

Finding these people entertaining does not make their message any less serious, yet they are made spectacles of in the media. I don’t need to remind you of Mr. Brown’s humiliation on Smile Jamaica. In 2011, the height of “Cliff-twang” frenzy, he was invited to perform at Sumfest. This year Ms. Bailey was invited to do the same. What exactly were they supposed to perform? The “songs” that have sprung up in the wake of their news reports were created by a local DJ who remixed the news segment. They’re not original recordings. Their words have been taken and twisted into something to be laughed at and forgotten about.

I see the same attitude every day in rehearsal. People get laughed at for trying by others who aren’t even bothering to make an attempt. We’re content to find each other amusing probably because we find it so hard to take each other seriously. (colonial mentality?) People think that if your message isn’t coated in fire and brimstone, that it’s not worth listening to, that you don’t really mean it.  This kind of thinking is so extremely backward I’m surprised Jamaicans don’t walk funny. We need a psychological overhaul. I haven’t the faintest idea of how to go about changing our thought process, but we can’t continue like this for very long. Something has to give.

The Robertsfield bridge in Mavis Bank has yet to be fixed, by the way.

Miss Lou would be proud, or turning in her grave.

Everyone with an internet connection (and even people without) has heard of Clif-twang Brown, the Mavis Bank spokesman of Youtube popularity. Mr. Brown’s claim to fame is his rather unusual accent, recently made into a song (yes, a remix) by DJ Powa from the University of Technology. Basically, de man twang like a professional.

Twanging is a popular concept in Jamaica, and the art of rounding up one’s mouth to achieve the most proper articulation of the Queen’s English is an age-old tradition. Louise Bennett and Joan Andrea Hutchinson, guardians of J’can linguistic heritage have commented on our attempts to “talk proper” with often hilarious results. Why should Mr. Brown be any different?

Because human dignity is flouted when one man is made a laughing stock by an entire nation (and even other countries) for speaking honestly and passionately.

You can’t deny that Mr. Brown takes his situation very seriously, and while his impassioned twanging was good for nine days’ worth of laughter, a line has to be drawn when he is invited on national television for the sole purpose of making fun of him. TVJ deserves more than a slap on the wrist for that little stunt, but they seem to have gotten away scot-free.

In the end, Mr. Brown got his bridge. And thanks to one man speaking out, at the risk of sounding cliche, everyone can cross it.