10. Tedious
Written & performed by Junior Murvin
12’’ single (Island records, UK 1977)



And brother Joshua

Moses gave Joshua the rod
To lead the children to the Promised Land
(gather up, gather up)
Selassie gave Michael the rod
To lead the children to the Promised Land
(di whaaaa)

Sipple done and tedious come
It makes no sense beating up our gums
Sipple done and tedious come
(tedious come, must come)
It makes no sense beating up our gums

(tedious come)
Lets get together, yes
(gather up)
And help each other
To build a new island in the sun
(gather up, gather up)
Gather up your flocks my friends
(gather up, gather up)
Soon there’ll be a great exodus

Sipple gone and tedious come
(tedious come, must go)
Just bang your belly and sit down steady
(must come)

It tedious a yard
(tedious, tedious)
It tedious abroad
(fi waaaah)
Gather up your flock my friends
Soon there’ll be a great exodus

Moses gave Joshua the rod
To lead the children to the Promised Land
(gather up)
Selassie gave Michael the rod
To lead the children to the Promised Land
(gather up)
done done, done done,
(must come, tedious come)
done done, done done done done
(must come)
done done,
(tedious come)
done done, done done, done, done,
done done, done done, done, done,
(must come)
done done

It makes no sense to sit and cry
When there’s no water the well run dry
(di whaaaaaaaa)
It makes no sense to sit and cry
When there’s no water the well run dry

Let’s get together
And help each other
(gather up, gather up, gather up)
To build a new island in the sun

One. Joshua

We were wondering what Michael Manley was doing during Walter Rodney’s expulsion from Jamaica, and what Manley made of the ‘Rodney affair’.

The Jamaica Labour Party declared its ban on Rodney on 14 October 1968. The ban was implanted the following day. In his text ‘The Targeting of Walter Rodney’, Michael O West tells us that according to a cable sent by the US embassy in Jamaica to the State Department dated October 18 1968, Manley’s father Norman, the founder of the opposition People’s National Party ‘did not question the wisdom that the decision had to be taken, but did not like the way it was done.’

In April 1969 Norman Manley announced his retirement from the PNP. Michael Manley, having defeated his rival Vivian Blake, became the party’s new leader. Educated at McGill University and the London School of Economics, Manley started his political life as a trade union organiser. Between 1952 and 1962 he worked for the National Worker’s Union. He was elected president of the Caribbean Bauxite and Mineworkers Union in 1962 and was known on the island and in the region as the person largely responsible for expanding the presence of the union among Jamaica’s sugar and urban industrial workers as well as the mine and bauxite workers – and also for ‘undermining any possibility of the Left establishing an independent political base outside the framework of the two dominant parties.’ as Brian Meeks put it in his text, ‘Remembering Michael Manley.’

In 1967 Manley was elected to the Jamaican House of Representatives. He took on at least the sheen of the black radicalism represented by Rodney. Here’s a retrospective account, a snapshot of how Manley translated the shimmer of Rodney’s language from the streets into parliamentary politics: ‘Her Majesty’s loyal opposition, in contrast to the ‘racial harmony’ of the previous campaign [of 1967] was now saluting with clenched fists and threatening to ‘beat down Babylon.’ This image comes to you courtesy of Fragano Ledgister Adjunct Professor at Spellman University. You can read the whole text on Ledgister’s blog, Ineffectual Grace – Scholarly writings, mostly on the Caribbean.

By October 1969 Manley was preparing to run for Prime Minister. His friend Jerry Funk recalls accompanying Manley on a visit to Ethiopia; ‘He had to do a big swing around Africa, to prove his bona fides to the largely African descendant voters of Jamaica. He especially had to get an audience with HIM, Emperor Haile Selassie I. The large Rastafarian religious sect in Jamaica was considerable weight. The ‘Rastas’ believe that Haile Selassie, born, Ras (duke) Tafari Makonnen, was the reincarnation of Jesus Christ, come back to lead black people to freedom and dignity. This sort of political credential was hard to ignore. If Michael could be seen as an old buddy of Ras Tafari (aka Haile Selassie, aka Jesus Christ) he would carry a lot of votes in central Kingston, and indeed, all around Jamaica. Michael had asked me to arrange his grand safari.’

Funk reports that Manley returned to Jamaica with photos of the Emperor to dispatch to the faithful, and a walking stick, variously claimed to have been a present from the Emperor, a gift from a ‘Rastafarian leader’ by the name of Claudius Henry, the real thing, or an exact replica, of the staff used by Moses to part the Red Sea, and handed by Moses to Joshua to seal the deal Moses made with God, the outcome of which would have been as familiar to the Jamaican electorate as the figure of Joshua himself – he was, it says on the Answers.com website, ‘Leader of the Israelite tribes after the death of Moses. According to the biblical book of Joshua, Joshua led the people of Israel westward across the Jordan River to invade Canaan. Under his leadership the Israelites conquered the Canaanites and gained control of the Promised Land. The book begins by recounting the battles, including the famous demolition of the walls of Jericho. Joshua then divides Canaan among the twelve tribes of Israel, makes his farewell speech, and dies’.

This was the narrative into which Manley inscribed himself and Jamaica, forming a textual continuum between Biblical, ancient Israel and postcolonial, independent Jamaica, a new country but one in which slavery was still a living memory. Manley cast his patripolitical lineage in Biblical language and proposed to the Jamaican electorate a shifting of the location of the Promised Land from Africa, as envisioned by Marcus Garvey, to the land beneath the Jamaican people’s feet, a relocation of the idea from a distant destination achievable by force of entrepreneurial will, to a political possibility which could be realised by parliamentary process – by voting for Michael Manley. In her essay Jamaican Politics, Reggae and Rastafarianism in the 1970’s, Liz Kerr writes that

‘Manley referred to the stick as ‘the Rod of Correction’ and to himself as Joshua — the one who would lead the people into the Promised Land. The 1972 election was so focused about the Rod, that there were full-page campaign advertisements about it, scandals, myths, and strong Rastafarian superstitions. For instance, rods were used in a number of Obeah ceremonies, in which people were beaten with rods to drive away evil and corruption. In addition to symbols and Manley’s use of the Rod of Correction in his 1972 campaign, he also integrated Rastafarian language into his speech – phrases such as ‘hail the man’, ‘love’ and Rastafarian I-isms.’

Manley’s stick driven Old Testament offensive was aimed at positioning the PNP and himself as the guardians of the country’s national culture and historical memory, a role established and maintained by the conservative Jamaica Labour Party, and whose works to that effect included elevating Garvey and anti slavery insurrectionists George William Gordon and Paul Bogle from outlaw figures to national heroes, and whose high point was when Martin Luther King laid a wreath on Garvey’s grave in the National Arena and acknowledged Garvey’s importance for the contemporary struggle for black empowerment. It was the JLP, not the PNP, that brought Garvey’s ashes from exile in Kensal Green cemetery in London back to Jamaica.

Manley’s campaign strategy also included wooing the island’s community of musicians away from JLP leader Edward Seaga. This was no small feat. Seaga’s involvement in Jamaica’s recording industry went as far back the mid 1950s, when the industry was in its infancy. Born in Boston to Jamaican Lebanese parents and educated at Harvard, Seaga helped bring Jamaican music to America’s attention when he compiled one of the first albums of Jamaican folk music for the American label Folkways. In 1959 he founded the successful West Indies Recording Label (WIRL); he also gave Ska music its first taste of international success, bringing Jamaican artists to the New York World’s Fair of 1963.

The success of Manley’s strategy is evidenced in the wave of pro Manley songs recorded between 1969 and 1972 by such artists as Clancy Eccles (Joshua’s Rod of Correction), and Max Romeo (Socialism is Love) in addition to the track referenced by Kerr, Owen Grey’s Hail The Man, and the song mentioned by Ledgister, Junior Byles’ Beat Down Babylon. That Seaga’s predecessor Hugh Shearer had been nicknamed ‘Pharaoh’ by his opponents added traction to Manley’s campaign.

When the People’s National Party came to power in February 1972 they did not have a socialist programme, but they were not averse to socialist thought. Manley lifted the Jamaica Labour Party’s ban on Marxist and black power literature, including Walter Rodney’s writings. In 1975 he lifted the ban on Rodney. As for what Rodney made of Manley’s relationship to socialism, Michael O West speculates that ‘Manley whose tomfoolery never fooled Rodney, may well have provided the prototype for Rodney’s Marxist extrapolation that events appearing against the huge canvass of Africa as tragedy reappear in the Caribbean as comedy’. But by 1975 the threat of black power was among the least of Manley’s concerns. Jamaica had a much more immediate and far more dangerous American incursion to contend with, one that would end in tragedy.

Two. ‘Let’s get together’

To give you a sense of what Jamaica was like when Manley became prime minister, here is something we found on the website of Massachusetts Holyoke College by Annabelle Haynes, a student of Jamaican parentage: ‘Seventy percent of the Jamaican economy was already foreign dominated. The mineral industry was completely controlled by multinational corporations. The unemployment rate was 24 percent (doubled since independence) and illiteracy was between 30 and 50 percent. Forty- five percent of arable land was owned by 0.2 percent of the farmers, with the remaining 55 percent of the land shared by 99.8 percent of farmers. Haynes lists the transformation Manley initiated: A minimum wage for all workers. Free education at secondary and university level, to the extent of spaces available. A literacy campaign. The subdivision of ‘idle lands’ to peasants. Formation of agrarian cooperatives. Price controls on numerous staples. Reduction of voting age to 18 years. Institutionalising paid maternity leave.’

In addition to nurturing Jamaica’s human resources, Manley’s government also reclaimed the island’s infrastructural and natural resources from foreign ownership. The PNP nationalised the foreign owned electricity, telephone and bus companies, banks, and sections of the lucrative tourist industry. In January 1974 the party announced its plan to change the system of tax breaks offered to U.S and Canadian bauxite (aluminium ore) companies based in Jamaica. The PNP cancelled all previous agreements and imposed a levy on all bauxite mined or processed in Jamaica.

Here’s how Anthony J. Payne explained this in The Destabilization Question, in his book Politics in Jamaica (St. Martin’s Press 1988), which we found on the website The Afflicted Yard: ‘By tying the level of local taxation to the actual market price of aluminium rather than the arbitrary price at which the companies ‘transferred’ Jamaican bauxite to their processing plants in North America, the agreement interfered with the traditional vertical integration of the industry under constant corporate control’.

The effects were twofold, the first being cancelled by the second. Before the levy, the government’s revenues from the transnationals had been a mere $35 million per annum; immediately after, it skyrocketed to $200 million [Meeks], but the North American bauxite companies claimed the levy was illegal. They took the matter up with the World Bank’s International Centre for the settlement of Investment Disputes, cut their import rate by 30%, [Payne] and lowered their production rate, thereby guaranteeing a steep rise in unemployment, which was exacerbated by the 1973 OPEC oil crisis. Commodity prices soared, so did the rate of inflation. Exports plummeted, the flow of foreign exchange all but dried up. Jamaica’s working class responded by going on strike. The middle classes responded by fleeing to the U.S and Canada. Around 14,000 of them left between 1972 and 1974. Manley’s experiment with what he was now calling democratic socialism was entering a stage of crisis.

Then there was Cuba and apartheid. In 1973 Manley accepted an invitation from Fidel Castro to join him and Guyanese prime minister Forbes Burnham on a plane to Algiers where they were to attend a summit of non-aligned Third World nations. Almost twenty years before Manley came to power Burnham had been the beneficiary of a strategy of CIA interference in the socialist leaning experiment of his opponent, the democratically elected Cheddi Jagan. This is an extract from Cheddi Jagan, Michael Manley and the history of U.S. Intervention in the Caribbean by Pat Chin, published in Workers World, 3 April 1997:

‘Jagan’s party, based among sugar-cane workers, won three national elections from 1957 to 1964. The country was set to become independent in 1966. Fearing that Jagan would help Guyana become a ‘second Cuba’, U.S. President John Kennedy and British Prime Minister Harold MacMillan met in May 1963 and agreed that Britain would delay the colony’s independence until they could push Jagan out of office. […] According to a report from the Center for National Security Studies (cited in R. McGehee’s ‘Deadly Deceits’), the ‘CIA funded strikes and riots that crippled Guyana in 1962 and 1963 and led to pushing out Jagan’s governing People’s Progressive Party in the December 1964 elections. The CIA funnelled its secret payments that placed Forbes Burnham in power through the American Federation of State Councils and Municipal Employees and the American Labour Federation and Congress of Industrial Organisations.’

Poised between Castro and Burnham, living symbols of the two possible models of engagement with America, Manley was, in the company of Burnham, in the presence of a sign from the past – something of what happened in Guyana would echo, reverberate, in Jamaica – and an image, from the future, of the form his defeat would take, an image which would over time drift in and out of focus, shifting in shape, dissolving into the landscape and reappearing at will: by 1973 the CIA’s experiences in Chile, where they had worked with multinational corporations to overthrow the socialist government of Salvador Allende, had taught the Agency the value of covering its tracks.

In 1975 Manley visited Cuba – which you’d think was fair enough, since Jamaica and Cuba at only ninety miles apart were quite literally neighbours, although we imagine that was ninety miles too close for the U.S government, wary that any island in the Caribbean and Central America should dare veer into the orbit of soviet communism, home grown socialism or any model of economic autonomy which used components of either. In 1976 Manley, against the express wish of U.S Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, voiced his support for Cuba’s military support of newly independent Angola’s MPLA against white South African backed UNITA forces – the MPLA was the socialist and soviet backed third of a tripartite government that also included the U.S backed FNLA and UNITA. Manley did his best to assure Kissinger that he was not a Communist; he was supporting Cuba’s involvement in the anti apartheid war.

Manley and Kissinger met on January 4. Soon after Kissinger left Jamaica negotiations for a $100 million dollar credit deal with Washington ‘disappeared’, as Manley said in an interview in 1993. Manley also told the interviewer, Manning Marable, that within two weeks of meeting Kissinger the CIA’s presence on the island doubled. Kissinger, for his part, assured Manley there was no CIA interference in Jamaica.

Three. Destabilising Jamaica

1976 was election year and the year began with twice the number of strikes among bauxite and aluminium workers than the last two years combined. The strikes lasted until June. Citing interviews with Jamaica Bauxite Institute personnel from July 1985, Payne writes: ‘[this was] an escalation of industrial action attributed by a number of local observers to deliberately provocative behaviour by a management bent on further disruption of the local economy. […] The companies also conducted a US press campaign blaming Jamaica for the rising cost of aluminium, e.g. claiming that higher car prices were the result of action of the Manley government. As Sherry Keith and Robert Girling pointed out, however [in Caribbean Conflict: Jamaica and the US, NACLA report on the Americas, 1978], the truth was that price increases in the US market bore little, if any relation to the Jamaican levy and served mainly to boost corporate profits at a time of lower production worldwide.

The US government also played a part in exerting economic pressure on Jamaica as a response to the bauxite levy. The Treasury Department, in particular, wanted to stop new official lending to the country, arguing that it would give the wrong signal to provide aid to a regime which was in dispute with several US corporations [J. Daniel O' Flaherty, Finding Jamaica's Way, in Foreign Policy 32, September 1978].’

In January 1976 the CIA station in Kingston acquired a new boss, Norman Descoteaux. Descoteaux had spent some time in Central America, where he had been connected with attempts at destabilising the governments of Argentina and Ecuador. This information comes to you courtesy, once again, of Anthony J Payne who, on the subject of a CIA orchestrated attempt at destabilising the Jamaican government, offers the following chronology of events for the month of January, which are, the author tells us, part of Manley’s own list of incidents designed to confer substance on his claim that after 1976 his government was the subject of a sustained process of destabilisation [although Payne reminds us that Manley in his 1982 book Jamaica: Struggle in the Periphery (London, 1982), had written, that ‘there have been no Senate Committee hearings into the case of Jamaica and consequently no disclosures at that level'.] The list has Manley meeting with Kissinger on January 4 and also includes the following examples:

January 2: The election year begins ominously when the Daily Gleaner published an editorial replete with lies, half-truths and malicious speculation, titled ‘If he fails…’ The editor of the paper was Mr. Hector Wynter, a former chairman of and candidate for the JLP.

January 5: As officials of the IMF and World Bank held meetings for a conference subsequently to be held in Kingston, violence erupted in the ghettoes of the western sector of the city, thus providing material for a number of sensational articles filed by the large corps of foreign journalists reporting the IMF meeting.

‘January 6: The Minister of National Security announced the apprehension of 19 members of a group of gunmen being trained for operations against the government.

January 7: Two policemen were killed and three others injured in attacks by gunmen, provoking a stoppage of work at the police barracks until the men were personally persuaded to return to duty by Manley.

January 8: Deputy Prime Minister, David Coore, held a press conference for foreign journalists to try to counteract the exaggerated reporting of the violence which had already caused extensive tourist cancellations.

January 9: As the violence continued, Manley announced new legislation to revitalise the Gun Court: mandatory life imprisonment for illegal possession of a firearm.

January 11: Against this background Manley announced his party’s proposal to establish community self-defence groups to act as an unarmed warning service and was met with a barrage of criticism alleging, inter alia, that he planned to introduce the ‘Ton Ton Macoutes’ to Jamaica.

January 12: An article in the Wall Street Journal claimed that the PNP government was the ‘most inept of all the Western governments that fancies itself democratic.’

January 14: Revere Copper and Brass Inc. announced that its Jamaican subsidiary, Revere Ja. Ltd., was suing the Manley government over its bauxite levy.

January 15: The traditionally dormant middle-class, Soroptimist club of Kingston passed a resolution calling on women to withdraw their services from their employers and communities as well as their husbands and families to protest against political violence.

January 16: Allan Issacs, Minister of Mining and Natural Resources was dismissed from the Cabinet for alleged leaking of government documents to the opposition and subsequently resigned from the PNP, alleging that the government was intent upon establishing Cuban style communism.’

The violence between the PNP and the JLP that had historically accompanied national elections was given new expression by an influx of guns and bombs, claiming the lives of over one hundred people by June. That month the government declared a state of emergency. Payne recounts a visit to Jamaica in September 1976 by former CIA agent turned whistleblower Phillip Agee, a guest of the Jamaican Council for Human rights. Agee ‘claimed to be able to identify in Jamaica at the time all the typical CIA methods of destabilisation. These included spreading false information in the local and international press, funding opposition groupings, supplying arms to opponents of the government, and helping all manner of social disruption by means of arson, murder and industrial action. Agee also specifically named 11 US embassy personnel in Kingston as working for the CIA.’

These are the circumstances that were pushing the almost cash strapped and chaos mired PNP government to cut a reluctant deal with the International Monetary Fund – which they had still managed to resist. But if international confidence in Jamaica was at an all time low, in Jamaica confidence in Manley was high, and the PNP entered a second term with a popular vote.

The CIA responded by deploying in Jamaica the destabilisation tactics it had used in Chile and Guyana with such relentless vigour that what was meant to have been covert operations very soon became highly visible, bringing an unprecedented level of violence to the Jamaican political process and to public life. But although the majority of the violence orchestrated by the CIA took place in Kingston, the way in which the events were reported – by media outlets that were complicit with the CIA – conveyed to the world the idea that Jamaica was ungovernable and unfit for business.

Jamaican’s business class continued to abandon the country taking their money with them. By the end of 1976, it was discovered that around $300 million had, by various means, been withdrawn from the island.

Four. On Tedium

When Lee Perry visited London in 1977 Jamaica was still in a state of emergency. Perry was one member of Jamaica’s community of entrepreneurs still managing to maintain business relations with the outside world while also expanding the island’s cultural profile. The record producer known as Scratch had arranged a deal with Island records which gave him access to European markets and to this effect Perry was passing through London on his way to Nigeria to record Island artist Eddie Quansah and, while in town, was working with Bob Marley on their celebration of punk rock music, Punky Reggae Party. This information comes to you by way of an interview with Perry by New Musical Express journalist Neil Spencer published in October 1977. In the interview Spencer solicits Perry’s feeling on the atmosphere in London. ‘It’s a universal crisis. Everybody feel it ’cause this a tedious time. ’76 was a sipple (slippery) year, but ’77 is a tedious year.’

And as surely as Perry’s production in 1976 of Max Romeo’s War In A Babylon (released in Jamaica as Sipple Out Deh) crystallised the growing sense of conflict that was ‘scaring the nation’ (Murvin, Police and Thieves) in the run up to the election, Perry’s work with Junior Murvin voiced the effect of the situation created in response to Manley’s efforts at giving Jamaica control of its resources and expressing its political will. And the effect was an accelerated, heightened weariness, a wearing away of basic codes of civility, a growing sense of economic powerlessness reinforced through the degrading of public spaces by the threat of armed violence.

Tedious, like its predecessor, Police and Thieves was ambivalent in its support for Manley: The song professes faith in Manley and proposes a united effort at nation building but it also expresses a vision of flight from the island: ‘Soon there’ll be a great exodus’. Speaking from Jamaica about the song’s origin to writer David Katz, Junior Murvin, perhaps with the cautious humility appropriate to an artist who had penned a few of his country’s most popular protest songs in an era when that kind of song-writing could get you killed, explained that ‘Michael Manley was Rasta oriented. His name was really close and very rhyming, so I just put it in.’

Tedious was recorded sometime after May 1976, when Murvin, following a vision, pitched up at Perry’s Black Ark studio. To give you a sense of the backdrop the song was recorded against, here again is Brian Meeks: ‘By the middle of 1976, Jamaica was in turmoil. Organised violence, primarily directed against strongholds of the ruling party in Kingston’s inner city, had reached unprecedented levels. Entire communities such as lower Jones Town and parts of Trench Town had to be evacuated, creating internal refugee colonies such as the appropriately titled ‘Sufferer’s Heights’ in St. Catherine.’

Tedious was featured on Murvin’s album Police and Thieves, which was released in April 1977. A month later the first IMF agreement was in place. A year later, the situation described by Murvin had worsened. Here, on the IMF loan and its effect on Jamaica, is an extract from Abbie Bakan’s text, How the IMF wrecked Jamaica, which appeared in the Socialist Worker website dated July 14, 2007: ‘By May 1978 Jamaica had accepted an IMF ‘standby agreement’ of £38 million to ease the balance of payments crisis. The IMF re-established a line of credit – with massive strings attached. The loan was conditional on an attack on the standard of living of the population. The poorest were hit the hardest, with a dramatic cut in public spending as the leading edge of the programme. As Jamaica was put to various IMF ‘tests’, repeated failures led to more and more regulation of the island’s domestic economic programmes. Confusion and despair spread among Jamaica’s population, especially young students and the poorest sections of workers and peasants. Political violence and the fortunes of the black market soared.’

The IMF deal ensured a diminished role for Jamaica on the world stage and guaranteed a diminution of the country’s economic and human potential, a traumatic cutting down of the Manley government’s sense of its command of national and regional space. To give us a sense of how bad things were when Manley made the deal, here is the man himself: ‘We dealt with them because we had got to a point where we were finding it hard to finance penicillin for hospitals. That can concentrate the mind wondrously, if you can’t put penicillin in your hospitals!’

It is ironic that dub, the music form which grew and thrived during Manley’s first two terms, and whose greatest exponent was Lee Perry, found the perfect format for the exploration of sonic space in the twelve inch single in 1977, and reached the height (or the depths) of its popularity and innovation in the years in which Manley’s project faced its most sustained attack. The music produced by Perry during Manley’s leadership – his work with the Upsetters, Junior Byles, Max Romeo, Bob Marley, and Junior Murvin – gave a sonic expression to Manley’s idea that ‘Jamaican’s should recognise their history’ but this was a history in which the past was alive in the present, a history of the present shot through with ideas about the future, some uncertain, others absolute – ‘soon there’ll be a great exodus’, an ongoing act of self recognition – music as a mirror – made possible through an idiosyncratic idea about a kind of pop music that glided between and effortlessly balanced sacred music, dance music, low fi avant gardism, and ruminative social commentary.

Perry’s explorations of sonic space had their correspondent in and were given their ground by the ambience of Manley’s political preoccupation with space – with forming a national space of cultural esteem and economic self-determination and a trans national space of Third World fiscal autonomies through Caricom and the Non Aligned Movement. Perry’s exploration were taking him into the far reaches of the protest song, to some strange democratic space where everything – the world evoked by the song, the world of sound the song inhabits, the world of the studio, and the world in Perry’s head – has a life of its own, and lives as one, subject only to the laws, the tyrannies, of rhythm. In 1977 Perry was taking dissenting pop music to a place where dissent neither begins nor ends with the presence of the singer or the song. Damage is done to both. In Perry’s productions during this period the song and its world and the meanings of that world often vanish, fall into some space beyond the margins of sound, or seep into the holes in the fabric of sound. The singer already separated from his voice by the recording process, undergoes a doubling, a second excision from the body, in which he functions as a sign of absence, doubly separated from himself and the listener.

In Tedious Perry mutes, edits and mixes, de-mutes the song’s first two verses, casting them into an abyss of subtly shifting acoustic dimensions from which they return as layered traces of delay, phasing, echo and reverb, now on the verge of audibility, now super sharp, now clipped to a slip of a syllable, a slice of a consonant, a vowel extended beyond the capacity of the body into a fabricated infinity. Over the space of a few bars the acoustic environment created in the mix and the world of the song are transformed.

The voice, now a trace, a sliver of its singing self, now a floating shimmer of its former, corporeal self, is returned to perception, a flicker from the past, fully present, but now dissolving in and out of perception in much the same way as a distant planet reveals its dissolution, light years ago, in our present. In Tedious Perry allows only a few words, fragments of words – Selassie, Michael, lets, yard, soon, great, exodus – the bones and the heart of the song, its declaration, its observation, and its proposition – to emerge in fissures sound, to return as fissures, from the silence in which his mix immerses them, sounding as though they were sung from a number of different locations, or the same place under different atmospheric conditions, all of which are present in the fleeting, fading, presence of the voice.

Murvin’s voice returns to the mix to register a dramatically shifting sense of space between the farthest reaches of the terrain of the song – the terrain of protest – and the listener, fabricating distance and closeness. The air itself is alive in a fragment of a word, now thick with warm hanging fog, now as clear as if rolling across the surface of a lake or a river.

It was an adventure in space exploration in which the worse that could happen was that recording all that music in so short a time, separating all those bodies from their voices, dislocating them further from their recorded environment in a room with no windows, with things in the world outside the songs sliding even a little out of your control, seeping into the studio, could drain you to the point of some sort of break down or break up. Manley’s adventure of space exploration never went so far as transforming the language of economic independence or political autonomy: leaning toward socialism proved radical enough and a distance way too far.

Here is Brian Meeks, citing Carl Stone’s Politics vs Economics: The 1989 Elections in Jamaica (Heinemann Publishers, 1989), on the incremental effect on Jamaica of the IMF’s assistance and the campaign of destabilisation that accompanied it:

‘Between 1978 and 1980, under the aegis of the IMF programme, the Cost of Living index increased by some 40%; real wages declined by some 20-30% and unemployment again began to increase. From a figure of some 22.8% unemployed in 1972, it had increased to 26.8% by 1980. By this stage, Manley and his party were in the pincers of a multi pronged destabilisation campaign. At the centre of it was the Daily Gleaner, which sought every opportunity to attack the government’s relationship with Cuba and Manley’s close personal friendship with Fidel Castro, as an indication that the country was about to ‘go communist.’

[…] In a series of sustained and increasingly heinous attacks, armed and trained gunmen largely from the opposition Jamaica Labour Party were able to undermine the rule of law and bring Jamaica to the brink of civil war. It is true that the PNP, with its significant mass base in the city, did indeed join the battle, but a close reading of the political geography of urban Jamaica quickly suggests to all but the most naive that the brunt of the offensive was against PNP strongholds, with the twin purposes of demoralizing the hardcore democratic socialist support and discrediting Manley’s ability to govern.’

Five. ‘freedom for all people’

We read on the Nationmaster website that ‘unemployment continued to plague Jamaica through the 1970s. During this period, Jamaica suffered a ‘brain drain,’ losing perhaps as much as 40% of its middle class. From 1971 through 1980, 276,000 Jamaicans left the island for the U.S.’

Manley lost the 1980 election with the worst defeat in the PNP’s history. Eight hundred people were killed in the warring through which the two parties waged their campaigns. The IMF continued to deplete Jamaica’s resources. In the March 1983 edition of Multinational Monitor Suzanne Soracco and Tim Shorrock reported that by 1983 Jamaica’s debt was over $2billion, a huge increase on the $770 million debt left by Manley, and in the two years since Manley’s defeat over 43,000 people had deserted the island’s population of two million, the highest number of emigrants in Jamaica’s history. Not, perhaps, the ‘great exodus’ envisioned in Tedious. Then again…

Under Edward Seaga’s pro capitalist leadership Jamaica no longer posed a threat to America. On the contrary, the island’s relationship to the U.S was now firmly based on economic dependency. It had become the world’s second largest per capita recipient of U.S aid. A few more figures from Soracco and Shorrock: in 1982, U.S aid to Jamaica amounted to $143 million, including $50 million from the $350 million support fund provided under President Ronald Reagan’s Caribbean Basin Initiative. Jamaica had also become the largest overall recipient of loans and loan guarantees from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), which in January 1983 sponsored a delegation of fourteen leading U.S. business executives from the U.S.

A year earlier, in a pivotal speech on Jamaica’s importance for North America and the future of the Caribbean Basin, President Reagan told the Organisation of American States in February 1982 that ‘After a decade of falling income and exceptionally high unemployment, Jamaica’s new leadership is reducing bureaucracy, dismantling unworkable controls, and attracting new investment. Continued outside assistance will be needed to tide Jamaica over until market forces generate large increases in output and employment – but Jamaica is making freedom work.’ In February 1983 President Reagan awarded Prime Minister Seaga the Freedom Foundation’s American Friendship medal for his ‘furtherance of democratic institutions’ and ‘courageous leadership in the cause of freedom for all people.’

Looking back on the damage done by the IMF to Jamaica’s economy, Annabelle Haynes wrote the following, which is enough to make us wonder whether the institutions and freedoms Reagan was talking about served the interests of the Jamaican people:

‘Through their ‘development plans’ they have created peripheral economies that supply basic commodities, cheap labour or an extra market for rejected products. All economic activity is geared towards the advantage of the industrial powers. Where is the room for the development of a country like Jamaica that has had its whole history marred by economic exploitation?

Some of the requirements (taken from all three IMF agreements) were that the Jamaican dollar be devalued and Jamaica open up its market to free trade. By opening up the market for more imports we lost our banana industry to big banana companies like Chiquita from the United States, who rely heavily on fertilisers and the extremely cheap labour of their workers in Latin America. An influx of cheap powdered milk from the States devastated the dairy industry. Company’s like Tommy Hilfiger established, in the eighties, ‘free zones’ in Jamaica. These zones are exempt from Jamaican taxation so are attractive to poor labourers looking for work. They are also exempt from Jamaican law, so there is no imposition of minimum wage’.

The March 1983 edition of Multinational Monitor reported that after Seaga received his award he took a plane to New York to meet with the U.S. Business Committee on Jamaica: ‘But at that meeting U.S. officials were less optimistic than Reagan. Speaking to both Seaga and the assembled businessmen, National Security Advisor William Clark praised the Prime Minister’s efforts to date – but warned that ‘it is essential that internal economic structures are to be further reformed if we are to generate still more confidence in the international community in Jamaica.’

With the threat posed by Jamaica squarely neutralised, the U.S government turned its attention to Grenada, El Salvador, and Nicaragua.


RG59, Box 2242, file Pol. 21: Am[erican] embassy Kingston to Department of State, October 18, 1968. Quoted in The Targeting of Walter Rodney, by Michael O. West, published in Solidarity – A democratic, revolutionary socialist, feminist, anti racist organisation.

Remembering Michael Manley, by Brian Meeks, published in Solidarity – A democratic, revolutionary socialist, feminist, anti racist organisation.

‘Intellectual Murder’: Walter Rodney’s Groundings in the context of the Jamaica of the 1960s, by Fragano Ledgister. Posted on Wednesday, April 11, 2007 on the blog Ineffectual Grace – Scholarly writings, mostly on the Caribbean.

Jerry Funk, Life Is an Excellent Adventure: An Irreverent Personal Odyssey. Trafford Publishing, 2003.


Jamaican Politics, Reggae and Rastafarianism in the 1970’s, by Liz Kerr. The Dread Libraryhttp://www.uvm.edu/~debate/dreadlibrary/kerr.html

‘The Destabilisation Question’ from ‘Politics in Jamaica’ by Anthony J. Payne,
St. Martin’s Press 1988. Sourced from http://www.afflictedyard.com/fun_in_76.htm

People Funny Boy – the Genius of Lee Scratch Perry, by David Katz, Payback Press 2000

Michael Manley’s foresight on the role of the IMF in Jamaica, by Annabelle Haynes

‘The only imperative in my life has been egalitarianism.’ Michael Manley: former prime minister of Jamaica, by Manning Marable, The Progressive 1 July 1993. http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Michael+Manley.+(former+prime+minister+of+Jamaica)+(interview)-a013972336

How the IMF wrecked Jamaica, by Abbie Bakan, Socialist Worker 2059, 14 July 2007

Cheddi Jagan, Michael Manley and the history of U.S. Intervention in the Caribbean, by Pat Chin, in Workers World, 3 April 1997

Spikey Heads Meet Dreadlocks, by Neil Spencer, New Musical Express, 1 October 1977
Sourced from Eternal Thunder – Lee Scratch Perry On The Wire http://www.upsetter.net/scratch/words/article_spencer77.htm

Jamaica – Migration. Encyclopaedia of the Nations
http://www. Nationsencyclopaedia.com/Americas/Jamaica-MIGRATION.html

President Ronald Reagan’s speech about the Caribbean, at the Organisation of American States 24 February 1982

Jamaica Under Seaga – Despite his overtures to big business, the multinationals are staying away, by Suzanne Soracco and Tim Shorrock, Multinational Monitor, Volume 4, Edition 3, 1983



<   >