The Jamaican Festival commission, now known as The Jamaica Cultural Commission, in 1962 started the central nervous system of celebrating our first Independence. The Festival Song Contest was the climax, or icing on the cake for our annual Independence celebration. In 1965, 3 years into our nation-hood, as a 17 year old teenager, I was now living in the rural parish of Clarendon, in the capital May Pen. This period of my life is one I’ll always have nostalgic feeling for. The Festival office had a junior competition to the professional Festival Song. The Pop and Mento as it was called brought out the rural people as the former was mostly for Kingston Town. I can clearly remember winning the solo section, while the Clarendonians with Peter Austin, and Ernest Wilson won the group, with the Blue Glaze Mento Band winning the mento section.
It was Independence time, and each parish office of the festival had a Rural tour of dance, music, and songs for Jamaica. Our area of Clarendon was the northern section. Through the festival Office a board body truck, with one side removable when needed, was used to carry the band at the time, which was the “Murcuries” led by the late bass player name Dalfy. Other members such as Howard “Stretch” Carr, Ira Bloomfield, Keith Simms, Bernie, Keep Smiling, my self as the solo winner, all managed by Gean Blackwood, all from May Pen.
It was a Saturday morning at 09:00hrs. We left our location at Ginep tree, and Chapleton Road in May Pen onward to the town of Chapleton. We drove through hill, and valleys, and the mountainous terrains for 45 mins. We reached the square of Chapleton, which was once the capital of Clarendon, when the whole region was called “Vere” before it was moved to May Pen. As usual Stretch headed for the bar, and we followed. The band was now set and ready to go. In no time the square was jam packed, and the bands men struck their first chord, and off we went celebrating our 3 year of independence with music. Chapleton’s half an hour was up and away we went to the other rural districts in northern Clarendon, which were: Frank Field, Rock River, Kellitts, Morgan’s Pass, Thompson Town, and our last stop before coming back to May Pen, which was Mocho! a very mountainous place.
This town reminds me of our first Prime Minister Bustah, who always campaigned in Clarendon. He was a man who gave the country people food, and money for their vote. He would put a two and six pence coin in the cornmeal, and when he gave it out he would wisper in their ears saying: sive it good wen yuh reach home. It was also stated after he was finished and was heading back to May Pen where he would this time hand out Salt Fish, while on his journey he saw a lady walking, and he offered her a ride, and she took it. While in his Cadillac, and not knowing who he was, he asked her: Den lady which party you belongs tuh. She looked him in the eyes, and said: Me, sah! who, mih ah stanch P.N.P. De Bustah Mante ah com up yah and ah gih wey food, an money, but wih nah vote fih him, Wih only ah nyam him food, an tek him money. He opened the car door and said to her: Tek yuh nasty ass out ah mih kar.
Mocho! been the last stop on the tour we stayed at the bar and draw waters for a while, then played a double set for them, and headed down the mountains to May Pen as we had headed up to Chapleton, and that memory of our Independence will rest in my mind for life.
Bustamante always reach his meeting very early because he had to give his hand outs. After cursing the lady in Mocho! he was now in May Pen to hand out his Salt Fish. It was said he had several boxes of the national dish, which lots of people wanted to put with their ackee. There was a long line up and he started to hand out the cod fish as a whole one to every one who came to see him. Each time he handed out a salt fish he would whisper in the person’s ear: Saying softly: Remembah de bell!
There was a lady in the crowd who thought she was smart. She came up to Bustah, and he gave her a salt fish, and do his ting. She rejoined the line, and came to him again. Again he reminded her of the bell on election day, he then turned to one of his men and said: maybe she lov tuh hear my voice. But then, yet again he saw her boring into the line. This time he took up a big Salt Fish, and hold it in his hand, and as she reached in front of him, he used the Salt Fish , and gave her one big box in her face saying: Move! Yuh Rass fram dey yuh get 2 time ah ready, yuh too +*%$# craven. It was stated she spin like a gig not knowing where she was.
Submitted by Danny Hayles
Brampton, Ontario, Canada