All this bollocks yesterday from the minister for international development about how “Reggae stars ‘fuel spread of HIV'” is more than adequately dealt with by my old mucker here:

Letter in the Guardian 23rd November 2004 from Stuart Borthwick

and also by Human Rights Watch’s recent report Hated To Death: Homophobia, Violence and Jamaica’s HIV/AIDS Epidemic. Which states that, y’know, the fact that homosexuality has been illegal since before Sizzla was born, that police brutality against those suspected of living with the virus is normal, that there is inadequate healthcare, etc. may have a larger bearing on the issue than some song lyrics.

But, you know that already, innit?

So in typical tabloid fashion, we’ll just look at some records instead. I find the way that reggae deals with sexual health and deviance to be interesting and more complicated than it’s normally portrayed. I mean obviously there are a host of worthy records from people like Lady Saw and Buju Banton to point at which argue strongly for sexual empowerment and sexual health and this alone suggests that once again ministers who talk about popular culture are likely to talk out of their arses…

But what about the mad shit, eh?

King Kong - AIDS 7

King Kong – AIDS (Gussie P, 1992)

I have to say, I don’t play this one very much, but I’m still glad I picked it up for 50p from an old geezer selling it on the pavement in Brick Lane.

King Kong is I think best known for his late 80s work with Jammys (Trouble Again, Legal We Legal) and King Tubby (Babylon, and Two Big Bull with Anthony Red Rose). AIDS is a reversion of another Tubby’s hit. I’ve not heard the original, but this time around it’s over a blistering reworking of the Tempo riddim done by Tottenham’s Mafia & Fluxy.

Lyrically, it’s ominous, apocalyptic, imminent. Harsh from the opening line:

“Call Mr Martin – A billion coffin”

The chorus hammers it all home:

“When AIDS take you, lord a god
Nobody can help you”

And frankly, if you’re like me, you know what’s coming next and prepare to wince:

“Can’t say Jah never did a warn you
It’s written in the Holy Bible”

But the expected homophobic onslaught doesn’t really appear. Instead the biblical passages under review are the ones from Revelations (and not the usual Leviticus):

“When the time is coming to an end
One third of mankind a gonna go
by suffering and by plague”

So, it’s judgement, but on the whole of the population. Which ain’t great, but there is no mention on this record of bunning the battyman because of scripture…

Instead there is some garbled stuff in the middle about how it “lick down Freddy Mercury” and how gay people are going to end up like Rock Hudson if they don’t change their ways – which is open to interpretation, especially in the light of one of the final verses:

“Please please don’t get vex
I’m telling you my brothers – safe sex
Please please don’t get vex
I’m telling you my sisters – safe sex
Please remember when you kiss and caress
I don’t want to see a little life upset”

Of course, lyrics about a vengeful god smiting people with plagues etc is probably as old as the Bible (or in fact, the books which make up the Old Testament), but I’m sure Mr Kong drew inspiration heavily from:

Papa Michigan & General Smiley – Diseases (Greensleeves, 1981)

Some hugely bouncy early dancehall, combination style. The somewhat extreme lyrics are completely negated by the delivery which seems jaunty and amiable to the point of tongue in cheek to me. But maybe I just let people off too often for the sake of a good tune…

“Every day the girls dress up in the trousers
What happened to the skirts and blouses?
Why can’t I-man see you in your dresses?
Cos these things unto Jah is not pleases”


“Mind Jah Jah lick you with diseases
The most dangerous diseases
I talking like the elephantisis
The other one is the polomylitis
Arthritis and the one diabetes”

I mean… really?

Pad Anthony - Middle Leg 12 inch

Pad Anthony – Middle Foot(Jammys)

I am a massive fan of Mr Anthony’s “Champion Bubbler/See Them A Come” 12″ on Greensleeves. This isn’t nearly as good, frankly. But it does feature him going to a dance, meeting a girl with an improbable, yet cunningly rhyme-friendly, name. Making love til the early morn, you know the koo.

And yet, behind this common tale of hedonism and simple pleasures lies a painful reality. A couple of days later, Pad, finds that”strange things” are happening to him:

“Check me out nurse –
Nurse me a beg you
Fi check out mi middle foot”

Seems he’s come down with the clap, but is terrified of the injection the doctor recommended, so is begging for some pills instead.

It’s not all macho bragging you know!

This does however highlight one theme in this whole dancehall pathology thang – the final recommendation is not to go off with women who are strangers, which isn’t really bad advice, but seems to highlight the common idea that women cannot be trusted and are quite possibly vessels for disease. This is palpable nonsense, but perhaps the sort of way in which these issues get aired by conspicuously hetero males in conspicuously patriarchal cultures.

I dunno when this came out, but would guess late 80s, so obviously he should be telling people he’ll always use a condom again. Although use of condoms is something which there is huge resistance to in many countries which are plagued with AIDS, not just those which happen to be the home of certain reggae artists, so I dunno. Round and round we go….

Bunny General - Donkey Man 7 inch

Bunny General – Donkey Man (Waterhouse, 1988)

And so we finish not on the sublime, but the ridiculous. This isn’t about sexual health, per se, but I’m chucking it in here because it’s nearly related and you’ve come to expect tangents, yes?

Another seven from the Danny stash, which has fuelled many a blog entry and many a late night discussion round mine.

I’ll be quite open about this, I’ve heard this record loads of times now and I’m still not entirely clear what the fuck it’s about. This is partly because of the patois, and partly because the rapid fire vocals, but it’s also partly because it’s just completely mental.

Ok, here we go:

“No Donkey Man, Me Don’t Like Donkey Man!”

Geezer wakes up the morning and sees a woman named Shirley go by with a shapely behind. In true porn film style they then begin to get down to it, but are rudely interrupted by a braying donkey. Geezer looks up:

“Me see a youthman – behind a donkey”

For reasons which it will take a better man than me (or anyone I know who has heard this tune) to fathom, the song then goes into a bezerker version of the chorus of “My Girl Lollipop”.

It continues in similar style, with Millie Small’s finest leaping in when you least expect it. The closing lines give the game away:

“No rape the donkey, don’t rape the donkey”

To be honest, if I was Pressure Sounds, this would have been track 1 side 1 of their King Tubby’s digital compilation Firehouse Revolution but for some reason they didn’t even include it on there. Pah! I suppose there is a whole academic decontruction paper here, but my guess is that the “girl lollipop” bits are him trying to take his mind off the guy with the donkey and continue his business with Shirley.

Having said that it’s also entirely possible I’ve misheard the whole thing and it will turn out to be some well known anecdote about JA donkey keepers being disreputable in some other way.

“There’s a Dr Freud on the phone for you, John..”


  1. Hey….just read your thing makes for some great reading had me in stitches reading about the donkey man tune!! Fair play to ya interesting read about some tunes I know some I dont and nice clipping from the paper bout time someone got in with a bit of balance 🙂


  2. matt b http://www.wretchedmatt.blogspot.com
    2004/11/24 @ 10:13 am

    the cleaner ( / )
    Good point about Buju however so far has generated around JA$50,000 for HIV awareness which is less than 500 quid.

    One swallow and all that…

    Also I don’t know if you or your contributors have ever spent any time in Jamaica working on HIV awareness projects?

    I have and was stoned (although not with Ganja unfortunately) and accused of being a “battyman” while leaving a sufferers home. My camera equipment was damaged, I got bruised from the rocks being hurled at me and verbally assaulted. All I was doing was making a government sponsored film.

    one lurve…
    2004/11/24 @ 06:07 pm

    John Eden
    more power to you, Mr Cleaner – you want to get in touch and do an interview or something about all this (or failing that, just have a chat)? Where are you based?
    2004/11/24 @ 09:57 pm

    paul autonomic http://autonomicforthepeople.blogspot.com/
    Really nice post. I’d love to see the result of a collaboration with the cleaner.
    2004/11/25 @ 06:35 pm

    kekw http://kidshirt.blogspot.com
    Great post, John.
    2004/11/25 @ 07:13 pm

    the cleaner
    Thanks for the offer John and I will get in touch in the NY.

    Not too keen on interview or publicity thing as some of that happened by accident and I got caught out by rabid homo and xenophobic Jamaicans on one side and bruschetta munching white liberals in a Guardian reading induced coma seeking “Authenticity” on the other – not a pretty sight and not very comfortable either.

    Got my hands full at the moment but love this site and hope you don’t mind me joining in with occasional well meaning or scurrilous comments from time to time.

    South London, by the way.
    2004/11/26 @ 12:46 pm

    John Eden
    nice one da Cleaner. Look forward to it…
    2004/11/26 @ 03:33 pm

    Good piece, John. Keep ’em coming.
    2004/11/26 @ 08:02 pm

    siebe http://www.siebethissen.net
    Great post! You found some wicked & rare tracks ou there – why don’t you throw them in a mix?
    2004/11/29 @ 09:43 pm

    Me and Paul Meme are working on a mix together… soon come…
    2004/11/30 @ 11:40 am

    Mate, I’m really glad I gave you that Bunny General thing now, because otherwise it would just be sitting in a box on my floor, unplayed for years (but not unloved).

    What a strange record! To hypothesis, it might be that in less developed (read: “rural”) communities with easy access to animals, beastality is not completely that uncommon among sex-deprived yoot ie, it might not be completely unknown if your from a little village in JA – but as for the “my girl lollipop thing” – no idea, really….

    Anyone ever heard anything else by Bunny General?
    2004/11/30 @ 12:56 pm

    Actually, there’s a bio here –

    His first record was called “Goat Rider”….
    2004/11/30 @ 01:00 pm

    He’s a man with a mission!
    2004/11/30 @ 03:43 pm

    Class shit, bad boy…
    2004/11/30 @ 04:59 pm

    joe muggs http://www.livejournal.com/~dr_deadmeat/ )
    I was lucky enough to go to Cuba this year, they have an interesting take on dancehall with Cuban melody added – sadly I didn’t get any CDs as the best bands shun the state-run record labels and are very difficult to get hold of. I did manage to get to a yard party, though, with a band called Candyman who had a great pro-condom track during which they waved and threw out packets of them into the crowd.
    2004/12/05 @ 09:12 pm

  3. I heard a nice one called “ja nuh like gays” I believe it’s on the “madda dan” Riddim—– WICKED LYRICS
    I host a reggae radio show in San Digo Cal every Sunday night 7-8pm on 1470 am//// 10,000 watts of brutally honest reggae. I also own Salsa Bravo Gourmet Mexican Hot Sauce, available at your local supermarket, try it, you won’t be disappointed

  4. 1 problem with jamaican people and aids is not only the fear of catching it but the cost of having treatment for it most jamaican people cannot afford to treat a common cold much less the financial burden of having to treat aids us in a more comfertable position seem to not look at the broad picture but at only the mere surface.
    we should donate to countries that have an aids problem wheter it be jamaica africa etc
    i dont support the gay thing either call me homophobic if you like but i refuse to conform to this political correctness/equall rights with gays

  5. jimmo, you should read up a bit more on funding for AIDs clinics and awareness projects in Africa and JA. There is already quite a bit, but the issue is clouded by interference from places like the US saying that abstinence should be taught instead of condom use. There are also issues around drugs companies ramping up the prices of AIDs medication but I think this has been addressed now after quite a few protests. There can always be more tho, yes.

    Clearly not catching AIDs is far better than “treating” it. Most people infected with AIDs in Africa are heterosexual. Many many people who have raised awareness about and tried to organise against the AIDs epidemic in Africa are homosexual. So it’s a shame you don’t support equal rights with gay people as the reverse doesn’t seem to be true.



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