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World Music Features

Taking Back The White House Through Music

By Matt Scheiner
Published October 30, 2008

The undeniable Caribbean support of a Barack Obama presidency.

The world music community has embraced Senator Barack Obama by adding an international flavor to his historic push toward the White House, and quite possibly making him the first U.S. presidential candidate to be canonized by so many different musical genres. Aside from American artist endorsements like Black Eyed Peas’ lead-man will. i. am’s “Yes We Can” pro-Obama song complete with celebrity video cameos, and support from Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel, Obama-mania has inspired endorsement tunes from as far away as Kenya  (with an entire Obama album recorded by Tony Nyadundo). But the most prominent pro-Obama music has been generated out of the Caribbean through its most powerful force—reggae music. Popular pro-Obama reggae songs have been filtering in from Cocoa Tea (“Barack Obama” and his new Yes We Can album), dancehall artist Mavado with “We Need Barack,” Tyrical with his hit “De President” and Stephen and Damien Marley’s tune “The Mission”).

 

Reggae is no stranger to politics. The music’s evolution in Jamaica in the early 1960s paralleled the development of politics in Jamaica, after the island gained its independence from the British. Dr. Matthew J. Smith, a member of the department of history and archaeology at the University of the West Indies, Mona, says since its creation, reggae has consciously reflected the broader social and political changes in Jamaica and provided a narrative for much of what has occurred.

 

“The commentary on Jamaican society and politics was not unique to reggae or even Jamaican music. However, the fact that reggae was infused with a Rastafari worldview that gave local developments universal and even biblical context, deepened its impact during the politically charged 1970s,” says Dr. Smith. He adds that throughout the 1970s reggae musicians sang songs of support for various leaders as well as songs of sharp critique of various administrations.

 

Dr. Smith adds that the Caribbean’s celebration of important moments in global political history through song is not something new. “In Trinidad, there were calypso songs in the 1930s about Franklin Roosevelt, as well as a host of other international political personalities throughout the years,” he says. “In Jamaica, ska singer Laurel Aitken sang about Ghana’s independence, Jimmy Cliff sang about the Vietnam war, Bob Marley sang about Zimbabwe, Buju Banton sang about Sudan, several artists<

Cocoa Tea’s newest album Yes We Can, is due to be released on I-Tunes and available at www.cocoateabarackobama.com on Election Day, November 4. The new album will feature his hit “Barack Obama” as well as his follow up song “Yes We Can,” which is a non-partisan call for unity between people of all political affiliations, races and classes. Cocoa Tea is joined on the album by a consortium of powerful reggae legends like Marcia Griffith, Shabba Ranks, Cutty Ranks, El General and Prezident Brown. Renowned Jamaican musicians, saxophonist Dean Fraser, the Firehouse band and producer Bobby Digital were all involved with the project as well.

 

“The new album is not just about politics,” says Cocoa Tea. “It is all about life and what affects the world and what goes on—love, reality, and politics, and everything combined.”

 

 

 

The U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama through song:

 

  1. “Barack Obama” — Cocoa Tea (Jamaica)
  2. “Afrobama”— Cody ChesNUTT (U.S.) Click to listen: www.myspace.com/codychesnuttmusic
  3. “Barack the Magnificent” — The Mighty Sparrow (Trinidad and Tobago) Click to listen: www.mightysparrow.com
  4.  “OBAMA!” — Tony Nyadundo (Kenya)
  5. “The Mission” — Stephen and Damian Marley (Jamaica) Click to listen: www.myspace.com/damianmarley
  6.  Como Se Dice” — Don Omar (Puerto Rico)
  7. “The People” — Common (U.S.) Click to listen: www.myspace.com/common