Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Duff Review: Prince Buster "Africa - Islam - Revolution"

(Review by Steve Shafer)

Prince Buster Africa - Islam - Revolution (CD, Earth Sound Records, 2019; available through While the exact sequence and dates of events leading up to Prince Buster's conversion to Islam from African revivalist Christianity vary according to narrator, what is clear after listening to the truly extraordinary new compilation Africa - Islam - Revolution (and reading its excellent liner notes) is the significant impact his faith had on his music and career--and how this aspect of his life is often glossed over in or omitted from many Prince Buster bios (see his entry in "The Virgin Encyclopedia of Reggae"). Unlike the songs ("Al Capone," "Madness," "Wash, Wash," "Time Longer Than Rope," "Take It Easy," etc.) that had made him popular among white UK mods through his fruitful partnership with Emil Shalit's Blue Beat label (which had an exclusive deal with Buster in England), the late '60s/early '70s rocksteady and reggae tracks collected here were created specifically for a black audience in Jamaica (greatly affected by the horrific and enduring legacy of slavery and colonialism), if not the entire African diaspora, and conveyed radical and daring messages of black nationalism and Garveyism embedded within the original Nation of Islam's interpretation of Islam. As an already established and successful artist and label owner/entrepreneur, Buster had the popularity, clout, means of production, and swagger that gave him the freedom and ability to record and distribute these explicitly political and religious tracks--but they were viewed as an increasing threat (along with his political and religious activities) to the status quo by the Jamaican political establishment, which regularly harassed Buster over his Black Muslim and Black Power activities, and eventually contributed to his permanent, forced exile from Jamaica in 1974.

According to an exhaustive career retrospective by Laurence Cane-Honeysett in Record Collector ("The King of Ska and More," from issue 459), Prince Buster first encountered Cassius Clay in 1963 in London while on tour in support of the release of his I Feel The Spirit album on Blue Beat (the first ska LP ever to be issued outside of Jamaica), and the two boxers and consummate showmen hit it off well. A year later, while on a trip to New York City where he was performing at the World's Fair as part of the official Jamaican delegation (which included Byron Lee and The Dragonaires, Millie Small, Jimmy Cliff, Eric Morris and The Maytals; the 1964 BBC documentary This Is Ska captures many of these same artists performing in JA), Buster again encountered Clay, who had recently become a Black Muslim and was known forever more as Muhammad Ali. Ali spoke with Buster about the original Nation of Islam (ONOI) and how aspects of it strove to address the societal and institutional racism that denies black people equal opportunities in education, career, housing--essentially everything in life--and invited him to his training camp in Miami to attend his first ONOI meeting (black separatism was one of two responses to white supremacy; the other, pursued by the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and the coalition of groups that comprised the American Civil Rights Movement, sought the equality and integration of blacks and whites in all aspects of society). According to many accounts, Buster shortly thereafter became a Black Muslim and adopted the name Muhammed Yusef Ali (though the liner notes for Africa - Islam - Revolution assert that Buster had converted to Islam as early as 1961, as does Lloyd Bradley in his book This is Reggae Music: The Story of Jamaica's Music; perhaps he converted to mainstream Islam in '61, but became a member of the ONOI in '64?). Soon after his return to Jamaica, Buster established a mosque above his record shop at 47 Charles Street, where he and Jimmy Cliff would lead prayer meetings; Buster eventually rose to the rank of ONOI Official Minister and would go on to form two other mosques in JA. Buster also launched a new label imprint--Islam--in tribute to his adopted religion.

Throughout his musical career, from his first hit producing and releasing the Folkes Brothers' "Oh Carolina" on his imprint Buster Wild Bells in 1959 or 1960, which controversially featured Rastafarian Nyabingi drumming by Count Ossie's Afro Combo (Rastas were considered social outcasts--the lowest of low--by proper, uptown/middle class and wealthy Jamaicans and the Jamaican Broadcasting Corporation (JBC) initially ignored it, but eventually caved to public pressure and it became a radio hit in '61), Prince Buster was driven to decolonize the Jamaican music industry that was by in large mimicking the American rhythm and blues records being broadcast from New Orleans radio stations and brought in on 45s via travelers to the US--and reconnect it with its African roots in order to create authentic Jamaican music (Lloyd Bradley in This is Reggae Music notes that "Oh Carolina" marked the first time, "one of the few surviving African-based art forms--a true articulation of black Jamaicaness--had become involved with a commercially viable mainstream expression. It was a bond between Rastafari and the Jamaican music business that is still in place to this day..."). In his February 2000 introduction to Bradley's book, Prince Buster wrote, "The minds of the Jamaican people were colonized by America's rhythm and blues. Its influence penetrated deep into the fabric of our society and had a devastating effect on our folk music, our dialect, even our dress code." He added, "I love rhythm and blues...but I also have an intrinsic love for things Jamaican; its musical expressions and art forms that are of Africa's heritage."

Even though jazz and rhythm and blues were black-created musical idioms, they were still American art forms. Buster stated that he made, "Jamaican records...[to] push out that American thing" (as quoted in Richard Iton's book, In Search of the Black Fantastic: Politics and Popular Culture in the Post-Civil Rights Era (Transgressing Boundaries: Studies in Black Politics and Black Communities)). Viewed through this lens, the very music that Buster was creating--his groundbreaking use of Rasta drumming, his hand in the creation of ska, his pioneering forays into dub--was an intentional expression of the black nationalism that he also was conveying lyrically in many of the songs on Africa - Islam - Revolution. And Buster was quite aware of how influential popular Jamaican music was in voicing and shaping Jamaican experiences and opinions. Again, in his intro to This is Reggae Music, Buster wrote, "Every twist and turn of Jamaican music for the last forty years has reflected what has been happening to the people, either politically or socially, and often it's the other way around, with the music and sound systems influencing the country's politics."

The rocksteady era was a particularly prolific and rewarding era for Prince Buster and he made significant inroads into roots reggae and dub, as all of the tracks on Africa - Islam - Revolution so wonderfully demonstrate. It's a fantastic, top-notch collection containing many rarities--and just as essential as the Gaz Mayall selected King of Ska; the Islam Records release Hush Up!; the expanded Sequel Records edition of FABulous Greatest Hits; and, if you can find them, the Rock A Shaka comps Voice of the People and Dance Cleopatra--even if the connection to Buster's faith isn't as evident on some songs as it is on others. Appropriately enough, the compilation opens with "African Affair (Salam)" and offers the traditional Muslim greeting of "Salam alaykum [peace be upon you]," followed by an adaptation of a portion of Psalm 19 ("Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, oh Allah, God, my life and my death are all for thee"). Since he leads a devout life ("my heart is clean"), Buster prospers ("Do you not like to see a young black boy drive a Chevrolet Impala custom-built golden chariot?...These things are for God's people..."; according to the liner notes, this is make and model of car that Buster drove when he was out proselytizing) and is shielded from pernicious, "bad-minded people" with typical Buster bravado, humor, and wit--what Suggs in Before We Was We: Madness by Madness calls Buster's brilliant "comic malevolence," a mix of "humor...reality...edge" ("God is my gun/God is my knife/God is the protector of my life"..."Dig a hole for me?/Dig one for yourself!"). Only one other song on this compilation specifically mentions Allah--more often there are Judeo-Christian and Rasta references that were more accessible to a Jamaican audience--but they do convey key tenets of Black Muslim/Black Power ideology regarding black empowerment, black self-reliance, and black solidarity to anyone paying attention. And many poor and working class Jamaicans were hearing them loud and clear.

During a time when many former black-majority Caribbean and African colonies were gaining independence, peacefully or through violence--and sometimes becoming socialist or communist states (and proxies in the Cold War between the USA and USSR)--the American Civil Rights Movement was non-violently advocating to end racial discrimination and establish equal rights for people of color under the law, and Black Power and Black Panther activity was threatening to disrupt racist deeply embedded systems of inequality in the United States, Buster was quite direct in what he was advocating for in "Black Power" (1967):

"Some say this
Some say that
Believe me friend, this is a fact
When black people learn to get together
Then we know we'll achieve some black power

White man afraid
Too many black man
Making the grade, yes
They're living in fear
They must sense the end of their power
Coming near

Black man rising in Asia
Uniting in Africa
They demanding freedom in Jamaica
Put fire under the mighty in America
Black man upheave to get rid of white supremacy, yes

He's glad he's free
But he must go to school to learn science
And establish self-rule
We must take the resources from under our feet
Build house, make clothes, and grow food to eat
Then our children will have an independent future
Based on the same foundation as Black Power"

One might think "Free Love" (also 1967) to be commentary on the sexual liberation that took place in the 1960s, but it's actually about demonstrating empathy and caring for other black people (and shedding the legacy of slavery and one's slave name): "Learn to love your brother/And never let let him suffer/We must join hands together, brothers/Our unity will conquer...Build homes for each other/And grow food for each other."

Just as he decried black on black, rude boy crime/violence through his series of hilariously over-the-top Judge Dread sides (note that the judge was Ethiopian--not part of the colonial/white justice system; in Bradley's book, Buster states that the impetus for recording his anti-rude boy tracks were real life events: several rude boys he knew who had gone into a school, beat up a teacher, and raped a girl), Buster, mindful of the influence of music on Jamaican civil society, called out any behavior antithetical to Black Power (and Muslim) doctrine that denigrated black people and played into whites' racist stereotypes of blacks. Loosely adapted from Psalm 23 (which is typically recited at Christian funerals: "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil..."), "Drunkard Psalm" pointedly warns the listener in typical Prince Buster fashion as to why black men should avoid the regular and excessive use of alcohol:

"Words of wisdom cometh from the wise man
Wise man says: This is the Drunkard Psalm
Through the inspiration of I, Prince Buster

Rum is their shepherd and they live in want
It maketh them to lie down in the gutter on an empty stomach
And vomit up some green things they did not eat
It has anointed their income with outcome
It leadeth them in the path of destruction for its proof's sake

Yea, though they walk through the streets of Kingston
They're as hungry as hell, and they do fear evil
For they cannot see

It prepares disaster before them in front of their friends
And, for a long time, it has anointed their head with blood
Their veins run dry

Surely man, surely, surely as the sun riseth
Poverty and hunger shall follow them all the days of their life
And they shall fight with the landlord forever

I gave to you the Ten Commandments
But your Ten Commandments cannot be kept
Unless you set an example for your woman-kind
Thou shalt not drink the rum
It's for destruction

This is the Drunkard Psalm
Keep it set in your mind
And you'll have a good clean living

Words from the wise man
Words from the wise man
Wisdom cometh from the wise man
Take heed to the wisdom of the wise man"

It's a powerful rocksteady track--one of my favorites (and recorded with his All Stars, a rotating group of top JA musicians, including Arkland Parks, Charles "Organaire" Cameron, Dennis "Ska" Campbell, Don Drummond, Ernest Ranglin, Gladstone Anderson, Jah Jerry Haynes, Karl Bryan, Lloyd Knibbs, Lynn Taitt, Oswald Brooks, Raymond Harper, Rico Rodriguez, and Val Bennett)--particularly since his spoken words are delivered over an insistent backing musical track that creates a magnificent tension by repeating the same guitar chords, sequence of piano notes, and horn lines in a seemingly endless loop.

"The Blues" is an alternate take of Buster's "Earthquake" (which is derived from Johnnie Taylor's Stax/Northern Soul track "Blues in the Night"; Buster even mentions the title of this song in his lyrics) and boastfully relates how Prince Buster will defeat his Orange Street competitors (Orange Street, of course, was then the heart of the Jamaican music industry, lined with record shops and recording studios) with the aid of world-renown black athletes Abebe Bikila (an Ethiopian two-time Olympic Gold medalist marathoner--in 1960 and 1964), Sonny Liston (at that point, the former World Heavyweight Boxing Champion), and Muhammad Ali (the newly crowned World Heavyweight Champion). Even these many years after breaking away from his former employer, during which he achieved great artistic and commercial success, Buster still couldn't resist delivering this line to tweak the nose of one particular rival, "The Prince comes out on Orange Street/And the Beat starts to retreat" (Downbeat the Ruler, of course, was the name of Coxsone Dodd's sound system).

The phenomenal, minor key instrumental "7 Wonders of the World" (1967) is particularly notable for being a precursor to the "Far East" sound that became popular in the early '70s roots reggae/dub era (and was mastered/popularized by Augustus Pablo, along with sound engineer-producer King Tubby and producers Clive Chin, Leonard Chin, and Herman Chi-Loy), and for featuring trombonist Don Drummond (who also pioneered the "Far East" sound through several of his own compositions, like "Confucius") and Jackie Mittoo on keys (according to Steve Barrow and Peter Dalton's Reggae: 100 Essential CDs). One presumes its inclusion on this compilation is because The Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt--an extraordinary African-built monument in the (black) cradle of civilization that was the tallest human-made structure for almost 4,000 years--is the only one of the ancient seven wonders that still exists. In addition, the Pharaohs' pyramids also remind one of the biblical deliverance of Israelites from slavery in Egypt, which has great relevance to Rastafarians, in that they considered this episode to be analogous to their coming deliverance from Babylon. (I named my 1999-2001 digital-download only ska/reggae label 7 Wonders of the World Music after this song.)

Then there are a few cuts that appear to have a tenuous connection to this compilation's theme at best, like "Shepherd Beng" (with Teddy King who ends up singing a bit of Curtis Mayfield's "Gypsy Woman," first recorded by The Impressions) and "Prayer (Guns for Hire)." While both are wonderful tracks (and hard to find!), the former is about someone negotiating with great specificity with an Obeah Man named Shepherd Beng over what it will take for him cast a spell to return his wife who left him for another man, while the latter is mainly a series of boasts like, "My gun's for hire/you'd better retire/If that's your desire" and, "On guitar is Lynn Taitt/he's my musical mate/He never hesitates/To give you rocksteady," followed by lots of James Brown-like exhortations like, "sock it to me!"

After this diversion, Africa - Islam - Revolution finishes strong with several incendiary and musically groundbreaking tracks. "Message to the Black Man" and "White Man's Heaven" (1968) are two parts of the same song ("White Man's Heaven is a Black Man's Hell"), an adapted and much improved cover of a 1960 spoken word over an instrumental track single by Louis X, a 1950s calypso singer who sometimes went by the stage name The Charmer, but was also known as Louis Farrakhan, a minister in the ONOI who in later years became infamous for his anti-Semitism and extremism (there's more on him later in this piece). Message to the Black Man was also the title of a 1965 book by Elijah Muhammad that was banned in Jamaica by Prime Minister Hugh Shearer, who believed that black nationalist and Pan-African literature and thought could threaten the stability of a relatively new independent Jamaica. Buster was charged with possession of this prohibited book, which triggered university protests where Buster publicly called the PM a colonialist-like "Pharaoh" and wrote the song "Pharaoh House Crash" about him (borrowing The Ethiopians' "Everything Crash"). Shearer lost the following election and the next PM lifted the book ban. Buster grafted on a Black Power directive to the beginning of "Message to the Black Man," before recounting the extensive history of white supremacy, its devastating impact on black people throughout much of history, and how Christianity was often co-opted to enforce it. Chapter one of this song--"Message to the Black Man"--largely follows Louis X's text, but Buster significantly re-writes Chapter II--"White Man's Heaven"--to be Jamaica-specific (and explicit in detailing the brutality inflicted on black and brown people by the white European slavers) and establish the narrative that Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Black Muslims, was divinely sent to help deliver Jamaicans from racist whites.

"I'll live for you
And I'll live for me
I'll live to bring a message
So the black man will be free

Black man, if you're black
You should be thinking black
Eating black
Sleeping black
Walking black
Buying black
Drinking black
And be proud that you're black
This is a message to the black man...

...Why is everybody making progress
Yet we seem to be lagging so far behind?
Why are we mistreated?
Why are we in this condition?

Stripped of our names, our language, our culture, our God, and our religion
Here in Jamaica, all of our religious training
Has been gotten by the preacher
He has told us of a heaven way up in the sky
That we can't enjoy now, but rather after we die
But all of the years that we're living
For us, there's nothing but hell
Pain, torture, and misgiving
Yet the Bible speaks of a heaven
Filled with material luxuries
Which the white man and the preacher
Has right here, so we see

So my friend, take it for what it's worth
Your heaven and your hell is right here on this earth..."

[Chapter II]

"...When John Hawkins showed up in our country
Telling us of a land filled with luxury
He said, 'Black man, follow me to Jamaica
Where you'll find more gold for your labor'
Where poor parents work, worked hard to the bone
Ever since that time, he's been resting with the gold
We landed here in Jamaica
400 years to suffer
So my friends, it's easy to tell
That the white man's heaven is a black man's hell

When the slave master wanted to have some sport
He would beat up on our parents
Cruelty of the worst sort
Like burn them at stake
Hang them in tree

Though you're pregnant, black woman
You pull the plough
Like a horse, like a dog, or even a cow
He filled your womb with his wicked seed
His half-white children you were made to breed
So my friends, it's easy to tell
That the white man's heaven is a black man's hell

When the white man came to Jamaica
He told the Arawak, 'I'm your white brother'
He said, 'Red man, I'll treat you the best'
Yet, instead, he pushed them Arawaks further west
With his white woman and firewater
Tricks and lies, he stole Jamaica

So-called Negros
Open up your eyes
Black man everywhere is on the rise
He's kicked the white man out of Asia
And he's going fast out of Africa
With every ounce of strength and breath
His cry is, 'Give us Liberty or give us death!'
The whole black world is rising up with you
To see what the so-called Negro is going to do
So my friends, it's easy to tell
That the white man's heaven is a black man's hell

God made a promise to Abraham
That his seed would be a stranger in a foreign land
They would suffer and be afflicted for 400 years
And then He would come and wipe their tears
Our God and Savior, Allah has come
And He has prophesied the white man's day is done

He has given us a divine messenger
One prophesied would come
His name Elijah
Look in Malachi four
We can now stand up
The whole world to tell
Our God has come to take us to Heaven
And push the devil back into hell"

In 1974, according to the compilation liner notes, Elijah Muhammad and other officials in an ONOI delegation spoke at a rally before 20,000 people at the Kingston National Stadium, and Muhammad Ali, who was being hosted by Buster, met with Prime Minister Michael Manley. No doubt, the popularity of the ONOI--and Buster's advocacy on its behalf--and its black nationalist message greatly alarmed the conservative Jamaican political establishment (as well, Manley was a democratic socialist, had instituted many progressive and socialist policies, and improved relations with Castro's Soviet Union-aligned Cuba--much to the United States' dismay).

While Prince Buster generally is not as recognized as other dub pioneers like Lee "Scratch" Perry (Blackboard Jungle Dub), Clive Chin (Java, Java, Java), and Herman Chin Loy (Aquarius Dub), his album The Message Dub Wise (released in 1973, the same year as the aforementioned records and, as Steve Barrow and Peter Dalton in Reggae: The Rough Guide state, "is as enigmatic and extraordinary in its way as Blackboard Jungle Dub or Aquarius Dub") featured dubs of two recent, popular tracks: Augustus Pablo's "Java" and The Abyssinians' "Sata Masa Gana." This compilation's "It's a Fire" is a version of "Java Plus" that appears on The Message Dub Wise and was recorded with Pablo Black on melodica--and features Buster toasting (!) a very Rasta-like, Book of Revelations-inspired set of lyrics:

"Some say it will be a revolution
Some say what a confusion
The righteous say what God say
If a fire, let it burn
If a blood, let it run
I and I know a change must come
The righteous are promised to beat down Babylon
Babylon is wicked
Babylon is evil..."

At the time, only a few other reggae musicians were releasing similarly apocalyptic, divine judgement-themed records (Niney the Observer's 1971 classic "Blood and Fire"---which quotes Joel 2:30--warns of what will happen to those who don't seek deliverance from God; released the same year, Max Romeo's "Let the Power Fall For I" seeks similar punishment for Babylon: "Oh, let the wicked burn to ash for I/Let the wicked burn in flames"), but none of them were publicly involved with a Black Power/black nationalist organization that could draw and influence 20,000 sympathetic or aligned Jamaicans to a rally in the heart of Kingston. No doubt, Jamaican politicians and elites took note of potentially seditious messages like these, even if they were couched in Rastafarian and biblical references.

The instrumental "Sata Masa Gana" that appears on Africa - Islam - Revolution is less dubby (and far less adventurous) than the version Buster included on The Message Dub Wise; it focuses more on the Rasta drumming and trombone melody and forgoes the fantastic flute lines and sound effects. The Abyssinians first recorded this track (which is based on Carlton and his Shoes' "Happy Land") for Coxsone Dodd in 1969, but he refused to release it, as he thought it had no commercial potential, according to Lloyd Bradley; the band eventually bought the tapes and issued it themselves in 1971 on their Clinch label to great success and it became a roots reggae classic. "Satta Massa Gana" is ancient Ethiopian Amharic for "He Gave Praise" and expresses the Rasta longing for repatriation to an idealized Africa/Zion, which certainly overlaps with Buster's push for black nationalism/Black Power.

In addition to the demonstrations noted above, Buster was arrested with Peter Tosh during a 1967 protest outside the British High Commission in Kingston over Ian Smith's Rhodesian Front white-rule/white supremacist takeover of black-majority Rhodesia (Rhodesia--now Zimbabwe--had been a British colony and Smith unilaterally declared independence from the Commonwealth), and in 1968, Buster was arrested again after leading a mass demonstration to protest the PM Shearer's refusal to allow Dr. Walter Rodney, a Guyanese-born professor in African History at the University Of The West Indies who was a socialist involved in the Black Power movement, to re-enter Jamaica after a trip to black writer's conference in MontrealAccording to Laurence Cane-Honeysett, Shearer had accused Rodney of "trying to incite a Castro-style revolution" in Jamaica; Buster later wrote an early reggae track in tribute to him, "Doctor Rodney (AKA Black Power)" (1968): "To be black with ambition in Jamaica is a dangerous thing/Doctor Rodney!" Only a few years later, Prince Buster himself would discover for himself just how perilous speaking one's truth to power could be.

By 1974, all of Prince Buster's political activism and Black Muslim proselytizing had become intolerable to unidentified members of the Jamaican political establishment and he allegedly was marked for assassination, according to Africa - Islam - Revolution's liner notes (during this time in Jamaica, political violence was tragically commonplace). However, Buster's standing among the Jamaican people was so high that a member of the hit squad assigned to murder him tipped him off to the plot, and Buster left JA to live in Miami for good, where he focused on running his other ventures, including his record shops, reissuing many of his singles and LPs, and operating his jukebox business. For the remainder of the 1970s, Buster occasionally released new music (including the magnificent "Uganda," a reworking of Don Drummond's "Green Island" that he recorded with The Revolutionaries and released under his Muslim name, Muhammed Yusef Ali), but in general had tired of the Jamaican music industry and was not enthusiastic about some of the directions reggae was heading, including the deejay style.

Of course, in the late '70s there was a resurgence of interest in Prince Buster's music, when many of the many of the 2 Tone bands covered/adapted his songs (see The Specials' "Gangsters," "Too Hot," "Stupid Marriage," and "Enjoy Yourself"; Madness' "The Prince," "Madness," and "One Step Beyond"; The Beat's "Rough Rider" and "Whine and Grine"). In a somewhat belated response to Madness' 1979 entreaty, Buster released the new and quite good single "Finger" in 1981 on Arista in England (its subject is similar in theme to his "Don't Throw Stones": "So when you're pointing your finger at me/Remember four of them pointing at you"). Post-2 Tone, Buster was lured back to the stage for an appearance with The Skatalites at Reggae Sunsplash in the UK in 1984, and an encounter with Gaz Mayall led to additional touring (and a life-long friendship), as well as shows and a 12" single with Gaz's ska band The TrojansBuster also re-recorded his song "Madness" with a reformed Selecter in the early 1990s and released a live album of many of this hits with the Determinations in Japan in 2003.

Prince Buster remained a devout Muslim until his death in Miami on September 8, 2016.

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In the years after the passing of ONOI leader Elijah Muhammad in 1975, his more progressive son Wallace D. Muhammad (also known as Warith Deen Mohammed) transformed the ONOI so that it was in line with the tenets of mainstream Sunni Islam, dropped the black separatist stance and belief that all white people were "devils," and eventually changed the name of his organization to the American Muslim Mission; notably Muhammad Ali followed Warith Deen Mohammed to orthodox Islam (and one could reasonably assume that Buster did, too; there's no evidence to the contrary). However, Louis Farrakhan--who had risen in stature within the ONOI after Malcolm X renounced and left the ONOI in 1964--broke off from the American Muslim Mission in 1977 and established a more extreme version of the Nation of Islam (NOI) with his followers, one that has been openly and virulently anti-Semitic and homophobic--and explored alliances over the years with white hate/separatist/supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan, National Front, and Richard Spencer's alt-right/white nationalists. While most people are more familiar with the Farrakhan version of the Nation of Islam, anti-Semitism wasn't a pronounced feature of NOI's first incarnation under the leadership of Elijah Muhammad (though ONOI's 1967 anti-Zionist stance in support of the Palestinians became a platform for Farrakhan's anti-Semitism, and Elijah Muhammad had repeated the despicable anti-Semitic trope that all Jewish people were deserving of hatred as they were responsible for the betrayal and killing of Jesus Christ--a vile thing that many mainstream Christian leaders had propagated for centuries).

It should be emphasized that none of Buster's songs collected on Africa - Islam - Revolution contain even a hint of anti-Semitism, nor do any of the other Prince Buster tracks that I've encountered over the years. As well, Prince Buster's black separatist stance was never was expressed as a blanket hatred of all white people (just the racist ones!)--and should be understood in context as a response to the systemic racism, oppression, and inequality that black people have experienced for millennia at the hands of white supremacists and through their institutions, policies, and social structures.

Also, there's scant mention of women in any of these songs, which is not surprising, given that women were subjugated and without much agency in that time and place--and whose role was seen as complementary to men's within the ONOI (focused on motherhood, family, etc.). They either need good examples set for them ("Drunkard Psalm"), are used to illustrate the very real horrors of slavery ("White Man's Heaven"), or are like possessions that can be bought back (""Shepherd Being"). Their role in the revolution was limited.

Lastly, how does one reconcile the fact that during this very same period, when he was releasing these religiously and politically-themed records, Prince Buster issued a slew of slack (full of sexual innuendo) cuts on the albums She Was a Rough Rider, Wreck A Pum Pum, and Big 5? The answer, most likely, was commerce. Buster's controversial Black Muslim and Black Power records were often avoided by Jamaican radio, which seriously cut into their promotion and sales (Laurence Cane-Honeysett: " a letter to the Jamaica Gleaner early in 1969, he [Buster] complained that the apparent radio ban had resulted in the disposal of some 30,000 unsold records the previous year")--but sex sells. And Prince Buster, ever the shrewd businessman, sold a lot of "Rough Rider," "Wreck A Pum Pum," and "Whine or Grine" singles...

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