Several persons in Linden knew that I was involved in the Mavado imbroglio in April 2008 when Minister Rohee banned him. They wanted to hear my views on the matter after the ban was removed. Initially, I was perplexed at the decision but before rushing to judge, I waited patiently on the activity to unfold before speaking, even though my suspicions were that the decision was premature and discriminatory.
So when I read Rawle Toney’s version of what transpired at the show on Saturday night last, my suspicions were confirmed and sealed.
In January 2008, when the decision to bring Mavado and Lady Saw for Linden Town Week’s last day, by Ward Entertainment was taken, we focused on Lady Saw as many of us did not know Mavado. We asked the promoter if Mavado would be able to attract a crowd, as we were looking at someone like Maxi Priest or Beres Hammond. The promoter told us that Mavado will pull a crowd and that Lady Saw had cleaned up her act. I remember asking him if she was now singing gospel like Papa San and Sanchez. Approval was given and one week before the event, the Regional Chairman alerted me to the fact that government was planning to ban Mavado from performing here. We all were aware of the investment by the young promoter and felt it was unfair, cruel and confrontational. The Regional Chairman and I wrote Minister Rohee expressing our concern about the development at that late stage, with so much money ($5M) out of the young man’s pocket invested. Minister Rohee in his response indicated that the ban was imminent and that public safely was paramount in the decision. Fortunately for the young promoter, Beenie Man was in Trinidad on a private engagement and Lady Saw told him that she will influence Beenie Man to come with her, and this saved the day, even though he suffered from the investment with Mavado. I quickly wrote to the Minister, telling him that Beenie Man would come to replace Mavado and I hoped the music from Beenie Man was acceptable to all concerned.
Minister Rohee organised a meeting at his office to present government’s position, which I read in the press because I was unable to attend. So everyone left there accepting that government was serious about dealing condignly with lyrics and music that glorified gun and gang warfare, along with its attendant violent and destructive outcomes.
Before arriving at my ultimate conclusion I must point to some poignant happenings prior to and during the episode. About two weeks before the ban was announced Bounty Killer came and he did his thing. As a result he was added to the list with Mavado. About a month before that Buju Banton was billed for the stadium and SASOD went to work on having him not being allowed to perform. They were unsuccessful and Buju came. Shortly into his performance he croaked “Boom Bye Bye” and the crowd went wild. Thereafter, it was reported that he made constant references to homosexuals and songs that bashed gays. So why was Buju not banned? It all happened just about the time Bounty Killer performed and Mavado was due to come. Is it that we are practising selective and partisan administration of these matters? The promoter for the Bounty Killer show almost dissociated himself from Bounty Killer, as he claimed that he was given repeated assurances from the management of the artiste, that he would not be doing these sensitive songs and acts. I would bet that Minister Rohee does not listen to that genre of music and must have been advised about the lyrics of these performers.
When we heard of the Mavado’s reprieve it was only the President and Dr Luncheon speaking about it. We are told he wrote a letter asking for pardon. Minister Rohee offered no comment. This told me that Mr Rohee, having placed himself on the banning line in 2008, was probably not involved in the reprieve. So bad boy Rohee banned and the nice men reprieved. Even for the cabinet this is not a healthy situation in which to find oneself, as in the case of the Minister of Home Affairs. Moreover, as citizens this thing is playing us for fools.
So come now to the actual event. Mavado will sing what is Mavado’s and a lot of his music is indeed about real life, gang warfare and the twin vices of violence and despair. Like Buju Banton, was Mavado, unrepentant? If “marrow a go fly “and “we ago empty 45 in a bwoy face” along with “de tings we ago do fuh de gal dem” is repentant, then we have no moral authority to ban any artiste. May I add that the imagery of “marrow flying” is ghastly and utter savagery. A gunshot wound which makes this happen comes from a high-powered weapon which strikes certain parts of the body, forcing constituent fragments to pitch whichever way.
So then who in Guyana felt the artiste will come here to sing songs other than those he was banned for in 2008? I do not believe there is one person in Guyana following the issue who believed that. The people who turned up there wanted to hear exactly what was belted out and the promoters knew this.
More scorn was heaped on the decision when the singer called out for salutation to a national hot spot, and even though the poor were singled out as his ally, this hotspot was responsible for government’s headache in a most recent period of hostility, leading to all sorts of alleged nefarious associations, forcing government et al to disown and disavow. Notwith-standing, the act gave credence to the hailing of the men involved as “special soldiers” (my term).
But what would anyone expect in these circumstances? The militancy, assuredness and patriotism exhibited by Jamaicans in general are not replicated in other Caribbean countries. (Guyana comes across as a very bad case where this is concerned and we know all the reasons).Yet in the late ’70s, Bob Marley was shot by unknown gunman and he was a hero there. There was a feud going between Marley and Peter Tosh at one stage even though they started together in one band. The usual animosity between the JLP and PNP had deteriorated so badly at the time, a unity concert was held and Michael Manley and Edward Seaga were asked to heal the country and start by shaking hands. At the concert Peter Tosh went on stage smoking a huge ‘plank’ and urging Manley to legalize it, as he advertised it. Shortly after, he was arrested. If my memory serves me well, Peter Tosh was killed by gunfire in Jamaica. Passion runs high in Jamaica and the artistes are generally unrepentant. Feuds are many – even at one time Buju and Shabba had theirs going. Hence, the feud between Vybez Kartel and Mavado is standard fare and they took it to another level. Their fans wore different colours and they had on battle wear (camouflage uniform). They (Kartel and Mavado) must have known it would have spilled over to the fans, who are usually the ones hurting in the end. We picked it up lock, stock and barrel in Guyana with several sound clashes across the country. I heard shots were ‘licked’ at our ‘Five corner’ in Wismar and revellers scattered during one such session.
Mavado proclaiming peace and love here rings a little hollow, and he must have known their (Vybez Kartel and Mavado) actions would have precipitated violence among their adoring fans. And to say that he goes home to his kids and the fans will go to jail if they do what he is singing about is a bit disingenuous. After all, he is the one pumping them up with the Gully lyrics and leaving them to fend for themselves, as he goes to his well-appointed den; it is not sincere.
In concluding, the music of Mavado has its following, and I will not deny that. The large turn-out at these events speaks clearly to this fact. Dirty and violent lyrics have their following. However the national airwaves must not be involved with anything remotely near the kind of lyrics we hear in this genre. I have heard this type of music on NCN. I have seen the Gully vs Gaza showdown advertised on NCN. I have seen the promotion of all of these events on NCN. People will get the music in their own way but the state must not contribute to it.
With respect to last year’s banning and the foregoing, the action by government now and then is at the least convoluted and conspicuously amateurish. ‘What’s good for the goose should be good for gander,’ but here, ‘Peter paid for Paul and all.’ In essence my young promoter lost because of the decision and others have smiled broadly all the way to the deposit box. Could he not have been given the benefit of the doubt like the others? People must trust their government and rely on their judgment. This is another decision that does not help this position.