My Big Fat Jamaican Wedding

Counting down to the big day

Jamaican Women a Run Tings

on May 5, 2012

I had an idea to create this post to list songs about Jamaican women but after I created my Fake Patwa post, I thought I would comment a little about my experiencing being a Canadian woman of Jamaican parents.  I have experienced both the positive and negative when it comes to public expectations and stereotypes of what a Jamaican woman is like.   Sometimes, people both Jamaican and non-Jamaican are shocked to find out that I am Jamaican because they say I’m too “nice/calm/polite/soft-spoken…” etc.  Who are they to make these statements?

On the other hand, there are these public descriptions which come from media, stereotypes, and over-generalizations of what Jamaican women are supposed to be: brash, strict, hard-working, outgoing, fun, servile, nurturing, nurses, nannies, housekeepers, emasculating, single mothers, sexually promiscuous, aggressive, fertile, strong, workaholic, religious, submissive, God-fearing, “good in bed”, gold digging, tough, shrewd, loud, confrontational, etc.  I generally find stereotypes quite limiting.  They do not provide any opportunities for diverse thinking and limit us all.

I originally wished to list all of the songs about Jamaican women which range from “best in the world” (Jamaican Girls by Uncle Johnny) to “steal your money and break your heart” (On and On by Stephen Bishop).  So who’s got the true story here?

The truth is Jamaican women a run tings.  (Standard: Jamaican women are running things.)  The current prime minister of Jamaica is a woman.

Portia Simpson Miller is runnin’ tings in Jamaica.

Portia Simpson Miller was first elected to Jamaican parliament in 1976 and was voted as one of Time Magazine 100 Most Influential People in the World.  She was the first women prime minister of Jamaica elected in 2006 and was re-elected in 2011.  To put this in perspective, the United States has not yet had its first women prime minister and Canada had Kim Campbell, its only female prime minister for five months.

Jamaican women excel in many areas and professions not restricted to politics but also education, health care, entertainment, culture, athletics, social services, and others not only at home but abroad in the countries they reside.

I searched the web and I found a chat site in which men listed why they love Jamaican women.  Here are a few examples of what one said:

The greatest thing about a Jamaican woman is that she takes pride in caring for her man and her family. Jamaican women have all meals ready, house cleaned, kids neccessities met without complaints. She will work hard to help her family succeed while keeping GOD first and foremost.
And you know the SEX is out of this world. Ready and willing EVERYTIME!!! (Donovan)

Uh!  A little tmi (too much information).  As I read through several sexual comments to this one, bad situations, “dirty laundry” aired, and some cussing,  I noticed a lot of nasty, derogatory comments about Jamaican women and realized that we Jamaican women truly deserve respect as do all women.

Without Jamaican women, who would have done the voice of the Lion King’s mother Sirabi?

Sirabi was voiced by Jamaican Madge Sinclair

Or give us a dose of crazy like fashion supermodel, Naomi Campbell?

Who could forget fashion icon Grace Jones?

Or my financial guru, Gail Vaz-Oxlade?  (A Jamaican version of Suze Orman only feistier.)

Gail Vaz Oxlade hosts two Canadian reality shows that I love: ‘Til Debt Do Us Part and Princess. Gail was so happy to know that I recognized her accent as Jamaican since she gets confused for Australian, South African, Scottish, and others. She is based in Canada.

Several members of my healthcare team are Jamaican women (including two of my doctors).  My surgeon was a Jamaican man and my dentist were all born of Jamaican women.  So we must be doing something right.

Here is a list of some videos by the many artists who dedicated their songs to Jamaican women.  One bad apple should not spoil the bunch.  Have an open-mind and come up with your own opinions.  To every over-generalization and stereotype, there are many, many exceptions so why generalize at all?  Jamaican women are as diverse as people are diverse.

(Now the fun part where I get to “cut up” these music videos.)

11 Songs About Jamaican Women

1. Jamaican Woman by Fab 5

I loved this song when it first came out in the 1980s but it is so catchy.  It wasn’t until this year when I listened to the lyrics very carefully, I realized that Fab 5 was singing about the personalities and characteristics of Jamaican women in each of its fourteen parishes.  Here are the lyrics for the women who come from St. Ann, my parents’ parish:

St. Ann women dem have good ways

but if you trouble dem dey will give you nine days

This song is fun and clever.  The story goes that two members of the Fab 5 played music in the hotel circuit and as they toured all of the Jamaican parishes, they found the women had some distinct qualities.  The video is very cute and is getting me excited to drive through the green rolling hills and countryside of Jamaica.

…5 …6 …7 I think they may need a name change. The Fab 5 band comes to Toronto during the long Caribana weekend

2. Jamaican Girls by Uncle Jonny

As I drove home, I heard this song playing on the radio and thought let me look it up on youtube.  Yikes!  There was a video!  And it looked like Uncle Jonny paid for it out of pocket.  Did anyone fund this?  Ick!  Uncle Johnny is a Canadian who wants to bring back “vintage reggae”.  I like the fact that he is celebrating all Jamaican women no matter their size, shape, or age but the woman who he is focused on the most, the stunning young sister who is working at the market place, looks young enough to be his daughter or grand-daughter.  Shiver!   I hope Uncle Jonny does get his wish and finds a nice Jamaican woman (not girl) who is in his age group and that he gets signed media releases from the women that he filmed going about their business.

3. My Jamaican Girl by The Gaylads

This is totally my dad’s music.  He loves the era of Jamaican rocksteady music and I grew up listening from his vintage collection.  My dad lists The Gaylads among his favourite groups from this period but he never forgets to mention “not that type of gay”.  Of course, dad.  And just to ensure that no one thinks that The Gaylads are that type of gay, they even mention that they slept with “many, many girls.”  Anyway, I love this tune.

The Gaylads like many other Jamaican groups at the time were influenced by the American R&B groups. Check out their threads!

4. On and On by Stephen Bishop

This song does nothing to boost the public image of Jamaican women.  According to American singer-songwriter Stephen Bishop, “they steal your money and they break your heart.”  Again a bad apple (or two) not only ruins the bunch but gets written and sung into a 1977 song and becomes a hit that is known internationally.  Or maybe he was a tourist in Jamaica who was a bit too naive.  Either way, will this song still be sung about Jamaican women in 2177?

Stephen Bishop, one unfortunate tourist

5. Jamaican Funk by Michie Mee

It seems that Stephen Bishop’s song had another life in this dancehall/hip hop classic by Jamaican-Canadian rapper Michie Mee.  She was the first Canadian female MC to gain success in the United States and was featured in Queen Latifah’s Lady’s First video.  I used to love this song when it first came out in 1991.  Again, we see hints of the Jamaican gold digger stereotype.  Why is this stereotype so prominent?  I grew up only around very hardworking Jamaican women who often worked multiple jobs to make ends meet.  Nevertheless, I love Michie Mee’s clothes which are throwbacks to 1990s Jamaican dancehall wear.

Michie Mee today

6. Island Girl by Elton John

I have heard this song before but it wasn’t until I was at karaoke bar in Regina (yes, in Saskatchewan, Canada) and I saw the lyrics (the racist lyrics) of this song flashed across the screen that I realized that this song has some serious issues.

With lyrics like:

I see your teeth flash, Jamaican honey so sweet

Turning tricks for the dudes in the big city

What you wanting with the white man’s world
Island girl

She’s black as coal but she burn like a fire

Sounds like Elton is singing about a prostitute.  Again, not a very positive image of Jamaican women but the wikipedia site I read suggests that it could be a male or female prostitute.  Hmmm…

Is Elton John singing about a Jamaican man or woman?

7. Jamaican Girl by Danielle

I discovered this song on youtube.  It is very dancehall-y.  Jamaican dancehall artist Danielle is dressed in sequined batty ridas (also known as booty shorts, hot pants, short shorts), decked out in Jamaican in national colours– black, green, and gold.  The video attempts to portray Jamaican girls with a bit more diversity– the dancehall queens, the cheerleaders, and the folk dancers.  I said “a bit” of diversity.  I love patriotic and “strong female” songs so this combines the both but are Jamaican girls really badder than the next gyal?

Is Danielle badder than the next gyal?

8. Jamaican Girl by Obie Trice featuring Brick & Lace

American rapper Obie Trice dedicated this catchy dancehall-inspired hip hop song to Jamaican women.   Brick and Lace are an R&B duo of Jamaican sisters.  Although I do give Obie Trice some credit for trying to bust the “fake patwa”, the video is pretty typical where hip hop is considered in its portrayal of scantily clad women on the screen.  The video is staged to look like Jamaica but upon close inspection, you will notice that it is not.  A train is going by in the corner of a street scene.  Jamaica’s railway system began in 1845 and stopped in 1991.  It started again in 2011 after almost twenty years hiatus.  Considering a significant portion of his rap was censored, I have no idea what he said about Jamaican girls but it generally sounds “positive.”  READ: He is quite smitten by Jamaican women.

Obie Trice getting it on

9. Jamaican Woman by Don Carlos

This is another song I found on the internet all about Jamaican women.  I can imagine thousands of Jamaican women holding up their lighters at a concert when this tune comes on.  “Jamaican woman, I like your style” and “won’t you stay with I for a while” sings Don Carlos.  I wonder if that line worked.

Don Carlos, Grandpa Dred

10. My Jamaican Girl by Prince Pankhi

Ah, this is so sweet!  I love a nice love song.  Prince Pankhi is a Bobo dred (a sect of Rastafarianism) and it seems that he is the only one of these male singers who is actually investing time into romance.  (Girls like that!)  But only one issue, he says “she cooks and cleans”.  While he is sitting down singing, the poor woman, before we see her face, is sweeping the porch and scrubbing the windows for a good 60 seconds of the music video and he hasn’t lifted a finger to assist her.  I don’t think I have ever seen a music video in which a man sings about his woman cleaning and then “there she is, cleaning” in the video.  He says Jamaican girls are “more precious than diamonds or pearls”.  Unlike the other music videos, it is nice that he is singing about 1 Jamaican girl and that she is loved by his mom and respected by his family.  She walks with him on the farm and plants corn with him.  She treats him good and not mean, respects him… Although it is obvious this couple loves and cherishes each other, family, and the home.  They sit under the tree feeding each other fruit.  They farm and visit family together and even throw down in the club.

Prince Pankhi knows a bit about romance, his woman is Miss Jamaica in his eyes

11. Reggae Woman by Stevie Wonder

This was a last minute edition to my list here.  I was not sure if I should include Stevie Wonder’s “Reggae Woman” since he does not mention if this lady is from Jamaica but since reggae is Jamaican music, I think the song qualifies.

Vintage Stevie Wonder

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