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Wednesday, 25 July 2012
New York


In the distance lies (the skyline of) New York, as we descend into Newark, New Jersey. The county in which Newark sits is called Essex. So you could say that from Newark, every way is Essex. Other than Essex, there are of course many familiar placenames in this part of the colonies.

When I asked a local resident the temperature yesterday, and he said “96 degrees” it evoked a Third World song of that name, which took my mind back about 25 years.  Marco on the Base describes the song as:

a dramatic and musically powerful retelling of the events of the October 1865 Morant Bay Rebellion, headed by Baptist deacon and preacher Paul Bogle who led an armed group against the British authorities in Jamaica with his attack against the town of Morant Bay.

The scene that the song dramatizes is such a central one in Jamaican history. The band identifies with Bogle, the main figure in the insurrection. Even though this is a song that looks at history, it achieves exactly what the best reggae songs do: it brings history home. The song is based on a historical fact, but it is never overt: at no point does it mention Bogle or Morant Bay. The year is the major clue to the poem’s meaning. The listener has to do some work.

Although the rebellion was crushed, as the song “1865 (96 Degrees in the Shade)” makes clear, Bogle’s actions reverberated across Jamaican history, sparking further revolts until the island finally won independence. Bogle is considered one of Jamaica’s greatest heroes and he is forever memorialized by the song which is among Third World’s most popular.

The song describes the day on which the portly Governer of Jamaica executed the two local leaders (Paul Bogle and George Gordon) after the failed rebellion pour encourager des autres.

Posted by bigblue on 25/07/2012 at 07:47 AM
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