Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Memba Wa Day Weh Wi Dweet?

I want to tell you what a soundsystem party is like in Jamaica.

Actually, I think soundsystem is the general term the Jamaicans use to describe any mobile party at which gigantic towers of speakers are brought to bear on a typically vacant space, and people come and listen. But I'll tell you about a soundsystem party near Treasure Beach, on the remote, virtually tourist-free south coast of Jamaica.

So we're there, last week, in Jamaica, four whiteys. Normally I would not call Mexican-American MG a whitey, nor would I call Russian-American AE a whitey, nor would I even typically consider my ethnic Jewish self a whitey, but we were all whiteys down there, relatively speaking. (We even got called whiteys a couple of times, but I'm pretty sure those remarks were only observations, not meant as judgments or disdain.)

We met a friend called Andy who told us he was going to take us to this party around 10:30 if we were interested. So we pile in his right-side-driver's-seat car, with his friend Ruell, and drive a ways to a parking lot where we hear loud music, and see lots of totally mild-tempered Jamaicans hanging around, drinking and smoking. The whole thing was very Heavy Metal Parking Lot, only different in the obvious ways.

Across the street, there's an outdoor staircase leading to a bar (N.B.: much of Jamaica doesn't really have wet bars--more like rooms with painted signs and wooden counters decked with bottles, and coolers full of ice) where folks make their way for Red Stripes and delightful Appleton rum drinks in plastic cups and some sort of gross energy drink/malt liquor hybrid called Magnum, which tastes like Dimetapp that's been in the fridge since 1981 plus moth ball juice.

So we're sticking fairly close to Andy and Ruell (ourselves being whiteys and all), and we're drinking, and trying to fit in (ha!) and lots of time passes, and we're still in the parking lot, and the whiteys start to wonder aloud to each other whether this parking lot is indeed the soundsystem itself. I mean, there seemed to be people, and music coming from somewhere, but no one was dancing, and WTF? We inquired with Andy, and he said we were just "waiting for the right time" to go "in." It was probably 1 a.m.

At some point, it became the right time. Andy gestured to us that we should follow him to a parked Corolla (which I guess belonged to the soundsystem's promoter) and each pay $200 Jamaican (about $3 U.S.) in exchange for wristbands that would get us into the actual soundsystem.

Someone opened a gate in a chain link fence, and we were inside. But it was still a parking lot. But it was the other side of the parking lot, the one with the giant towers of speakers emblazoned "Stone Love" and the DJ spinning mostly reggae and dancehall. Loud. Us whiteys figured we better put torn-up bits of napkins in our ears, which we did. Discretely, of course, mon.

We were all excited to see Jamaican girls dressed in bright colors dancing the night away. But we didn't, really. First off, it was mostly men. But more importantly, no one was really dancing yet. Apparently, the girls don't heed Sean Paul's call to shaaa-aaake their thiii-iiings until the sun comes up.

So when we crossed the chain link threshold again to go home, maybe around 3 a.m, we saw a sea of Jamaicans in the parking lot, their numbers tripled or more since we'd gone in, all angled toward the gate, waiting for the "right time." It was like Night of the Living Dead, the Caribbean version.

Anyway, bredrin, that's the story of the great south coast soundsystem of the summer of 2007.

Likkle more.


ascia said...

ya mon, that's how it was! we be reasoning in de parking lot for long time. it was all irie, good times, ya mon. respect and one love rasta,
AE whitey

pknothe said...

That patois glossary is fantastic. The word "corn" is amazingly versatile -- and I never would have thought "corn" could have meant any one of those things, let alone all three!