You ever have one of those days? You know, those extra rough days that just wears on your soul? Yesterday was like that for me.
Excuse me a minute while I get personal — at the end of a long, stressful day, Mama Bella called to tell me that our family dog drowned in the pool (He was at least fourteen years old, and the poor guy had cataracts, bad hearing, persistent hot spots, a replaced joint, and arthritis so bad that the vet recommended he get a daily fragment of Tylenol Arthritis in his food. It was definitely his time to go, but I really wish that it wasn’t like that).
Let me tell you, I needed a good, long weep tonight after getting that news.
If you’re like me, you need a pick-me-up on days like that. Call me crazy; but even though I am not a particularly religious person, I’ve found that listening to religious music calms my spirit when I need respite. And being from the Caribbean, there’s something about the music of my region that connects with me like nothing else does.
Island people, you know what I’m talking about. You don’t tend to hear hip hop songs that give praise to a higher power on the radio or at the club; that’s what made “Jesus Walks” such a wonderful anomaly. But in reggae music, praising Jah has been a part of the music since back in Bob Marley’s day (just listen to Jah Live, which he composed in response to the naysayers who jeered at Rastafari following the death of Haile Selassie I in 1975).
That uplifting trend continues in Caribbean music. This might sound strange to those of you who have never tried it, but there’s something kind of awesome about being at a concert or nightclub, hearing a veritable hymn blast through the speakers, and being part of an audience that is moved by the music. And these aren’t squeaky clean functions where there’s someone taking up a collection or passing out wood-handled fans, either. Call me a heathen (seriously, my mom does!), but some of my most potent spiritual experiences have taken place while dancing, most likely with a drink in hand.
Some of my favorite religious reggae songs are by the late, great Garnet Silk, yet another reggae legend tragically cut down in his prime. Some of Garnet’s songs were little more than Bible verses set to song, and his singing really feels like church. Take a listen to the great man singing Fill Us Up With Your Mercy. I also have a lot of love for Luciano — It’s Me Again, Jah is a classic. Back in the day, Half Pint’s Greetings was one of the biggest tunes in the dancehall, and it remains one of my all time favorite songs.
Religious party music is also popular in my homeland. David Rudder has been called the Trinidadian Bob Marley, and his anthemic High Mas — essentially an “Our Father” for debauched Carnival revellers — is one of his all-time best. My new favorite is Issac Blackman’s To The Ceiling.
The video isn’t all slick BET style, and the lyrics might be hard to understand, so click here for a transcription. But the message was exactly what I needed to hear after all of today’s stress and heartache. “God you have my back, always defend me when I’m under attack.”
I love this song, and I hope you do too. Because we all have those days when we feel like there’s an invisible target on our backs.