Big up yu batty, gyal II

Constant Spring Road runs north-south, from green-leaved uptown to Halfway Tree. No one knows what the tree was halfway between, and there is no longer a tree to be seen amid the exhaust fumes from the bus terminal and the chronic traffic congestion as the uptowners stream towards their offices in New Kingston and others head further south to the wasteland of downtown or swing round to Hagley Park Road lined with second-hand car dealers, leading much further down to the docks.

Little did I know in 1978, watching Althea & Donna on Top of the Pops, that I would one day drive down their famed Constant Spring. Althea with the huge Afro; Donna in gold lamé ‘alter back and batty riders. It was a huge hit in the UK and we all sang along with it at school, although the only words I could make out were, “see mi inna pants and ting (ooh!) hmm hmm hmm uptown top ranking (ooh!)”. The “oohs” were a bit inconsistent and you could end up feeling stupid if you “oohed” in the wrong place. Ahh, childhood memories …

I saw Althea & Donna a while back on a Dutch TV series, “One Hit Wonders” – as the title suggests, they never had another hit, but they were still the best of friends as they had been since school. They were a refreshing contrast to most ego-explosive band breakups.

Ah gwan wit yu … here it is.

See me in me heels and ting
Dem check sey we hip and ting
True them no know and ting
We have them going and ting
Nah pop no style, a strictly roots
Nah pop no style, a strictly roots

See me pon the road I hear you call out to me
True you see mi inna pants and ting
See mi in a ‘alter back
Sey mi gi’ you heart attack
Gimme likkle bass, make me wine up me waist
Uptown Top Ranking

See mi in mi Benz and ting
Drivin’ through Constant Spring
Them check sey me come from cosmo spring
But a true dem no know and ting
Dem no know sey we top ranking
Uptown Top Ranking

Shoulda see me and the ranking dread
Check how we jamming and ting
Love is all I bring inna me khaki suit and ting
Nah pop no style, a strictly roots
Nah pop no style, a strictly roots

Watch how we chuck it and ting
Inna we khaki suit and ting
Love is all I bring inna me khaki suit and ting
Nah pop no style, a strictly roots
Nah pop no style, a strictly roots

Love inna you heart dis a bawl out fe me
When you see me inna pants and ting
See me inna ‘alter back
Sey me gi’ you heart attack
Gimme likkle bass, make me wine up me waist
Uptown Top Ranking

See mi pon the road and hear you call out to me
True you see me in me pants and ting
See me inna ‘alter back
Sey me gi’ you heart attack
Gimme likkle bass, make me wine up me waist
Gimme likkle bass, make me wine up me waist
Love is all I bring inna me khaki suit and ting
Nah pop no style, a strictly roots
Nah pop no style, a strictly roots

You shoulda see me and the ranking dread,
Check how we jamming and ting
Love is all I bring inna me khaki suit and ting
Nah pop no style, a strictly roots
Nah pop no style, a strictly roots

And what could be a more fitting accompaniment than a subject I shot last week, and who caused the traffic to slow down to a crawl in order to check out her … green curlers.

Lettin' it loose on Constant Spring

Note: Apart from boosting the contrast and saturation, the image is faithful to the reality, even the text!

See Big up yu batty, gyal I

Video: Barbican Road

Tech note

Reload page if video thumbnail does not appear. From experimenting with various online video hosts, YouTube seems to be the most efficient. Blip.tv gave me some problems uploading and with playback, and as for Google video, I’m still waiting for their broadcast approval, three days after uploading the clip.


My heart sank when I saw the Friday evening rush hour traffic snaking its way along Barbican Road. Faced with 30-minute drive to cover a one-mile stretch, I pulled out my camera and filmed some driveby scenes.

The missionaries in “uniform” were a bonus, marching onward in synch. White missionaries in Jamaica is like taking coals to Newcastle or selling snow to the Inuit – Jamaica holds the world record for the greatest density of churches per square mile, and you never have to look far for some Old Testament wisdom.

King Merc meets higglers uptown

Uptown shopping
Shopping from the comfort of your car in uptown Kingston.

Although the resolution is too low to read here, I’ve changed the licence plate to [BUSHA 2].

For an explanation of the title Busha, read the following extract from Anthony C. Winkler’s hilarious novel, The Lunatic.

The Busha was the richest man in the parish. His land splashed over fields, licked at the belly of the mountain, and rolled down to the coastline. It was a luxuriant land, fed by wild streams and springs, rich with fruit trees and guinea grass pastures. It supported goats, cattle, fruit trees, rats, and praedial thieves.

Busha had inherited this land from his father, his father from his father, and so on down through a succession of twelve fathers stretching back to the earliest days of Jamaica. The very title of “Busha” – a slave corruption of “overseer” – spoke of ancestry, wealth, land, striking the local ear with the same galvanic ring that initials such as ITT, IBM, GM have on Americans.