Plenty Bottle of Kola Wine

Advertisement for kola wine in the Daily Gleaner in 1901

Advertisement for kola wine in the Daily Gleaner in 1901

The lyrics of the classic song “Sweet and Dandy,” written by Frederick Hibbert, known to us as Toots, tell of a young couple’s wedding day jitters and reassurances from their family, who have spent money on food and refreshments for the assembled guests. As I sing along, I belt out the words, “kola wine,” realizing that I, once again, have no idea what I’m warbling! So I decided to check it out, for those non-Jamaicans like me, so we can know the history of this beverage called kola wine with the hopes that I may someday try a glass and toast to Toots himself.

Advertisements for kola wine first appear in the Daily Gleaner in 1900. One ad describes this new drink:

It is a powerful Stimulant, A Pure Product, Palatable as well as Nourishing, An Agreeable Beverage that is also a Nutritive Tonic. It is tolerated by the weakest stomach and is a substitute for solid food in cases of acute disease and is valuable to digestion in all chronic conditions including mal-assimilation of food. In cases of acute disease in which other nourishment cannot be received, Club Brand Kola Wine is effective and easily bourne. But perhaps its widest usefulness is among chronic invalids, those convalescing from wasting illnesses, those who are constitutionally feeble and those who are temporarily or frequently require a tonic.

Advertisement for kola wine from the Daily Gleaner in 1900

Advertisement for kola wine from the Daily Gleaner in 1900

The advertisement goes on to state that it is good for “various ailments” including dyspepsia, asthma, sea sickness, diarrhea, heart weakness, following fevers, brain and nerve ailments, neuralgia and migraines, and as a general tonic to aid circulation. These advertisements are not unlike those of Coca-Cola or Dr. Pepper in the same era in the United States and elsewhere. The “stimulant” found in kola wine is, like Coca-Cola and other popular soft drinks, caffeine, which is found in the cola nut used in production of both Coca-Cola and kola wine. The nuts have been used for centuries as a diuretic, stimulant, cardiac tonic, astringent, and anti-depressive.

Coca-Cola advertisement from 1886

Coca-Cola advertisement from 1886

These sorts of tonics were and are still popular in Jamaica and among Jamaican musicians. Pianist Herman Sang revealed to me that Don Drummond was known to drink a tonic in the studio, although it is unknown exactly what it was. Sang told me, “I noticed that he had this brown bag, a paper bag with something that looked like a one pint little bottle and he would bring it and put it beside the piano, like on the ground where the piano was. And whenever we had a break he would come over and open the bag and nobody really knew what it was. Maybe it was an energy drink! (laughs) But I always remember that.” Kola wine? Perhaps! Drummond’s favorite drink, however, was limeade or a concoction of Ovaltine and clay.

A Jamaica Observer article on September 1, 2003 revealed more information about what is called “root tonics.” Author Gwyneth Harold writes, “There is a variety of roots wines in the supermarkets and on bar shelves. They have names like Zion, Baba, Allman Strength Roots Drink, Lion Brand, Kola Wine, Magnum, Ginger Joy, Ginger Wine with Ginseng, and Pump It Up. They have stiff competition from the ‘small man’ who mixes a batch in his kitchen and sells it unlabelled out of a knapsack under names like Front End Lifter. Some of the roots drinks claim to be specially recommended for those ‘suffering from a run down constitution’ or ‘fatigue.’ Some say that they are number one in their class for enhancing one’s energy level ú taking it to a whole new plateau. The makers of Magnum proudly declare their drink to be with ‘Vigorton 2’ – a popular drink of an earlier time that was immortalised in ska by Lee Scratch Perry and King Stitt. There are also virility claims because some of the natural ingredients contain aphrodisiacs such as peanut root, sarsaparilla and medina. . . . Pump It Up, itself used to be known as Samsons Wine, The modern blend has 27 roots. It is recommended for adults only. A serving size of roots drinks ranges from one to two wine glasses. But while they are a popular part of Jamaican culture, we wondered if there were any standards in place to regulate these beverages. Diane Robertson, registered pharmacist, herbal consultant and author of ‘Live Longer, Look Younger With Herbs’, explained that one of the first distinctions to be made was the difference between roots tonic wine and a roots drink or roots juice. Tonics are for perking up the system, she said, but once the word tonic was on a bottle, it had to be registered by the Ministry of Health (MOH).” The article goes on to advocate regulation and proper labeling.

Below are the lyrics to “Sweet and Dandy” as well as a link to the song. Please post below if you have tried kola wine and share your experiences—for those who are unfamiliar with the beverage, like I am, we’d love to know your thoughts!

Listen to the song here and see Toots & the Maytals perform this classic in the film The Harder They Come: Sweet and Dandy

Sweet and Dandy
By Toots & the Maytals

Etty in the room a cry
Mama say she must wipe her eye
Papa say she no fi foolish
Like she never been to school at all

It is no wonder
It’s a perfect pander
While they were dancing
In that bar room last night

Johnson in the room afret
Uncle say he must hold up him head
Aunty say he no fi foolish
Like a no time fi his wedding day

It is no wonder
It’s a perfect pander
While they were dancing
In that bar room last night

One pound ten for the wedding cake
Plenty bottle of kola wine
All the people them dress up in a white
Fi go eat out Johnson wedding cake

It is no wonder
It’s a perfect pander
While they were dancing
In that bar room last night

Etty in the room a cry
Mama say she must wipe her eye
Papa say she no fi foolish
Like she never been to school at all

It is no wonder
It’s a perfect pander
While they were dancing
In that bar room last night

Johnson in the room afret
Uncle say he must hold up him head
Aunty say he no fi foolish
Like a no time fi his wedding day

It is no wonder
It’s a perfect pander
While they were dancing
In that bar room last night

One pound ten for the wedding cake
Plenty bottle of kola wine
All the people them dress up in a white
Fi go eat out Johnson wedding cake

It is no wonder
It’s a perfect pander
While they were dancing
In that bar room last night

But they were sweet and dandy
Sweet and dandy
Sweet and dandy
Sweet and dandy

Sweet and dandy
Sweet and dandy
Sweet and dandy
Sweet and dandy

They were sweet and dandy
They were sweet and dandy
They were sweet and dandy
They were sweet and dandy
They were sweet and dandy

Remembering Bim Bim

Bim Bim, also known as Allan Scott or James McKenzie, from the Jamaica Observer, 11/20/14

Bim Bim, also known as Allan Scott or James McKenzie, from the Jamaica Observer, 11/20/14

I saw a post by Mark Williams yesterday that Allan “Bim Bim” Scott had just passed away. He died on October 20, 2014 and a service in his honor took place on November 16th. I thought this would be an opportunity to talk about Bim Bim who was Coxsone Dodd’s associate producer, without whom we may not have one of the most impressive set of recordings of Skatalites tunes, for Justin Yap on his Top Deck label.

First, let us read the article that Howard Campbell wrote in the November 20, 2014 edition of the Jamaica Observer on the burial of Bim Bim, whose name was James McKenzie, although most knew him y Allan (sometimes spelled Alan) Scott or Bim Bim:

Dodd’s ally laid to rest

Thursday, November 20, 2014

James ‘Bim Bim’ McKenzie

JAMES ‘Bim Bim’ McKenzie, a close associate of producer Clement Dodd during the 1960s and early 1970s, died on October 20 at the Kingston Public Hospital at age 74.

The St Mary-born McKenzie was also known as Alan Scott. The thanksgiving service for his life took place last Saturday at the Dovecot Chapel in St Catherine.

He was interred at the Dovecot cemetery.

Scott worked with Dodd at his Studio One label when it was transitioning from rocksteady to reggae in the early 1970s. He is said to have been instrumental in introducing singer Winston ‘Burning Spear’ Rodney to Dodd, as well as a group of musicians out of Linstead who ‘changed’ the Studio One sound.

Those musicians were the Soul Defenders band which included percussionist Joseph Hill who later found fame as singer Culture.

McKenzie eventually left the music business and moved to Prospect, St Thomas, where he went into farming.

James ‘Bim Bim’ McKenzie is survived by two children (Anice Scott Mullings-Anderson and Michael Scott), four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

— Howard Campbell

 

In my biography Don Drummond: The Genius and Tragedy of the World’s Greatest Trombonist, I write a few words about Bim Bim, including the following:

The Skatalites also continued to record for various producers but they sought to get better wages than they earned as solo artists. One of the producers they recorded for, who was known for offering fair wages, was Justin Yap and his brother Duke Yap who ran the Top Deck label. Justin Yap was introduced to the Skatalites by Allan “Bim Bim” Scott, Coxsone’s assistant, who knew the musicians personally and suggested Yap record them. During a now-famous all-night recording session using Studio One in November, 1964, Yap recorded some of the Skatalites’ most classic tunes, all written by Don Drummond. He arrived for the session with five songs already written—Confucius, China Town, The Reburial, Smiling, and Marcus Junior. In the liner notes to Ska-Boo-Da-Ba, the re-release of Top Deck’s Skatalites sessions, Yap recalls his thoughts on Drummond. “I admired Don Drummond. I call him maestro. He takes over. He’s in charge. He knows what he’s doin’, he very professional. And when you hear my recordings with Drummond, you listen, you know that he took charge,” said Yap to Steve Barrow. He says it was a little tough to deal with Drummond at first because of his idiosyncrasies. “I remember when I drove Bim down town . . . we drove to his home. First of all, I didn’t go in—Bim Bim went in and talked to him first. I remember one time he took off! Just went down the road and come back with his answer—it’s ok! Whatever he had to do, you know?” Yap told Barrow.

Sure, one can argue that without Bim Bim these songs would have just been recorded for a different producer, perhaps Coxsone himself, but we all know that each producer has his or her own sound, own take on the music, own production and creative interpretation. Without Bim Bim making this connection, ska history would not have been the same. Thank you Bim Bim for your contributions to Jamaican music.

Enjoy these now-classic ska tunes:

Confucius

China Town

The Reburial

Smiling

Marcus Junior

 

Enid Cumberland

Enid Cumberland, half of the duo Keith and Enid.

Enid Cumberland, half of the duo Keith and Enid.

We may know Enid Cumberland from her duos with Keith Stewart. But few know that Enid was with Studio One for over four decades–not as a performer, but as a studio employee. Of course you can read an entire chapter on Enid Cumberland in my newest book, Songbirds: Pioneering Women in Jamaican Music which is available through this website, skabook.com, but here are a few excerpts from that chapter, to celebrate Enid’s long career in Jamaican music.

Enid Cumberland lives alone today in Stony Hill and she remembers her childhood with a sense of humor. Born on December 11, 1930, Enid is still whip smart, active, and filled with love. “My mom had eleven of us—can you imagine?” she recalls. “My daddy was a soldier in the army and at that time it was King Edward the eighth. When my mommy used to go out she had to leave some of us with grandma or she had to share us with somebody because we were so plenty. My mother was part African and my daddy was Jamaican and part Jewish and we have a mixture, some darker than some.”

Enid was given special opportunities in school—opportunities like singing for the school choir. She also sang in church—her own and others. “We grow up Roman Catholic but I never understood much of that, to be frank. It was in Latin and there’s a lot of Latin. I always go to all churches because I can sing and my friends would have a concert and ask me if I could come and sing and I say you have to ask my mommy and daddy so they give information and come and take me. And I wasn’t a person that was scared. I show off when I’m singing! (laughs) And they say, ‘Oh this little girl! She can sing like a big woman!” But it wasn’t until after graduation from school that Enid really got her start. It was at Vere John Opportunity Hour, the launchpad for so many careers in Jamaican music, that Enid Cumberland also got her big break into the world of show business. “I sing for Vere Johns when I was 20 or 22, something like that, but I found a partner. His name was Keith Stewart and we did a few hits and we were recognized in Jamaica over time,” she says.

Enid also continued to record, primarily as a duo artist, performing songs with Lord Creator at Studio One. Lord Creator, whose real name was Kentrick Patrick, was a calypsonian made popular by his hit song “Independent Jamaica” in 1962. With Enid he recorded “Simple Things,” “Love Lost (Lost My Love),” “I Cried a Lie (I Cried a Tear),” and “Beyond,” all at Studio One in 1963 and 1964. And she also partnered with other artists over the years as they came into the studio, such as Roy Richards and Larry Marshall, but it was all done at Studio One post Keith & Enid breakup and she explains why. “I wanted to have children. Show business I had to leave because you don’t get much. Whatever we did get, it helped up, but that was years ago and it’s whatever they offer you. You cannot survive on it, you know? And I got married and started to have my children and I didn’t bother with the singing outdoors on stage and so on. I started to work at Studio One for Coxsone. Why I did that was because I was sure of my salary and don’t have to wait until someone call me to come do a job. I did supervision. People would come in and backup artists so I show them where they stand and get the microphones and move them up and down. I did that for Studio One for about 40 years. Everybody come here, and some invite me to England, but I think you’re not really suited to that when you have children,” she says.

Enjoy the Keith & Enid classic, “Worried Over You,” a tune in the traditional American R&B style that Jamaican musicians so loved: Worried Over You

“Send Me” was another huge hit for the duo, listen here: Send Me

And here’s an Enid solo, Town & Country Cafe, recorded at Studio One in 1971: Town & Country Cafe

 

Let me tell you about Sally Brown . . .

Laurel Aitken in Chicago at the Subterranean in 1995. Photo by Heather Augustyn

Laurel Aitken in Chicago at the Subterranean in 1995. Photo by Heather Augustyn

So I love me some Laurel Aitken, and I’m singing along in my car to Sally Brown driving down the highway and my son starts laughing. I’ve belted out these lyrics so many times I don’t hear them anymore, but my son’s fresh ears pick up on perhaps the silliest words to ever grace a ska song–yes, the cukumaka stick. What the heck is a cukumaka stick? I decided I’d find out.

The cukumaka stick is actually a coco macaque stick. It was first used by the Arawaks in battle, even though they were largely a peaceful people. The Arawak, or Taino Indians as they were sometimes called, were one of the native people of the Caribbean. They came to the islands of the Caribbean from Guyana or perhaps from other islands in the Greater Antilles and the Bahamas. They were still a Stone Age people whose tools were primitive and they were an agricultural and fishing people.

The Arawaks used the coco macaque, a heavy solid strong stick or club, as a tool, but they also used it to bludgeon their victims or enemies in combat. In Haiti, the coco macaque stick was called “the Haitian Peace Keeper.” In Cuba, where Laurel Aitken was born, it was called “the Cuban Death Club.” And in New Orleans, the coco macaque stick is called “the Zombie Staff” or “Spirit Stick.”

Coco Macaque stick from the Vodou: Sacred Powers of Haiti Exhibit, photographed on 11/8/14 by Heather Augustyn.

Coco Macaque stick from the Vodou: Sacred Powers of Haiti Exhibit, photographed on 11/8/14 by Heather Augustyn.

The coco macaque stick was used in Cuba and Haiti as a weapon and became a part of the cultural vernacular after it was used by the dictatorial regimes in Cuba and Haiti against political activists. During the regime of Papa Doc in Haiti, the coco macaque stick became a symbol associated with the “guaperia,” or his military. According to one article, the “Cocomacaco was the main weapon of the notorious tonton macutes, his the personal body guards.”

The Daily Gleaner on March 1, 1915 wrote of  a coco macaque stick when reporting on a corrupt Haitian dictator who stole money from the country’s coffers. It stated, “He could only find a few thousand pounds to seize, though he sent an army to make the levy: an army strongly armed with superdread-nought cocomacaque sticks.”

Aitken is likely informed by many of these interpretations of the coco macaque stick, but perhaps none as much as the one in his own country which saw the coco macaque stick as a weapon associated with slavery. On the Cuban sugar plantations, slave owners beat their slaves with a coco macaque stick. The weapon later became a “tool of correction” used by men on women, and there was a Cuban proverb that said that wives should be “corrected with cocomacaco hard,” which may also shed light on why, when Laurel Aitken was once asked about this lyric, he hinted at a sexual connotation, as was common in the calypso, mento, and subsequent musical traditions–just think of Jackie Opel’s “Push Wood” for an example with a similar object–wood–but there are dozens if not hundreds of others with different objects–shepherd rods, needles, etc.

The coco macaque stick also had a life all its own. The Taino Indians and Haitians who practiced Voodou believed that the coco macaque stick walked by itself. The owner could send the coco macaque stick to run errands or dirty work, and if the coco macaque stick hit someone on the head, they would then be dead by morning.

Coco Macaque stick from the Vodou: Sacred Powers of Haiti Exhibit, photographed on 11/8/14 by Heather Augustyn.

Coco Macaque stick from the Vodou: Sacred Powers of Haiti Exhibit, photographed on 11/8/14 by Heather Augustyn.

Here is some information I found in an article on voodoo: “Coco macaque is what many refer to as a very real magical Haitian vodou implement or black magicians helping tool. Made of Haitian Coco-macaque palm wood or what ever wood one has at hand it is basically just simple thick 1 to 2 inch wooden cane, which is supposed to be possessing one of many magical powers, The strangest one is that to be able to stand up and walk on its own. Though it’s appearance of walking is described more like a hopping or bouncing action. This Voodoo Magic walking stick is not bound by gravity and is said to bounce off of houses and homes and even roofs as it travels to it’s commanded destination. Sometimes many people might refer to them as Voodoo Zombie Canes and swear that by all known accounts and means that they or it is possessed by the spirits of the dead. By all old Haitian accounts many will tell you that it is a simple design or sometimes crudely hand carved by a voodoo black magic priest using what ever found wood is available to them at the time. And it is a cursed or controlled by specific spirit that causes the walking stick to appear to move all by itself.”

Here are the lyrics to that classic Laurel Aitken tune, Sally Brown:

She boogey, she boogey, she boogey down the alley
Let me tell you about Sally Brown
Sally Brown is a girl in town
She don’t mess around
Let me tell you about Sally Brown
Sally Brown is a slick chick.
She hits you with a cukumaka stick
Cukukukukumaka stick
Hits you with a Cukumaka stick

Have a listen to this classic tune: Sally Brown by Laurel Aitken