Let the Music Play


Everyone’s life has a soundtrack. My saga’s soundtrack is filled with the rhythm of Soca, Reggae, 80’s New Wave, the Beatles and a sprinkling of Motown along with the sound of my father singing along (sounding a lot like a barking dog. His voice is quite deep). I can’t recall Mummy singing for some reason.

I have a song for every memory, every mood. There’s playlists for every event. I’ve even taken the opportunity to forward my funeral playlist to my cousin should I die before her (I hope I do, btw).

But there are a few songs that stick. Not because they’re favourites, they conjure memories so vivid that smells and feels come to life. The memories have texture.

Shannon’s Let The Music Play 

The year of our Lord 1983. Liverpool. On a council estate in Toxteth. My mother works at a social club (bar) with her sisters and other family members. Family legend goes Mum serves, one of my crafty aunts makes sure they get good tips while she mans the til 😉. Mummy Reds couldn’t drag her sleeping daughter with her to the club so she recruits one of her many nieces and nephews to babysit…..

On this particular night she chose my older cousin Moses (you should know I prescribe faux names by now). Moses had to have been in his late teens in ‘86. Not necessarily the ideal candidate for child minding in my opinion. I don’t remember if my mother knew his girlfriend was part of the babysitting package but I woke up in the middle of the night in my white and pink nightgown and Shannon’s Let the Music Play was playing over and over. The uncomfortable, spoiled five year old child expressed her displeasure. Moses and his blonde girlfriend came in to comfort me. And to this day I can remember the smell of her black leather outfit. You know how it smells extra leathery after it’s been out in the cold? I always think back on that night and wonder why they let the music play (over and over again). That aside, with my mother’s choice in babysitters, I’m surprised I made it to adult in one piece!

Pluto Shevrington’s Ram Goat Liver 

“Ram Goat Liver good for make Mannish Water”

Mannish Water is soup. Jamaican soup. This soup is said to be an aphrodisiac particularly for men hence the Mannish. It is made from goat meat including the head. People love it. I don’t eat meat and that is my get out free card for anything even if its not meat.

In 2002, one of my dearest friends Kentigem (NOT her name) decided to get married. She asked me to Maid of Honour. For those of you who don’t know me personally, I am competitive and organised. Kentigem is one of the few people who knows this about me and equally competitive. It’s part of why I love her so much.

Now we were young and Kentigem was creative and on a budget so we did everything ourselves. Set up the tables, made the favours, printed the place settings, cooked. Including the cups of Mannish water. 😳 cue the tune.

The wedding was a lot of fun. Except when the emcee mispronounced my name and I gave him the side eye permanently captured on the wedding video 🙈 and when I got drunk and tried to give the Maid of Honour speech. Ahhhh. Good times……

Jada Kiss’s U Make Me Wanna

When I lived in the US, an annual tradition was 3 hour car journey from Boston to New York for Labour Day weekend. I’d pack up my car with drinks and skimpy outfits to attend every Soca fete that weekend and return home just before the West Indian Day Parade. It was my last opportunity for the summer to dance, flirt and eat good West Indian food. It was also a chance to catch up with friends and family from all over the globe who flock to Brooklyn for d’ culture.

In September 2004 my two younger cousins Eamon and Roderick joined me on my sojourn to NY. I was excited to share this time with them. It turned out to be an eventful (story of my life!) weekend and one of my last Labour Days in New York.

A newish mate of mine joined us for the road trip. We shall dub her Talulah. Talulah and I planned to go out Saturday night to a popular event. The queue would probably wrap around the building. I didn’t have a ticket yet. Talulah was “friendly” with one of the entertainers performing that night. For 4 hours from Boston to Brooklyn my cousins and I listened to Talulah say “All I know is Mark got me” meaning she was getting in for free. It was like a yoga meditation mantra. It was as if she were answering a question I NEVER asked her. I didn’t ask for a free ticket. But damn, you’re getting a free lift to NY the least you could do is not persecute those in the car with “All I know is Mark got me”. (Did I mention that cheapness is a characteristic I despise in people? Especially proud miserliness. 🙄)

Anyway, let me speed up this tediously long narrative. We arrived safely, met up with lots of people, ate, laughed, went to the party. I got obnoxiously drunk and had to be carried out, driven home, carried up the stairs where I tried to throw myself out the window. This was the beginning of what I recognise to be my discovery and embrace my self destructive side. My depression readily poured onto the streets after this. There was no corking it.

On the drive home, we popped in a mixed tape CD that Eamon had purchased. I’m not the hugest Hip Hop fan but a song from Jada Kiss featuring Mariah Carey came on. I pulled it back so many times, I’m sure I scratched Eamon’s CD and Roderick was ready to jump out of the car.

Nice & Smooth’s Can’t Have Your Cake

I don’t even know the year. I was in Middle School in Boston. Wearing an eight ball jacket. A mushroom-ish hairdo. If anyone has photographic evidence that I was alive during this horrific fashion era – destroy it.  I was going to age-appropriate parties at the Hyde Park Municipal (The Muni) and The Chittick School.

“I’m dating “RA”.” I put that in quotes because no one who is in middle school should be dating anyone. I mean, I can’t picturing my little cousins dating anyone. I’m filled with dread at the thought.

I’ve been recording songs onto tape from the radio. I think it’s 88.9? 30 minutes on each side. I’ve recorded 60 minutes of shit though. Except for 1 song. Nice & Smooth’s Can’t Have Your Cake. I played it and rewound it and again. Until the tape popped and I taped it back together. I played it even more when RA and I broke up. He dumped me for my classmate P, for a twin in his school named Druilla (faux name again), he dumped me like 137 times. How that cassette tape survived that long, God alone knows.


These are just a few musical memories I cherry picked but honourable mention to:

Tony Toni Tone – Just Me and You – I went to go see Boyz N the Hood with childhood crush and his big sister downtown.

Machel Montano featuring Black Stalin – Love Fire – All of my favourite memories of Trinidad have been during J’ouvert.

Precious – Ring My Bell – Probably one of my top Soca songs, that tells the tale of a saucy, secret relationship. The kind I dreamed of having with my crush – my BFF Jaheem (fake name) at the time.

Sybil – Don’t Make Me Over – A remake that was popular in the early 90’s. I trekked downtown to buy this single on tape. I wore overalls and a purple Champion sweater without a care in the world.

The Mighty Gabby – Jack – Apparently as a child in Barbados, this was my favourite song. The song, controversial, addressed the attempt to restrict beach access by the colonial powers.  My favourite line – “And if they ban me from my beach land, I hope the sea carry way the sand”. The British really were out of hand with their privilege. HMPH! (side note – when you travel to Barbados today – all beaches are free and open to all.

My cousin Marc and I surrounded by some of Daddy’s musical accoutrement

My parents surrounded me with music – crates of records, loud music in the car. My love of it has carried on into adulthood. Playing songs helps me relive some of the peaks and valleys of life and no matter what, smile. I hope today’s trek down memory lane helps you (re)discover your soundtrack. x


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