‘Poor Man Feel It’


I am not surprised when a seven year-old boy dupes his father and he gets everything that he wants. Most boys are learning their trade; the same tricks would be repeated years later as 40-year-olds. With such masterly, they would easily dupe the electorate if they were politicians.

This column is apolitical. The most it can do is present art in simplest form which everyone can relate to. The beauty of art is that is concentrates on the same thing, retold several times to give meaning to what we often deem incomprehensible; from abstract to concrete.

I love music for its aesthetics and hip-hop falls in that category. Disregard the perception that hip-hop glorifies cursing. But of all the music I listen to, reggae music remains the most relevant in the developing world; capitalists hate that music, conscious people love it wholly and it has such cathartic effect among the poor people.


Just listen to Evison Matafale’s ‘Olakwa Ndani?’ Peter Tosh’s ‘Poor Man Feel It’ and Joseph Hill’s ‘Poor Jah People,’ that is how relevant reggae music is. Poverty defines human kind; the poor people must exist for the rich to be noticed. But if such poverty is man-made, as a result of disregard for humanity preferring greed instead, it is a great injustice.

Matafale resigns to fate in the song ‘Olakwa Ndani?’ He is sarcastic ofcourse, Babylon system makes the poor people poorer. He claims in the song that “Only the dead can defeat poverty.” It means poverty will live as we live; it might as well follow us to our graves.

We can blame our poverty on several things but capitalists and politicians would be among them. Joseph Hill believes, in the song ‘Poor Jah People,’that we cannot eradicate poverty for “we have never been given a chance even one time …to try and control our haunted lives.” The life of the poor people is controlled somewhere in the august House where members of Parliament are detached from the reality.


The poor people are the electorate, who in Hill’s words have been “stoned and refused, kicked out of the streets so many times.” While the minority have “a bow full in their hands, why are my wife and the kids hungry?” We still see a lot of people in the streets struggling to earn a living when much time and resources are wasted by politicians trying to garner support for the next election.

Hill sings: “Some are in the street drinking dirty water, some eating out of garbage pan I say.” But these are the electorate who hopes for change when the time cometh. Yeah, you remember the pictures of him who now occupies the top seat? Jumping into a minibus just to buy bonya to send the message that he was one of us, he is not one of us today.

The airwaves in Malawi are dominated by young artists who detach themselves from reality. The radio stations are giving too much airtime to irrelevant music that is why most important issues are never highlighted. Perhaps the majority of artists are too shallow to create deep music that would wash away politicians’ greed.

I don’t understand when young musicians feel they are detached from politics so they cannot comment. I see a generation of musicians that is so obsessed with self-importance. I would expect some kind of messengers that would mirror the reality just like Matafale, Gift Fumulani and the old Joseph Nkasa.

As we keep on searching for relevant music, we can find solace in the fact that relevant musicians created enough before they died. There will always be music that would reflect the feeling of the poor people who are neglected. That is the reason I still listen to Peter Tosh’s ‘Poor Man Feel It.’ The solution to this pollution we call poverty would not be quelled by temporally measures like food or cow distribution.

The song ‘Poor Man Feel It’ is in the album Wanted Dead and Alive released in 1981. How perfect would a script be decades later? The militant musician sings: We have to find a solution to this pollution/Gas gone up/ Bus fare gone up/ The rent gone up/ Lighting gone up/ The tax gone up/ Car parts gone up/ But it’s only the poor man feel it/ Time gone up/ Scallion gone up/ Onion gone up/ Red beans gone up/ Black pepper gone up/ Chicken gone up/ And the parents them angry/ Cause the pickney them hungry.

In Jamaican Patois, pickney means children. That is the reason the song concludes with that touching cry of a hungry baby attempting to suckle from a woman who has spent weeks without food. Ooh, ‘African Woman’ strong woman.

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