It is wrong for entertainers to disrespect our culture


Day-o, day-ay-ay-o
Daylight come and me wan’ go home
Work all night on a drink of rum
Stack banana till de morning come
Come, Mister tally man, tally me banana
Lift six foot, seven foot, eight foot bunch
A beautiful bunch of ripe banana
Hide the deadly black tarantula

Day, me say day-ay-ay-o
Daylight come and me wan’ go home

Excerpt from The Banana Boat Song

The Banana Boat Song also popularly known as Day O tells the story of workers in the Caribbean who harvested bananas for a living. The Banana Boat Song is in the tradition of the well known work songs and field hollers used by enslaved Africans and later on by African Americans forced into chain gangs as they struggled to find ways to alleviate the backbreaking, tedious work they were forced to perform.

The Banana Boat Song, sometimes described as a Jamaican folk song, was first recorded as “Day De Light” in 1952 by Trinidadian Edric Connor and his group The Carribbeans ( ). Over the years, other versions by various performers have been recorded including the 1954 version Day Dah Light by Jamaica’s cultural icon the Honourable Louise (Miss Lou) Bennett Coverly (

However, the most well known version of the Banana Boat Song was recorded in 1956 by Harry Belafonte on a Long Playing (LP) album Calypso and was so popular that it became the first LP album to sell a million copies.

Belafonte, born March 1 in New York City (Harlem), is the child of Caribbean immigrants. He spent five years from age 8 to 13 living in Jamaica before returning to New York City where he eventually became an actor and singer. Belafonte is also a well known social justice activist who has advocated for the Civil Rights of African Americans while working with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others. He grew up in the days of segregation where African American entertainers traveling in the U.S. South were forced to sleep in their vehicles if they could not find an African American-owned hotel or motel.

The experiences of today’s generation of entertainers are different and this was brought home to me when I heard what I initially thought was a new version of Day O. This is not the Banana Boat Song. The chorus of the song contains the refrain Day-o, me say day-o, Daylight come but that is where any similarity with the Banana Boat Song ends. While the lyrics of the Banana Boat Song speak to the history of exploited workers in the Caribbean, the lyrics of this new song that makes use of the refrain Day O, contains nothing about history. This is a song about partying, getting out of control drunk and even hinting at arson. An excerpt from the song is:

Check that out, what they playin’,
That’s my song, that’s my song.
Where my drinks? I’ve been waiting much too long,
And this girl in my lap, passing out, she’s a blonde
The last thing on my mind is goin’ home…
From the window, To the wall
This club is jumpin’ Til tomorrow
Is it daylight? Or is it night time?
1 o’clock, 2 o’clock, 3 o’clock, 4
We gon’ tear the club until til, til-til-til-til…
Day-o, me say day-o,
Daylight come and we don’t wanna go home.
Yeah so, we losin’ control,
Turn the lights low ’cause we about to get blown.
Let the club shut down, We won’t go, oh, oh, oh!
Burn it down, To the flo, oh, oh, oh!
Day-o, me say day-o,
Daylight come and we don’t wanna go home.

The song is becoming increasingly popular and the 21-year-old African American singer is probably very talented since he attended Dillard Center for the Arts in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and graduated from the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York. He is an actor, dancer and singer-songwriter who studied ballet, opera and theatre.

Born in Miami, Florida he is a child of Caribbean immigrants, like Belafonte, who popularized the Banana Boat Song more than 50 years and a few generations ago. However, unlike Belafonte and many African American entertainers of his time who felt the need to positively represent their people, it seems the younger generation does not think they have the same responsibility. This seemingly talented young African American man may not feel that he has a responsibility to preserve the history of the Banana Boat Song and that it is not appropriate to use the refrain Day O in a song that, if not encouraging and promoting, at least glorifies drunken and anti-social behaviour.

Do African American artists have a responsibility to represent their culture in a positive manner? Or is it that in this often touted “post racial” society they think that “we have overcome” and that is no longer necessary? Is this what freedom fighters including Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer, El Hajj Malik El Shabazz, Dr Martin Luther King Jr. and the Honourable Marcus Mosiah Garvey sacrificed their lives for?

There are quite a few examples of this kind of behaviour and mindset including a very popular entertainer encouraging bleaching of dark skin. When Garvey (August 17, 1887 – June 10, 1940) said “Up you mighty race you can accomplish what you will” he most likely would be shocked and disappointed to see that some people include the addendum “and when you have accomplished, disrespect and disregard your culture, people and history.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>