Friday, June 21, 2013

Mackie McDonnough, Rasta poet & songwriter

mixed media art by Mariah Fox


 A new review of Rastafarian Children of Solomon from Culture Magazine:

If your knowledge of Rastas begins and ends with your worn copy of Bob Marley’s Legend . . . then, my friends, you need a culture bomb thrown at your front door. No, dear friends, the ideas and concepts behind the Rastafarian movement that took root in Jamaica during the 1930s go way beyond reggae music and giant spliffs—though they are connected. Here, author and storyteller Gerald Hausman tells the stories of Rastas, or the “Children of Solomon,” in his and their words. From farmers to healers, to Rasta elders and fisherman, Hausman uses colorful words and first-hand experience to powerfully describe his subjects: “Mackie [McDonough] knows his history, his story; and his face is a finely carved mask of inscrutable character. He can stare down a stump, as the expression is, and he fears no man or woman . . .” Or in the case of Horace “Winston” Churchill: “His twinkle-eye and easy smile could charm a snake, and probably have.” Hausman’s Rastas leap beyond the confines of any mere album cover. Even Bob’s.

They reason they do, if they do, is because the people I have written about are real people leading their normal, irie lives on the North Coast of Jamaica. Some are gone now because I began writing the book in 1985 and a lot has happened since then. When we first came to the island the currency was one to five. That is, one "Sammy dollar" as Tosh put it for five Jamaican "smalls." Now it is one U.S. for 90 JA. If you do not understand the politics of grinding poverty, you cannot begin to understand the love of blinding vanity that separates rich from poor, haves from have nots.

In spite of the economic crisis in Jamaica, the Rastafarians have, in general, risen above it as Bob Marley and many others said they would. Their message -- how to break the mental chains that bind us -- is the substance of this book.  As they still say in Jamaica: "Walk good!" For walking for something, as they also say, is better than sitting down for nothing.

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