Album Review | Kukudoo’s ‘Jerusalem’ loaded with revivalist overtones
For those who don’t know exactly what it means to be a water-baptised, Holy Ghost-filled, Zionist singer, the latest album, Jerusalem, by Kukudoo, the gospel artiste, gives a fairly good idea. Known for his signature revivalist style and his “Hai Hai Hai” sound, Kukudoo lets it all out on this project, but still manages to rein in his exuberance on some of the songs.
The official album promo for Jerusalem states that it comprises 16 “spirit-filled tracks, with biting lyrics”, backed by rhythmic drumming, and features hit singles such as King David and Thank You Jesus. And while that may be true, that list of descriptive words doesn’t really prepare the first-time listener for the bold discourse that follows. For example, the track Thank You Jesus is an innocent enough title, and one could be forgiven for thinking that it even has echoes of saying grace at primary school: “Thank you for the world so sweet, thank You for the food we eat, thank You for the birds that sing, thank You Lord for everything. Amen.”
But, perish that thought! The reality is strikingly different. Thank You Jesus takes the listener on a journey through a thought-provoking and almost anti-Christian litany of things for which one ought to be thankful. And Kukudoo and his collaborator, gospel singer Omari, throw down a pocomania style delivery that is fully authentic. “ If yuh neva go a obeah man from yuh born, say thank yuh Jeezas/If yuh neva bathe inna Mada bath pan, seh thank yuh Jeezas/If nuh guard ring nuh deh pon none a yuh hand, seh tank yuh Jeezas,” they wail. The duo makes it sound as if these obeah-seeped entries are the normal things that regular people give thanks for every day. But the song definitely produces a reaction, whether it is moving to the beat or even chuckling at what could be regarded as a preposterous list of items.
Minister Kukudoo again explores the obeah theme in Prosper, a collab with gospel singer Chosenn, in which he notes that despite the obeah man’s powder sprinkling, he is still prospering. Can’t stop his flow.
Don’t Trouble It, another track on Jerusalem, has the same kind of vibe, warning against “troubling” people business. “ Nuh trouble weh nuh trouble yuh … /Don’t trouble it/People business yuh fi see it and don’t trouble it.”
“Revival music is very different from the other sounds of gospel. It is more spiritual and traditional. As a part of our culture, it keeps you moving even when you don’t want to,” David ‘Kukudoo’ McDermott, a minister at the Apostle Sinai Spiritual Church of God in Spanish Town, is quoted as saying.
Secular, Revivalist Fan Base
These spiritualist overtones have secured for Kukudoo a large revivalist as well as a secular fan base, and Jerusalem is said to be a true representation of Jamaica’s spiritual heritage. That accounts for the revivalist, obeah-dipped kind of music in several of the songs on the album. But it is interesting, and almost contradictory, to note that Zionists like Kukudoo are adamant that obeah in and of itself is not such a bad thing. It just has a bad name because it got a bad rap over the years.
“When we use bush tea to cure our sickness, that is obeah. But you have something else called black magic, and that is different from obeah. We Zionists stay far away from that, but because all of us dress alike, people tend to confuse us,” Kukudoo told The Gleaner in an interview earlier this year.
A stand-out track, owing to its relatively subdued tones, is Eye of the Storm, on which Kukudoo’s vocals move the song along, much more than the beat, and this is also evident in the title track, Jerusalem.
Distributed by Tad’s International Record, Jerusalem, which is Kukudoo’s latest project with a mainstream company, was released on October 2. Other songs on the album include Journey Man Jesus, Let the Power Fall On I, Eye of the Storm, Who Could It Be, Cyann Lose at Jesus Feet, Iron Boot, Trim Your Lamp, Come Along (feat. Psalmist), and Last Trai n.