Obama Rasta

Last week, I was sitting in a bar in the village of Ngare Ndare in northern Kenya, nursing a Krest Bitter Lemon, and listening to the radio. The radio was tuned to Metro FM, “Kenya’s House of Reggae.” Amidst the … Continued

Barack Obama and Coco Tea

Last week, I was sitting in a bar in the village of Ngare Ndare in northern Kenya, nursing a Krest Bitter Lemon, and listening to the radio. The radio was tuned to Metro FM, “Kenya’s House of Reggae.” Amidst the chain of nondescript contemporary reggae hits, the refrain of one song in particular caught my attention: “Barack Obama, Barack Obama, Barack Obama, woi wooooi” As soon as I got back to my computer, I learned that the song is by Jamaican reggae artist Cocoa Tea, whose substantial back catalogue is only probably familiar to reggae and dancehall enthusiasts. Despite Cocoa Tea’s relative obscurity in the US, the song is already becoming massively popular in Kenya, even though it was only released sometime last week. (MP3 after the jump.) The song’s popularity is easy to understand: Cocoa Tea’s song stands apart from previous musical tributes to Obama. It actually works well as a song, rather than a celebrity clusterfuck or a one-note gag. The song has strong replay value largely because of the catchy chorus, in which Cocoa Tea effortlessly syncopates the candidate’s name again and again. While not being terribly deep from a lyrical standpoint, the song does manage to include an analysis of electoral politics, race relations, and the interaction between politics and popular culture in just under four and a half minutes.

Beyond these musical and lyrical considerations, the song works because of the fit between Obama and reggae music. I’m not saying this just because of Obama’s public acknowledgment that he used to smoke the ganja. Rather, as Robert Farris Thompson would remind us, reggae is one piece of the broader Afro-Caribbean-American musical tradition that embraces musical and dance forms as diverse as Mambo, Capoeira, and Breakdancing.

A key component of many of these forms is an attempt to create a cultural, spiritual, or aesthetic link with the African homeland, while simultaneously effecting social change in the new world. Given this broader framework of Afro-Caribbean arts, Cocoa-T’s song is less an endorsement and more a musical representation of just what Obama’s candidacy means in the context of the African diaspora.

Although I’m sure there will be other attempts (especially if Obama ends up winning the nomination), I doubt any other song will capture the spirit of his campaign as naturally—which raises another question: What genre would best typify Hillary Clinton? What about John McCain? I challenge all of our readers to leave their suggestions (either hypothetical or actually recorded) in the comments.


Download (MP3)

13 Comments on “Obama Rasta”

  1. Nick #

    this is amazing.


  2. Mark #

    I shit you not. One of the lines in the song is “And it is not the Terminator.” So continues my attempts to continue Terminator Week on Overthinkingit.com in the comments.


  3. Stokes #

    See also: Barack the Magnificent by Mighty Sparrow. (Sometimes that “related videos” feature on youtube is outstanding.)

    I don’t know a whole heck of a lot about calypso, but Mighty Sparrow is kind of a big deal, I guess? I prefer the Coco Tea song to listen to, but you’ve got to love some of the lyrics here:

    “Stop the war/
    Stop the genocide in Darfur/
    Get healthcare for [those] who have not/
    No matter what”

    and later

    “What’s at stake/
    clean up Washington overall/
    In the wake/
    of the Jack Abramoff scandal/”

    and still later

    On the Senate Affairs Committee he’s a giant/


  4. King malawian #

    check mavado’s we need barack on you tube.its a big tune


  5. Vylmary Bennett #

    I ABSOLUTELY love the song by Cocoa Tea entitled “Barack Obama”. It is the best positive and catchy song there is about any candidate. Barack ROCKS!!! Mr. Commander in Chief to be….


  6. Okezie #

    He may not be relatively known in the US but he is respected among reggae addicts (if you wish). Cocoa Tea has been known fro his vocal way of expressing injustice against minority especially in America. so if he’s unpopular among those chaps, who cares. i ran into this music like any other person while searching the spiralfrog website for his songs. It’s a single that has class. he just didn’t go prasing Obama but he went on to open up the situation for any reggae fan to understand.( Have you listened to Rikers island…or the one immigration law? you will understand if you love roots rock reggae and dance hall and able to know when there is a blend) The instrumentation is full of the typical reggae percussions that will keep anybody coming back for it. I have been in the US for barely two months but since I picked it, I’ve shared it and I try to enjoy this song many times daily, sometimes repeating it till sleep picks. It’s Cocoa tea in action with his regular. There are other artists who perfomed for Obama but this is my pick. Rasta. Jah Bless!!!


  7. barak obama #

    this song absolutely rocks. I love reggae music, and this sound does have the vibe and catchy tune.

    exactly..try to have a song that embraces mccain? laughable.

    or palin? probably a country/hick song with lipstick on a pig.

    the economy may be down, but this song (along with a red stripe) will bring your spirits right back up!


  8. Alex #

    Someone can help me ?

    I need the lyrics about BARACK OBAMA song from COCOA TEA, where can i find it ?

    Thank a lot

    Alex from Italy


  9. Tendai #

    I love this song and have sent it to my family, and play it for all my friends. It is what we need. I am glad he won the election. I also like Mavedo’s song, it is nice as well, but Coco Teas is the song of the century, added to this historic victory. Jah Bless


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