In the liner notes to Baba Boom! — Trojan’s compilation of Jamaica Independence Festival songs from 1966-1975 — one piece of text really jumped out at me:
1974’s ‘Play De Music‘ by Tinga Stewart – a monster hit and the very last one of the archetypal Festival Songs, celebrating the joy of music and its persuasive power to bring people of all persuasions together, that would prove as popular with the judges as it was with the record-buying public.
“Play De Music“
Tinga Stewart (1974)
Written & produced by Ernie Smith
JA release – Wild Flower Records
US release – Steady Records
Lo and behold, the Upsetter himself – Lee Perry – released the oddly-titled “Finger Mash” that same year and (coincidentally or not) it pretty much sounded like an unabashed rewrite of “Play De Music,” despite claiming to have been written by Perry himself:
“Finger Mash” + “Dub the Music“
Lee Perry & the Silvertones (1974)
The song title appears to be thieved as well, appropriated from The Blue Beats, who recorded “Finger Mash” with backing from The Skatalites in 1965. To be fair, the Upsetter mix does feature some trademark Lee Perry sonic surprises. Sweet falsetto backing vocals, too, from The Silvertones. As with “Play Da Music,” “Finger Mash” also saw release in the US in 1974.
JA release – Upsetter Records
US release – Big Hit!
How likely is it that Tinga Stewart stole his Festival-winning song idea from Lee Perry? More importantly, who wins the ’74 Festival Face-Off: “Play De Music” –or– “Finger Mash”?
Festival Song Competition:
A Thing of the Past?
Ominous story in the April 12, 2013 edition of The Jamaica Observer about the decision by the Jamaica Cultural Development Corporation to suspend the usual song competition in favor of allowing people instead to “vote for their favorite Festival song as part of its 50th anniversary celebrations” — thus, the “first time since the Festival Song Contest was held in 1966 that it will not be held in traditional form.”