Pharoah Hiding

Pharoah Hiding - Junior Byles

 

"Pharoah Hiding" is an interesting tune for a few reasons. First of all, almost anything that Junior Byles recorded for Scratch stands out as something special. Although "Pharoah Hiding" doesn't rank with tunes like "A Place Called Africa" or "The Long Way", it's still a solid piece of early roots reggae. Second, it was the first of only ten singles released on the Wizzdom label (I was happy to find a copy on E-Bay for less than $20). But what really makes "Pharoah Hiding" so interesting is the political allegory it carries.

Throughout the 1970s, fierce political battles were fought between the left-wing, forward thinking People's National Party (PNP) and the conservative, hawkish Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). After ruling for almost 10 years, the JLP had increased the gap between the rich and the poor, and the PNP went on the offensive offering Jamaicans a better future. Led by the charismatic Michael Manley, the PNP began to appeal to more and more of the "sufferers" in Jamaica as well as reggae artists such as Clancy Eccles and Max Romeo, who recorded political songs that were adopted by the PNP during their election campaigns. Manley toured Jamaica with a "Rod Of Correction", a wooden staff that he claimed was given to him by Haile Selassie. Before long, Manley was seen as a modern day Joshua, taking over where Moses left off and leading his people to victory and freedom.

When Byles sings "Pharoah and his army hiding / Hiding from Joshua..." he is really referring to JLP leader Hugh Shearer being intimidated by Michael Manley and lending his musical support to Manley in the 1972 election. And it worked: the PNP was elected to power in February 1972.

 

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