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Origins, Confinement, and Hope in the Music of Orlando Artist Lingo Jonez
Music is old and has always told the story of place, shedding light on history. Steelpan music, for example, is not indigenous to Jamaica but was imported from Trinidad, where it was birthed by percussionists borrowing pots and pans from the kitchen to use as instruments while they celebrated carnival.
In the 20th century, cargo ships would dump empty oil barrels in the islands, which were crafted into steel drums and adopted as local instruments throughout the Caribbean, in service of the steelpan sounds popularized in Trinidad.
These steel drums show up in Lingo Jonez’s song Luv Mi Now, which on first listen is a warm-hearted homage to the island of his ancestors. Lingo credits his inspiration to the yardie culture of his youth — exported from his family’s Jamaica to Orlando.
Some people say that there is no “Orlando sound.” It’s true that California and Atlanta are easily distinguishable and that common
sonic themes are harder to find in Orlando hip-hop. But people also say Orlando doesn’t have a winter — that Florida doesn’t have seasons — and this is patently false. Maybe, in both weather and music, we should be looking for subtle motifs.
It could be that Orlando is a filter through which many sounds pass, altered by our local flavor, which is a constant work in progress.
Orlando is a young city yet the idea that we are generic or unformed doesn’t hold water. Fully textured lives have been lived here, from birth to death. The character of Orlando has shape, sketched out by those lives and filled in further by a constant influx of transplants from all over the world.
Lingo was raised here, on the West side, as he notes in his 2016 anthem I’m So Orlando. He shouts out the names of the Orlando streets and neighborhoods that gave shape to his life, like Lakemann Homes, Orange Blossom Trail, Mercy Drive, Paramore, Pine Hills, insisting on recognition for the pieces of this city overshadowed in the national consciousness by Disney World and also overlooked by many white O-town residents.
Lingo’s Jamaican pride is just as strong. Fluent in patois, the English creole with West African influences, “every now and then I like to exercise my roots a little bit,” says Lingo.
He grew up with Jamaican dance hall music but didn’t dream of being a dance hall artist, even if those influences have crept in.
“When I was in jail, I wrote a song called Luv Mi Now. Originally, it wasn’t supposed to be a dance hall record. I performed the song as an American song in jail, and that was a jailhouse favorite. A lot of people would come out of the woodwork and say they do music too, and now your cell is a studio. Everybody singing and beating on their chest.”
Luv Mi Now is a wistful love song about a man who wishes to reunite with the woman he loves. He’s locked up. He savors the memory of her, and contemplates her body and her cooking with delight. He’s thinking of their future. He’s asking for her patience and loyalty as he anticipates his homecoming.
This honest emotional plea is true to form for Lingo, who through his songs tells the
real stories of his life instead of writing flashy and expensive accessories into his script.
When Lingo got out of jail, he decided Luv Mi Now should be wrapped in the light-hearted melodies of Jamaica. The patois, the steel drums.
“I just put the twist on there.”
Learn the song, and you’ll sing along to it joyfully. There’s a sharp moment when you realize your spirit is soaring even as you’re voicing deep longing about a future that is unsure.
Baby mi know yuh fed up keep ya head up, stay real and never let up, get you bread up, mi try and steer yuh right but mi nah do no betta, dem pen keep loosing ink while mi writing this letta
Luv Mi Now is a much-needed sonic journey that especially in these lockdown pandemic times will take you away, an early release from Lingo’s forthcoming album, Never Too Late. The remaining 11 songs are to be released on all streaming platforms beginning April 1, 2021.