The Chicken Gunman: Jamaica Makes Art From An Epidemic

October 14, 2014

Words by Erin MacLeod


While the rest of the world fixates on ebola, the most popular topic of discussion in Jamaica’s route taxis and buses is chikv, or chikungunya, a mosquito-borne sickness that strikes down even the healthiest folks, causing high fever and severe joint pain. Though the government insisted until very recently that it wasn’t an epidemic, it would seem that amongst Jamaica’s population, you’ve either already been shot by the chicken gunman or you’re just waiting for the inevitable. The virus is a massive productivity suck for the country, as offices struggle to soldier on with so many people ill for days, and sometimes, weeks. But, being Jamaica—a place where even hurricanes have inspired hits—it’s been a boon for artists who have been quick to provide some musical relief… if the recommended Panadol, pawpaw leaf juice, bissy tea and plenty of water aren’t working.

Preteen deejay Wayne J was perhaps the first to hop on the bandwagon. His “Chikungunya” describes how the disease “Mek a bag a young people a move old,” while a video culled from the now-ubiquitous news clippings on the ilnes illustrates the extent of its reach.

As could only be expected, the illness (which actually inhibits mobility) has inspired a couple of dance moves, by the Face Xpression dance crew. Of course, they are named the “Mosquito” and the “Chikungunya”:

On the parody end of things, comedian Dutty Berry offered his chikv version of “Drop It Like It’s hot”, a tune to enjoy “when di fever a blaze up yuh body like Capleton stage show”:

Perhaps the best chikungunya-flavored offering is courtesy of the hardcore dancehall dons of Truckback Records, producing a song that takes a cues from old mento, Michigan and Smiley’s “Diseases” and yesterday’s dance session. Beenie Man and the Astronauts take on the illness in “Chikungunya”: