The other day I went walking out back and down and down the road to see if any ripe bananas where to be found. Bananas have an exciting history, in 600 B.C. they were mentioned in Buddhist texts and in Rome, Antonius Musa – the personal doctor of emperor Octavius Augustus – was credited for promoting cultivation of the exotic fruit from 63 to 14 B.C. . Bananas have a high fiber and potassium content plus vitamins B6, C and A making them a good nutritional food (health benefits of bananas). They are the largest of herbaceous flowering plants and self propagate by perennially sending out new offshoots, so are very sustainable. Often mistaken for a tree the main trunk is actually a pseudostem, growing from a corm with new leaf growth emerging from the core.
Have you ever heard of the banana man? This is a story from the 1940s of a farmer in Portland, Jamaica, living simply, tending the soil and living close to the Earth.
” The Song of the Banana Man” by Evan Jones
Touris, white man, wipin his face, met me in Golden Grove market place. He looked at m’ol’ clothes brown wid stain, an soaked right through wid de Portlan rain, He cas his eye, turn up his nose, He says, “You’re a beggar man, I suppose?” He says, “Boy, get some occupation, be of some value to your nation.” I said, “By God and dis big right han, you must recognize a banana man.
Up in de hills, where de streams are cool, an mullet an janga swim in de pool, I have ten acres of mountain side, an a dainty-foot donkey dat I ride. Four Gros Michel, an four Lacatan, some coconut trees, and some hills of yam. An I pasture on dat very same lan, five she-goats an a big black ram, dat by God, an dis big right han, is de property of a banana man.
I leave m’yard early-mornin time, an set m’foot to de mountain climb. I ben m’back to de hot-sun toil, an m’cutlass rings on de stoney soil. Ploughin an weedin, diggen an plantin, till Massa Sun drop back o John Crow mountain. Den home again in cool evenin time, perhaps whistling dis likkle rhyme, (Sung) Praise God an m’big right han, I will live and die a banana man.
Banana day is my special day. I cut my stems an I’m on m’way. Load up de donkey, leave de lan, head down de hill to banana stan. When de truck comes roun I take a ride, all de way down to de harbour side. Dat is de night, when you, touris man, would change your place wid a banana man. Yes, by God, an m’big right han, I will live an die a banana man.
De bay is calm, an de moon is bright, de hills look black for de sky is light. Down at de dock is an English ship, restin after her ocean trip. While on de pier is a monstrous hustle, talleymen, carriers all in a bustle, wid stems on deir heads in a long black snake, some singin de songs dat banana men make, like, (Sung) Praise God an m’big right han, I will live and die a banana man.
Den de payment comes, an we have some fun, Me, Zekiel, Breda and Duppy Son. Down at de bar near United Wharf, we knock back a white rum, bus a laugh. Fill de empty bag for further toil, wid saltfish, breadfruit, coconut oil. Den head back home to m’yard to sleep, a proper sleep dat is long an deep. Yes, by God, an m’big right han, I will live an die a banana man.
So when you see dese ol clothes brown wid stain, an soaked right through wid de Portlan rain, don’t cas your eye nor turn your nose, don’t judge a man by his patchy clothes. I’m a strong man, a proud man, an I’m free, free as dese mountains, free as dis sea. I know myself, an I know my ways, an will sing wid pride to de end o my days. (Sung) Praise God an m’big right han, I will live an die a banana man.