Sunday 22 February 2009

Boney M, Belfast



This song was roaring through the charts at the brutal height of the troubles in Northern Ireland, by a band originally from Monsterrat and Jamaica, who were then based in West Germany. It would be easy to wonder how this didn't actually end the troubles once and for all in a rainbow coalition of glitter and sequins, but really, the mind boggles at how a 15 year old living on either side of the Peace Line would have processed the information on their tellies, watching this video in Belfast in 1977.

And weird too, because this band came from West Germany, which had its own Wall at the time. I suppose it was easier for them to sing about Belfast than Berlin, but only goes to show that disco and raw politics don't blend incredibly well. I do think they meant well and their outfits - not to mention lipgloss - are fucking incredible.

The song was originally called "Londonderry". I guess they chose "Belfast" because it was less partisan, but you know, Londonderry probably had more of a ring to it, rhyming wise.

2 comments:

  1. FYI

    I was a 13 year-old and sitting in Belfast when I heard this song. I thought Belfast had hit the world of international pop music in some, fantastic, cheesy style! Also, ironically Boney M songs were regularly adapted for sectarian chants by Belfast teenagers.

    "Daddy, Daddy Cool! Provies, Provies Rule!"

    "Hooray, Hooray, Fuck the IRA! Two Popes gone, the Queen lives on, Fuck the IRA!"

    Anyway, we didn't know it was about us. The urban myth in Belfast at the time was that it was about a town called "Belfast" in South Africa. That's what I was told and that made much more sense. "Alternative Ulster" - yes obviously. "Belfast" - of course not.

    South Africa was also plausible to me in a strange teenage kind of way because quite a lot of Belfast people emigrated to South Africa in the 1970's. South Africa had an "Orange Free State" (!!!!) and this band seemed to be African Europeans - an odd concept back then.

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  2. Hey Nonimal, thanks for dropping by and bringing such a wealth of discopolitics-rich information.

    You bring up a really great and subtle point about how the mind works in oblique ways, especially on this island I think, with the urban myth that the song was actually about a small town in South Africa. You know, despite the fact that the song's chorus is a bald "Belfast, Belfast" and has "heal the kids, man" lyrics, the sense in a small Irish place with large Irish problems is that nobody outside of Ireland could really possibly know much about it, let alone choose it as a topic for a song on Top Of The Pops.

    But also, the construction of available historical/geographical in support of this theme: the overtones of possibility offered by the existence of an African 'orange free state' and the innate weirdness of the existence of group of black and German accented discoteers.

    That's hilarious, about Boney M songs being adapted for sloganeering! I love hearing about this kind of localism. Thanks again for stopping by.

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