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Ready Fi Di Thumpin’: Christina Cooke’s playlist for Broughtupsy

Ready Fi Di Thumpin’: Christina Cooke’s playlist for Broughtupsy

Post by Christina Cooke, author of BroughtupsyOriginally published on Powell's Blog.

Music is one of my most primal and fiercely held languages. It’s how I navigate the world, echo-locating myself in place and culture through the boom-tap-booms of sound. It started when I was four. One afternoon, my father picked me up from kindergarten in his red pickup truck and drove me through the thick of Mandeville traffic. Buckled in the backseat, I was humming; I was happy; we wouldn’t leave Jamaica for another eight years. We turned right into Mid-Way Mall, a series of one-storey buildings arranged around the crowded parking lot in a lopsided U. This was where my sisters went for music lessons. My father looked at me in the rearview mirror and said it was time I learned music, too.

Like my sisters, I started with piano then added orchestra. After we moved to the U.S., they stopped playing while I joined my high school’s marching band. I remember washing dishes one morning, listening to the patter of raindrops falling off the kitchen eaves. Pat-pat. Pat-pat. 4/4 in double time. Music also became how I remembered things, ears tingling from the staccato of tongue against teeth as someone told me their name. A-ni-ta; A-ni-ta; committed to memory in a 3/4 waltz. 

So when I started writing Broughtupsy, music was naturally what I turned to for fuel and inspiration. The right melody and beat could turn me inward, help me delve deep — then as the song changed I’d emerge somewhere else, somewhere rich with resonance and meaning. Below, I’ve highlighted my top eight songs that triggered these imaginative flights. I hope this playlist enlivens your reading experience as you make Broughtupsy your own.


1. “Now That We Found Love” by Third World (Album: Journey to Addis)
A 1978 remake of an O’Jays track that became an instant Jamaican classic. Third World’s smooth melding of reggae rhythms with disco beats catapulted them to international stardom, demonstrating on the global stage the Jamaican penchant for absorbing opposing forces and recasting them into something entirely our own. Third World is folksy and foundational, much like the folklorist Miss Lou and her retellings of the millenia-old Anancy stories that form the thematic backbone of Broughtupsy.

2. “Bam Bam” by Sister Nancy (Album: One Two)
Because truly, no Jamaican playlist is complete without this golden oldie. Since its debut in 1982, this song has been sampled over 100 times by everyone from Seth Rogen to Jay Z, lionizing Jamaica’s ability to influence – and not just be influenced – on a global scale. To me, the easy swing of the melody with the languid thrum of the bass guitar sounds like a hazy afternoon at Doctor’s Cave Beach, bodies pressed close in a drunken slow dance. This tune is open and easy, no hard edges or vocal complications. I imagine Broughtupsy’s protagonist Akúa hearing it on Jamaican radio as a child, running in her backyard or jumping on her bed – the heavy difficulties of migration a few years away still.

3. “Blessed (feat. Damian Marley)” by Wizkid, Damian Marley (Album: Made in Lagos)
This is as close as I’m going to get to including a Bob Marley song on this playlist – not because I dislike Bob Marley, but I’ve just heard all his hits too many damn times. I’m not particularly a fan of any of his children, but I do love this song in particular. The pulsating bass with saxophone screeching in blends beautifully with Wizkid’s Afrobeats rapping amid Marley’s reggae singing. It’s moody and atmospheric in its cultural cross-pollination – the same vibe (hopefully) reflected through the immersive quality of Broughtupsy’s sentences.

4. “Forever” by Labrinth (Album: Euphoria (Original Score from the HBO series))
This one’s just straight ~*vibes*~. No lyrics here, just rhythmic humming and what can best be described as a melodious oh-oh-ooh. Throughout the song, the humming and oh-oohs continually loop as they build on the bass, the synth piano, and cymbals clashing through in cacophonous ecstasy. This song was a crucial bridge that took me out of the vexations of my life and into the consciousnesses on the page. On a particularly good writing day, I’d listen to this track on repeat, sometimes for hours, in something I can only describe as a deep imaginative trance. If I had to choose any one track as the theme song for all of Broughtupsy, it would be this one. As the kids would say, “the vibes here are immaculate.”

5. “Better” by Banks (Album: Better)
This song is yearning, it’s melancholic, it’s reverberating with round bass and operatic chords – the perfect soundtrack for 20-year-old queer love. In this track, Banks’ full-throated bellowing accentuated by a tinge of vocal strain encapsulates the fraught romantic tension between Broughtupsy’s (Black, Jamaican) protagonist Akúa and her (white, Texan) college love. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the central refrain repeated throughout this song is, “I can love you better than she can.” I’ll leave it up to you to decide, after reading, who’s the “she” in this situation.

6. “So Mi Like It” by Spice (Album: So Mi Like It)
This song takes us to the other end of the romantic spectrum: it’s raucous and dirty and brimming with female sexual desire. Enter Jayda, the young Jamaican stripper who – to borrow from the modern parlance – turns Akúa out with her erotic dominance and imperious femme allure. Their entanglement proves electrifying, a tinderbox of carnal and cultural sparks that leaves them both spent. Listen to this track while reading the second club scene, trust me.

7. “Dumpling (Remix)” by Stylo G, Sean Paul, Spice (Album: Dumpling (Remix))
This track is the closest we’ve gotten to closing the longstanding divide between Jamaican and queer culture: historically speaking, putting Jamaican next to queer is often met with vehement (and sometimes violent) refusal. With lines like, “Bad gyal, step out an’ stuntin’” invoking unapologetic femme dominance and, “We out an’ bad!” intimating being proudly out and bad as in badass, it’s no wonder that this song has become a bit of an underground anthem for Jamaican queers near and far. In terms of Broughtupsy, this song takes us inside Akúa wrapping herself in the lovely contentment of being queer in Kingston – but only if she knows how to keep it hush-hush and in check.

8. “NTWFL” by Sam Dew (Album: MOONLIT FOOLS)
Here we are, back where we started but re-made anew. Dew’s R&B remake of Third World’s “Now That We Found Love” teems with soulful melancholy and deep sexual yearning. “I’d slow that down, I’d take my time like good,” Dew croons over a hypnotic bassline that steadily pulls us in. Dew’s chorus still carries a heavy reggae inflection, though the verses depart into his own psychic space – much like Broughtupsy’s Akúa who, over the course of the novel, reckons with herself as Jamaican, and an immigrant, and queer, and the new psychic spaces those wily combinations provide. As the novel closes, the question then becomes: what will she do with it? What will Akúa do with all those ways to love?

Bonus song:

9. “Hey Look Ma, I Made It” by Panic! At The Disco (Album: Pray for the Wicked)
This song has nothing to do with the themes or tone or characters of Broughtupsy and everything to do with me, its author. I spent thirteen years working on this novel. It took me two Master’s degrees, two agents, and 72 rejections for this project to become the finished thing you now hold in your hands. Reader, I am so damn tired – but I’m also elated. It’s been a long and arduous road but I’m here, it’s done, Broughtupsy has found its way to you so pardon me while I rejoice. Hey look, ma, I made it!

Christina Cooke’s writing has previously appeared in The Caribbean Writer, Prairie Schooner, PRISM international, Epiphany, and elsewhere. A MacDowell Fellow and Journey Prize winner, she holds a MA from the University of New Brunswick and a MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her debut novel Broughtupsy was published on January 23, 2024 by House of Anansi Press in Canada and Catapult Books in the U.S. It has been highlighted as a "Most Anticipated" title by over 19 publications across four regions, including CBC Books, ELLE, Cosmopolitan UK, Bocas Literary Festival (Caribbean), Chapters Indigo, Kobo, NYLON, Electric Literature, Literary Hub, and more. Born in Jamaica, Christina is now a Canadian citizen who lives and writes in New York City.

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