Music Mondays: Transactional Sex in “Yaw Yaw”

I’m starting this new feature to highlight music from across the Caribbean that in some way brings to the forefront various social issues: Good, bad and other. I had been thinking about doing this for some time because, first, I love music and second, I love Caribbean music and third, we as a region produce a range of music and although many often see and hear of the more licentious or violent segments of our music, in every song, there is so much more.

One good example is a song called “Yaw Yaw” from Dominica 2011 Road March Champion Sour Sour. Now, I have to admit I can’t help but move to the beat of this song. It’s catchy and groovy and easy to move to when you are on the road Carnival day. But, what first caught my attention about this song was not the beat but its first line:

“I hear you making more bomb than Russia; and taking more wood than a bakery”.

For anyone not familiar with the these sayings, someone “making bomb” is essentially engaging in transactional sex. Growing up, I would hear of this and that person “making bomb” tonight, so she ( and it’s usually spoken of as the female who is engaging in this behavior) could pay her light bill or water bill. And in this case, wood is a euphemism for the male genitalia.

The song then goes on to say:

“Every Saturday, I see a lady going inside of her house; next thing, I seeing six, seven fellas go inside that same house; next thing I see her, coming out with plenty money.” (This is basically the entire song.)

This explains the first part of the song about ‘making bomb and ‘taking wood’. It’s much more explicit here than at the beginning and the transactional nature of the sexual relationship is clearly stated. Now, for a country that criminalizes prostitution, this concept would never be called as such. In fact, prostitution or sex workers are only thought of in the context of the ‘other’. They are never people whom you know and grew up with and are ‘making bomb’. In fact, in many towns and villages, many people most likely know which women are ‘making bomb’ and which men are willing to pay.

The first time I heard this song, I was deep into literature on multiple and concurrent partnerships and transactional sex and how those patters helps spread HIV. For me, it was not a hard stretch to start asking questions about local epidemics in the region and the role of transactional sex. I recently saw Tribes, MTV’s Staying Alive Ignite program from Trinidad highlighting the nature of transitional sex between an older man and younger women as well as concurrent partnerships. However, not much – well nothing really – is known about this more accepted form of transactional sex.

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