No, Woman, Nuh Cry

I once attended a “Mountaineers’ Night” and was overwhelmed by the many ‘Rastas’ I got to talk with. Sadly, I have yet to meet someone who fully understands what this Bob Marley ‘anthem’ — No, Woman, No Cry — is all about. I’m a tad perplexed that many of the guys (and gals) I had the pleasure of chatting with in that “reggae party” believe that the song is a ‘love song’. None, so far, has figured out that it is somewhat of a revolutionary mien — most of them were actually surprised at the thought. Many contend that the song meant that “if there is no woman (in a man’s life), there won’t be any pain — so, no tears; no crying.” No woman. No cry.

But, that is not what Bob Marley aimed to convey. Y’see, to fully understand the song, we have to understand the language used. It’s like studying Shakespeare really.

The original line is actually: No, Woman, Nuh cry. Nuh is Jamaican slang for don’t. Thus, the lyrics should be: No, Woman, don’t cry. In the song, Bob Marley is asking the Woman to “shed no tear” because “everything will be alright”.

No, Woman, No Cry is a song about Africa. Notice that “Woman” is capitalized. “Woman”, in the song, represents the African continent in general, and Apartheid South Africa in particular. Bob Marley is imploring her not to cry (not to give up) even in the midst of injustices against her. He reminds her of “good friends” and how they struggled against the powers-that-be, the “hypocrites in the government yards” — how they lived and survived on meager sustenance.

Bob Marley refers to Africa in three personas: as a Woman, mother to many children; as a Sister to other oppressed countries; and as a Darling, an attractive lady coveted by “Babylon”, the corrupt Western governments. He sings of Georgie making a firelight, referring to how residents in the slums of George, Western Cape (formerly Georgetown) would huddle in bonfires to survive the cold winter nights. He sings of hope to her by telling her everything will be alright.

Similarly, we sing the same song to our motherland:

A dedication to all the sons and daughters of Luzviminda
One time say, say, say

I remember when we used to sit in the government yard along Pasig
Oba-oba-observing the crookedness as it mingled with the good people we meet
Good friends we had
Good friends we’ve lost along the way
In this great future you can’t forget your past,
So dry your tears I say
And to my peeps who passed away,
No, Nanay, nuh cry
No, Nanay, nuh cry
Say, say, say.
Hey little Sister don’t shed no tears
No, Nanay, nuh cry
Say, say, say.

I remember when we used to rock in a project yard in Kyusi
And little Georgie would make the firelight,
As stolen cars passed through the night
And then we’d hit the corner store for ‘shrooms, paper and brew.
My drink’s my only remedy
For pain of losing family, but while I’m gone Pare,
Everything’s gonna be alright, everything’s gonna be alright,
I have come to the dance tonight, everything’s gonna be alright,
O everything’s gonna be alright,
The government man’s in the house tonight,
But everything’s gonna be alright.

No Nanay, nuh cry
No Nanay, nuh cry.
Hey, little Sister don’t shed no tears
No, Nanay, nuh cry
Say, say, say.

I remember when we used to sit in Malacañang’s vast yard along Pasig
Oba-oba-observing the hypocrites as they mingled with the good people we meet.
Good friends we had
Oh good friends we’ve lost
Along the way, hey
In this great future,
You can’t forget your past so dry your tears I say
And no Nanay, nuh cry
No, Nanay, nuh cry
Say, say, say.
Hey, little Sister don’t shed no tears
No Nanay, nuh cry
And to my peeps who passed away…

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About Seeing with Brahmin eyes
My sense of humor can be keen, sarcastic, silly or corny -- sometimes all at once. I enjoy meeting new people with no preconceived ideas about what or what is not possible. You get much more out of life by being open minded and willing. I'm an easy going, good-natured person who loves life and loves people. I'm both optimistic and realistic and pretty objective when it comes to assessing situations, events, etc. In general I am a very positive person and you'll usually find we with a smile on my face.

2 Responses to No, Woman, Nuh Cry

  1. arjekins says:

    Along the lines of Evita w “Don’t Cry for me, Argentina”. Am I on the right track, War Fish?

  2. Thanks for the info. This bothered me for a long time. Personally, I think men are not wired for that. Thanks for clearing things out.

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