Who is Ja Ja Opobo

I had a 10 year timeshare on a catamaran mostly in the Caribbean. It allowed us to get into places most people aren’t allowed as it is only 54 ft and I got to scuba everywhere. One day flying between islands I opened a magazine and saw some artwork and the title ja ja of opobo, and said, what the hell is this? Well, that question became the song jaja opobo.

I read this short piece about a nigerian king who was deposed in the 1800s by English colonialists so they could control the palm oil natural resources in his kingdom of nigeria. They simply told the king he was to leave and take his son, Sunday with him to an island in the Caribbean. The problem was, none of the islands wanted him as they explained that the slaves on the island were not to know they had kings! And they didn’t want unnecessary trouble. Finally after two failed attempts, St. Vincent in the Grenadines allowed jaja and his son to take residence.

Jaja was treated as a dignitary, and was unhappy with the first two homes, finally settling on a stone house in the main port of St. Vincent. He would attend many dinner parties but would complain that he lived above the stored molasses in the basement, which smelled, according to the stories.

Considered very smart, Jaja had a plan, and two goals, the first, was to see his son, Sunday, educated in the English school system in London, which he did, and the second, to return to Opobo. After some years, Jaja was allowed to return to his home in Nigeria, however, he fell I’ll in the Canary islands and died there, never returning to his homeland.

I fell in love with this story, and began writing the song aboard the boat, finishing after going to Jaja’s house and continuing to Mustique,union island and Tobago cays, where pirates of the Caribbean was being shot. Several years later. I was “pinged” by my email by the Teneriff festival in the canary islands. In the email it said simply, we would be honored if you would come and sing Jaja Opobo at our festival, for this is where Jaja died. Absolutely amazing he was to leave and take his son Sunday with him.

Ja Ja Opobo Words and Music: Doug Bell, Half Seas Over Music

Ja ja was a mighty king
Beloved by his people
Till a fat cat diplomat
Take his power with a steeple

They sail him away
To a sunny place
Make Sunday go along
Build him a home
Of molasses and stone
That’s why we singing his song


King ja ja opobo
African hobo
Green Caribbean, Barbados, grenedines Canary islands where he die
And not opobo
Ja ja oh no, ja ja oh no
Green Caribbean, Barbados, grenedines Canary islands where he die
And not opobo

He make no crime
But the English kind
King ja ja in de way
Much money made
In the palm oil trade
Enough to make ja ja go way

The king, he want to see Sunday schooled
So to  England boy child go
To learn all these things
That make hobos of kings
All things good Englishmen Know


long way roam,
long way roam
long way long way long way home


Filed Under: Song WritingVideo