Wednesday, September 16, 2015

What "Babylon" Means In Barrington Levy's "Under Mi Sensi" & In Other Reggae Songs

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post provides selected YouTube comments about the meaning of "Babylon" in Barrington Levy's classic 1984 Reggae song "Under Mi Sensi", in other Reggae songs, and in Jamaican culture itself. Those comments are from a sound file of Levy's "Under Mi Sensi" (original version). The lyrics for that song are also included in this post.

Click for a companion post about Barrington Levy's "Under Mi Sensi" which includes information about Barrington Levy, a synopsis of this song, and explanations for other words in that song.

The content of this post is presented for cultural and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to Barrington Levy for his musical legacy. Thanks also to the publisher of this example on YouTube, and all those who are quoted in this post.

SHOWCASE SOUND FILE: Barrington LevY-Under Mi Sensi (original version)

Micaah Alina, Uploaded on Feb 7, 2008
Note that some commenters wrote that this isn’t the full song.

(Barrington Levy, original version)

Waoh, hey, waoh, see, waoh, see, oh well, hey
Ah, from mi stand up inna volcano
Ah, from den mi bun di ganja pipe
Babylon come an tell mi dat naw right
Mi say mi bun it an pass it on da right

Mi say dem come in and dem lookin' pon di dread
Dem say, "Hey natty dread locks, a where you come from?
You muss have two stick a sensi under your tam"
Mi say, "No officer, lawd, you muss be madd
Mi only smoke cigarette an strictly shag"

Ooh, see, waoh, see, oh well, hey

Under mi sensi, mi under mi sensi
Under mi sensi, mi under mi sensi
Under mi sensi , mi under mi sensi
Under mi sensi, mi under mi sensi, waoh

See, waoh, ooh, waoh, hey
All over mi Babylon, dats all over mi
All over mi Babylon dats all over mi
Dem no ramp wid me, I strictly sensi
All over mi Babylon, it's all over mi

Oh no, what? Oh no, see
All over mi Babylon, it's all over mi
All over mi Babylon, it's all over mi
All over mi wicked mann, it's all over mi
Oh no, see, waoh

Hey, Babylon, you no like ganja mann
But ya weed bring da foreign currency pon di island
To Babylon no badda charge me, SA
To Babylon no badda charge mi, SA
One box pon mi lip a bare blood start spit
To Babylon no badda charge mi, SA

posted by Eddy “Teddy” Tee (2015) in the discussion thread of

In Reggae music the term "Babylon" takes its general meaning from the Bible.
..."In the Bible, Babylon is mentioned from Genesis to Revelation, as it rises from its rebellious beginnings to become a symbol of the Antichrist’s evil world system. When God’s people required discipline, God used the Babylonian Empire to accomplish it, but He limited Judah’s captivity to 70 years (Jeremiah 25:11). Then, God promised to “punish the king of Babylon and his nation” (Jeremiah 25:12) “for all the wrong they have done in Zion” (Jeremiah 51:24). Ultimately, all evil will be judged, as symbolized by Babylon’s demise in Revelation 18:21: “The great city of Babylon will be thrown down, never to be found again.”

Here are some comments about the meaning of "Babylon" in Reggae music. These comments are from the discussion thread for the video embedded above These comments are given in chronological order with the oldest comments presented first, except for replies. I've assigned numbers to these comments for referencing purposes only.

1. kuboss007, 2010
"Can anyone explain me please whats the meaning of "Babylon" in reggae lyrics? I know that was a city that disappered below sea, but i dont get it."
Re: the reference to "a city that disappeared below the sea" I thin that the commenter confused "Atlantis" with "Babylon".

2. Damn Youthstyle, 2010
"babylon means the west basically, peter tosh wouldnt tour in america because 'it's the heart of the babylon" and zion is Africa"
Peter Tosh was another influential Reggae singer/composer.

3. freewillunfree, 2010
"The remains of Babylon are in Iraq. I understand American forces have been using the remains to fill their sandbags. Im not a rasta so qualify this. Babylon in some songs obviously mean police, etc. However I have heard it in contexts where it means people who generally oppress or who are seen to oppress the descendents of African slaves or even rasta themselves. So as damnyouthstyle says Peter Tosh wouldn't even go to The US. Perhaps some rasta will explain more."

4. verypleased, 2010
"isnt Babilondis a mtephorical term, to describe something that does not pertain to this infrastructure or system..people who smoke de weed are thinkers, and are closer to this wickymandas that barrington is so proudly singing about, in the words of Timothy Leary Think for yourself and question authority..peace sisters and brothers.."

5. Royst, 2010
"Babylon was a mighty nation now modern day bagdad 50 miles south of the main center its where they have ment to of built the tower of babil hence the words what r u babilin on about where nimrod and all the nations language was changed by god the almighty Israel which was in the east built on mount zion was given into the hands of babylon becas they worshiped other the almighty said i will give u away 2 the deppression of babylon"

6. Singh Steve, 2010
in reply to gina104683 [who also asked a question about the meaning "Babylon" in this song]
"Babylon is a form of oppression, and that is what would happen to Israel in ancient days because of rebelliousness against the Lord. As for Babylon reference in the Caribbean the rastafarians refer to the cops as Babylon because that is a form of oppression."

7. Xen64, 2010
"Babylon represents all the evil and corruption in the world. It is much broader than particular organizations, nor is it specific to rastas.

8. Rapquake, 2010
"in simplest clearest terms Babylon iz DOWNpressors"
"Downpressors" is the Rastafari way of saying "oppressors"

9. latido eterno, 2010
in reply to freewillunfree
"babylon refers to a culture of greed. WE are babylon when we support those that are greedy. and trust me, we do this without even knowing it.

who here buys brand name products? shoes? clothes? (the blind) who keeps all that money? (the superrich) who works to death to supply this to us? (the poor)

babylon is a state of selfishness.:

10. ericjungleboy, 2011
in reply to KNIEBEL0815 [who indicated that Babylon meant the oppresive system of government)
"@KNIEBEL0815 For the sake of this song, Babylon is the police, plain and simple. That's what it means to most JAcans. More time you hear somebody say "Babylon" is the police dem talking bout. If yu a Rasta, then maybe for you it's about the whole system and thing, but most Jamaicans say "babylon" for the police."

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