Bitter Black Coffee

Roman Rhodes: Vocals, Acoustic & Lead Guitars, Banjo, Bass, Recorded Sounds & Reason Redrum.
Words & Music Roman Rhodes, Copyright 2001


I think this karmic political satire speaks for itself. It was inspired both by my coffee habit and by a newspaper article about the use of child slaves on some cocoa plantations in Africa. We tend to think those days are over, so it is always shocking to find its still going on and as a coffee drinker, that I' m contributing to it. Fair trade seems best way. But hard to stop people buying cheap. Hopefully some political awareness and pressure can put a stop to it. I wanted to show the interconnectedness of things and how things haven't changed really in a few thousand years.


Bitter black coffee in the morning time

Sends a rush into my heart and mind.

Gives me the illusion that I’m feeling fine;

Gonna kill me one of these times.


Grown in a land far away

By labor forced with little pay

Bitter black coffee from the roots to the grounds

A bitter black up from bitter black downs.

  Bitter luxuries from bitter blacks strife

  Gonna come back a take my life.



Like some cancer inside of me.

White sugar, petroleum cream

Diabetes, clogged arteries,

A karmic kind of disease.



Well it’s morning at the ranch, and you and your model wife  are in your terri-cloth bathrobes, sipping your mocha java. Ah, not a worry in the world! At least in the coffee commercial that is. In reality there is that nagging possibility of a major uprising among the locals whose land you appropriated for the plantation.

Actually, if truth be told, you’re the one causing all the worries in the world!

Julio, Ahmed and Mangwe are worried if they’ll make enough to feed themselves, never mind their families.  Worried if they’ll make it through the day without being beaten.  Worried if they’ll ever make it to the ripe old age of 15 or 16.  And surviving these worries there is the question of escaping slavery on what was once their native soil.  Should they join the Marxists, the Fundamentalists, the child armies?

But Nah!  Don’t you worry about such things.  Hell you own half the country and make more in one month than the entire annual national GNP and your juntas are well paid!  You are providing jobs after all!  Then again, there is that little question of the soul and the camel not passing through the eye of needle.   But Nah! You’ve read your Leo Strauss; religion is for the masses! And you know that no man is truly rich unless he owns his own army! Just like Crassus said before his insatiable greed led him and 10,000 of his fellow Romans off to be slaughtered in the sands of the Syrian desert.


Bitter black coffee in the evening time

Sends its poison to my heart and mind

Blood from a land whose people are enslaved

Someday gonna drive me to my grave.

  What you give and take goes around

  A bitter black up comes bitter black down.


Bitter grey smoke we take into our lungs,

We all know where it comes from:

The people whose land we stole,

Call it Montezuma’s other hole,


Bitter black chocolate from an african farm

Run by white companies far from the harm

Of the children kidnapped or bought for slaves

One day that chocolate will take you to your grave

What you give and take oh well it goes around

Your bitter black up will be your bitter black down.


All’s connected we forget but know.

We end up eating all the fruit we grow.

Bitter black coffee, bitter grey smoke

Big white devil’s gonna choke.


Nara, 2001


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