Hard Woman fe Dead

portia


Prince Buster died on September 8 this year, roughly two weeks ago. I remember feeling a deep  sense of loss all day long into the next few days that was exacerbated by the scant attention local media was giving the news. On the day of the latter-day superstar’s death radio and TV newscasts in Jamaica carried it way down in their line-up. None of them even had the sad news as a top three item as far as I recall.

I didn’t know Prince Buster personally. I know that he was a crucial pioneer of the success story that is Jamaican music and I love his music and his swaggering history. When @DahliaHarris said “The way international media is paying tribute to Prince Buster is amazing. We need to teach our youth about our Jamaican legends” I completely agreed. The news of Prince Buster’s death should have led newscasts in Jamaica on that sad day for this was the passing of a legend.

Think about it. Had a paltry politician from the top two rungs of Parliament died it would have led the news here but someone who helped to put Jamaica on the map through its music, someone who inspired so many people worldwide that when you google his death you get a list of tributes published in all the top global media—the New York Times, BBC, The Economist, The UK Guardian, Rolling Stone—no of course not…that’s secondary news in the country of his birth.

The Economist’s tribute described Prince Buster’s life as “a chronicle of the tropical tempest that is modern Jamaica” and ended by invoking his blockbuster Hard Man fe Dead:

“In his 1966 record “Hard Man Fe Dead”, Prince Buster sings the tale of a corpse who steadfastly refuses to die.  It’s an ode to the indomitable spirit of his countrymen—and a fitting tribute to his own legacy:

“Now the procession leads to the cemetery,
The man holler out—don’t you bury me!
You pick him up, you lick him down,
Him bounce right back, what a hard man fe dead.”

It’s at moments like this that you realise there is something seriously askew with the way Jamaican society operates. This lopsidedness also manifests itself in the inability of the country’s bourgeoisie to understand who Portia Simpson Miller is and what she represents to many people in this country. “I’m a hard woman fe dead,” she said when she emerged triumphant from the internal elections of the People’s National Party last weekend, having won 2,471 of 2,669 votes cast by delegates.

This after a mounting campaign in the media to discredit her in the weeks preceding the election, on the grounds that it was time for her to go, particularly as her health seems increasingly to be an issue. The negative campaign only seems to have spurred on the support this grassroots leader enjoys. In 2006 when Portia won the PNP’s leadership election for the first time, with the vast majority of PNP delegates voting for her, it was against the wishes of the majority of the party leadership at Cabinet level, and in Parliament.

Unfortunately for the top leadership they soon realised that none of them could muster similar support from the delegates and thus began a decade of an uneasy coalition between middle class and elite PNP leaders and Portia. Although some of them were involved in the campaign to hasten her departure they have now been told in no uncertain terms by the delegates that she will go, when she, and they, are ready. Without Portia the PNP may never win another election and that is the simple truth of it.

As a wit once observed in response to snarky sniping about Portia Simpson Miller’s lack of higher academic degrees, “Who say Portia don’t have PhD? Portia Have Delegates. seet deh? PhD.” An upper St Andrew friend was bitter about Portia’s re-election as party leader, grumbling that she needs to go as she couldn’t represent the country. Why not, I prodded. “No man, she can’t speak for me,” came back the answer, and implicit in that statement was all the prejudice and disregard too many of us feel towards the grassroots of this country.

The sober truth though, is that neither can Upper St Andrew (and its counterparts) speak for the grassroots any longer. That is why Portia still reigns…and why the passing of Prince Buster should have been front and centre of the news on September 8, 2016. No two ways about that.

(The above is my Gleaner column from September 21, 2016)

Life for Vybz Kartel…

Selected tweets from the day of Vybz Kartel’s sentencing, April 3, 2014

I will be putting up a more substantial post soon about the sentencing of Vybz Kartel. In the meantime here’s a selection of tweets from earlier today that will give you a feel of what the mood was like today at the Supreme Court and outside it.

  1. Wonder how much ppl aguh put Gaza 4 Life pon dem TL n Facebook today? True loyalty is shown during times of adversity
  2. Attorney for #ShawnStorm now seeking mercy on his behalf. Kartel has asked lawyers not to seek mercy from the Court#SentencingHearing
  3. “This has never been an easy part of any trial for me” – Justice Lennox Campbell
  4. Trust me Gaza Army this thing not over. VYBZ Kartel will be a free man in due time n we aguh Mek sure dem hear him voice up to the time
  5. “We have heard evidence that there was a great deal of planning and premeditation and the deceased was subjected to much stress” – Judge
  6. Planning, premeditation and lot of stress for the deceased says Lennox Campbell #KartelSentencing
  7. The Court recognizes that the offenders had different roles – Judge Campbell. Convicts now asked to stand
  8. Him ask Addi n crew to stand
  9. BREAKING: Kartel sentenced to life in imprisonment with hard labour. Not eligible for parole before 35 years – @Nationwideradio
  10. #courtroomchronicles there r police barriers everywhere. Even lawyers are being stopped n asked if they have matters at court today
  11. Breaking – Kartel sentenced to LIFE!
  12. Breaking – judge says Life for #Kartel. 35 yrs to be spent before eligible for parole #KartelSentencing
  13. Breaking – Shawn Storm gets life. 25 years before eligible for parole#KartelSentencing
  14. Dem sentence mi Bredda @iamthekartel to LIFE without parole for 35 years.
  15. As expected, Adidja Palmer is sentenced to LIFE.
  16. “Stay Strong” That is the message Addi ask me to pass on to the GazaArmy. 1 more time, Addi Anuh Girl Guide, him a souljah.
  17. @nnboogie I told the guys at the gym that Judge will give life sans parole 35-40 years …they thought I was being unrealistic …
  18. @nnboogie they were looking at 20 to 25 ..but Judge was always going to sentence with a heavy hand, especially if one doesn’t big for mercy
  19. It is not over Gaza Army. It is not over. Certain details we have to hold back but this is just a obstacle on the road to freedom
  20. So can Kartel still produce music in prison?
  21. Bury dancehall today. The best and worst of it gone.
  22. We had a break in his meeting to reveal the news in the Kartel trial
  23. Mi… Dutty big black barry….write the best blag post bout kartel roun 3 year ago. And it come to pass http://bigblackbarry.wordpress.com/2011/11/07/the-issue-of-mr-adijah-palmer/ …
  24. Poor Parliament. They should have deferred the #ThroneSpeech. Kartel is more newsworthy.
  25. I see u watch the news “@DMarcAnthony@nnboogie@thelockedwonder “Yeah.. but is not like seh is wan big person iina society him did kill.””
  26. The fact that the #KartelSentencing takes precedence over parliament shows our faith in the system.
  27. It was my first blog post ever. Science…
  28. I now propose that the Govt allow Kartel to record in prison for 60% of revenue. Kartel to pay his incarceration expenses out of his 40%
  29. The trajectory of every #JaThroneSpeech is the same! Tell the people how poorly the world economy is performing.
  30. Addi never asked for nor expected anything else from the system that facilitated his conviction despite missing n tampered evidence
  31. Based on the sentence handed down today, if Kartel’s conviction is upheld in the Appeals Court, he will be 73 years old before parole.
  32. He shouldn’t do music – shet it dung
  33. Defence lawyers for Kartel say they expect to file his appeal by year end
  34. Angry Kartel crowd chanting Kartel wi sehh .. being monitored by Policepic.twitter.com/kD8JzPVe5T
  35. Absolutely crazy scenes downtown.
  36. Women rolling in the street and wailing at the #KartelLifeSentence
  37. Gaza 4 Life! Empire Foreva !
  38. Baddest dj ever in the genre. Ever. I still hold to that.
  39. Not his fan, but Vybz Kartel was a lyricist, visionary entrepreneur, and marketing expert. He is also a convicted murderer. #DealWithIt
  40. kartel shoulda jumped on one a them haitian boats when he had the chance
  41. When yu give a man life sentence eitha him give him life to god In prison or him stay behind bars & instigate heinous crimes on outsiders
  42. #courtroomchronicles …it is over ..for now. An appeal is imminent. This is where it all happened ..…  http://instagram.com/p/mVeEQbMRFM/ 
  43. #courtroomchronicles crowd around court. Shouts of “free kartel” “a nuh angel him kill” “dis affi re-try” can be heard. Police everywhere
  44. #courtroomchronicles one lady shouts, “look how di police kill di pregnant ooman and neva get 35 yrs!” ..for them #justice is blind & unfair
  45. #courtroomchronicles one man shouts “look oomuch ppl do worse dan him! All di politician and judge weh drive bad and kill ppl pon di road!!”
  46. #courtroomchronicles For them, it’s abt 2 societies, 2 justice systems. One for the rich & privileged. The other for the black ghetto youths
  47. WHO is gonna tell me My baddi set good like di ice inna freezer and mek mi believe it?! WHO?
  48. GazaArmy. we nuh deh pon nuh mourning ting .Addi said “Justice how ever long it takes will prevail,a so Haile Selassie sey.”so we a move fwd
  49. Kartel attended court today in a white jacket suit and a Calabar High shirt and tie, apparently celebrating the Champs win of his alma mater
  50. #VybzKartel still represents #Calabar, as seen in this photo taken today after his sentencing pic.twitter.com/nbPGIY9PXL

Vybz Kartel found guilty of murder

A selection of tweets, including from reps of the accused, immediately before, during and after the tension-filled moments leading up to the jury’s verdict of guilty against Kartel and three of his four co-accused. Includes video of Lizard Williams dancing.

Photo by William Richards http://www.williamrichardsphotography.com


Dec 13, 2013 newscast on Kartel trial detailing video and bbm evidence presented by prosecution

Well, i was wrong. I fully believed that Kartel and co. would walk; because of the weakness of Jamaica’s justice system,  the strength of the defence team, and because the powerful are rarely tried, let alone found guilty in this society. But no! In a dramatic, rapidly unfolding denouement yesterday afternoon the nearly 3-month old Kartel trial came to an emotion-filled climax. Amidst rumours that one of the jurors, ‘No. 3’ to be precise, had tried to offer the jury’s headwoman a J$500,000 bribe, the jury decided 10 to 1 that Kartel, and three of his four co-accused were guilty of the murder of Clive ‘Lizard’ Williams, a young dancer whose body has yet to be found.

Lizard’s sister, Stephanie Breakenridge, sat in the courtroom sobbing every now and then as the final moments arrived. In all of the circus around this celebrity court case her brother, seen in the video above dancing and bigging up the Gaza Empire, had been virtually forgotten in the media coverage of the trial, except perhaps as its subject, in cold, clinical terms. His terror-filled texts had been read to the courtroom earlier in the trial but otherwise very little was known of the young man who thought his moment in the sun had arrived the day he was adopted by Kartel and his group.

Word on the verandahs is that the DPP Paula Llewellyn, Judge Campbell, Prosecutor Jeremy Taylor and his team were determined to use this case to showcase the ability of the Jamaican court system to deliver justice, surely if not swiftly. I congratulate them on their determination to demonstrate that justice is not as elusive in Jamaica as many of us have been led to believe…let’s hope the Kartel trial sets the bar for all trials in Jamaica from now on.

As Dah’Mion Blakey said on Facebook: The same rigor with which this case was pursued should be extended to ALL; uptown, downtown, popular, unpopular and indifferent!! #‎JudicialReform‬ ‪#‎SocialJusticeForAll‬

Finally, many of us thought that Kartel would have got off because the jury would have felt too intimidated to find him guilty. Clearly they didn’t. This too was something the DPP must have been keen on establishing, to signal to potential jurors and a timorous public that the all-abiding fear that curtails the carriage of justice too often is perhaps overstated and unnecessary. Of course we have to wait and see and hope that none of the jurors face repercussions for their decision.

Below is a curated collection of tweets that will convey the atmosphere yesterday in Kingston, especially downtown where the Supreme Court is located. There are tweets by @Iamthekartel, a Twitter account supposedly speaking for Kartel, along with many others which capture the climax of this sensational court case.

Finally, thanfully, nxt wk this time Adidja Azim Palmer will be tweeting from this account so beta start follo him from now
Best Male Actor in a supporting role, Shawn Storm. From The Series #KartelMurderTrial
When Kartel gets acquitted he gonna be walking out like… #KartelMurderTrial pic.twitter.com/fX4yOzR8Sb
Busta need a day job. Him tun courthouse tetes
We a keep it orderly, nah give the police r media nutten bad fi say bout the Gaza btwn now and the nxt 72 hrs when we expec Addi to walk out
“Mi Bible de near me,” – Vybz Kartel
Appealing to 2 Police,designate a section near the Courthouse where Gazafans can wait in peace 4 d verdict No bada style d people n bloc dem
“Give me a chance fi talk pon poor people behalf” Vybz Kartel.
“Its not a moral war, its a financial war, dem nuh waan ghetto yute fi have house n car.” Vybz Kartel
Breaking – judge in #KartelMurderTrial threatens to take action against Kartel’s lawyer if he interrupts his summing up again
My word – I suggest you walk with an id if you intend to be in downtown KGN as of tomorrow. It’s getting frantic #KartelMurderTrial
Bigup the Legendary Junior Reid 4 his presence in Court today alongside the Legendary @BustaRhymes. Babylon a c the ratings Addi get.
If court starts on time, judge could use another 2 hrs to close summing up & then discharge jury #KartelMurderTrial
But, court has never started on time. May be this will be the once in a blue moon. #KartelMurderTrial
Pot cover, light, horn, shout, ilebrate how u want but keep it legal cuz Babylon nah play today.
5 accused 11 jurors 30 witnesses 65 days so far 6th day of summing up #KartelMurderTrial
Kartel supporters downtown have breached the barrier on Barry Street and have been shouting ‘no Teacha,no school’
Lawyers have been summoned to judge’s chamber. Tension inside; Tension outside. No hallelujah in the middle #KartelMurderTrial
One more time, we have to keep calm. Keep it safe n peaceful
Who would have thunk it. Jury sent to deliberate at 3:42 PM #KartelMurderTrial
Mi a ready up fi di new tune dem fi drown out dis Soca madness!! What will it be…#KartelMurderTrial
The global impact of ONE case in Jamaica. #KartelMurderTrial #Jamaica #Barbados #USA # Canada #Kenya # Indonesia #Waiting to hear
UPDATE: Still awaiting Judge. Tom Tavares Finson has just asked the registrar – “unnu sen fa di Judge” ? ..still waiting
Crazy! “@emilynationwide: Calm on the inside now. Tension on the outside #KartelMurderTrial pic.twitter.com/oS8nvAReHx
#courtroomchronicles the room is filled with prosecutors ..DPP is here, all her #gladiators ..no defence counsel in the room. #vktrial
Jury still out for a second time because they told court a moment ago they have a majority verdict of 10:1 #KartelMurderTrial
#courtroomchronicles ..Some have said the verdict is guilty ..10 to 1 ..There is talk that there is a new world bawse in town tonight ..
IF YOU SUPPORT OR LISTEN TO KARTEL THERE’S NO WAY A GUILTY VERDICT IS ACCEPTABLE! THE BOSS MUST BE FREE #KartelMurderTrial
#courtroomchronicles ..November has led to this ..I have never seen so many prosecutors in court .. where are defence counsel? ?
#courtroomchronicles I see Barbara Gayle ..Anthony Miller ..A host of local and international journalists ..defence counsel now appear ..
#courtroomchronicles ..The judge is flanked by 4 police officers on the bench ..never seen that b4 either ..what a bumbo today .. #vktrial
I would love to see a log of all the tweets on #KartelMurderTrial ..#VeryInteresting
“A phone went off in the court, and it was a vybz Kartel ringtone” #KartelMurderTrial #tvjnews
So the verdict is that there was no verdict? #KartelMurderTrial.
#courtroomchronicles ..one police says she is like a tree planted by the rivers of Jordan . She has nuttn yo fear , as accused men walk in
#Update A press personality ejected from court after phone rings with Vybz Kartel Ringtone #KartelMurderTrial
#courtroomchronicles ..kartel dons an epic blue tie, white shirt and dark suit ..The room is filled ..all jurors present ..
Up listening to nationwide radio when I should be writing essays and there’s still no unanimous vote… #KartelMurderTrial
Vybz Kartel has been found Gulity! Sean Storm has been found Guitly. #KartelMurderTrial
But all of Juici celebrated.. And screamed.. Thought it was a rat.. #KartelMurderTrial
Shane Williams acquitted
BREAKING: Shane Williams told he is free to go. Kartel and 3 co-accused will shortly be cuffed and carried away. They’ve been found GUILTY
#courtroomchronicles judge: I thk u n say on behalf of jamaican ppl, thank u for having served so well. Judge now asks DPP to address court
A soh di ting set, yu duh di CRIME jus duh di TIME Rasta! #KartelMurderTrial #WorldBossForBleaching
Judge to jury-‘i will say this u couldn’t have done anything else on this evidence presented here. It was not possible’ #KartelMurderTrial
Sentencing to take place March 27, 2014 #SentencingDay
Looooool”@UWISTAT_MONA: So the possibility of a second Vybz Kartel Lecture at UWI (Mona) was just thrown out the window. #KartelMurderTrial
#courtroomchronicles ..Taylor walks away ..he gives no comment ..DPP however is being interviewed ..she didn’t walk away .. *facepalm*
Pple unfollowing Emily Crooks like she be the reason Kartel in jail #KartelMurderTrial
#courtroomchronicles ..anxiety fills the corridors now ..The police will arrest a juror ..it is alleged he tried to bribe foreman ..
I wonder how ova Waterford stay….. #KartelMurderTrial
#Breaking – Vybz Kartel is guilty – Juror accused of bribing 500K #KartelMurderTrial – Developing pic.twitter.com/EwzZIVnalp
#courtroomchronicles police are everywhere ..we haven’t yet made our way to the streets ..The air is uncertain ..what will supporters do
#courtroomchronicles …loud noises now being heard in the vicinity of the courthouse as news of the verdict spreads thru the streets
NOW -Shouts coming from Tower Street now ‘we waan Kartel’ Police closing in on the crowd gathered there
Mi nuh see one mothercunt big dancehall artiste ah tweet bout #KartelMurderTrial/#KartelVerdictReaction. Dem in shock or dem happy?
Busta Rhymes was no help lol #KartelMurderTrial
#courtroomchronicles ..one lady says “free world bawse ..A him seh bleaching and ah bleaching we seh” …
The sad thing is that the #Endometriosis march won’t even get mentioned because of the #KartelMurderTrial
Juror alleged to have attempted to bribe another juror now detained by the police #KartelMurderTrial
People, we have to respect the justice system. Allow Kartel Lawyers to file the appeal. Let peace reign.
Police directing traffic away from King Street now as bottles are being thrown – police say
How many years are we possibly looking at for each of the accused according to our laws @thelockedwonder ?
Give thnx 4 the support. Give thnx to the lawyers. Be safe; dont give the law any reason to be upset. Gaza 4 life! Empire Foreva! One Love.
Suh since the Police were so confident and diligent and resilient in THIS CASE, We can assume from yah suh on dem ago be dat way every case?
@Uncle_Wil 25 to life …and based on judge’s comments …well, I guess we will know soon..
If anybody thinks #KartelMurderTrial verdict will change #dancehall they are crazy. The music wasn’t on trial. It’s like hip-hop
@Uncle_Wil the appeal will also raise some very interesting points ..including chain of custody, police tampering with evidence, bias etc
#VybzKartel found guilty! Was at Supreme Court until short time ago. Find my piece in tomorrow’s #Gleaner. #KartelMurderTrial
@Uncle_Wil So hope is not lost to the fans …time will tell …it will be very interesting to see how the court of appeal deal with issues
Wasted my good good obeah on that trial— dammit. #GuiltyWorldBoss #KartelMurderTrial pic.twitter.com/Nsp8ffpG64
Thx for the overwhelming support. Gaza nuh weak. Who want to be happy n proud that a man gone jail under these circumstances, good 4 them.

“As Jamaican as Ackee and Saltfish”: Cindy Breakspeare, Part 2

Part 2 of my 2007 article on Cindy Breakspeare written for Riddim magazine…

Beauty pageants and contests have always been of enormous importance in Jamaica, a vexed and competitive arena that was biased in favour of light-skinned or white girls who defined the ideal of beauty in Black Jamaica. With her green eyes and fair skin Cindy was the embodiment of the “hallowed sororities” of light/white beauty queens produced by the Anglophone Caribbean and thus the ideal candidate to represent Jamaica at Miss World. Unfortunately for her the Manley government in an acknowledgment of the black power movement sweeping through the Caribbean had banned beauty pageants and the Miss Jamaica contest in particular as politically incorrect.

Cindy’s obstacle-filled path to the Miss World competition is a tale in itself. Suffice it to say that after winning the coveted title Cindy spent a hectic year fulfilling her Miss World duties with gusto and returned to Jamaica a celebrity in her own right. About the contest she says that, “It ended up being my ticket and my passport to seeing the world, I always refer to it as my Dale Carnegie course. It really was a job for a year. To me there was nothing else…its not as though I was studying medicine or law or anything else like that and left it to take time out to do this pageant. For me it was an opportunity so I made up my mind to capitalize on it as much as I could.”

Nevertheless she was glad at the end of the year to be able to resume her blossoming relationship with Bob Marley which had continued during her reign; in fact the London press had made a mini-scandal of their affair billing it as a romance between Beauty and the Beast. It may be hard to imagine today but in those days it was not difficult to demonize Marley with his locks and Rasta livity. In fact Marley was similarly typecast by the middle and upper classes in Jamaica to whom Rastafari was anathema.

Bob Marley - Cindy Breakspeare - 454 x 349

Nevertheless Cindy was committed to her relationship with Bob. Now that she had experienced the dizzying heights of being judged the most beautiful woman in the world she was keen to settle down and create a life for herself. Realizing during her coronation year that she was pregnant with Bob’s child Breakspeare decided that it was time to start the family she herself had never had. Marley and she had a surprising amount in common, “We definitely were both passionate about the idea of being healthy and keeping fit”. Cindy’s vegetarianism– the only flesh she would eat was fish–had attracted a lot of attention during the contest. In those days such fussiness about diet was not as common as it is today.

The decision to return to Jamaica wasn’t difficult although Cindy turned down several international modeling opportunities to do so. “I think by then I had had my fill and I wasn’t maybe so hungry for travel, I wasn’t so hungry for the idea of stardom coz it was really intense. Within 24 hours you go from being a small island girl that no one has ever heard of anywhere to being on the front of every newspaper that you pick up in London and they’re in your personal life and of course my relationship with Bob was much talked about because it was considered very outrageous and that put me through a lot of anxiety…”

She had always loved to draw and paint and back in Jamaica Cindy was approached by Donna Coore, the wife of Third World musician Cat Coore, to start a business called Ital Craft making jewellery from shells and other natural objects. Ital Craft went on to become immensely successful; at its height the hand-made jewellery found its way into stores like Bloomingdales, onto the runways of Paris and in sixteen locations in the Caribbean.

Cindy disputes the claim that Marley had funded the start up with huge sums of money.

“It’s like Ital Craft –- that the start up money for that was some hundreds and thousands of dollars.  Rubbish! We started Ital Craft with J$2500, Donna Coore and I. That was the shell capital that we started the company with, it seemed like a lot of money at the time but certainly nowhere near what has been written I think it was in the Don Taylor book.”

About Bob’s involvement in the business Cindy said:

“Not so much that I would ask but that he would think it was a wonderful idea because he was very supportive of any creative endeavour, any initiative and he just thought it was wonderful and he would come up there late at night when he was finished with studio work and whatever and pull up a stool and say ‘I’m a tradesman you know, what you need me to do for you now?’ and in fact one of our big driftwood tables – I had dug up a tree root from out of the sand out at Hellshire Beach — he leveled it and we put a glass on it. He loved to be involved in any little thing like that. And himself and another little youth from Hope Road leveled the top of that table for us and we put the glass on it. But he just loved the creative energy because he was so steeped in the creative process himself, he loved to see it in other people and since he was in a position to encourage it he would go to London and he gave a girflfriend of mine 500 pounds and said Now go and buy anything you can make jewellery with—beads, cords, bindings anything—I didn’t ask him, he just came back and presented me with this enormous duffel bag full of things and said ‘see a few little things here to make some things?’ Well girl, it was like xmas had come two hundred times over. Wonderful. He was very inspirational that way and when he went to Australia he bought a lot of shells for us and had them shipped. And he bought us like our first drill press to make tiny holes for the jewellery because we were using a dentist’s drill up until then.

“So he was very very encouraging and very inspirational. He always wanted to buy me a fancy car and I kept saying I need a van, I really need a van to transport stuff around, get out to the beach and  take up things like these big pieces of driftwood. I always was the kind of person who went for practicality and functionability over just what we call profile nowadays—yeah, a two-seater sports car is great, it can go really fast but can it do anything else? you know that’s always been my way of looking at things. So every now and then I’d keep saying I need a van so finally one day he just drove up the hill in this big blue Ford Transit van, walked inside and said ok see the key here? I said what?! And he said well didn’t you say you need a van, well there’s the van. I had no idea and it didn’t have to be a birthday present or a xmas present if it was just something that you expressed you needed in order to make another part of your life function that much better well ok well I can get you a van. And that’s how he was.”

To be continued…

Wanted: Frank Gehry for Reggae Hall of Fame

An exhibit featuring a selection of the 2012 First International Reggae Poster Contest’s winning posters opens at the National Gallery of Jamaica on Sept 30, 2012 unveiling an ambitious agenda to build a Frank Gehry-designed building on the Kingston Waterfront to showcase Jamaica’s globally renowned music.

5 | Taj Francis | Jamaica

Taj Francis, a Jamaican designer, came fifth in the the 2012 First International Reggae Poster Contest with the poster directly above, depicting Lee Scratch Perry.

In my last post i decried the shambolic music museum that has been created in Jamaica to honour its world historical musical tradition. I also mentioned the National Gallery of Jamaica, an almost first world facility created to showcase the visual arts tradition of Jamaica. I could never understand why I rarely got a sense from the art displayed at the Gallery that there was any cross-fertilization between the powerful music scene here and the visual art scene. I also thought it strange that there was no reference to the fact that the Gallery was situated on Orange Street which in the 60s and 70s was known informally as Beat Street because it was the throbbing centre of musical activity in Jamaica. The passage quoted below will give you an idea of what I mean:

Junior Byles & Friends
129 Beat Street

Like Bourbon Street in New Orleans, Beale Street in Memphis, 42nd Street in New York or Music Row in Nashville, Orange Street in Kingston, Jamaica is the prototypical ‘Music Street’. As indicated by its unofficial name, Beat Street, the area around Orange Street in central Kingston had been a centre for sound system activity since the 1950s. By the 1960s Orange Street itself was the subject of numerous songs – the great Prince Buster’s “Shaking Up Orange Street” being merely the most famous [and versioned]. Many producers rented shops in and around Orange Street, including Bunny Lee at number 101, Sir JJ Johnson at number 133, and perhaps most celebrated, Prince Buster’s legendary Record Shack at number 127. Sonia Pottinger’s pressing plant was also in Orange Street, at the bottom; just around the corner was Randy’s Studio, above the shop on North Parade. The area continued as a centre for music into the seventies and beyond, although on a much smaller scale. Prince Buster still operates his shop there, as does Augustus Pablo. Producer Trevor ‘Leggo’ Douglas was one who came to Music Street in the late seventies, opening Cash & Carry Records at 125 Orange Street, just down the street from Prince Buster; like Buster, he’s still there today, running his own studio. Right next door to the Prince was the address that gives title to this compilation; Dudley ‘Manzie’ Swaby and his then-partner in music the late Leroy ‘Bunny’ Hollett moved into premises on the music street late in 1975, having previously operated from Manzie’s family home in Love Lane nearby. From the House of Music at 129 Beat Street they issued a series of recordings – both in roots style and love songs – that have easily stood the test of time. Most of this music has never been issued outside of Jamaica; this compilation is hopefully the first of several to chronicle Manzie Swaby’s underground roots legacy.

By the end of the eighties when i first came to Jamaica you could see little sign of the former life of this historic street and today very few are aware of its rich musical connection. It’s fitting that finally the National Gallery is putting on a show which directly references the globally renowned music of the counry–Reggae. Tomorrow, an exhibition featuring some of the winning designs in the 2012 International Reggae Poster Competition–World-a-Reggae–will open at the Gallery. The brainchild of Michael Thompson, graphic designer extraordinaire who was trained at the Edna Manley College and exposed to the great graphic tradition in Cuba, the Reggae Poster contest was truly global in scope. To quote the contest website:

The 2012 First International Reggae Poster Contest (RPC) began in December 27, 2011 with the goal of discovering fresh Reggae Poster designs from around the world. Interest in the contest grew significantly over the 4-month run with a total of 1,142 submissions from 80 countries. The contest winners were chosen from 370 finalists by a distinguished panel of judges known for their creativity and commitment to design.

Thoroughly impressed with the outcome of the competition, the RPC organizers are excited to announce that the international jury committee has selected the three finalist and the 100 best posters.

The winners are:

1st Place: Alon Braier, of Israel, for his “Roots Of Dub” poster
2nd Place: Zafer Lehimler, of Turkey, for his “Reggae Star” poster
3rd Place: Rosario Nocera, of Italy, for his “Riddim is Freedom” design

Please note that the top 3 winners are all from outside the Caribbean, a sign that local designers faced stiff competition from abroad. The contest also highlights the extraordinary reach of Jamaican music and popular culture, so inadequately honoured at home. Well Michael Thompson aims to change all that (for an interview with him on Jamaican TV go here). Along with Carolyn Cooper and others he’s all set to lobby for a world-class museum facility to be built on the Kingston Waterfront designed by none other than Frank Gehry, the architect who built the Bilbao Museum and so many other world-renowned art facilities. If he can find enough investors with the vision to see how this would add value to Jamaica’s rather limited tourism product–which does little more than capitalize on the country’s sun, sand and sea–the project could get on its feet. Some may think this is an absurdly grand project but to do justice to Jamaica’s music you do have to reach for the stars. I mean can you imagine how fabulous something like the building below would look squatting on the Kingston Waterfront? It could spearhead the long overdue revival of downtown Kingston. So what’re we waiting for? Let’s do it!

A Frank Gehry-designed building

World-a-Reggae, the exhibit of the 100 best entries opens tomorrow at the National Gallery of Jamaica at 11 am. The winning designer, Alon Braier, from Israel, will be there. Carolyn Cooper will be the guest speaker and the best part: The Alpha Boys Band will be performing all afternoon till 4 pm. So come on down! See you there!

Tommy Lee Channels Pirate Henry Morgan in Port Royal

Featuring rising dancehall star Tommy Lee’s latest music video shot in Port Royal, Jamaica.

Newest Dancehall star Tommy Lee shooting music video for We Want Paper in Port Royal…

Here’s Tommy Lee, the new star from the Gaza firmament, shooting his latest music video, We Want Paper, in Port Royal. According to his publicity machine:

The song is a special one for the performer who is also the song’s writer. It was penned to inspire youngsters to focus on working hard to achieve financial success. “Youths them a the future, we nuh want no fourteen shooter, fe mess up we dream like Freddy Krueger”, words of encouragement from Tommy Lee. Neighborhood children chorused with the artiste word for word on the set.

By setting the video against the backdrop of Port Royal, once known as the wickedest city in the West, Lee hopes to tune into its history, that of a once wealthy capital of criminality reduced to rubble by an earthquake. The message? The guilty will be punished, crime doesn’t pay.

Interestingly the song is an anti-gun tune and aims to promote education, heterosexuality and materialism if i read the lyrics and images correctly. We want paper, big up all moneymaker… I like it, the production values are great, editing is by fellow musician Wayne Marshall. Incidentally i love the name of his company and its logo, see screenshot below to see what i mean. And immediately below that watch a YouTube video of We Want Paper:

That Jamaica 50 song…

The Jamaican 50 song fiasco and the role of social media in holding the relevant authorities accountable…

Las May, The Daily Gleaner, June 20, 2012

Once upon a time the Jamaican Government commissioned senior producer and songwriter  Mikie Bennett to write a song to celebrate the nation’s 50th year of independence which will occur on August 6 this year. The song, Find the flag in your heart and wave it,  was duly written and produced with as many Jamaican celebrity voices as Mikie could get into his studio. If the country had to pay for the song it would have run into millions so Bennett and all those involved decided to donate the song to the nation.

In October 2011 the song was officially launched as the theme song of the Jamaica 50 celebrations slated for 2012. On December 29, 2011 after general elections, there was a change of government: the new PNP government it seemed had no intention of continuing with the schedule of events put together by the Jamaica 50 planning committee and Mikie Bennett’s song was one of the casualties.

Clovis, Jamaica Observer, June 21, 2012

Journalist and blogger Dionne Jackson Miller, covered this flipflop on her blog:

So even our music has fallen victim to that agent of change – the election. Some months ago, I was perplexed to see people calling for Eric Donaldson’s “Land of my Birth” to be made the official Jamaica 50 song. What the hell?I thought. We already HAVE a Jamaica 50 song! Remember? The song, “Find the Flag” was produced by the respected veteran Mikey Bennett and officially presented to the country.
Let me reiterate that. The song was officially and publicly presented to the country last October. If you don’t believe me, or never heard about it, read this story by Mel Cooke in the Jamaica Gleaner.
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20111204/ent/ent7.html
Reporter’s Guide to Jamaica 50 sent out by the Culture Ministry in December stated that:
“The Jamaica 50 song ‘Fly (sic)  the Flag in Your Heart’, written by Michael Bennett, captures Jamaica’s journey of challenges and triumphs.”
So I posted to that effect, saying that we have a Jamaica 50 song.
Except… silly me. There was an election. For months we heard nothing of Find the Flag  – the official Jamaica 50 song – until another story in the Observer told us the song had been shelved.

You can read more here.

On June 15, 2012, the current government suddenly released a new song, On a Mission,  announcing at its launch that THIS was now the official Jamaica 50 song. Starring prominent singer Shaggy and others the song’s driving technobeat whipped up a wave of resentment on Twitter with many expressing disapproval and disappointment that such an ‘un-Jamaican’, Europop sounding song could represent Jamaica in its 50th year of independence.

Initially Robert Bryan, director of the Jamaica 50 committee and young Lisa Hanna, Minister of Culture airily dismissed these concerns, claiming that they had not designated On a Mission the official Jamaica 50 song and that there was therefore no controversy involved.

Since there was considerable evidence to the contrary what with the public launch in a prominent venue that had just taken place (see photograph below) and the official CD of the song that was distributed. the chorus of disapproval kept growing until it could no longer be ignored.

Closeup of invite to the launch of second Jamaica 50 song posted on Facebook
Suddenly yesterday a penitent Robert Bryan appeared on radio claiming in a shaken voice that he and the Minister had been ‘blindsided’ by Shaggy’s company and producer Sharon Bourke who had without any authorization launched ‘Mission’ as the official song etc etc. As one tweeter wryly noted:

Robert Bryan jus threw Shaggy, Sharon Burke and Solid Agency under the bus on Nationwide Radio! #JA50!

For details I refer you once again to Dionne Jackson Miller’s blogpost Lessons from the Jamaica 50 Song Fiasco where she details the latest series of missteps by the political authorities.

Again on Facebook and Twitter arguments and criticism raged about the controversy, proving more than anything else that in its 50th year of independence Jamaican politics has not reached the critical level of maturity required at this stage. Instead of admitting at the outset that they  had handled the whole affair  poorly and apologizing to the nation  Robert Bryan and Minister Hanna tried to brazen it out with the usual political chicanery which assumes the people they act on behalf of are dunces. They are now left with egg on their faces and Minister Hanna has suffered a damning blow to her credibility she could easily have avoided.

I reproduce below a Facebook conversation on the subject with names carefully concealed to avoid any unpleasant repercussions  for the individuals concerned.  It would behoove the political class to remember that you are being judged, and judged harshly by sane and intelligent people. Its the twenty first century and you can no longer rely on a docile, feckless media to avert their eyes from your shenanigans. Please find the flags in your hearts and wave them, the national flag, not the party ones.

Finally, thank god for social media.

BB: the Secretariat says, it does not intend to, nor did it choose, select or designate an official or national Jamaica 50 song. Why was the event called “launch of the official Jamaica 50 Song?

    • GS:  Repeat after me: “Pathologically Mendacious”. Thank you.

    • DK: bareface liars…..smh

    • FS: A lie dem lie, danny Buchanan must be turning in his grave to his his prophesy now taking root in his party

    • VS: If we count the lies told in the flag fiasco and in this “launch” of the song for Jamaica 50, pathologically mendacious is too generous. However note, the lies have been flowing in patriotic issues…..signs of the times!!!

    • AV: thanks for the reminder GS!

    • MW: This is politics at its best. If you listen the song carefully it mentions Lisa Hanna and HPSM in glowing terms. It must be a PNP party song.

    • PR: I’m putting it to you that you’re Pathologically Mendacious…lol

For more on this sorry affair please watch the news item here:

Damian ‘Junior Gong’ Marley at UWI

A report with photos of Damian Marley’s talk at the University of the West Indies

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Carolyn Cooper who teaches a Reggae Poetry course invited Damian to give a public talk at UWI, sort of along the lines of the Vybz Kartel talk some time back. It was a quickly put together event that was only confirmed the evening before, and took some swift and skillful dribbling of the ball between herself and the Campus Prinicipal, Gordon Shirley to pull off. So dear @SharzzF who tweeted: It’s soo amazing when Vybz Kartel was invited to lecture, it was well advertised, but the same wasn’t done for Junior Gong, it really wasn’t a conspiracy, it was just contingency.

Perhaps because of the suddenness of it and the resulting impossibility of advertising the talk widely enough there was nowhere near the kind of audience that turned up for Kartel; still it was an energetic session with young Damian fielding 40-50 questions from UWI students after a very brief talk in which he highlighted the importance of talent. Asked about being a Marley and having everything he needed at his disposal he said he still had to make songs people wanted to hear coz they certainly weren’t listening to him only because he was Bob’s son…

Here’s a selection of tweets to give you a flavour of the evening…

RT @UWIMonaGuild: Damian ‘Junior Gong’ Marley will speak about his career as a Grammy-winning dancehall artist on Tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the Assembly Hall.

RT @mushroomi: Anyone going Junior Gong lecture?

RT @anniepaul: BIG UP if your pumpum tight like mosquito coffin! Poet Tanya Shirley prefacing Junior Gong. Audience roaring.

RT @CultureDoctor: ‘This is my beloved son in whom I’m well pleased’ Cindy Breakspeare of Jnr Gong #MonaRock

RT @Dre5IVE: A style u a style the Gong RT @Gordonswaby: Well, Junior Gong reads. Just mentioned Gladwell’s Outliers book.

RT @LIMEJamaica: Yes, Damian ‘Jr. Gong’ Marley is our newest brand ambassador. RT @Dre5IVE: Junior Gong is a LIME Ambassador?!!!!

RT @stannyha: Why isn’t LIME streaming the Junior Gong’s lecture? Since they signed him on as Ambassador? #MonaRock

RT @Savageinsight: “It’s not about being a Marley, it’s about being a human being” #DamianMarley

RT @anniepaul: I got into music because I’m a fan of music. I would put on my Dads music and pretend I was him. Junior Gong at UWI.

RT @lyn4d: I think he’s brilliant. I think he’s very smart. Fan of his music but not some of his moral choices. – Junior Gong’s view on Vybz Kartel

RT @Savageinsight: Only in Ja does a man wait in the line to say “mi no really have a big big question, mi did just waan hail yu”

At one point the stream of questions seemed never-ending. When asked if Junior Gong actively participated in any Rastafarian group, he said that he had attended meetings of the Rastafari Council; rather than simply donating money he would like to help the Rastafari community by tapping his networks, by ‘networking’ for them, for instance in building projects where professional services or architects, contractors and the like might be required. When asked if he had advice, considering his paternal family background, for others who might be considering buiding empires…he looked stumped for a moment, then said chortling, no, just tell them not to rise against MY empire…

I had been given a list of questions to put to Damian as soon as he finished, for the TVJ programme Entertainment Report, and was quite relieved when @GordonSwaby basically asked the first one on my list: Bob’s still a legend but it seems the music’s been overtaken by the merchandising…would Bob have approved of the commercializing of his name? Gordon used different words but the question was very similar. Thing is I don’t quite remember how Damian answered it…but I happily deleted it from my list. It’s not a question i would’ve chosen to ask the young lion myself, though Rohan Marley’s promotion of the House of Marley and its products does raise ethical questions…Besides as @GordonSwaby pointed out the Marley name is “…a valuable brand. That’s why they have to be careful what they do with it.”

“I thirst!”: Barnabas Collins, Lone Ranger, Clovis and Carolyn Cooper

Deconstructing a Jamaican cartoon uncovers a vampire story of no mean order, a piece of Jamaican cultural history.

Clovis, Jamaica Observer

Well, Clovis certainly ruffled a lot of feathers with this cartoon, not least of all Carolyn Cooper’s own; in her blogpost Clovis Draws Blood and her April 3 Sunday Gleaner column she “wondered if Clovis Brown had finally sold his soul to the devil”  (see her labeled Patwa Doctor in the cartoon above). You couldn’t blame her either for after being caricatured three times in the space of a month anyone might have felt a little tender.

Interestingly it seems Clovis was referencing a song from the Jamaican archives called Barnabas Collins (the refrain of which goes “I thirst!”–go Clovis!) by a 70s stalwart named Lone Ranger. This was brought to my attention by Christopher Cozier, the art critic, curator and artist from Trinidad and Tobago who remembered listening to it in his teens and immediately placed Clovis’s ‘I thirst’ in the right context. The lyrics are quite delightful with Barnie threatening to ‘chew ya neck like a wrigley’:

Out di light.
lock di door tight
Barnabas a come fi go tek one bite

Gyal mi seh fi
Out di candle
tek off yu bangle
turn yu neck
pon di right angle

According to Wikipedia:

Barnabas Collins is a fictional character, one of the feature characters in the ABC soap opera serial Dark Shadows, which aired from 1966 to 1971. Originally played by Canadian actor Jonathan Frid, Barnabas Collins is a 200-year-old vampire who is in search of fresh blood and his lost love, Josette. The character of Barnabas Collins was introduced to the serial in a last-effort attempt to resurrect the flagging ratings. The role of Barnabas Collins was originally intended to be a brief one, to run but a mere 13 weeks, but the popularity of the character and the quick spike in ratings resulted in his continuing on and becoming virtually the star of the show.

Quite a number of Jamaican performers were bitten/smitten by Barnabas Collins–the pallid vampire who evidently reminded Clovis of paleface Vybz Kartel. A blog called Distinctly Jamaican Sounds remarked on the phenomenon:

For the love of god, will this guy ever stay dead?! Here I am into the fifth year of creating these Halloween mixes and along comes Barnabas Collins poking his fangs into yet another Spooktacular! Judging by the plethora of tunes paying tribute to Ol’ Barnie and or Dark Shadows, it’s quite obvious that this guy must have achieved folk hero status in Jamaica back in the 70’s!

…I don’t know why, but the Barnabas Collins thing has gotten to be such a integral part of the Spooktaculars that I don’t know if I’m going to be able to continue each year without at least one mention of the schlocky TV soap opera bloodsucker. As far as the namesake goes, we’ve had three versions of Lone Ranger’s “Barnabas Collins,” Yellowman’s answer “Mi Kill Barnie”, Dillinger’s version “I Thirst,” Charles Hannah & The Graduates “Dark Shadows,” and there are still 4-5 more that I have up my sleeve… but I’ll tuck it away in the coffin until next year. Maybe when the Dark Shadows and Barnabas tunes dry up, it may be the perfect indicator of an appropriate time to discontinue the Spooktacular… we’ll see!

In the meantime enjoy this video of The Best of Barnaby Collins–yes the orginal one:

A Patient by the Name of Gregory…

Gregory Isaacs. Legendary Jamaican singer dies. a memorial.

Gregory Isaacs, from the Gleaner archives

Gregory was drifting across the stage, in an orange three-piece suit, his skinny back swayed like a sea-horse, his voice a rippling whinny.

–Colin Channer, Waiting in Vain

It’s for lines like this that I rate Colin Channer; with 25 cannily chosen words he curates a transcendental image of  the inimitable Gregory Isaacs, the much beloved Jamaican singer who surrendered to the big C in London today. Popular well beyond the shores of this small island the words Gregory and Isaacs have been trending worldwide on Twitter today. To understand what a feat this is, know that during the peak of Buju Banton’s recent troubles in New York, he trended for half a day in the New York region only. With Gregory every ten minutes 112 new tweets are pouring in from all over the world. Not all of them are in English (see sample below) showing that the Cool Ruler’s reach transcended geographic and linguistic boundaries in a virtual enactment of his song The Border. It’s hard to choose any one GI song as No. 1 but for me this one comes close.

If i could reach the border
Then I would step across
So please take me to the border
No matter what’s the cost
Cause I’m leaving here
I’m leaving out of Babylon…

This place could never be my home…
we waan we waan go home…
where the milk and honey flow
That’s where we want to go…
we waan we waan go home…
Africa we want to go…

So please take me to the border
and i will pay the cost
coz i’m leaving here…

The metaphor of Babylon has multiple meanings in Jamaica but the most potent is that of the biblical Babylon, the proverbial den of iniquity, reeking of corruption and venality…a place we know well…guarded by the world’s most brutal soldiers, themselves known as Babylon. The Jamaican Police.

When i moved to Jamaica in 1988 Gregory’s Rumours ruled the airwaves and the balmy, steamy nights just before Hurricane Gilbert. The dramatic opening chords and riddim bars hint at that heady mixture of menace and romance that typifies the Jamaican landscape. Another favourite…I still think of it as Rumours of War…which is what i thought i was hearing but it was actually Rumours a gwaan…

A pure rumours a gwaan, (rumours a gwaan)

Please mr. officer, leggo me hand
You don’t know me and you don’t understan’
You see me flashin’ a criss rental
So you claim that me a criminal

Rumours dem spreadin’…



Then who couldn’t love the perfectly fork-tongued Night Nurse, on the one hand a straightforward song of playful passion that so many couples can relate to, on the other a veiled paean to Gregory’s one time muse–the other big C–

Tell her it’s a case of emergency
There’s a patient by the name of Gregory

Night nurse
Only you alone can quench this Jah thirst
My night nurse, oh gosh
Oh the pain it’s getting worse

I don’t wanna see no doc
I need attendence from my nurse around the clock
‘Cause there’s no prescription for me
She’s the one, the only remedy

There have been 553 new tweets since i started writing this an hour ago. (PS: One is not making exaggerated claims for number of tweets as any indicator of real quality mind you, for alas, today, the day after i posted this, Gregory has been replaced by Paul the Octopus as a top trender. Apparently poor Paul was found dead in the water this morning. “Anyway Paul always had four feet in the grave…” quipped @Sidin. No doubt because his mortality had intimated itself to him !)

But back to Gregory…i present an excerpt from a conversation on Facebook between me and Olu Oguibe, a Nigerian artist and critic.


Olu Oguibe Declaring 24 hours of nothing but The Cool Ruler

Annie Paul Times like this you realize not just the breadth but the depth of Jamaican music...

Olu Oguibe Still remember and cherish my first Gregory Isaacs cassette tape: Gregory Isaacs Live at the Brixton Academy, 1984. Wasn’t till I moved to Britain 5 years later that I realized Brixton Academy isn’t a real academy, but a night club, lol!

I was once even wooed with Gregory’s words by someone who thought he was the paradigmatic expression of Jamaican male angst (‘Though she isn’t in my top ten, still she is on my chart…”). Gregory forever holds a place in my heart on that count.

Here’s a selection of tweets on Gregory from local tweeters. i challenge you to guess which singer @bigblackbarry is referring to:

bigblackbarry [to] @oblessa He isnt in the category I was referring to but your dad would prolly be the biggest trender currently god forbid if he died.

oblessa [to] @bigblackbarry yeah he would be in that catagory God forbid.

@bigblackbarry [to] @oblessa prolly the biggest i believe.

@bigblackbarry [to] @oblessa but he aint “current” so he doesnt count.

wadablood R.i.P gregory issacs real legend. What a year this has been oniel, sugar now gregory

@cucumberjuice Amen»RT @MsTrendsettas: Dear Lord, please don’t take Beres Hammond! Many thanks!

Below a few random tweets from the twitterverse at large…people expressing their appreciation of Gregory in many languages. Keep ruling Cool Ruler…

roots

@csr_0922 roots
また偉大なアーティストが逝ってしまった。R.I.P Gregory Isaacs http://bit.ly/9l6v5l

João Júnior

@joaojunior_pi João Júnior
Rra relembrar a lenda GREGORY ISAACS NO RONDA DO POVÃO – TV MEIO NORTE http://t.co/aXUq1Go via @youtube

brandy@whothefackcares brandy

I DO care about Gregory Isaacs…R.I.P

Rafa Melo

@RafaellaMelog Rafa Melo
R.I.P. Gregory Isaacs, uma lenda do reggae.

황승식

@cyberdoc73 황승식
얼마전 타계한 Gregory Isaacs을 추모하며, 그가 부른 Night Nurse란 곡( http://youtu.be/K6oYyG0KcvQ )을 듣습니다. 멋모르고 처음 쓴 논문이 교대 근무 간호사에서 수면 장애에 관한 내용인지라 달리 들립니다.