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.”

Of Dog Paw and Leah Tavares-Finson…

Dog Paw and Leah Tavares-Finson are expecting a baby this February. Leah is the offspring of wealth and privilege in Jamaica while Dog Paw is a notorious gang leader. A lengthy interview with Leah is included.

Leah Tavares-Finson Photo: Peter Dean Rickards

When the police finally found Dog Paw in a house at Elletson Flats, he had written, in full anticipation of being killed, a letter addressed to his Mother, his girlfriends, his children and his yet unborn child. That child, due in February, will be born ‘famous’ because her/his other parent will be Leah Tavares-Finson, the daughter of Senator Tom Tavares-Finson and Cindy Breakspeare, the former Miss World who was one of Bob Marley’s most favoured consorts. Bob Marley was the father of Leah’s step half brother (thanks for correction J!), Damian Marley. When her mother Cindy became pregnant for Marley it caused no end of scandal in staid 1970s Jamaica and abroad. A London newspaper carried photos of Cindy and the dreadlocked Bob under the headline “Beauty and the Beast.” In a strange twist her daughter’s pregnancy for an ‘outlaw’ is causing a similar scandal. I found the extraordinary conversation below on an online Dancehall Reggae forum. One marvels at the confidence with which jahblem offers his misinformation in this exchange generated by the fact that Leah T-F is pregnant for Dog Paw:

MissMention

nuh Cindy Breakspeare dawta dat? and damian marley sister? look like she tek affa har madda, ghetto bwaay shi love…

jahblem

no…they dont have kids together (tavares and cindy)…i would assume its tavares dawta before he hooked up wid cindy…i could be wrong…but when cindy got married to him they were both old and grey and had kids already from previous marriages.

LOL! Old and gray! Cindy married Tom when Damian was a toddler (she was probably in her early 30s), and went on to have Leah and Christian with Tavares-Finson.

Jamaica Observer, Clovis

Leah is a fascinating character. She may be following in the tradition of her father’s family (which has roots in the so-called garrison community of Tivoli Gardens) by going into politics. Will she herald a new kind of representational politics since she has personally breached not only the uptown/downtown divide but also the legit/illegit one by literally commingling with a Don? After all, Dons are also political representatives, only they are illegitimate ones, informal leaders whose constituencies straddle the world of organized crime and garrison politics. At any rate this young lady is one to watch, in my opinion.

Read more about Leah in the interview below which first appeared in the Style Observer. Her interlocutor was photographer/writer Peter Dean Rickards, of Afflicted Yard fame. The ‘Presi’ referred to in the early part of the interview is Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke, reputed to be Leah’s godfather. Her father Tom Tavares-Finson was Dudus’s lawyer. Dudus has since been extradited to the United States on gun and drug-running charges. The “early morning ‘situation’ at a house in Kintyre” referred to is when she was taken into custody from Dog Paw’s house some months ago. Happy reading!

Leah Tavares Finson is no wild child

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Leah Tavares-Finson is the daughter of Senator Tom Tavares-Finson and a former Miss World, Cindy Breakspeare. Her brother Damian Marley is pretty famous too, having copped a few Grammy Awards; so why has she been raising eyebrows recently? For starters, there was the brief MYSPACE message requesting that “Presi” be left alone, followed by an earlymorning ‘situation’ at a house in Kintyre. Leah is adamant, however, that she’s no “wild child”.

SO: Why did you post the message on MYSPACE to leave “Presi” alone?

For those of us who can accept reality, “Presi” is somewhat of a hero and a legend. He has been able to do for West Kingston what so many politicians can only dream of accomplishing. I’m not in a position to debate the means he used to accomplish what he has accomplished, but when all is said and done, he managed to pull off quite a job.

I think I fully understood at the time when I first posted “leave Presi alone” the grave and disastrous repercussions that the nation would face. We have lost more than 80 lives and even if they were not all innocent, I do not accept the term “casualties of war” as a reasonable excuse. I think our country should be deeply saddened by this absolutely unnecessary loss of mainly innocent lives. I know my heart is certainly broken; so you see, in the end it is not really about “Presi” but about the people of West Kingston. They now have to piece their lives back together, overcoming pain, loss and memories of brutality. They must do so without the indisputably strong leadership that they’ve had for so long. I only hope that our political system can provide them with the social programmes, the support and the guidance they need to replace what has been destroyed. REALITY!

SO: Tell us about Leah. Her likes, dislikes, what makes her smile and what makes her sad.

LTF: I’m not a very exciting or excited person despite what people may think. You know there is this idea out there that I am some wild card, but that’s not really true… I love being home. I’m very laidback. I love food, eating out and cooking. Yes, I can cook; my mother taught me well.

I love mango sorbet!

My little sister, Capri, makes me smile. She is quite something; so much smarter than I was at her age. I’m just so amazed when I watch her.

What makes me sad? Seeing a country with so much potential being exploited and abused. The lack of education amongst our people and the lack of opportunities on a whole are depressing.

Sometimes when I feel like I can’t do anything to help my own country (because every aspect of our society is so corrupt), I am sad.

SO: Who (artiste) does Leah listen to?

LTF: Gaza! Vybz Kartel is my artiste. I love my brother’s music, but I suppose where that is concerned most would say I’m biased. Alicia Keys, John Mayer, Aidonia, Busy Signal and Black Ryno. I don’t care who doesn’t talk to whom, respect is due once the talent exists.

SO: Who impresses Leah?

LTF: My brother Damian does. I think he is brilliant. I admire his focus and when I listen to his music I often think: ‘Wow, how did he come up with that?’ He is great.

I think anyone with a very business-savvy head and that drive to fight for what they want in life, regardless of what other people may think and say, impresses me.

SO: And Leah’s take on love?

LTF: Love is good. How could it not be?

As human beings our existence would be doomed if we didn’t have love for one another. We need people with bigger hearts. Love has no boundaries and no colour, and it should be unconditional.

SO: Who does Leah love?

LTF: My family, although it does not 100 per cent include my immediate family; it is not limited to and doesn’t only mean people who have the same ancestral background as I do. I love the people who have loved me unconditionally and have been a constant source of support and strength. They know themselves. The one I smile and laugh with and share my “dramas” with.

SO: What’s the last book Leah has read?

LTF: A schoolbook entitled Words that Ring Through Time. It’s an amazing collection of speeches by various historical figures.

SO: Leah on her mum Cindy Breakspeare and on her dad Senator Tom Tavares-Finson…

My parents are the two most amazing people I know. They are so different from each other but so similar at the same time. It’s pretty fascinating. Despite what anyone has to say, they’ve done a tremendous job raising Damian, Christian and myself, and nobody could ever dispute that. Both Damian and Christian are so wellmannered, so bright, so focused. They are just two well-rounded individuals. And I think they are a reflection of the kind of people my parents are.

My mother is a fighter, strong with a back as broad as the continent of Africa. I admire her ability to improvise and manoeuvre through any situation. My dad has a great sense of humour and he is affectionate and adores his kids. He is a great lawyer and is really what a politician should be all about. Both of them have taught me so much. Things that I am confident in the long run will prove to be my greatest assets and characteristics.

SO: Is Leah the voice of Jamaica’s uptown ‘white and restless’?

LTF: Absolutely not!

The correct definition of restless is to be worried and uneasy, and although that does define a part of my personality I don’t at all think it defines all uptown ‘whites’. I am the voice of people who care and people who want to help, and whether that means white, black, orange, uptown, downtown, or round town, it nuh matter. The quicker we put this uptown/downtown division behind us is the better off we will all be as a nation.

SO: Leah rocks… what’s Leah’s style?

LTF: Does she? I don’t think I rock at all! Anybody who knows me well knows that I am not a fashionista. I wear what is comfortable and practical for my lifestyle, and anything other than that you would have to ask my mother about because she is the one who dresses me when I look half decent.

SO: What’s next for Leah?

LTF: Finishing up school. I’m getting a degree in Political Science, after that…I really haven’t decided. My family business here in Jamaica, DC Tavares & Finson Realty Ltd is one of my options. It’s currently run by my uncle William whom I admire a lot and would love to work with! Maybe politics… we will see.