The Last Don: KOTE 09 Part 2

Word on the street has it that the Jamaican Security Forces have created a “Don Squad” which is systematically eliminating “Dons” or Ghetto strongmen around the country. Popular belief is that although the eliminations are staged as shootouts between rival gangs it is the police who are behind the killings. If this is true it would seem to be a clever strategy and might very well give an added resonance to The Last Don, at least in name, by the Rickards Brothers.

The Last Don was premiered to much acclaim at the recently concluded Kingston on the Edge in its Films on the Edge segment. The pilot for a putative TV series Last Don is an ironic, irreverent look at music promoter Josef Bogdanovich and the contortions he goes through in his attempt to corral and showcase Jamaican musical talent. I took the opportunity to quiz the prime mover behind the film, Peter Dean Rickards, about the process of making this comic documentary and his own history as a film-maker and photographer. Check out the priceless footage of Kingston Signals, the show that started it all, with Sean Paul before he hit the big time.

Q. So what are the origins of Last Don? How did the idea come to you? What are you trying to or interested in portraying?

The Last Don actually originated about 8 years ago when I began working at Downsound Records which was then in the basement of Globe Furniture on Constant Spring road. The boss was a guy named Josef Bogdanovich, an American from Los Angeles who had moved to Kingston a few years earlier to produce Jamaican music and concerts. Although the initial purpose of meeting Josef was to build him a website, I ended up working there for the next three years after we created Kingston Signals – the first live-to-broadband webcast of hardcore Jamaican soundsystems.

It was a great job and I quickly became addicted to the fast pace and unpredictability of the business; but what was far more interesting was the day-to-day hustle of running a music studio in Kingston and the personalities involved, particularly that of Bogdanovich who could be described as ‘constantly in first gear.’

Several years later when I began to think seriously about jumping into film, it occurred to me that the story of Downsound was something I really wanted to do because I had practically written the story in my head a thousand times; constantly explaining ‘episodes’ to people who would ask me what it was like to work in such a crazy environment with a person like Josef, who is often misunderstood by people who either don’t know him or are put off by his management style which goes something like : “Get it done or get the f*** outta here!”

Then, when you stop to consider that there are no guarantees in that line of work, and that each day can end in great success or terrible failure, the potential for a series or even a film becomes more obvious, especially when fused with the character of Bogdanovich himself, an unlikely underdog , a white guy in Kingston working in Jamaican music who does things his way, because, after all — he can.

As far as what we were trying to portray, it is simply a true-to-life observation of some unusual people in an unusual business, with Jamaica, and particularly Kingston as an interesting backdrop.

Q. What is your background in film/video? Is it true that this is your first attempt at film having experimented with music videos previously?

I have no formal training in film or video but just like my photographs I believe it’s all about a solid concept followed by framing and then ‘painting’ the story from the pieces. Although my cousin PJ (the other half of the Rickards Bros.) has been working as a video editor for over 10 years, I’m very new to video/film. After we got our first camera in late 2008, PJ came down from New York and we immediately got to work; creating two videos for Terry Lynn before jumping right into production of The Last Don. Also involved in the team is Jarmilla Jackson (another cousin) who writes, creates and participates in the meticulous editing process with me and PJ. The three of us are highly critical of our own work so hardly anything slips by without heavy scrutiny– but we like it that way.

Q. You’re clearly immersed in visual culture, who are your influences? (Weejee etc) is it true you have no photographic training? how did you learn to do what you do?

Weejee wasn’t much an influence you know. I only discovered him the other day but I can certainly relate to his ambulance chasing from the perspective that he had to sell his stuff. Photography is not an easy business to be in if you want to actually earn a living taking pictures of what interests you (unless you actually like taking wedding photos and talking about ISO settings). In my opinion, you have to have an angle and be doing something different from the other 50 million people who own a camera. I guess that’s why Weegee took pictures of murdered gangsters instead of that rusty boat down by the airport.

No I didn’t have any formal photographic training but let’s be serious here, how could you justify more than a week of ‘photographic training.’ You might as well go to school to learn how to put batteries in the thing and attach a lens. It’s just an instrument that anyone can operate. No school can’t teach you to be creative no matter how many years you study the work of others. Dentists need school, not photographers.

To be sure, I learned to make a decent photograph by simply shooting and looking at what I did, then adjusting to make it better. It can be fun but it also made me a lazy writer and so I’ve been drawn towards video and film because it combines the visuals that I enjoy doing with a return to storytelling.

My biggest influences are Stanley Kubrick, Woody Allen, Tarantino, Coppola (and many others but those stand out). I’m a huge fan of SCTV, The Office (UK) and anything Charles Schulz did.


Q. Ideally what would you like to be doing? What are the obstacles or constraints you face?

For once in a long time, I’m actually doing what I really want to be doing – making stories that can be shown on a big screen in front of many people…and watching as they react to the things they see and hear. It’s an incredible high to experience that, especially since I always dreamed of doing it. The goal is to constantly improve, both technically and creatively so that we can justify bigger budgets that will enable us to do bigger things.

As far as constraints are concerned, I suppose it’s the typical stuff: limited resources and the limited mindset of a rather stagnant television industry here. Considering the creative currency of Jamaicans, it’s sad that one has to look outward, not only for funding but for outlets to present your work without someone like Cordel Green telling you what is suitable for the eyes and ears of the adult population.

Thankfully, we have the Internet and Fed Ex to circumvent certain things.

Kingston on the Edge (KOTE) 09: UnCONVENTional Edges out Rest


Neila Ebanks

It was June 22, Day 4 of Kingston on the Edge and UWI’s Philip Sherlock Centre was full as the audience, mostly young folk, waited for Dance on the Edge to begin. I was with Deborah Thomas and Junior Wedderburn, the former a seasoned dancer (and author of Modern Blackness), the latter an accomplished drummer who performs with the Lion King on Broadway. As the lithe, young dancers pranced around on stage we joked and laughed to ourselves, commenting among other things on the full house and the meaning or meaninglessness of the various dances.

Then right after a performance that Junior dubbed Johncrow nyam Dove, the tempo changed and the quality of the offerings went sharply uphill. A video with the puzzling title The Edging of Sister Mitzie Margaret started playing, featuring the exciting young dance maven, Neila Ebanks. With a quirky, offbeat, almost Chaplinesque sense of timing and parody Ebanks completely reinscribed the idea of dance as it has been known in these parts as she fluttered, skanked and slid her way on film along UWI’s Ring Road toward the Sherlock Centre. Dressed in a nun’s habit the film opens with Neila in the character of Sister Mitzie Margaret, intently inserting earphones and plugging into an ipod. As the music begins Sister Mitzie responds by quaking, shaking and feeling her way along the ground as if afraid the road might suddenly be pulled from
beneath her.


As the camera follows Sister Mitzie’s comical progress towards the Sherlock Centre, it suddenly dawns on you that she is mugging her way up the path to the auditorium and as you see her hand reaching for the door you realize with a shiver of anticipation that the dancer is actually outside and about to enter. Loud applause broke out as the the film then morphed into a live performance by Ebanks and she entered the auditorium, slipsliding across the stage and out a door on the other side, the film taking over once again, showing her emerging from the exit as the credits started to roll. Brilliant. Just brilliant.

Other memorable performances were by a group of tough looking chicks who took on the Broadcasting Commission and the recent ban on ‘daggering’ and what it deemed ‘lewd’ dancing. They lay the ground for the high-energy, wickedly creative male dance troupe, Shady Squad, who captured the audience with their imaginatively choreographed dancehall moves and style. At one moment they even performed a version of Michael Jackson’s anti-gravity lean. Superb. The audience screamed with delight at their performance and a mere one and a half hours after it began the show ended on such a high note that as someone said on Facebook the next day it was a pity there was no after-party to capitalize on the incredible vibes.

For me KOTE’s evening of dance was the most memorable of the week-long self-styled urban art festival. This is KOTE’s third year and it keeps getting better and better. The thirty-something organizers managed to bring out filled-to-capacity audiences for all the events. I’m only sorry that I missed the opening night at Red Bones and the premiere of the film “Why Do Jamaicans Run so Fast?” a production that has been attracting a lot of attention. A clip of video i shot of my office co-workers watching the 100m men’s relay in Beijing is actually included in the film but more on that when I’ve seen it.

An effervescent fizz fills the air at successful cultural events and there was plenty of snap, crackle and pop at KOTE this year. Theatre on the Edge was pretty good but only one production stood out for me (I missed the first of the eight offerings). Everyone had ten minutes to present their work and Amba Chevannes as playwright made the most of hers. Using just one eccentric character talking directly to the audience, Miss Burton Gets A Promotion was quirky, natural and best of all contemporary. No ‘folk’ dressed in turbans and bandana trotting around shouting at the audience, thank God.

Its not that the rest of the eight ten-minute productions that evening weren’t good, the audience was certainly appreciative, judging by the loud applause that attended most of them. It’s just that i like to focus on the really outstanding performances, artworks, music—the ones its worth telling the rest of the world about. There was at least one of these in every field except visual art, which continues to trail behind the other arts in Jamaica (and the rest of the region for that matter), the works either too conventional or pedestrian or just plain bad. The best of a bad lot was The Core Insight at Olympia Art Centre, an atmospheric art space if ever there was one.


In Film on the Edge again one film dominated the rest, The Last Don, by the Rickards Brothers. A trailer for a proposed TV/video series the film depicts a typical day in the working life of music producer and promoter Josef Bogdanovich. Again the film is offbeat, quirky and brilliant along the lines of the innovative Brazilian documentary, Manda Bala (Send a Bullet). I plan to follow up soon with an interview with the conceptual force behind The Last Don, Peter Dean Rickards.

HABITUAL OFFENDER?

Meanwhile back to dancing on the edge: “Psychological, cathartic, layered. I rarely go for the easy or obvious” is what Neila Ebanks said about her work in an interview with Karin Wilson of Yardedge.

I asked Ebanks to tell me more about the birth of Sister Mitzie Margaret and how her KOTE project unfolded in real time. Who were her models or sources of inspiration? Was she trying to convey anything in particular? Why a nun? Interestingly The Edging… was conceived, planned and performed in a very short space of time with the dancer liasing with the film director, John DaCosta, at the Lit Fest Calabash in Treasure Beach a scant four weeks before Kingston on the Edge started.

Here’s what Neila told me:

My Sister Mitzie personality comes out of a love of classic goofiness —– think Carol Burnett, Dick Van Dyke, The Muppet Show, Mr. Bean —– and intelligent physical comedy. Her character has been inspired by my Catholic prep and high schooling and my wondering how much of themselves the sisters had to give up to serve (and sometimes not) as they did.

The piece is the second in what is to become a series of Sister Mitzie capers in which she tries to balance her whimsy with her duty as “bride of Christ” (said like the announcer for “Pigs in Space” from the Muppet Show ). The first in the series, UnCONVENTional, was actually premiered 10 years ago in my Improvisation examination @ the Edna Manley College School of Dance. The night before the exam I had a eureka moment when I thought of a striptease in reverse, and the most unlikely character to perform it. She wasn’t named at that time but she has been able to surprise and make an audience laugh everywhere she goes.

I often take my work back to the lab to tweak and twiddle and so in 2003, I revisted that first piece, called it A Life CONVENTtional and I created a 10 minute version of it which debuted @ the HIP Festival of Dance in London in. From that experiment I discovered that the effect was not as arresting when the piece was that long and so I returned to it’s original 3 minute format. The best thing about that trial, though, was that I got to really examine the character of Mitzie (@ that time still unnamed) and uncover her reasons for being and the layers behind her nuances.

Fast forward to KOTE and Mitzie’s edging… She wasn’t even supposed to appear! Lighting designer John DaCosta and I had a Calabash discussion about making a film for KOTE in which I (Neila) would be dancing off the edges of surfaces @ UWI until I reached into the theatre. I have always been interested in dance film, and John is making a foray into film-making and so we were both excited about the collaboration. We had further discussion about the concept with my right-hand man Michael Holgate but Mitzie only came into the picture the day before the shoot, after our rehearsal when we realised that the film needed another layer, the character needed history, a little complexity…. and rather than have us create a new character Mitzie raised her hand and said “Me please!” . We shot on the Saturday before Monday’s performance and as I improv’d John filmed while we tried to beat the inevitable sunset. The music was found (before we filmed) by my musicmate, Renee, who has the knack for finding just the right soundtrack for my life, but I didn’t listen to it more than once before filming, and not immediately either. In fact, as I danced I just made up my own music, because I couldn’t remember the melody. Editing was done in record time by Serchen Morris of Phase 3, and magically, even when he was asked to make things faster, the movement still fit the music perfectly. Sister Mitzie was obviously an idea whose time had come.

I don’t know if I was trying to do anything particular with Mitzie, except probably crack smiles and get to play with my audience and allow them to put the puzzle pieces together in a way which used technology and live dance differently. I mean, I know full well that in other contemporary dance circles the work might be described as too literal and simplistic, but as far as JA goes, not many persons are stepping into dance on film, and this is my starting point. It’s as I write this that I realise how interested I have always been in the illusions that film can help to create. The applause on entry to the theatre really surprised me, especially because I wasn’t sure how many people had seen the first installment (done most recently @ Jamaica Dance Umbrella in March 2009) and I was concerned that without that information the audience would not find it funny. Though the applause was great to hear and feel, I was most pleased with the engagement that I saw in the audience’s eyes when the house lights came on and Mitzie realised where she was. It’s a beautiful thing to realise you have been able to build that kind of connection with an audience in just a few minutes, without words.

Terry Lynn’s anti-payola Logic

The draconian decision of the Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica (BCJ) to proscribe the broadcast of ‘daggering music’, subsequently extended to soca and other sexually explicit music or lyrics, dangles like the sword of Damocles over Jamaica’s cultural landscape. The General Managers of local TV stations are reacting with such hysteria that a recent episode of TVJ’s Entertainment Report had the titles of three of the songs on its top 10 listing crossed out with a large red sign simply saying CENSORED. Others are losing sleep over the money that will be lost from not being able to televise the gyrations of well-fed upper saint andrew-ites during the fast-approaching Jamaica carnival.

Belatedly Cordel Green, executive director of the BCJ, is turning his attention to a more fundamental problem plaguing the broadcast and distribution of Jamaican music—payola—“the private payment offered to media personnel in return for the promotion of specific entertainment material”. According to a Sunday Herald article Green acknowledged that while broadcasting regulations play a critical role, they do not represent “the sum total of the counterweight required against those who have pushed the envelope to the extreme.”

Accordingly the BCJ is now calling on companies that are major advertisers to get involved in the process of cleaning up the airwaves.

“I say to our business leaders, do not allow the pursuit of profit and the imperatives of marketing to cause you to support a vortex of unbridled sex, violence and profanity on the public airwaves.”

“In addition to calling for the cleaning up of the lyrics, we must also demand that DJs and VJs stop the prostitution of radio and television through payola. We want those involved to stop running down popularity and money by feeding poison disguised as music.”

This is a welcome move indeed. Hopefully the BCJ will be just as uncompromising in its stand against payola as it has been in relation to ”indecent” lyrics.

While we’re on the subject of of payola it’s worth noting the creativity with which some music producers are approaching this widespread scourge. Take the new singer Terry Lynn whom this blog has featured more than once. The Terry Lynn story is an inspiring one that points to the new and innovative directions Jamaican music might take. Zurich-based Russell ‘phred’ Hergert, Terry Lynn’s creative partner, is head of phree music, a label that is committed to the free online distribution of music. Flying in the face of traditional concerns about copyright protection as a way to earn money Hergert’s philosophy is one of expanding his singer’s fan base by ‘freeing’ up the music (This is also Matisyahu‘s approach—the Jewish Reggae singer makes tracks and live concerts available free to online fans).

Thus Terry’s music will be freely available at phreemusic.com where fans will have “the option to download select tracks and mix-tapes for free, or pay if you choose.” The website urges fans to: “Feel phree and download a cappellas to create remixes (for non-commercial use please) and we’ll post what you submit back to us on Terry’s site.”

According to a report in Slamxhype:

“Refusing to dole out the payola ransom money that Jamaican media and radio so often demands, 1000 copies of Terry Lynn’s debut album Kingstonlogic 2.0 were instead manufactured and distributed for free across the country, and throughout impoverished neighborhoods. Each copy was emblazoned with an anti-payola message; “my music is about the people, for the people, it’s about change. we will not pay media a ransom to play this for people, we are instead paying for phree copies for you”.

“It’s a strategy and movement that matches Terry’s message and sound: honesty and change. Same goes for the debut in the streets from which it came. The new video is a culmination of a great deal of time and effort from everyone involved, including the community, to create something that looks and sounds unique in an uncompromising way.”

Kingstonlogic 2.0 / Directors Cut from Rickards Bros. on Vimeo.

As I reported in an earlier post Lynn’s Kingston Logic video was made by The Rickards Bros. I took the opportunity to ask Peter Dean Rickards about the process involved in shooting the video. This is what he told me:

It relied heavily on the vibrancy of Kingston, its spontaneous daily occurrences and its inhabitants as opposed to any metaphor or even a storyboard. Since the song mentions so many things, we decided that the city would have to tell its own story. Consequently, we started to drive around looking for material that contained a good mixture of photographic form, excitement and of course relevance to Lynn’s lyrics.

Before long we narrowed our shooting zone down to Terry’s community of Waterhouse after realizing that the city itself was far too large and difficult to capture by driving, stopping, and driving again. At that point we decided to immerse ourselves in the community for as long as it took to attain the footage that we needed. This proved to be a good decision even though the images still had to present themselves to us as we walked and searched. It was very much a documentary-style exercise that took a total of 6 days on foot.

As we watch the impact Lynn’s music has locally as well as worldwide, as her music starts to circulate, its worth noting the unconventional process her producer took in developing this singer from Waterhouse. Having encountered the young talent, phred decided to spend two to three years grooming, training and allowing her to develop her songwriting skills without any commercial pressure. It didn’t take a lot of capital. As Hergert puts it:

Terry Lynn is a unique artist. She captures with her words an honest depiction of Kingston’s environment and Jamaica’s struggles the way a camera captures images with a lens. Terry lives in (read: ‘born in’ – her mother couldn’t get to a hospital at the time) Waterhouse, Kingston JA. A brutally impoverished area of inner-city Kingston, where living by your word is often a life or death decision. Terry’s writing pulls at the root of the issues she addresses with vivid clarity, on her own sonic terms. She isn’t getting paid much to make her music, other than living expenses and creative costs to record, mix, master etc. She wants to get her message out independently and free from the local music industry’s repetitive sound and myopic business model. We’ve partnered because we think our collective skills might benefit the other.

As Lynn herself said in an interview with Plan B magazine:

My writing opened up under the freedom to express myself and my environment away from time restraints and local misconceptions. We’d work on songs, travel to record and re-record, re-work structures, free to discard what didn’t feel right. He’d always surprise me with new producers, new beats, ideas and we’d just keep carving till it felt done, ready. We agreed to release nothing until we had a complete set of work. That was how we wanted it.

Hustle it bustle it juggle it smuggle it
Life is hard still got to struggle it
Walk it ride it find it hide it
Get your fortune keep it guide it
Reach it grab it hold it keep it
Brag and boast bad luck will sweep it
Live it learn it read it check it
Kingston streets is arithmetic.

KINGSTONLOGIC!

Already Lynn has been hailed by mainstream media in London and New York as one of the top 10 acts to listen out for in 2009 (“the new sound of the Jamaican underground is fierce, and its female”–Time Out, London). Local businesspeople should take a leaf out of Hergert’s innovative model of artiste development and start investing in the abundant raw, young talent seething in Kingston (The last time someone did this–Chris Blackwell–the product was a Bob Marley). Only yesterday music producer Mikie Bennett wondered aloud on Facebook what the music industry could have been like had it received the kind of investment cricket has received.

The new non-commercial models of music dissemination–open source music sharing for instance, are poised to transform the consumption of music. The best way to improve the local musical product is for the kind of investment to take place that other sectors such as tourism and sport have benefited from. Perhaps then there would be no need for the BCJ to intervene in local music production and distribution in the way it has.

Brawta: check out this video of a song by Sanjay and Dazzla about what they would do if they had Bill Gates’ money.

The Random Pleasures of Facebook

In recent times a wave of people on Facebook have been obligingly listing 25 Random Things About Themselves in response to an invitation “to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. ” While i shy away from any such disclosures myself (why give away information for nothing?) i do enjoy reading them and in this post i pass on the most interesting and provocative of the 25 Random Things responses i’ve seen to date. It’s by Peter Dean Rickards of Afflicted Yard and the Rickards Bros (whose video Kingston Logic premieres on TV tonight on TVJ’s Entertainment Report, 9 pm Ja time).

Peter Dean’s 25 Random Things About Me:

25. I have been waking up very early in the morning lately, usually because of a dream that initially seems traumatic but upon closer analysis is actually pretty stupid. As a matter of fact, that is why I am up at 4:17 am writing this foolishness now…I just woke up after dreaming that I had somehow qualified to race some famous runner (I think Usain Bolt), and somehow I was going to turn the event into some sort of PLUS despite my knowing that I would come in last. I am not making this up…I just dreamed it.I thought the best thing to do would be to make sure I don’t look silly on worldwide television. I told myself to remember to write down a bunch of clever stuff to say when asked about my chances of winning the race as well as things to say once I lost. I even started to write down things to say if i WON! As usual, I procrastinated, and on race day I had nothing witty to say and forgot to buy shoes that looked like I was taking the thing seriously. My hair was doing strange things as well and before long I was scrambling around looking for a clean t-shirt. Then stuff went wrong with my car and my laptop died and someone from the credit card company found out where I lived and started dragging her keys across the gate and repeating the words : ” I know you’re in there Rickards, and I know its raceday. We’ve got you now Rickards. We’ve got you now.!”

24. My earliest memory is being bathed in a bathroom sink. I recall that it was just the right size to lie down in and my grandmothers rings were flashy.

23. My biggest childhood fear was ‘the big bad wolf’. As a child I had a read-a-long record version of it and I would play it over and over again, astounded at how this wolf was allowed to just go and kick in people’s (well, pigs) doors. At night when I heard cars drive by the house I envisioned the big bad wolf pulling up in his limo outside the door getting ready to blow it down. I would creep out of my bed and crawl (on my hands and knees in the darkness) approximately 70 metres to my grandmothers room on the other side of the house.

22. I once lit my friend Freitas on fire sort of by accident ( I didn’t think the fire would spread the way it did all over his nylon jacket). I put him out by bashing him with a snow showel.

21. I worshiped my father so I didn’t think it was a bad idea to take his advice about using one of his old briefcases as a schoolbag in grade 7. Turns out it was a bad idea.

20.When I was 21, I smoked hashish at dusk on one of the great pyramids at Giza (Khafre). The complex was empty as all the tourists had gone home. I bribed a guard to do it…he also sold me the hashish.

19. I have slipped on a banana peel. 18. I have been escorted out of the Vatican by a Swiss Guard for lying on my back taking pictures of the ceiling. I returned the next day and stole a 3-D hologram of a blinking Jesus out of the Vatican store.

17. I like a beautiful woman but I like her a lot more if she can make me laugh. I don’t meet many of those, so I usually settle for just the beautiful part…shallow I know; but if a funny AND beautiful woman ever comes along..woo-hoo!

16. I used to read a lot more books before the Internet and I used to write a lot more before meddling with cameras. To combat it, I’m trying to use a camera that won’t be worth much unless you read its manual and write stuff telling it what to do.

15. My father still uses a fountain pen.
14. I was not a spoiled child. When I was disobedient my hockey stick was hurled into a lake.
13. Even though I knew it would be confiscated the minute my parents saw me with a boomerang, I bought one at the Ontario Science Centre with lunch money I had hoarded for over a week. I snuck it home in my briefcase and went to nearby Brebeuf park to try it out. After 8 or 9 throws (none of which produced the desired effect of RETURNING), the thing got caught in a gust of wind and came back with amazing precision–striking me in the side of the head. My immediate response was to run…in any direction as fast as possible. I never retrieved the boomerang but the next day I accused Brian Jardin of stealing it (his house bordered the park and he was always looking out his stupid window waiting for kids to forget their stuff in the park so he could run out there and get it after they had left). He denied it so I ran over him with my BMX in the alley when he wasn’t looking.

12. I once found a pair of severed horse legs in a plastic bin at the side of a rural road in Caledon, Ontario. I thought this was amusing so I put one of them in a plastic bag and took it home. I put a scarf on it and laid it in my little sister’s bed. When she came home from school she knew I was up to something and got very suspicious when I told her to go check her room. She didn’t know what the lump in the sheets was at first but then she peeled back the sheets and saw the hoof and ran like a bat out of hell.
11. I once used an old hair dryer (connected by several extension cords to the next door neighbours flat) to keep warm in an abandoned house in the a place called Plumstead (a depressed area on the outskirts of London) in the winter of 1997. It was not a regular hair dryer either. It was one of those huge things that look like a giant helmet. Take it from me, it’s no fun sleeping with one of those.

10. In 1993 the door of my 1985 Honda Civic fell off in traffic. I replaced it with a door that was a different colour from the rest of my car and wrote the word PORSCHE on it with a felt pen.

9. When I first arrived in Canada and was told the words ‘FUCK OFF’ for the first time, I thought the best reply was ‘SHIT OFF’.

8. When I was 15 I underwent a test called a lymphangiogram. This process involved cutting 3 inch incisions in both of your feet and pumping radioactive fluid into the veins found there so you would glow in the dark under an x-ray machine. Later after the test, they sew up the incisions and keep you overnight with your feet elevated. But I had to go to the bathroom and so I got up and started waddling to down the corridor of the hospital at around 2 am. Then I felt the first foot ‘pop’ and when I looked down it was squirting up like a fountain. I kept waddling until I heard the second foot pop. I said ‘HELP’ and blacked out. Later when I woke up back in the bed, the nurse told me I should use a bedpan next time…then I think she tried to molest me…but she was cute so I didn’t mind.

7. When Hurricane Ivan came, I somehow managed to get myself locked out of my apartment (twice) right when giant trees were starting to snap and fall into the pool.

6. I once overdosed on nutmeg and passed out in a graveyard near Earls Court, London.

5. I don’t like being called a photographer. I know I can take pictures but my sister once dated a photographer and I remember thinking at the time that he must be out of his mind to be doing that sort of shit for a living.

4. I’m happiest when I’ve accomplished something that was not easy to accomplish and I stand back and look at it and think — how perfectly pointless.

3. I don’t like cops of any sort. It doesn’t matter if they are supposedly decent people or if they have arrested 900 murderers. It takes a certain mentality to be a cop and its the sort of mentality than I despise…the same people who everyone beats up in school. Like Kayne West.

2. My sisters would find their Barbies with genitals and nipples drawn on them.

1. I thought that if I ever found a small person living in my house. Like a person who was maybe 5 inches tall…and they wanted to be friends; that I would hear them out and probably make them feel comfortable enough to be able to coax them into a jar or a shoebox.Then I would try to sell it to a lab.

Kingston Logic


When Derek Walcott launched his insult-laced diatribe in verse against V.S. Naipaul at Calabash 08 you heard of it here first. As another blog noted, “The press was actually scooped on this story by a blogger in Kingston, Jamaica, Annie Paul.” There have been several other occasions when my readers have received advance or inside information about one thing or another from this blog.

For instance many of you would first have come across the latest Waterhouse musical wunderkid, Terry Lynn, right here on Active Voice. My good friend Peter Dean Rickards had been assaulting me at regular intervals with outtakes from his maiden music video, The System, featuring an amazing new female singer called Terry Lynn. I say ‘assaulting’ because PD had decided to use the graphic butchery of a pig to depict the predicament of youth from communities such as Waterhouse which the singer lyrically rhymed with ‘slaughterhouse’.

When I mentioned Terry Lynn’s The System back in August last year the music video hadn’t been completed or launched yet. Although its subject matter made me flinch I thought the video brilliant and showed it in Guangzhou at the Guangdong Museum of Art last November where it aroused a lot of interest. Since its release the video has been doing really well, becoming an underground favourite in several places outside Jamaica.

At year end Pitchfork Media — “the most popular independent-focused music publication online” selected THE SYSTEM by the Rickards Bros. as one of the top 40 videos of 2008. Spin Magazine deemed it one of the 20 Best Music Videos of 2008 ranking it at No.12 worldwide and saying “Sometimes really brutal imagery is necessary to express pure rage at unforgivable social injustices. Leave it to Lynn to lyrically elaborate.”

Dan Cairns of the Sunday Times, UK, declared Terry Lynn, one of the 10 hot new music acts for 2009 in his picks of this year’s “next big things” saying, “Terry Lynn Williams’s first album, Kingstonlogic 2.0, is one of the most exciting debuts I’ve heard in ages.With blues-infused folk, some doo-wop soul and electro synth-pop aplenty, there’ll be something for everybody.”

I’ve just previewed Terry Lynn’s new music video, Kingston Logic, by the Rickards Brothers (and others). It will blow the charts and make history. watch out for it! Using laborious animation techniques which stretched the process out way beyond what a normal video would have taken to finish the Rickards Bros have raised the bar of musical production considerably. The extra time and effort spent was well worth it; the video is a multi-faceted Kingston diamond combining crazy lyrics, a compelling electro beat, seriously creative imagery and razorsharp editing. I can’t wait to see where such a superlative, stylish vehicle will transport Lynn.

It’ll be a week before the video is publicly released and I can put it up here. But here’s The System for those with the stomach to watch it.


The middle and upper classes in Jamaica are whipping themselves into a moral frenzy over Daggering–the latest dance craze to sweep Kingston streets– screaming in the best tradition of the former slave-owning classes (Upper St. Andrew logic?) for the authorities to do something, anything, to curb the feverishly creative dancing masses (while themselves preparing for the thrusting gyrations of carnival; Eve Mann has a provocative blogpost about this, Soldering that is what young women want). Meanwhile Terry Lynn has given birth to a brand new paradigm with her debut album KingstonLogic 2.o.

2009 is going to be an exciting new year for Jamaican music! Remember–you heard it here first.