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Jamaica journal


Material Information

Jamaica journal
Abbreviated Title:
Jam. j.
Physical Description:
v. : ill. (part col.) ; 31 cm.
Institute of Jamaica
Institute of Jamaica.
Place of Publication:


Subjects / Keywords:
Periodicals -- Jamaica   ( lcsh )
serial   ( sobekcm )
periodical   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage:


Dates or Sequential Designation:
Began with Dec. 1967 issue.

Record Information

Source Institution:
Florida State University
Holding Location:
Florida State University
Rights Management:
Permissions for online access and preservation granted by and all rights reserved by the Institute of Jamaica: http://instituteofjamaica.org.jm/
Resource Identifier:
oclc - 01797964
lccn - 75027862
issn - 0021-4124
lcc - F1861 .J33
ddc - 917.2/92/05
System ID:

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover 1
        Front Cover 2
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
    Table of Contents
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
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        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
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        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
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        Page 91
        Page 92
        Page 93
        Page 94
        Page 95
        Page 96
        Page 97
        Page 98
        Page 99
    Books and writers
        Page 100
        Page 101
        Page 102
        Page 103
        Page 104
        Page 105
        Page 106
        Page 107
        Page 108
        Page 109
        Page 110
        Page 111
        Page 112
        Page 113
        Page 114
        Page 115
    Back Matter
        Page 116
    Back Cover
        Back Cover 1
        Back Cover 2
Full Text

. 1 ,a1-

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Reggae Sunsplash: A Pioneering 8
Role in Local Entertainment

So Special, So Special, So Special: 20
The Evolution of the lamaican

Chris Blackwell and the 36
Internationalisation of Reggae

Alight from the West Marley 40
and the Rastafari-Reggae
Project of African Unity

Requiem for a Silenced 66
Trumpeter: Johnny "Dizzy" Moore

Bradshaw's Final Bow: 94
Sonny Bradshaw, 1926-2009

Remembering Pamela O'Gorman: 98
A Cornerstone in the Development
of lamaican Music Education

Long Live the King: Tribute to 29
Professor the Honourable
Ralston Milton "Rex" Nettleford, OM,
Fellow of the Institute of Jamaica

Endemic Trees of Jamaica 92

Glimpses of Our Documentary 93
Heritage: George William
Gordon's Last Letter

A Woman of Words: 105
Leeta Hearne, 1927-2009

The Power of Philosophy in
Bob Marley's Music

A Dub Poet's Innerverse:
An Interview with Mbala

Writing Reggae: Poetry, Politics
and Popular Culture

Akan Echoes in
jamaican Folk Melodies

Painting Like a Prophet:
A Review of Clinton Hutton's

An Idea Emerges from the Heart:
ROKTOWA's Haitian Residency
Programme in Downtown Kingst

Jamaican Folk Tales and
Oral Histories on DVD and CD:
A Multi-media Experience

30 Lignum Vitae

Book Reviews
Frank Collymore:
50 A Biography
By Edward Baugh

60 Dog-Heart
By Diana McCaulay

70 The Fullness of Everything
By Patricia Powell

The Grenada Intervention:
76 The Inside Story
By Edward Phillip George Seaga

96 By Anthony C. Winkler

Northwest Trelawny:.Historic 80
Stone Structures, Sites and Objects

* '





Jamaica Journal Vol. 33, Nos. 1-2
December 2010
im-, Robtr,;Lon-j'alconr
Assistant Editor
Shivaun Hearne
Editorial Committee
Vivian Crawford (Executive Director, IOJ)
Petrine Archer
Rupert Lewis
Wayne McLaughlin
Verene Shepherd
Editorial Assistant/Subscriptions
Bobette Bolton
Design and Production
Image Factory Limited
Sale and nlarieting
l.Iler Jhn.|.ion

Jamaica Journal is published by
the Institute of Jamaica
All correondence and subscription
rcquc-ii aiuldbc aJdjniscJ ir.
Instilule of jamnal
]Il-]h E-I strP;l hrlM.rlph:ri Ijmr idii
Ilepl ho-r" l'I'V "ll1 -l .1)l:-h
Fax: (876) 922-1147
Fmebii pr,,'-'tlr.ac.i li ,Irm m
i'i'cb-tlir ."'^ nriFIi -.ri;,IT, !j ,.r Im

Back issues
Back issues are available. List sent on request Entire series
available on microfilm from:
P'r:A ll-r Iri.,rmrlatr:n :nd LIrrunr
P .r..-dl .ib .A L, l ,...n:
P.O. Box 1346, Annrbor, MI 48106-1346
Telephone: (734) 761-4700
-'leac .e -uLbtripnor c :ird Ir rates Kind1l ma-k,, ichJ-.que4
pa) able it, tht [r.-,lllr" Ot jam liL.a
A rid,-: ipparirp i, Jamaica -,iun'.al anre ab.tracid and
ridtced in Hi-1lr-iorcil strict' ind 'i tirl:n Hli.yTr, and
Vol. 33, Nos. 1-2
Copyright 2010 by the Institute of Jamaica
ISN 00214124
Co.crr L i.rtr:.i mTJ. ri..:l b: r pn ducJ in i hol. r ;ri part
rihl-lul ti: i. rritln p.-rmlri-,rr. ol Lh' Inl.oStult-o laimaij
Cover illustration: Bob Marley by.As r.r- C ,r;ill

Reggae Sunsplash


cultural product that has been pivotal
to Jamaica's international recognition
as a cultural icon. Reggae music is
sought after the world over. So why
did Reggae Sunsplash, the world's
first reggae music festival, not gain
momentum, fame and fortune, based
on reggae's popularity? This article
looks at the nineteen-year history
of Reggae Sunsplash, a festival that
came to be regarded as the acme of the
local entertainment product, from its
inception in 1978 to its demise in 1997.

When Reggae Sunsplash emerged on
the Jamaican cultural landscape in
1978, the concept had been germinating
for some time in the minds of four
Jamaican men: Don Green, Tony

Johnson, John Wakeling and Ronnie
Burke. Green and Johnson had lived
in the USA for a number of years and
often lamented the lack of an organised
timetable of local r, .4.wc concerts. Local
reggae shows were confined chiefly
to cinemas, and this put a ceiling on
audience size. These men claimed
that they could see more live reggae
performances in the USA than they
could see in Jamaica, the birthplace of
reggae. According to Ronnie Burke,
"Tony was insistent that he knew
people who would jump on a plane and
come to Jamaica for a reggae event."'
Burke and Johnson were partners in a
private record distribution company,
and knew the industry and many of
its key players such as Bob Marley and
Peter Tosh, for whom they distributed

The concept of a five-day outdoor
music festival was new to Jamaica
and the Caribbean, and the team of
gentlemen pooled their ideas to form
the company Synergy. The idea was
conceived at an opportune moment.
According to Burke, Tony Johnson

got wind of the JTB's plan
to introduce a summer
marketing programme c :, I.1
"Singles". At that time the
industry was still seasonal
and the summer months
were mainly for refurbishing
of hotel properties. Nassau,
Bahamas, at that time had
a thriving summer season,
and, moved possibly by that
example which centred around
younger people, singles

and young couples, the JTB
decided to embark on a similar

He approached the Jamaica Tourist
Board (JTB) on behalf of Synergy,
proposing to deliver a seven-day
entertainment package, with two days
of beach parties and the remaining
nights of I.' concerts. Burke
recalled that the JTB bought the idea
cautiously and committed to Synergy
that they could plan a budget based on
two thousand persons. Synergy agreed
to sell the entertainment package to
the JTB for US$70 per person, and
"under the agreement, the Jamaica
Tourist Board would market the festival
overseas".3 This would have provided
Synergy with a budget of US$140,000 as
the initial capital boost.
However, the JTB's promotion
of the Singles programme was
unsuccessful. Burke related that "the
numbers initially committed to Synergy
of two thousand were trimmed to
one thousand, then to five hundred,
and eventually only twenty-three

packages were sold by the JTB to
support the event".4 Planning of the
event, which had commenced only a
few months before, was too advanced
for the festival to be cancelled, as
resources had been committed and
larrett Park in Montego Bay rented for
the purpose. Thus, Reggae Sunsplash
was born with the two challenges
of undercapitalisation and lack of
government commitment or support.
Despite its shaky beginnings, and
the JTB's ambivalence towards the
project, Reggae Sunsplash emerged as
the first reggae festival in the history
of the world, held over eight nights
from Friday, 23 June, to Saturday, 30
June 1978, at Jarrett Park, Montego Bay.
( .. .., ll Beach was the venue for the
two beach parties, and Casa Montego
became the after-party location. This
after-party element enhanced the
entertainment dimension and caused
Reggae Sunsplash to be known to many
as a 'reggae and disco' festival.
This inaugural Reggae Sunsplash
showcased an impressive array of the
finest Jamaican musical talent: Dennis

Brown, the Wailing Souls, Culture,
Harold Butler, Monty Alexander, Leroy
Sibbles, the Heptones, Sons of Negus,
Jacob Miller, URoy, Jimmy Cliff, Joe
Higgs, Lloyd Parkes and We the People
Band, Third World, and Byron Lee and
the Dragonaires, many of whom were
considered foundation members of
Jamaica's popular music industry.
Burke confirmed the mandate of
Synergy: "We delivered the eight nights
of entertainment as planned. We left
Jarrett Park at 3:00 a.m. every morning,
and then went to open the disco which
ran until daylight."6 Burke admits that
in 1978 "the support came mainly from
local attendance. In all, we had about
four thousand people each night."7
From its inception, therefore, although
the concept of Reggae Sunsplash was
to attract an overseas tourist segment, it
had the unplanned effect of unleashing
the potential of domestic tourism,
pulling patrons from across the island,
but particularly from the urban areas
of Kingston and St Andrew, many of
whom would have been fans of various

From the start, Synergy experienced
severe challenges in securing support
for a permanent venue for the festival.
The Jarrett Park venue used in 1978-79
and 1981-82 required significant effort
to be transformed from a football field
into a concert park, with Synergy
installing infrastructure and making
structural modifications to a property
which was managed and owned by the
St James Parish Council. During this
period, the audience grew from four
thousand patrons on its inaugural night
to fifteen thousand by 1982. Ronnie
Burke admits:

We outgrew Jarrett Park and
it had become dangerous.
Our largest audience segment
had reached fifteen thousand.
In 1982, the phenomenal
Yellowman arrived on the
scene. We put him to perform
on a Thursday night, which
normally drew audiences of
some two to three thousand.
All of a sudden, the whole
world arrived. There was

the mobbing of his Mercedes
Benz. We now had to start
transporting him by taxi to
camouflage his entry. This
was the b;_'.-:-t crowd we had
ever had up to that time ...
The fact is that due to growing
crowds, the venue had become
inadequate. A serious incident
in which three female tourists
were alleged to have been
killed sounded the alarm bell.
The barriers had overturned
and they fell underneath. The
force of the crowd brought
the weight down on them.
As it turned out, they were
virtually unharmed. However,
the thought of litigation was

The potential horror of this
near disaster signalled the urgency
for relocation. However, relocation
became a vexed issue. No alternative
site was offered to the promoters. The
government's only collaborative effort
with S;, ni ..', took place in 1981, when
the annual national Independence

celebrations and Festival Song
competition were combined with the
reggae festival in a special tribute to
Bob Marley, with Synergy functioning
as a production/technical team for an
agreed 20 per cent of profits. In contrast,
in November 1982, in response to a
proposal from the US-based organizers
of the World Music Festival to host a
four-day music festival in Montego Bay
in April 1983, government gave a ready
response: the prime minister, Edward
Seaga, dedicated fifteen acres of land
on the peninsula in Montego Bay to the
memory of Bob Marley.
According to Burke, "the
government... created the Bob Marley
Entertainment Centre in six weeks
to facilitate this event for this foreign
company. The arrangement was that the
government would collect 50 per cent
of the revenue and rights to the video
The potential excitement and the
promise of a competitor to Reggae
Sunsplash dissipated when the
promoters of the World Music Festival
rescinded on the partnership with the
government and pulled out after the

very first staging of the event. The
failure of the World Music Festival
opened the door for Synergy to stage
Reggae Sunsplash in 1983 at the Bob
Marley Entertainment Centre. Reggae
Sunsplash had already been in existence
for four years without realising a profit
and struggling with the inadequacies
of space to the detriment of its patrons.
"We were told that we could use the
centre after the World Music Festival.
But it was unsuitable for use with
local technical facilities and was in
fact designed for use with the massive
technical equipment, which bands like
the Rolling Stones would use. We were
like a tiny foot in a giant's mouth."10
Due to serious financial constraints,
Synergy was unable to maintain this
huge government-owned property,
which was under the management of
the Urban Development Corporation
(UDC). The festival therefore returned
to Jarrett Park for another three-year
period between 1984 and 1986, facing
problems of almost crisis proportions
due to the inadequacies of sanitary
facilities and overcrowding.
The Bob Marley Entertainment
Centre, which had remained unutilised
since the summer of 1983, required
significant expenditure for restoration,
especially to construct the kind of
perimeter fencing that would prevent
patrons 'beating the gates', as this was
a recurrent problem that plagued the
promoters in their tenure at Jarrett Park.
Synergy unilaterally and successfully
undertook the reconstruction of the
Bob Marley Entertainment Centre
before returning to that location in
1987. In that period the government
conceded only on the grounds that they
were not required to make a financial
commitment. After a brief respite from
an obstacle-ridden relationship with the
government, Synergy was notified that
they would have to start paying rent
for the property, which was used solely
for the hosting of Sunsplash annually.
According to Burke, "We protested
as all the infrastructure had been
established by us. Only the property
itself was owned by the UDC.""
Synergy had spent over J$724,000 in
regular improvements to both Jarrett
Park and the Bob Marley Centre

since 1977. Burke pointed out that "if
Synergy had purchased a piece of land
and continuously upgraded it, it would
by this have been the ideal site and not
the type of run-down place the centre
was".2Having protested, Synergy
was notified that they would have to
relocate in 1993.

At a press briefing held
at Wyndham Rose Hall in
Montego Bay, Mr Seaga gave
the reasons for the centre being
turned into a housing project.
At that time he said, among
other things, that the land
was prime real estate and was
needed for a more vital project.
He said that a piece of land
adjacent to the Barnett River
was to be made available for
the relocation of the centre.'3

The UDC advised Synergy of the
decision; however, construction of
this housing estate did not actually
commence until two years later. The
alternative site offered was a seven-acre
property in Catherine Hall, St James,
which was nestled between an abattoir
and a malfunctioning sewage plant.
Apart from the inappropriateness of
the location, Synergy would again be
required to disburse large sums for
infrastructure work.
Despite the UDC's undertaking
that Catherine Hall would be ready
for Reggae Sunsplash in 1993, the
engineers had advised that the
requisite infrastructure work would
not be completed in time.4 Synergy
abandoned Montego Bay and
relocated to Jam World in St Catherine
in 1993.

According to Carolyn Cooper, "The
festival received overwhelming
support that year, particularly from
Kingstonians; it may have been the
novelty of the Jam World venue as well
as a matter of local pride."'5 However,
the second staging of Reggae Sunsplash
at Jam World in 1994 was a financial
disaster. The festival had evolved as
a tourism product, synonymous with
the s's of tourism: sea, sand, sun,

and the fourth factor, not officially
acknowledged: sex. The musical
entertainment was value added, but
the tourism objective was paramount.
Without a beach and supporting
attractions, Jam World could not attract
international tourists. The volume of
hotel rooms required to support the
event was lacking in the Kingston, St
Andrew and St Catherine areas. The
number of domestic tourists attending
Sunsplash had also fallen dramatically
in 1994, causing Cooper to observe:

The Sunsplash case study
confirms that the original
'excursion element'6 in the
reggae festival is essential
for both international and
domestic tourists. The role
of the domestic tourist -
particularly the Kingston-based
reggae fan in the success of
both Sunsplash and Sumfest
complicates my reading of the
cultural politics of heritage
tourism. For if the domestic
tourist does, indeed, prefer to
consume the commoditised
reggae package in a tourist
setting, rather than in the
more familiar Jam World
background, then 'excursion'
reggae tourism must be
acknowledged as one kind of
resolution of the contradictions
that inhere in heritage

The uncertainty created by a lack of
a permanent venue negatively impacted
the sustainability and financial viability
of the event and ultimately crippled
Synergy's efforts. Signs of profitability
between 1984 and 1990 should have
given both government and Synergy
the impetus to acquire a permanent
venue. Instead, the battle between the
government and Synergy continued.
Financial viability became elusive, and
the combined lack of state and private-
sector support, high production costs,
illegal entry to the event, and exorbitant
interest rates on borrowed money
created enormous economic pressures.
Burke argued that "the media and
the public measured profitability by

the size of the audiences and so did
[his] bankers".18 Howard McGowan,
in an article in the Gleaner, speculated
that the eleventh staging of Reggae
Sunsplash "was from all indications
a financial success".19 He concluded
that over the six-night event 85,000
persons attended "with gate receipts at
$4,120,000".20 With McGowan claiming
also that the staging of the event cost
"over $2,000,000",21 this would indicate
a huge profit. Burke argued, however,
that Synergy's accounting records told
another story.
Reggae Sunsplash had never been
a magnet for sponsorship. A limited
number of companies lent support to
the venture.' By 1994 Synergy had
reached near insolvency, forcing the
sale of the festival's trademark to Rae
Barrett of Rodabar, its chief stakeholder,
a former chairman of the JTB, and
Kenny Benjamin, chief executive
officer of the Guardsman Group of
Companies. In 1995 Sunsplash was
moved to Dover, a car-racing track
midway between Runaway Bay and
Brown's Town in St Ann, and in 1996
to Chukka Cove, both of which were

dismal financial failures. After the
1996 disaster Synergy finally gave
up its involvement, and handed over
the festival to other promoters. The
final curtain came down on Reggae
Sunsplash in February 1997 at White
River Reggae Park.

The indifference displayed by
successive governments, despite the
positive and potential impact of Reggae
Sunsplash on tourism and music
promotion, had been evidenced when
the JTB reneged on the first agreement,
establishing a trend of non-support. In
addition to domestic tourism, a summer
tourism product was being created for
the first time, as a Gleaner columnist
noted: "People came from nooks and
crannies Jamaicans never dreamed of
or heard of: Penang, Azania, Denver,
Stuttgart, Helsinki, Orange, Munich,
Pacific Grove, Lugana Beach, Seoul, Sao
Paulo and many others. Each year there
was a new place represented at the
musical affair."3 People came for a first-
hand experience of Jamaica's signature
cultural brand, reggae music. Over the

entire life of the festival, sponsorship
from the JTB was chiefly 'in kind' in
the form of promotional support, press
conferences, endorsement, and hosting
of special guests and officials.
While Synergy lacked the
institutional capacity to manage all
areas effectively, government could
have facilitated certain legal aspects
such as registering of the name and
logo through the Attorney General's
Department or JAMPRO. These were
not registered until 1983, by which time
unauthorised use of the name and logo
was rampant overseas. According to

In 1984, it would have cost
us US$660,000 to register the
name and logo worldwide.
In a short time, Brazil had a
Reggae Sunsplash registered,
the Italians had a Reggae
Sunsplash and the Germans
started one also. Due to
financial constraints, we were
threatened all around to tie
down the ownership of the
trademark. If we could have
afforded international legal

fees, we could have exercised
our legal claim to ownership of
the trademark. The fees were
prohibitive. In fact, they were
higher than our total budget.
I must confess that the idea
got bigger than our ability to
control it and own it.24

Government could also have
provided legal assistance to capitalise
on merchandising efforts and secure
better deals in terms of international
media rights for the filming and
reproduction of the event. The aloof
attitude at the leadership level was
illustrated by Desmond Henry, Director
of Tourism from 1978 to 1980, who had
no intention of attending the inaugural
event. According to Burke,

He was reluctant to attend,
as he feared it would be a
disaster. It was not until the
final evening [when] Andrew
Young, the then US Secretary
of State, who was attending
a conference in Montego
Bay, and [said he] wanted to
attend, that Desmond Henry

was forced to attend. Dudley
Thompson, who was then the
Minister of National Security,
instructed him to accompany
Andrew Young.25

Reggae Sunsplash was meant to
complement the JTB's programme
to create a summer tourism product
to eradicate seasonality. The effort,
however, proved to achieve the
dual mandate of attracting not
only international, but domestic
tourists. This added benefit served
the government well, as the newly
formed National Hotels and Properties
Limited26 had been struggling with low
occupancy levels.
There is no doubt that Reggae
Sunsplash was a significant contributor
to domestic tourism during the
summer off-peak season. However,
local hotel owners and managers had
difficulty receiving their own. As a
Gleaner editorial noted, "Montego
Bay hoteliers who particularly in the
leaner years loved the festival, because
it gave Jamaica's name a boost in

the marketplace, and also because
they could count on it to keep some
beds full, are said to be arguing that
not the best clientele comes with the
festival."27 The upper and middle
classes had traditionally viewed reggae
music as boogooyagah28 business. The
validating elite and policymakers of
both private and public sectors could
not transcend the condescending view
that a reggae music festival equated
with ganja smoking or a 'drug fest',
and consequently an event with which
they would not want to be associated.
According to a Sunday Gleaner column,

By far the largest block of
anti-Sunsplash sentiments
came from Montego Bay
hoteliers who have seen the
festival through 11 of its 12
years of existence. Hoteliers
of large and small properties
were mostly forthright in their
comments about the trauma
their respective properties
went through in relation to the
The consensus among
hoteliers was that the music

show was more of a headache
than the homage it pretended
to pay to one of the greatest
proponents of the music to
date Bob Marley and
other contemporaries. Most
managers and boards of
directors in and around
Montego Bay have therefore
placed an official 'no-no' on the
For them, not accepting
the average Sunsplash visitor
including Jamaican nationals
was an unwritten rule.29

Reggae Sunsplash came to represent
a resistance to the establishment's
position on reggae music and its
associated culture. The corporate
attitude of the tourism bureaucrats is
best reflected in an excerpt from a JTB
memorandum dated 10 October 1975:

[A] good part of the attraction
of reggae music to its
metropolitan audience is
the anger and protest of the
lyrics. We obviously face a
contradiction between the

message of urban poverty
and protest which reggae
conveys and that of pleasure
and relaxation inherent in our
holiday product.
In short, when we
promote reggae music we
are promoting an aspect of
Jamaican culture which is
bound to draw attention to the
harsher circumstances in our
lives. All the articles written on
the sound so far do this. Our
view is that we should leave
other agencies and local music
interests to carry the ball from

In reality and symbolically, Reggae
Sunsplash represented a form of social
outlawry and political defiance which
shook the socio-political infrastructure
of the establishment.

Reggae Sunsplash challenged the
thinking and practice that had
historically governed tourism
marketing in the Caribbean. At the
micro level, Reggae Sunsplash proved

that there were motivational factors
outside of sea, sun and sand that
were capable of effectively marketing
Jamaica, namely its indigenous
culture and, more specifically, reggae
music. This proved psychologically
challenging to tourism policymakers
who had grown accustomed to a
kind of 'class tourism' as well as an
established order that sold hotels
as self-contained resorts, instead
of the country, Jamaica. Such an
institutionalized practice meant that
they could influence the holiday
experience of the guests, which
essentially meant keeping guests within
the confines of hotel properties.
Reggae Sunsplash had a daunting
effect on the national psyche of tourism
power brokers. The festival challenged
the traditional marketing paradigm.
Reggae Sunsplash established a new
model where the cultural experience
associated with reggae became the
dominant motivating force.3" The all-
inclusiveness of the Reggae Sunsplash
venue provided every needed facility
except accommodation. The magnetic
pull of this cultural experience is
best reflected in the growth of the

audience from an average of
four thousand patrons in 1978
to an estimated maximum
attendance on Dancehall Night
of forty thousand in 1987.'"
Additionally, the long-held
view that North America was
the natural market for Jamaica
was gradually eroding over
the life of the event, given the
earlier-mentioned international
spread of Sunsplash attendees,
coupled with the ability of
the festival to pull in repeat
In the history of Jamaican
tourism, the beach as a space
had been used to create
artificial, racial and social
divisions. The private/ public
beach concept institutionalized the
white/black, tourist/ native dichotomy.
The introduction of Sunsplash
coincided with new political directions
in Jamaica's history which included
nationalisation of hotel ownership and
the accompanying beach properties.
This political process therefore
facilitated access to the beach for the
beach parties to local and foreign
tourists alike. Reggae Sunsplash can
claim some credit for contributing
to the process of effacement of class-
related policies in tourism which had
psychologically and physically denied
the natives access. The allure and mass
appeal of Reggae Sunsplash meant that
if the 'uptowners' wanted to attend,
they had to be prepared to interface
with the downtownerss'. A Gleaner
columnist observed:

Undoubtedly, the most
controversial part of Sunsplash
is the way people let down
their hair during the event.
Some of the upper-crust
residents of St Andrew were
there. The list included those in
prominent middle-class areas
and they participated in every
aspect from start to finish,
refusing to be left out of any.
The most frightening thing
was the way the rich, lame
and lazy and those in other
categories lay side-by-side,

unconcerned about who is next
to whom."3

This observation is further
reinforced in a 1995 commentary on
Reggae Sunsplash's successor, Reggae

Times have changed gone
are the days when the upper
classes shied away from
the music because of its
identification with Rasta
and ganja, no doubt hurting
Reggae Sunsplash's chances
of succeeding at a most critical
time. It was good to see people
from all social strata mingling
and celebrating what's
uniquely ours.
And that's what it's all
about uniting the world,
black and white, rich and poor,
through the power and force of
reggae music. Both festivals are
meant to be one great melting
pot a "big yard" where, as
Michigan and Smiley chanted,
"the social barriers break down
and we all come together on
one ground".'

Sunsplash not only set new
paradigms in tourism marketing
but created new possibilities for the
entertainment industry. Anthony
Abrahams, former Director of Tourism
(1970-75) and Minister of Tourism


z^)^ .-^h4

-/ (1984), when asked why
Jamaica's popular music had
not been used to promote
tourism, explained:

At the time, Bob Marley
was just a Rastaman
who smoked ganja and
nobody knew where
he was going. When
Bob Marley came to
prominence, there
were some negatives,
the Rasta, the ganja,
the drugs. You have to
remember that in those
days, Jamaica's tourism
did not go to the mass
popular audience of
today. In those days, our
hotels were not all-inclusive
factories with relatively cheap
rooms. It was the Round
Hills, the Half Moons, the
T[I .1 -, and Tridents that were
the marketing focus. You
had a product that was very
upmarket and exclusive and so
the music would not have been
a drawing card for that market.
The 1970s was the turning

With the exception of a few artistes
including Bob Marley, Peter Tosh,
Jimmy Cliff, Toots and the Maytals,
and Third World, Reggae Sunsplash
brought unprecedented economic
power and exposure for a hitherto
marginalised group which rose from
the obscurity of Jamaican ghetto life.
In Jamaica there had been a limited
number of live music shows prior
to Sunsplash. Often, American R&B
artistes were invited to perform for
events on Christmas Day, Boxing Day,
New Year's Day and Independence
Day, the preferred venues for such
activities being places like the Carib
Cinema in Kingston, or, in the late
1960s and early 1970s, the large hotels.
Local entertainers were show-openers
for R&B artistes." With Sunsplash,
Jamaican artistes moved from being

show-openers to headliners, to
offering command performances
akin to their growing
professional status. The view
that Jamaican talent was inferior
to that of North American and
other overseas entertainers was
quickly erased as Jamaicans
celebrated their own, many of
whom were already well known
on the international charts.
One of the indelible
contributions of Reggae
Sunsplash was as a catalyst
for developing the indigenous
capacity of the music industry
players, whether they were
singers, dancers, DJs or
musicians. Even the physical
production capacity of the
industry had to rise to the
standard of the occasion. When
Sunsplash came into existence,
there was inadequate lighting
and acoustics for such an event,
and as the show grew, sound,
lighting and stage facilities had
to be imported from abroad,
until the indigenous capacity
reached the required standard.
Synergy had a pioneering
role in promoting reggae as
top-drawer entertainment not
only among the grassroots but
also the local elites. Reggae
Sunsplash also proved that
the entertainment potential of
such shows could attest to the
sustainability of reggae music
as a business. While Reggae
Sunsplash suffered from a lack
of sponsorship, the festival
sensitised the local private
sector to the potential benefits
to be derived from associating
with such events. Reggae Sumfest
and a number of other subsequent
reggae shows which started with
limited sponsorship have for varying
periods obtained title sponsorship:
Reggae Sumfest was until 2008
"Red Stripe Reggae Sumfest", Rebel
Salute was once sponsored by Tru
Juice, and in 2010 by Pepsi, with an
additional J$500,000 from the Tourism
Enhancement Fund, and Sting was
sponsored by Magnum for many years,

with sponsorship in 2009 from Monster
Energy Drink distributed by Wisynco
The festival came at a time
when the world had been
introduced to reggae music by
its most outstanding proponents.
The 1972 film The Harder They
Come had also played a role
in promoting reggae and its
culture. Sunsplash became a
vehicle for upward mobility in
the entertainment sector and the

wider society. Artistes who
benefited included Sugar
Minott, Yellowman, Freddie
McGregor, and Michigan
and Smiley. Sunsplash
motivated artistes to higher
standards of performance.
This facilitated the
forging of long-term,
synergistic relationships
with international
music promoters. Radio
announcer Winston Barnes
appropriately described the

Today a test of your mettle
as a reggae performer
is whether you work
Splash or not. Any reggae
performer has to get
his credentials okayed
in Jamaica. You earn
your full citizenship in
R.., I .,,.1 only after
serving at 'Splash'. The
PhD comes only with
Jamaica and Sunsplash."

Reggae Sunsplash therefore
became a I, 1I, ,i, point,
acquiring collegiate status to
entertainers seeking professional
improvement. The 1990 and
1991 Dancehall Nights could
be regarded as the summit of
performance when Shabba Ranks
arrived at dawn in a helicopter
and was deposited on stage by
a crane. Even reggae artistes
from overseas like Aswad,
Steel Pulse and UB40 sought
validation at the festival, which
had become a standard-bearer in
the international entertainment
T, ,_._ Sunsplash created for
artistes new power relationships
between the local and the international
industry. There arose less of a reliance
on the local producers as the artistes
recognized very forcefully that
entertainment was in fact a global
business, and that they had a pivotal
and indispensable role. The coming of
international industry representatives

and booking agencies serves as a
testimony to these newly found
relationships. Reggae Sunsplash
became an international
marketplace analogous to the
roles of the Jamaica Product
Exchange3" to the local tourism
sector, and the World Travel
Market to the international
industry. So important had
Reggae Sunsplash become to the
international recording industry
that its representatives migrated
temporarily to Montego Bay
annually, for the duration of
Sunsplash, in search of talent
and, in. ,iii -p.u' -, ill', to conclude
recording and tour contracts.
Byron Lee, in describing the
Reggae Sunsplash experience,

Those days when every
representative of a major
record company used to
come with cheque books to
Sunsplash to sign contracts
have disappeared. At that
time, you would have
thirty-five to forty artistes
signing contracts with major
record companies.

Furthermore, a significant, A
if not monumental achievement
of the festival was the diversi-
fication it brought not only
to tourism, but to the local
music industry which, prior to
this, had been focused on the
recording side of the business.
The character of the event shifted
the focus to live performance and
directed the cadre of entertainers
to the infinite performance
opportunities available
internationally. Local talent
no longer had to await the arrival of
EMI, Virgin, CBS, or Polygram. Clyde
McKenzie offers an evaluation of the
relationship between recording and live

Internationally, live shows
seem to be the area of bi._- L
growth for recording artistes,
bearing in mind the blow that
the recording side of the music
has taken. The profitability

lReggaeH susr-ijri
11111 GE& S


.-is-s -S .C 04 -
---I- -

has declined significantly. The
whole music industry appears
to be in transition. I think a
new business model is about to
emerge. There will be greater
emphasis on live performances.
What used to happen is that
concerts, tours and shows were
used to drive record sales, but
currently it appears to be going
in the opposite direction.4"

With the exception of a few artistes
like Bob Marley, managed then by Don


was more c .- t-,.t. I, i ,..

Simultaneously the Reggae
Sunsplash tours facilitated the
collective marketing of the
Jamaican reggae 'massive' as well as of
Jamaica as a destination, both locally
and internationally. In promoting
these annual reggae tours to forty-
five US venues, including the Hopi
Indian Reservation in Arizona, as well
as to Hawaii, Mexico, Bermuda, the
United Kingdom, Japan, Australia
and Europe, this venture served as
a major promotional tool and public
relations .: i ;ri.. creating awareness
and opportunities for .-,-,1. , :.-i,

STaylor, Peter Tosh, managed by
Herbie Miller 1 l'*l.-s'2. and
i hl1 d World, managed by Colin
Leslie (1973-78), management
of artistes had traditionally
been weak. Reggae Sunsplash
required more structured
management of artistes and
improved discipline among
them. This became apparent in
the Sunsplash era. The rising
international acclaim of the
industry drove several new
players into the business as
managers and booking agents,
changing the previously
antagonistic relationship that
The festival served an
additional promotional role
for the entertainment industry
through the added exposure of
Sunsplash tours overseas which
started in 1984 with a view to
creating an economically viable
product. The Reggae Sunsplash
tours gave international
exposure to artistes at a time
when management companies
for entertainers were not the
P'o8 norm locally. Promotion of
S a group of artistes virtually
am unknown outside of the
4u*m. i Caribbean had significantly more
OILY k impact than that of a series of
one-artiste shows, especially in
Slight of the variations in talent
M and professional iri..,ri it. and

relationships for Jamaica as well as for
the annual festival in Montego Bay. A
major by-product, therefore, was the
promotion and branding of destination
Jamaica. Reggae Sunsplash created an
organic and synergistic relationship
between music and tourism.
Even within the tourism directorate,
this benefit was belatedly recognized,41
as Anthony Abrahams admitted: "What
is funny is that we thought that tourism
would launch the music; we didn't see
the music as launching tourism."4
Reggae Sunsplash initiated
the concept of a week-long music
festival, and by extension the viability
of music tourism in the Caribbean
region. Several other music festivals
have emerged since and adopted the
Sunsplash template, which of course
prior to Sunsplash was nonexistent.
Festivals of this type have emerged
in St Kitts, Nevis, St Lucia, Grenada
and Barbados, and many have been
specifically timed to coincide with
traditional off-peak periods.
The reach and impact of Reggae
Sunsplash extended beyond Caribbean
borders. Burke spoke of a joint-
venture Reggae Sunsplash with the
Japanese in 1984,43 but by the following
year they flew into Jamaica, booked

the artistes, and hosted the event
independently (called Japan Splash
or Trench Town East). The nine-day
Rototom Sunsplash, which originated
in Italy and recently moved to Spain,
celebrated its seventeenth anniversary
in 2010; Reggae on the River, an annual
event in Humbolt Country, California,
also cloned from Sunsplash, which
during the tenure of the festival was
co-marketed with Reggae Sunsplash on
a number of occasions, celebrated its
twenty-fourth anniversary in August

History has well established the
marketing might of Jamaican popular
music. The overbooking of concerts
and the institutionalisation of annual
reggae festivals, local and international,
patterned on the Reggae Sunsplash
format and often incorporating 'splash'
in the trade names (Japan Splash,
Rototum Sunsplash, Reggae Sunsplash
USA), are sufficient evidence. This is
where Jamaican artistes currently earn
most of their income. According to
Stephen "Cat" Coore,

We have played repeatedly
in Japan. Festivals and events

are the big occasions. We play
chiefly at festivals. This is
where the money is. Club dates
don't give money anymore,
especially since 9/ 11.4

Reggae Sunsplash revived the
excursion element in domestic
tourism. The duration of reggae
concerts often compels local audiences
to overnight in the location. The
entertainment portfolio lends itself
to exploration and interface with
the local culture and community.
The villa-and-apartment sector,
which accounts for 30 per cent of
rooms, enjoyed, and still enjoys, full
occupancy during festival periods.45
It is clear that Reggae Sunsplash
not only played a pioneering role, but
firmly focused attention on Jamaica
as the source and backbone of reggae
music and enhanced the tourism
product in significant ways. The
coming together of local music, indeed
the whole creative industry, facilitated
the introduction of cultural/music
tourism, a concept still today woefully
underpromoted by the JTB, at a time
when Jamaica is known as the mecca
for music and culture.
There is no doubt that
Reggae Sunsplash impacted the

intemationalisation of reggae as
a musical genre, created a hub for
tourism promotion and domestic
tourism, and gave impetus to, as well
as paved the way for, a variety of
progenitors, indelibly etching Reggae

Sunsplash as a pioneer in the annals
of Jamaica's music/entertainment
industry. The proliferation of other
local and foreign reggae concerts and
events all testify to this fact. Synergy,
the creators of Reggae Sunsplash,

deserve full recognition for daring
to conceptualise and implement this
local cultural music festival, promoting
reggae music at a time when this
musical genre was considered taboo by
the validating elites of Jamaica." .


1. Ronnie Burke, interview by author,
Kingston, Jamaica, 12 August 2004.
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid.
5. Stephen "Cat" Coore, interview by author,
Kingston, Jaamaica, 12 August 2004. Tickets
for this inaugural Sunsplash were J$8.00
for reserved seating, J$5.00 for the field
and J$3.00 for bleachers, the equivalent of
US$4.70, US$3.00 and US$1.80, respectively,
at the local exchange rate of J$1.69 to
US$1.00 (1978).
6. Burke, interview.
7. Ibid.
8. Ibid.
9. Ibid.
10. Ibid.
11. Ibid.
12. Ibid.
13. D. Dorman, "Doubts over Montego Bay
Hosting Sunsplash", Sunday Gleaner, 2 April
1989, 6A.
14. Burke, interview.
15. Carolyn Cooper, "'Welcome to Jamrock':
Reggae Tourism and the Politics of Identity
in Jamaica", in Tourism: The Driver of Change
in the Jamaican Economy?, ed. Kenneth Hall
and Rheima Holding (Kingston: Ian Randle,
2006), 365.
16. For the domestic tourists, it was the
excursion element that provided the
motivation for attending Reggae Sunsplash.
John Towner, in A Historical Geography of
Recreation and Tourism in the Western World
1540-1940 (London: Wiley and Sons, 1996),
identifies the movement from town to
country among the wealthy as one of the
earliest patterns of leisure: "The regular
movement of the affluent from town to
country for enjoyment and relaxation was
expressed either as short-term excursions
into the surrounding rural area or as a
longer term retreat of several days, weeks or
months" (18).
17. Cooper, "'Welcome to Jamrock' ", 366.
18. Burke, interview.
19. H. McGowan, "Eleventh Staging of Reggae
Sunsplash a Success", Sunday Gleaner, 26
August 1988, 7.
20. Ibid.
21. Ibid.
22. The main sponsors were Air Jamaica and
Estate Industries in 1983, J. Wray and
Nephew and Daniel Finzi and Company

in 1986, and Desnoes and Geddes in 1990.
The most significant donation in the history
of the festival came from Wisynco Trading
Company and Nestle Jamaica Limited, who
recognized the value of audience exposure to
the consumption of their products.
23. D. Dorman, "Reggae Sunsplash Is Much
More than Music", Sunday Gleaner, 30
August 1987, 8A.
24. Burke, interview.
25. Ibid.
26. In 1978, the government had already formed
the National Hotels and Properties Limited
(NHP), a wholly owned subsidiary of the
UDC. Hotels under this umbrella were
the Sheraton, Inter-Continental Kingston,
Mallards Beach Hyatt (Ocho Rios), Inter-
Continental Ocho Rios, Trelawny Beach
Club, Royal Caribbean Hotel, Casa Montego
and Negril Beach Village. There were six
others owned by the NHP but operated by
others on contract: the Pegasus, Runaway
Bay Hotel, Inn on the Beach (Ocho Rios),
Rose Hall Inter-Continental, Holiday Inn,
Montego Beach and Sunset Lodge ("Who
Looks after Tourism?", Gleaner, 16 July 1978,
10). NHP formed a marketing arm, Jamaica
Resort Hotels, which engaged in regular
corporate advertising for hotels under their
management The advertisements refer to
"a convenient reservation system, any of
our hotels will accept reservations for any
other ... And remember... your Jamaican
vacation can be tax free up to a maximum of
$200 per individual, or $800 per family per
year, if your company pays the bill or if you
are self-employed as defined by the relevant
law" (Gleaner, 12 July 1978, 7). A designated
page titled "News from Jamaica Resort
Hotels" was a regular feature of the Daily
Gleaner during 1978.
27. Editorial, "Shadow over Sunsplash", Sunday
Gleaner, 2 April 1989, 6A.
28. Boisterous, uncouth and unkempt in
29. Dorman, "Doubts".
30. Stephen Davis, Reggae Bloodline: In
Search of the Music and Culture of Jamaica
(London: Ducapo Press, 1992), 1.
31. I suggest that this cultural quest was akin to
the Grand Tour experience of the European
aristocracy of the fifteenth and sixteenth
centuries, the essential difference being that
the European Grand Tour was based on class
tourism, whereas the Jamaican 'Grand Tour'

was based on mass tourism.
32. Sharon Earle, "Sunsplash 10... and after",
Sunday Gleaner, 28 August 1987,11.
33. Dorman, "Reggae Sunsplash".
34. Basil Walters, Daily Observer, 19 August 1995,
35. Anthony Abrahams, interview by author,
Kingston, Jamaica, July 2002.
36. Anthony Abrahams spoke of the Wailers
enjoying an "elevated status" when they
performed with Marvin Gaye at the Carib
Cinema in the early 1970s. They were also
reputed to have opened shows for the
Jackson Five concert in 1974 and Stevie
Wonder's 'Dream Concert' in 1975, where
for some in the audience, the Wailers
eclipsed the featured artist. The Wailers in
fact closed the Jackson Five concert since the
featured group insisted on performing at the
time agreed in their contract.
37. Winston Barnes, "Sunsplash Memoirs",
Gleaner, 12 August 1993, 13.
38. Jamaica Product Exchange is a marketing
forum organised by the Jamaica Hotel and
Tourist Association for international tour
39. Byron Lee, interview by author, Kingston,
Jamaica, 5 February 2005.
40. Clyde McKenzie, interview by author,
Kingston, Jamaica, 9 August 2004.
41. Herbie Miller relates that in 1978 Tony
King of the JTB arranged a board
meeting with Miller, as Peter Tosh's
manager, and sought to get the board
to participate in reggae tours by
following the itinerary of artistes in
order to promote Jamaica as a tourism
destination in Europe. This suggestion
fell on deaf ears. Interview with the
author, Kingston, Jamaica, 30 July
42. Abrahams, interview.
43. Burke, interview.
44. Coore, interview.
45. Vana Taylor (chair, Jamaica Association
of Villas and Apartments, former board
member, Tourism Product Development
Company), personal communication, 14
August 2004.
46. For a comprehensive treatment of the
history of Sunsplash, including the artistes
who appeared over the years, see Java
Immanuel-I, Reggae Sunsplash 1978-1998
(Philadelphia: Java Immanuel-I, 2009).

So Special, So Special, So Special



[African-Caribbean culture] exists not in a
dictionary but in the tradition of the spoken word.
-KAMAU BRATHWAITE, History of the Voice

within Jamaican music reflect the
music's cultural and community
significance. Elaborating on his
concept of 'nation language', Kamau
Brathwaite shows how "oral tradition
demands not only the griot but the
audience to complete the community".'
The relationship between griot and
community, the call and response
between the two, is particularly evident
in sound system culture, usually
consisting of a group of people who
prepare and present music for public
consumption. Indeed, the evolution
of Jamaican popular music, a widely
accepted guardian of African-Caribbean
culture, exists not necessarily on
record but in the tradition of live
performance. The unique practice of
dubplate recording and presentation
within sound system culture provides
an ideal point from which to examine
the trajectory of the spoken word in
popular culture as well as the links
between artiste and community.
The practice centres around the
re-recording of an existing song in
order to create a special, personalised
song for a particular radio deejay or
sound system selector (the person
who selects the songs for the sound
system). Dubplates are incorporated
into sound system competitions (called
sound clashes) and radio programmes,
or used independently to celebrate
a particular sound system, selector
or radio deejay. Like practically all
important developments in Jamaican
popular music, dubplates are the

product of sound system culture.
Driven by live performance and the
spoken word tradition, sound systems
are closely linked to African-Caribbean
nation language. At the same time,
dubplates are very much peculiarly
Jamaican, born out of distinct cultural
and technical developments specific to
the Jamaican experience.

Sound system culture first developed
around improvisation and exclusivity
of sound, or noise. In the 1950s, for
example, everyone knew V-Rocket
had the high-treble tone and Lloyd's
Hi-Fi owned "the heaviest sound
around".2 This is still true today,
as sound system owners are quite
sensitive to the so-called noise emitted
from their speaker boxes. Speaker box
and amplifier construction has always
been a detailed affair. Count C, a sound
system owner from the 1950s, is quick
to point out how it was the engineer
at the old Majestic Theatre on Spanish

Town Road who built Count C's tube
amplifier. Count C's son, Father Romie,
owner of Exodus Nuclear, which went
straight to the top of Jamaica's sound
system hierarchy in the 1990s, says
his system creates a half-moon shape
of sound. And Jamaican music in
general is known internationally for
its fat bass. Speaking to his theory of
nation language, Brathwaite wrote that
African-Caribbean culture is "based as
much on sound as it is on song...[I]f
you ignore the noise... you lose part
of the meaning."3 Familiarly referred to
as "sound men", sound system owners
literally embody the importance of
sound both to Brathwaite's nation
language and to Jamaican sound
system identity.
The noise of jazz and R&B provided
the initial tools, or ammunition, for
sound system operators in the 1950s,
who immediately began scratching the
labels off records brought back from
the USA so that competitors could not
'steal' the tunes. In his ethnography
of dancehall culture, Wake the Town
and Tell the People, Norman Stolzoff
notes that "finding exclusive tunes and
making sure that no one else could get
them became a constant pursuit".4 So
it was Count C's 'link' at Kingston's
wharf who ensured Count C would
be tipped off when American sailors
armed with American R&B were in
town. Tom the Great Sebastian, Count
C's contemporary, would try to connect
with the same sailors, albeit through
a different route the brothels sailors
frequented. Many songs even received
new Jamaican song names, reflecting



the seriousness with which music
exclusivity was treated at this early stage.
Technological developments such
as local record production and the
microphone provided new tools of
exclusivity and established novel,
critical links between the artiste and
the community. For example, the
microphone led to the emergence of
the deejay in the late 1950s and early
1960s. As the person who chats on
a microphone, the deejay signalled
a new type of exclusive vocal track
and a creative invitation to group
participation, a new method with which
the griot could, to use Brathwaite's
term, "complete the community". The
microphone "gave the voice reach and

agency", Clinton Hutton has noted.
"Without the microphone, there would
be no jive, no toasting."'And without
jive and toasting (that is, praising),
there would be no dubplate.
Count Matchukie, the 1950s deejay
and toasting pioneer, set a standard for
microphone use that is still very much
in practice today. Hutton reports how,
by weaving together I i'. aesthetic
traditions of Jamaican verbal arts...
influenced by the American radio disc
jockey, as well as the jazz and blues and
verbal expression of Black America",
Matchukie was able to "choreograph
Si.,-,,, 1-i., l i invements to the rhythm,
the beat, the sound .. ." And according
to Stolzoff, Matchukie's style

depended on the ability to
embody several different roles
(i.e., cheerleader, wisecracker
and jive talker) and voice
registers (i.e., talk, ri. and
high-pitched squeals). Men
such as Matchukie specialised
in speaking in several tongues:
from Queen's English to
Jamaican patois. Sometimes
these toasts were boastful,
satirical, or even nonsensical.7

Much earlier, in the 1920s, Helen
Roberts documented a similar

OPPOSITE PAGE Coun! Mailchukie
THIS PAGE Buining Spear


performance aesthetic in African-
Caribbean culture. Describing her
observations of Jamaican performance
artistes in the 1920s, Roberts noted "the
very general and marked ability to
mimic, the love of the spectacular, the
conscious strutting" which, according
to her analysis, demonstrate "the keen
appreciation of the comic and tragic"
and "the undisputed African heritage of
the Anansi stories"." Count Matchukie,
and other deejays like him, added not
only a vocal element but also a local
element to sound system culture, one
defined by African-Caribbean, as well
as Jamaican, notions of community and
engagement. The combination of vocal
and local elements would inform the
emergence of dubplate practice.
Sound systems in the 1950s and
1960s became a significant source of
national consciousness. According to
Hutton, "Socially, the sound system
became a centre pole phenomenon,
inciting and engendering creative

imagination, consciousness and
activism around which an unstated,
informal national movement
coalesced for aesthetic and ontological
gratification."9 A sound system, he
suggests, could not achieve such a
place in the community without a
"competitive DJ". Hutton notes that
"the sounds and styles of sound that
these sound systems generated became
the drawing card for the weekly mass
rituals that took place across Jamaica"..'
By employing the African-Caribbean
tradition of the spoken word, sound
systems and deejays placed themselves
in the position of completing the
community. Simply put by Matchukie,
"It was live jive and it really made
people feel happy!"" In effect, sound
systems placed themselves in the
position of making the critical link
between artiste and community.

The evolution of live vocal impro-
visation in tandem with microphone

use, like that made by Matchukie,
paralleled the technological and
aesthetic development of the industry.
With each new development a new,
corresponding improvisational style
emerged, creating a call-and-response
situation between form and function,
style and structure. Local record
production, which started in 1954 with
Ken Khouri's Federal Records, led to
the practice of 'testing' the market as
well as the accidental development of
the 'riddim', or rhythm, track two
developments that directly led to
dubplates. It is by no accident that the
root of the modern-day term 'dubplate'
is the phrase 'dub plate', referring
to the one-off recordings that early
Jamaican record manufacturers were
able to make on the spot. Constructed
of acetate, 'dub plates' were temporary
productions never meant for public
consumption. As Bunny Goodison,
owner of the foundation Soul Shack
sound system, told Stolzoff, "The
initial Jamaican stuff was strictly for
sound system purposes."1 Ken Boothe
explains how the ability to produce
these one-off recordings (dub plates) in
the 1960s influenced what was actually
released to the public. "You could take
a dub plate of the song, like you make
it today, and you make a dub of it and
you carry it to the dance and when you
see the reaction of the people how they
dance it, you know if the song going to
hit or not, when to release or what.""3
And it was King Tubby's engineer,
Byron Smith, who thought he had
made a serious mistake in 1968 when
he left the vocals off a song for sound
system owner Ruddy Redwood.
Despair turned to glee, however, when
Redwood found that the instrumental,
or riddim, track combined with
vocal improvisation would cause an
oversight sensation.
The arrival of the riddim track
(recorded on the dub plate) launched
the improvisational vocal styles
shared by artistes like King Stitt,
U-Roy and, later on, Yellowman.
The person working the turntable
would first play the vocal mix before
allowing the deejay to extemporise
on the same riddim, which came to
be known as 'part two'. All types of

theatre, drama, comedy, noises and
other ways of engaging the audience
extemporaneously would be devised
on the spot to fill these creative
spaces. Yellowman, a deejay on Aces
International sound system in the
1980s, remembers it this way:

What I used to do, I used to
deejay the lyrics to match the
vocal version. Like, Dennis
Brown would sing a song,
[Brown would] say, "Hold
on to what you got, hold on
to what you got." So I have
to find something quick.
Meanwhile that the vocal
version playing I thinking up
something, you know. That's
when the part two come. I
would say, "Hold up pon de
woman weh you got, hold up
pon de woman weh you got,
whether she white or whether
she black, whether she in her
pants or frock, hold up pon
de woman weh you got." You
know ... that's how I used to
do it.'4

Live deejaying on top of riddim
and vocal tracks offered those brave
enough the opportunity to showcase
their lyrical, improvisational and
critical thinking skills in a live, public
environment, an important filter for the
recording industry. Live performance
effectively revealed who the quick-
thinking artistes were. Yellowman
explains how some of his biggest hits
were actually standard lyrics he would
first deliver live:

Most of my songs I used to sing
at dance. "I'm Getting Married
in the Morning", I used to sing it
at dance. "Zunguzeng" I used
to sing at dance. "Mr Chin", I
used to sing it at dance. All my
songs, I used to sing it at dance
before I record it. So all the
producers used to come like
Sly and Robbie and people like
Gussie Clark, Junjo [Lawes],

THIS PAGE Ken Boothe

Black Scorpio, Jammy's, Tubby
all a dem used to come. They
would say, "Yellow, I like that
lyrics." They have the version
for it so I go on it.15

Much like Ken Boothe used to do
with one-off recordings, Yellowman
and his counterparts continued in
the context of the 'rub-a-dub' sound
system, that is, the format of a
selector pairing with an artiste who
extemporises on a riddim.'6 This was
a dynamic period for vocal c(r.11; it..
because of the incorporation of the
artiste/deejay on the microphone and
the special relationship between the
artiste and the sound system. Whether
in the 1950s or the 1980s, the popularity
of a sound system would rely as much
on the live vocal improvisation of the
deejay as the music the deejay chatted
along with. Live, improvised vocal
accompaniment became a defining
characteristic of musical presentation
and was critical to maintaining the

sound system as a "centre pole" of
consciousness, to use Hutton's term.
Sister Nancy, a female deejay from the
rub-a-dub era, compared the ability of
the rub-a-dub dance to complete the
community in comparison to a concert
performance (stage show). At a rub-a-
dub dance, she said,

you mingle with the crowd
and you rub shoulder to
shoulder with the people dem.
At stage show, you deh pon di
high mountain, they put you
pon this high place. You can't
touch somebody. You can't see
somebody, and the people is
far away from you. But [at a
dance] you mingle with people,
and that give you a special
vibes fi mingle with people.
Yeah. Fi real.'

According to Yellowman, deejays were
'assigned' to certain sound systems in

the 1970s and 1980s. While deejays
often worked with other, rival, sounds
on off-nights, the artiste and 'assigned'
sound system were identified with
each other. Figure 1 offers a short list of
sound systems and associated deejays.
The so-called exclusive relation-
ships between artistes and sound systems
served a similar purpose as Lloyd's
high treble, Matchukie's wisecracks
or records missing their labels. In each
case, they created exclusivity, raised
the profile of the sound system and
became a drawing card for people to
come together in a community fashion.
Deejays did their best to highlight these
special relationships by 'bigging up', or
-I ,; in,., their assigned sound system
in relation to all others. As the tradition
of 'toasting' in Jamaican music implies,
improvised, performed praising has
long been a characteristic of sound
system performance.
In West Africa, praise-singing,
according to Deborah Pellow, is
"a traditional form of oratory...
actually proclaiming another's name
to honour him/her". Praise-singers
have been noted for community
functions such as gender and class
mediator as well as guardian of
social norms.'" In Jamaican popular
culture, the deejay or vocalist fulfils a
similar function. Hutton, for example,
speaking of sound system sessions in
the 11ii-. and 1960s, equates sound
system sessions to Revival meetings
in which the deejay plays the role of
civic leader and Revival shepherd, a
role not lost on Count Matchukie. "In
my time," said Matchukie, "a DJ was
a man responsible for conduct and
behaviour, and what went on inside the
dancehall."'" On a similar note, Stolzoff
refers to ,hi .,,i li-p' as a form of
"paying homage".2"
The modern version of the dubplate
is essentially a modern-day praise-
song, developing out of the special
relationship between the artiste and
sound system. During the rub-a-dub
era, artistes, in order to fulfil their
obligation of ".'.i_, 4; up' their sound
relative to rival sounds, would record
'specials' for the use of their assigned

Sugar Minolt


Lone Ranger

lo,.i %\,ales Charlie Chaplin

Brigadier lerr,.

\\elirn Irn

Bohlb (ullure

Papa RlIrhle

King lamm\ s admirall Raile', C-hka Demus

Black Scorpio General Trees Sassalras

gces 'lllir rnan

FIGURE 1: 'Rub-a-dub sound systems in the 1970s/1980s and the
deejays .' to them

sound system only. Tenor Saw's "Ring But
the Alarm", for example, was a special their
recorded to big-up Sugar Minott's these
Youth Promotion sound system. And [the
Burning Spear's first hits, "Marcus sma
Garvey" and "Slavery Days", were wha
actually specials recorded for Jack call
Ruby. In these early examples of reco
specials, "Ring the Alarm" and '.1:i u.. Gav
Garvey" were recorded with an implicit that
understanding of the social capital at char
play. Much like white-label records Bro
or the deejay assigned to the sound put
system, specials employed the African- nan
Caribbean tradition of the spoken word char
and praise-singing in order to provide to si
an exclusive point of differentiation, a whe
basis with which to judge the merit of front
a particular sound system. Because the
recordings would be played only on
that particular sound system it was not Figure 2
necessary to mention the sound name dubplat
or selector.

Soul to Sol.l

Stir CG'.

lah Lo\e


lack Rub\

Studio 514

specials. Artistes reacted
to this clear economic
exploitation of their
intellectual property
by mentioning the
name of the sound in
the recording in order
to protect their own
economic interests.
Minott recalled:

Songs like [Barry
Brown's] "Far East",
[and] "Babylon ah
Mash Up My Life",
they were just dubs.
They wasn't real
songs. They was just
for sound systems.
the producer start putting
n out because he finds ...
e could sell. So what we
artistes] did, okay, you
rter than us, you know
it we gonna do, we gonna
the sound name on the
rd on dub. So now, Stur
the first sound that did
SWe say, "Stur Gav is the
mpion!" So me and Barry
wn start, like, you can't
that out, it has the sound
re. So that's how we get the
nge. Every song you have
ng about the sound, that's
're [dubplates] all start

wing Minott's explanation,
provides a perspective of the

Sugar Minott, a foundation reggae
singer, has noted that dubplates in their
current form custom recordings of
existing songs that include the name of
the sound and sound system selectors
- came about because producers
tried to subvert the 'special' nature
of specials: they began to release
specials commercially to the buying
public, a purpose for which they were
not intended. According to Minott,
dubplates as we know them today
were artiste-driven and evolved as a
way to prevent sound system owners
from pr .rnrig from the sale of one-off

Evd lusi- 4-.;s
1,411 ,ind I --, -- '.irophrne-

Deejays Early dub plate
1950s riddim track

Rub-a-dub Local record
1960s production

Specials _Economic
1970s competition


IGURE 2: Dubplate genealogy

Dubplates as we know them today
are very much like those described by
Sugar Minott consisting of riddim
track, artiste, lyrics, name of sound
system and selector. And like specials,
rub-a-dub and live deejays, dubplates
feature a familiar mix of characteristics
- such as exclusivity, praise, comedy,
Barrington "Barry G" Gordon,
aka "The Boogie Man", was the most
popular radio host in Jamaica in the
1980s and is probably the only person
who can claim to have a dubplate
recorded for him in the modern era that
became a worldwide hit. The song was
Ranking Toyan's "Spar Wid Me" (1982):

Tribute to the man called Barry
Tribute to the man called Barry
Jah me say come Barry Gardiner,
pack up di selection
Day nah light til the morning
Jah come pupa Toyan, nice up
radio station
Day nah light til the morning
Cuz you fi spar wid me, me
show you Barry G
Bubble with me, me show you
Barry G
Cuz people over the ocean, both
over the sea
Cuz one beer gal you have fi
bubble with me
Bubble with me say me have no

Bubble with me and me show
you Barry G
Spar with me, and me show
you Barry G
Cuz everyone a talk'bout him a
boogey man
Cuz everyone a talk 'bout him a
boogey man
Him chat pon radio station to
soothe everyone
You haffi spar with me, me
show you Barry G

"Spar Wid Me" was originally
performed live by Ranking Toyan
on Henry "Junjo" Lawes's Volcano
sound system on a night when Barry
G was a featured guest. Barry Gordon
remembers how "Toyan was paying
tribute to me. He was meeting this gu.
who he heard on the radio." Putting
the song on record was Junjo's effort
at praising Barry G. Lawes reportedly
told the deejay, "Bway, Barry G, yu no
know whey yu a do fi de music. We
love you." As Barry G would say later
"He did not know the commercial
value [of "Spar Wid Me"]. He did it o0
of respect.""2
"Spar Wid Me" accomplishes a
number of things for the artiste, the
deejay/ selector and the community.
The song notably praises, or 'bigs up',
Barry G as a champion selector and
top radio deejay in relation to all other
selectors or deejays. With his champion
status confirmed, Barry G maintains
his position as close to the centre pole
of national consciousness as
possible, a place where he can
"rub shoulders wid de people I
dem". Ably assisted by artistes
like Ranking Toyan, dubplates
effectively cement, or recreate,
Brathwaite's link between
artiste and community.
Ranking Toyan personally
benefits as well, because it is
likely that the song was played
regularly by Barry G as well as
other deejays once it became
available to the public.
Pink Panther, of the sound
system Black Kat, provides
a contemporary example of
how a dubplate recreates the
practice of testing the market. FI

Pink Panther points out how he, and
selectors like him, maintain the legacy
set decades earlier by Ken Boothe and
confirmed by Yellowman. "Because
everyone goes to the dances and all
those big parties, when you hear that
Panther play a new tune everyone
want to hear what is the new tune. So
I always have a couple artistes I am
trying to bust. I play them in clashes
so that all young sounds want to play
them and producers want to voice them
... the selector have a big part to play
in it. Just like the radio man."23 Panther
is careful to show how in the face of
pressure from radio, television and the
Internet, sound systems, and dubplates
in particular, maintain an approach
to music production and presentation
common throughout the history of
Jamaican popular music.

Today, dubplate versions of studio
recordings are also in high demand.
Figure 3 provides a lyrical comparison
of studio and dubplate recordings of
the song "Pressure Drop". The studio
version was originally recorded by
Toots and the Maytals in 1968 and
the dubplate was recorded by Toots
Hibbert for a sound system called
Green Lion in 2007.
Green Lion's dubplate was
recorded by Toots Hibbert in what
is known as 'killing style', one that
lends itself to competitive situations,
such as sound clashes. 'Killing style'

It is you
Oh yeah
It is \OU
Oh \eah

I sa. pressure drop, oh pressure
Oh \eah, pressure gonna drop on \ou
I sa\ pressure drop, oh pressure
Oh yeah, pressure gonna drop on you

And when it drops, oh Nou gonna feel it
Ho%\ much \ou \\as doing rong
And %,hen it drops, oh \ou gonna feel it
Ho%\ much \ou %,as doing % wrong

reflects a contemporary manifestation
of the dominant, aggressive nature
of sound system competition today.
Dancehall participants defend the use
of violent language in dubplates as
lyrical metaphors rather than a call
to arms. Uton Green, a dancehall and
reggae singer, for example, says, "In
sound business, sound system owner
love saying that they kill the next sound
system owner. In reggae terminology
is like, 'Yeah man yuh dead, I'm a
kill you.' It's not a physical death. It's
this sound playing a better song than
the other, so we now terms it as 'he
kill you', not a physical death, but
While the majority of dubplates
recorded for sound systems are based
on existing songs, the dubplate form is
versatile and artistes will often produce
one-of-a-kind recordings. The 'news
report' is one of the most common
alternative forms and usually has a
particular forum in mind to be used in
a sound clash or another performative
space, such as a radio programme. In
2005, at the Death Before Dishonour
sound clash in Montego Bay, Jamaica,
Black Kat Sound System played a fake
news report recorded by the artiste
Kandiman. The news report described
in detail, and in good (or grotesque)
humour the untimely deaths of Black
Kat's rivals that night. And in 2009,
again at Death Before Dishonour,
Mighty Crown played an exclusive
recording recorded by the comedic

It is \ou
Oh yeah
It is Nou sound bo,
Oh \eah

I said pressure drop. oh pressure drop
Pressure drop gonna drop on sound bo\
I said pressure drop. when Green Lion pla\
Pressure drop gonna drop on sound bo\

And %when it drop all you gonna say
Green Lion is the number one
I sa\ when it drop, you gotta sa\
Green Lion is the killing sound

GURE 3: "Pressure Drop"

Stuio erson Tots nd he aytls Puhl.iekcoidn,, TO)t,[1ihn

duo, Twins of Twins, which poked fun
at each sound as well as the emcee
for the night. The 'news report', like
the dubplate, reflects an emphasis on
imitating live performance as well as
notions of competition, comedy and
drama in an effort to win people to
your side.

The portability of dubplates (record
player, CD player, computer, car stereo,
iPod, Blackberry, and so on) effectively
allows reggae artistes to "proclaim
another's name to honour him or her"
anywhere in the world and in a way
that conforms to both popular and
folk traditions. As the West Indian
community in London or New York
can attest to, when played 'in foreign',
dubplates that mention Flatbush
Church (in Brooklyn) or Brixton
(in London) represent particularly
important connections to community
and group identity. Dubplates have
maintained their significance since

the 1980s because they preserve the
artiste's connection, or position, within
the community in multiple ways.
For example, dubplates maintain an
artiste's position in the dancehall.
Luciano, who is also known as "The
Messenger", explains,

I am still doing dubs because
doing dubs keep you always
in the dancehall. No matter
what happen, your songs
will always be played. It's a
good way of keeping yourself
[relevant] because sometimes
if a sound goes to a place and
has no dubs of the artiste, he
may not be prompted to play
any of your songs at all. So if
the sound has your dubs he is
prompted to play a song from
The Messenger and then a
dub from The Messenger, you
know. So it's a good way of
keeping yourself vibrant in the

Dubplates also support a social
structure in which everyday dancehall
participants from neighbourhood
singers looking for a'bust', to local
selectors seeking to showcase their
skills have the opportunity to engage,
negotiate and collaborate with people
who wield power in the community,
that is, the singers and players of
instruments. The links created in
the production and presentation of
dubplates reaffirm the links between
artiste and the community, as well
as reinforcing the strengths and
community relevance of both. Jaggy D,
an artiste who frequents Killamanjaro
studio (a dubplate studio) in Kingston,
highlights the subtle civic agency
of dubplates when he explains how
"Jaro a wi classroom".2 In effect,
Killamanjaro, where dubplates are
made, and where the relationships
between people in the community and
outside the community are developed,
prepares artistes and sound systems
for integration into the wider society.
Following Brathwaite, dubplates have
as much to do with the artistry of the
griot as they do with confirming the
importance of community.

The integral role of dubplates in sound
system competitions has contributed
to the lasting presence of dubplates in
popular culture. Whether it is Duke
Reid versus Sir Coxsone, or Black Kat
versus Trooper, clashing has been a
defining characteristic of the music
and a prime motivating force in the
development of dubplates. White-
label records, microphone techniques,
specials, rub-a-dub and dubplates have
all emerged from the tension between
sound systems. It is only recently that
competition between sound systems
has begun to decline. Competitions are
now a rare occurrence. While dubplates
are heard less and less on the streets
of Jamaica, they are popular among
Jamaican radio deejays, sound system
selectors and middlemen (those who
link local and foreign sound system
participants). Indeed, the increasing
popularity of sound system competition

Barry C

abroad has been critical to maintaining
dubplate production in Jamaica.
Regardless of the ebb and flow
of dubplate usage in Jamaica, it
remains a distinctly Jamaican cultural
phenomenon. The transnational
achievements of dubplates have not
translated into new aesthetic or cultural
development outside of reggae or
dancehall. Even hip hop, reggae's
closest relative, has declined to join the
dubplate game. Although hip hop and
pop artistes have recorded dubplates,
they have always been for a Jamaican
sound system, including sounds not
originally from Jamaica such as David
Rodigan (UK), Mighty Crown (Japan)
and hip hop artiste Wyclef Jean (USA).
A few examples include 50 Cent's
dubplates recorded for Mighty Crown,
Wyclef's "Whitney Houston Dub
Plate" and the combination "Dubplate"
recorded by country singer Kenny
Rogers and hip hop artiste Pharoah
Monch in which Kenny Rogers reprises
his hit "The Gambler" in dubplate

You got to know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away and
Know when to run

You got to count your dubplates
Before you touch the turntables
Because if you run out of
That means your sound is done

Both dubplates were included on
Wyclef's 2000 release, The Eleftic: Two
Sides II a Book (Columbia Records), the
same year Wyclef's sound won the
Fully Loaded sound clash, an annual
clash on the outskirts of Kingston,
Jamaica.27 And of course, Rodigan's
"Maria Maria" dubplate from American
pop star Santana is another memorable

From Jamaica's Ranking Toyan to
Japan's Mighty Crown, dubplates have
employed a familiar mix of inputs -
exclusivity, bigging up, comedy, drama,
and so on. As modem-day praise-
songs, they complete the community
and reconfirm the connection between
audience and performer. At each
step along the way, noise and lyrical-
based exclusivity and improvisation
have been critical in bringing people
together under the rubric of Jamaican
and African-Caribbean culture at

least since the 1940s. It is notable that
the dubplate form is one that has
survived almost three decades in a
culture that privileges constant creative
metamorphosis. While dubplates
emerged out of a unique African-
Caribbean tradition, the form is now
being carried forward with significant
input by non-Jamaican participants.
The fact that dubplates are being
used today in much the same way as
dubplates thirty years ago (and not
unlike the live, vocal progenitors of
dubplates before them) suggests their
form and function transcend cultural
and socio-economic norms. Uton Green
says the sound system has not lost that
role, and hints at how dancehall culture
is a modern interpretation of the same
African-Caribbean traditions to which
Kamau Brathwaite's nation language
speaks. "People used to gather together
and beat the drum, ya understand,"
Green explains, "but like the drum
[then] was like the sound system..
. because that's where the beat used
to come from. Right now the sound
system where the beat come from."28 "


1. Edward Kamau Brathwaite, History of the
Voice: The Development of Nation Language in
Anglophone Caribbean Poetry (London: New
Beacon Books, 1984), 18.
2. Mohair Slim; "The Untold Story of Jamaican
Music" (2001), http:// www.bluejuice.org.
au/untold_story_jamaican music.html
3. Brathwaite, History of the Voice, 17.
4. Norman Stolzoff, Wake the Town and Tell
the People: Dancehall Culture in Jamaica
(Durham: Duke University Press, 2000), 51.
5. Clinton Hutton, "Forging Identity and
Community through Aestheticism and
Entertainment: The Sound System and the
Rise of the DJ", Caribbean Quarterly 53, no. 4
(December 2007): 23-24.
6. Ibid., 23.
7. Stolzoff, Wake the Town, 56.
8. Helen H. Roberts, "Possible Survivals of
African Song in Jamaica", Music Quarterly
12, no. 3 (July 1926): 344.
9. Hutton, "Forging Identity", 17-18.

10. Ibid., 22.
11. Ibid., 24.
12. Stolzoff, Wake the Town, 58.
13. Ken Boothe, interview by author, Kingston,
Jamaica, 15 April 2008.
14. Yellowman, interview by author, Kingston,
Jamaica, 11 January 2007.
15. Ibid.
16. Although the term 'rub-a-dub' seems to
have been coined in the 1970s, I believe it
can be argued that this format goes back to
the 1960s.
17. Sister Nancy, interview by author, New
York, NY, 15 December 2006.
18. Deborah Pellow, "Male Praise-singers in
Accra: In the Company of Women."Africa,
22 September 1997, available at http:/ /
www.accessmylibrary.com /coms2/
19. Hutton, "Forging Identity", 24.
20. Stolzoff, Wake the Town, 175.
21. Sugar Minott, interview by author,

Kingston, Jamaica, 20 January 2008.
22. Mel Cooke, "Ranking Toyan invites JA to
Spar Wid Me", Gleaner, 9 December 2007;
available at http:/ /www.jamaica-gleaner.
com/gleaner/20071209/ ent/ent4.html
23. Pink Panther, interview by author,
Christiana, Jamaica, 5 January 2006.
24. Uton Green, interview by author, Kingston,
Jamaica, 8 January 2006.
25. Luciano, interview by author, Kingston,
Jamaica, 4 January 2006.
26. Jaggy D, interview by author, Kingston,
Jamaica, 9 January 2007.
27. Another dubplate Wyclef played that night,
"Human Nature" from Michael Jackson,
did not make the album and has been
accused of being a fake, a charge Wyclef
28. Uton Green, interview by author, Kingston,
Jamaica, 7 January 2006.

Long Live the King


Ralston Milton "Rex" Nettleford, OM


wisdom and love, made its last and
final beat on 2 February 2010 in
Washington, DC, under the stress of the
great love it has borne all these years
for the peoples who tenant this island
and the rest of the archipelagic chain.
Love has taken its final toll. Jamaica
grieves. The Caribbean mourns. A
greater and nobler love no one has.
Rex Nettleford died as he lived,
S.. li,. ... itil;. speaking, engaging,
asserting, imagining, creating, reaching
ever outward, searching for our space
and place in a world in which, as he
knew only too well, we either define
who we are or leave it to others all too

111-,. to put us in our place.
His reach was colossal, across
the continents of Europe, Africa
and the Americas, his search
relentless and detailed. Even as
he is positioning the Caribbean,
insisting on the humanity and
centrality of the African presence
in its definition, he is at work
excavating and validating that
presence in the creative intellect
and imagination. His main but by
no means only instruments were
the regional University of the West
Indies, his home; the National
Dance Theatre Company, which he
co-founded; the venerable Institute
of Jamaica, which he found,
saw and enriched; and the Edna
Manley College of the Visual and
Performing Arts, which he helped
to build.
He served as Chairman of the
Council of the Institute of Jamaica
from 1973 to 1981, guiding and
shaping its role as the country's
premier institution dedicated
to the preservation of that most
critical of faculties to the
human being as to a nation
- memory, through
which we
find and
a sense of identity.
In 1989, the Institute made him
a Fellow, an honour he was most
proud of and wanted to be known
by, appending "FIJ" behind his name.
But he was not content to bask in its
glow, but to exercise the right the
honour gave him to sit as a full-fledged
member of the Council. He missed
no meeting, save on account of travel
abroad or other duties, and remained

up to the Council's very last meeting
on 13 January 2010 a great source of
knowledge, wisdom and sobriety.
There is no replacing this great
heart. Others will come and beat with
great distinction, but none can replace
what we all have lost, if only because
his was unique, from the time it began
to the time it stopped at 20:00 hours
on the second day of February, a full
seventy-seven years.
The Institute of Jamaica regrets the
passing of Professor the Honourable
Rex Nettleford, Fellow of the Institute
of Jamaica. We extend condolences to
his -.:riii friends, colleagues and well-
wishers. .*


t o

The Power of Philosophy in

Bob Marley's Music


The power of philosophy
Floats through my head
Light like afeather
Heavy like lead.

anniversary of Bob Marley, instead of
doing the lecture scheduled for the
course on Jamaican popular music1
which I teach at the University of the
West Indies, Mona, I opted to give
a lecture on the significance of Bob
Marley's art. I began my lecture with
the words "Today Bob Marley is sixty
years old", and a number of students
interrupted me: "He would have been
sixty years old, sir."
This response immediately
changed the direction of my lecture
by providing me with an opportunity
to speak to ways in which a largely
designated informal, undervalued,
but real, existing Jamaican epistemic
culture, informed Bob Marley's mode
of thinking, knowing, constructing
meaning and signifying being. I said to
my students, "Yes, you are right. Bob
Marley would have been sixty years old
today, ifI were framing my statement
on him within the epistemic culture in
which you objected to my assertion."
But I was not speaking about Marley
within the same system of knowing,
thinking and reasoning as the students
who countered that he would have been,
instead of being, sixty years old.
I was speaking about Bob Marley
within the context of an epistemic
tradition that is largely African
diasporic. This tradition is assigned
a position of informality, obscurity
and inferiority in the hierarchical
epistemological terrain of Jamaica's
systems of thought and knowledge

construction. It was in this tradition of
thinking, knowing and constructing
meaning and reasoning that I spoke to
my students about Marley attaining
the age of sixty years and his notions of
being and agency.
An important aspect of Bob
Marley's epistemological profile is
rooted in this system of knowing. "Slave
Driver", a song on the Wailers' album,
Catch a Fire, is a classical example of the
expression of this tradition. In "Slave
Driver", Marley sings:

Every time I hear the crack of
the whip
My blood runs cold
I remember on the slave ship
How they brutalised our very

Here, we could argue in the logic of
the epistemological and cosmological
traditions which frame discourses at
the 'formal' or 'official' level, that Bob
Marley spoke/sang out of turn/tune.
He could not have heard "the crack
of the whip" for his blood to run cold
as a consequence, since he was born
in 1945, 107 years after slavery was
abolished in Jamaica and 138 years after
the abolition of the British trafficking in
Africans. For the same reason, he could
not have remembered being on the
slave ship, where the souls of Africans
were brutalised.
The same could be said of another of
Bob Marley's compositions, "Redemption
Song" on the Uprising album:

Old pirates, yes, they rob I
Sold I to the merchant ships
Minutes after they took I
From the bottomless pit
But my hand was made strong
By the hand of the Almighty
We forward in this generation

Here too, the counter-narrative was
that Marley could not have been stolen
(robbed), locked away in a dungeon
(bottomless pit) and then transported
into slavery where he/diasporic
Africans eventually triumphed in the
postcolonial generation of black people.
The way of thinking, knowing,
constructing meanings and conversing
in which Bob Marley composed and
sang "Slave Driver" and "Redemption
Song" was not unique to Marley, but
was reflective of an epistemic tradition
rooted in the agency and cultural
ethos of enslaved Africans and their
descendants. The words of Burning
Spear "Do you remember the days of
slavery / Do you remember the days of
slavery / And they beat us/And they
work us so hard" in the song "Slavery
Days" should be seen in this light. So,
too, the words of Toots and the Maytals'
song "Never Get Weary":

I was walking on the shore
and they took me in the ship
And they throw me overboard
And I swam right out of the
belly of the whale
And I never get weary yet


They put me in jail and I did
not do no wrong
And I never get weary yet.

In this system of knowing, the
world of the living and the world of
the ancestor constitute the African
community. Here the living and the
ancestors (the living dead) reside in a
state of reciprocal interconnectedness
in the struggle to becomee)2 The
songs of Marley, Burning Spear, and
Toots and the Maytals cited above are
reflective of a deep African diasporic
tradition of an open-ended culture
of rituals expressing this reciprocal
In Bob Marley's framing of this
issue, he is his ancestors and his
ancestors are him, an important
conception of being in Marley's
ontology.3 That was how he could have
been robbed, placed in a bottomless
pit, sold to the merchant ship into
enslavement and "forward in this
generation triumphantly". That was
why he could still sing, "Every time I
hear the crack of the whip / My blood
runs cold / I remember on the slave

ship / How they brutalised our very
And so, in the logic of Marley's
reasoning, history is not just the
recording, articulation and narration of
past events, but an evolving presence
- the presencing of an .1i .'i,. an
evolving existentialism rooted in an
evolving familial/lineal agency. In this
epistemic, cultural and ontological
terrain, the meaning and application of
time observed in my students' assertion
that Boy Marley would have been, instead
of being, sixty years old is problematic.
Time in the African diasporic mode
of knowing, like Marley's cosmological
trod (for freedom) in "Redemption
Song" and "Slave Driver", is the
expression of a flowing/evolving extant
presence, in which the ancestor is often
spoken of and seen in the present tense.
Every time a libation is consciously or
subconsciously poured in simple rituals
across Jamaica, at the commencement
of the consumption of alcohol the
presence of the ancestor is being
acknowledged. Every time the more
complex feasting rituals are performed

in Kumina and Revival,4 the presence
of the ancestor is being acknowledged.
And every time someone dreams
about a deceased person, or, as it is
usually expressed, a deceased person
"dreams" a living person, the extant
living presence of the living dead is
acknowledged. These three examples
and others denote the extant living
presence and agency of the ancestor in
the black community.
And who is this ancestor, this living
dead in the cosmological terrain in
which "Slave Driver" and "Redemption
Song" are framed? In Jamaica, the
ancestor is called a dopi. So too in
Barbados and Tobago; while in Trinidad
and Guyana the word junbi(e) is more
often used to denote the ancestor. In
Haiti he or she is called bonanj; in Cuba
the word used is ori. The dopi/jumnbi(e)/
bonanj/ori is nothing but the double
of the physical person, who separates
from the physical person when he or
she dies. Put another way, the ancestor
is the perpetual existence of the spirit
person who is released from the
physical person on the occasion of his

or her physical demise. While death
causes the permanent release of the
spirit person from his or her physical
abode, it is to be noted that during a
person's physical lifetime his or her
spirit can be temporarily released in
rituals allowing for the possession of
that person by ancestral and deifical
spirits. Spirit possession cannot take
place without the temporary release
of the personality soul. With the
enactment of appropriate funeral
rituals by the living for the deceased,
the spirit is ushered into its proper
location within the African diasporic
In the belief system which informed
the creation of "Slave Driver",
"Redemption Song", "Slavery Days"
and "Never Get Weary", a person is
made up of two component parts or,
two of the same person exist as one
in two different forms. There is the
physical person who is visible and
mortal. Then there is the spirit person,
the double of the physical person who
resides in the temporal body of the
person. The spirit person is invisible,
has immortal qualities, and is endowed
with enhanced power and agency after
the death of the physical person.
This spirit person is the god essence
of a person or the god in the person.
Many Jamaicans refer to the spirit
person or personality soul simply as
their spirit, which for them is endowed
with special powers of forewarning,
guiding them and engendering in
them the capacity for intuition and
enhanced metaphysical power. It is not
uncommon for many a Jamaican to say,
"Mi spirit cyaan tek l.-ir rp.. -.. or "Mi
spirit tell mi sey fe noh waak down dat
road", or any variation thereof.
One such variation is found in Bob
Marley's song "I Know". In this song
of faith and fortitude, Marley tells his
spirit, or what he calls his "soul", to
be courageous because the battle to
become) against the system, which has
been tossing and driving the oppressed
like a ship battered by the angry sea,
must be won.

OPPOSITE PAGE Clinton Hutton, The I in the I: The
Physicality and Metaphysicality of Self, 2010
THIS PAGE Clinton Hutton, The Power of Philosophy
Floats in My Head, 2010

Many a time I sit and wonder
This race so, so very hard to run
Then I say to my soul
Take courage
Battle to be won.

This soul, this spirit, the inner I
of I and I in Rastafari metaphysics,
is the agency of courage as well as of
f,.,r._ i .-,Irni',ii intuition, knowledge
and freedom. And this struggle for
freedom was extraordinarily difficult
because slavery, as well as the rituals
of its making and maintenance, was so
dystopianly brutal that it affected more
than the physicality of the enslaved. For

Marley, for the Wailers, it affected the
very souls or spirits of the Africans: "I
remember on the slave ship / How they
brutalised our very souls."
The death of the physical person,
or of the temporal abode of the spirit
person, releases the spirit person, who
becomes the dopi/ijumbi(e). Indeed,
it was this release through death
that became the cosmological basis
of African diasporic freedom. This
freedom which emanated from death
and funeral rituals in the culture
of enslaved Africans I refer to as
repatriational freedom, since it was
predicated on the spirit going back to

Africa." This repatriational freedom is
the mother of all categories of African
diasporic freedom. That is to say, it is
from repatriational freedom that all
other categories of freedom sprang.
It was only through the agency of
death freeing or releasing the spirit
person from his or her enslaved body
that many Africans felt that they
could transmigrate. The following
funeral dirge, sung by Africans in
bondage in Jamaica at least since the
eighteenth century, is a good example
of a philosophical narrative on
repatriational freedom:

Oh! De broder is dead and cold
Oh/! Him better aff dan all ob
Him lef in dis strange lan'
Oh! Aldo we see him baddy
Oh! We know him 'pirit
Gone back to him own home
In Africa
No mo' slabe driber wip fe him
Only home, an' lub ones, ober
Oh him gone to the lan' him
Oh! The great big ship of death'
will carry
Him safe to him far off home
Oh! Aldo we grieb an' mourn
Oh! We know him 'pirit
Gone back to him own home

In Africa
No mo' slabe driber wip fe him
Only home, an' lub ones, ober

The words of the classic
Abyssinians anthem "Satta Massagana"
are shaped by this repatriational
freedom tradition: "There is a land far,
far away / Where there is no night /
There is only day / Look into the book
of life and you will see / That there
is a land far, far away / That there
is a land far, far away." Through the
influence of the Revival/Garveyite/
Rastafari tradition, this expression
of freedom became a main theme in
Jamaican popular music, especially
during the classical period of reggae
between 1968 and 1981. Songs in this
category include Ra1tanmr, Chant" by
the Wailers, "Rivers of Babylon" by the
Melodians, "Move Outa Babylon" by
Johnny Clarke, "Dreamland" by Bunny
Wailer, "Exodus" by Bob Marley and
the Wailers, "The Border" by Gregory
Isaacs, "The Promised Land" by Dennis
Brown, "Got to Go Back Home" by Bob
Andy, and "Black Star Liners" by Fred
The ancestral repatriational
freedom theme or philosophy not
only played a significant role in the
shaping of narratives of freedom
in the age of the Civil Rights and

Black Power movements in the USA,
the national liberation struggles in
Africa and postcolonial struggles
for black sovereignty and justice
in Jamaica. Ancestral wisdom and
aesthetic signatures located in the
aquifer of Jamaican proverbs and in
ancient Jewish wisdom and Psalmist/
proverbial poetics found in the Blt, i
then framed and used in the tradition
of the Jamaican proverbs and shaped
by a liberation theology founded by
enslaved Africans, also shaped the
philosophical and aesthetic expressions
of freedom, identity, faith and fortitude
in reggae music. In the framing and
articulation of this ethos in reggae
music, Bob Marley played a leading role.
In the cathedral of his thought,
Marley refers to philosophy as a mode
of power in its own right, a mode of
power that is so profoundly liberating
in the ontological and epistemological
ordering and locating of self, that
it floats through his head light as a
feather in its simplicity of knowing and
understanding, and heavy as lead in
its complexity and profundity.9 Marley
differentiates this kind of philosophy
from what he calls "devil philosophy",0
the ideation system of Babylon."

ON THESE PACES Bob Marley in performance,
Montreal. 1978

Babylon is the sociopolitical
and economic system created by
European elites for the enslavement
and colonial or neo-colonial subjection
of non-Europeans in general, and
Africans in particular, on the basis
of an assumed inherent racial,
spiritual, epistemological, intellectual,
technical and aesthetic superiority of
Europeans over non-Europeans. It is
this philosophy of racial superiority
and its internalisation by the oppressed
which Marcus Garvey pronounces as
mental slavery, and which Bob Marley,
in a counter-epistemic charge, urged
Africans in colonial and postcolonial
societies to emancipate themselves from
in the 1970s, as Garvey urged blacks to
do in the early twentieth century."
The weaving of the African as
a social being endowed with the
signatures of self-contempt, self-erasure
and supplication to whiteness remains
a critical issue in the African diasporic
philosophy of being and in the extent
to which blacks are free and sovereign
from the ritualised, acquired racist
physicality and metaphysicality that
attempted to shape their existence. The
central ontological question, "Who am
I?" with its attendant charges, "Know
thy self" and "To thy self be true" is

expressed in various rituals
(including repossessionn
rituals)"1 affirming the presence
and reciprocal relationship
L, r. een the ancestors and the living.
Sla.'e Driver" and "Redemption
Song" are an epistemological and
cosmological reflection of this system of
African diasporic ontological rituals.
In alluding to the African ancestral
roots of knowing, being and freedom in
his worldview and agential ethos, the
Reggae King asserts metaphorically in
"One Drop":

So feel this drumbeat as it
beats within
Playing a rhythm
Resisting against the system...
So feel this drumbeat as it
beats within
Resisting against ism and
I know Jah will never let us

The genius of Bob Marley and his
authenticity are in his ability to discern
and express 1 i ic.ll, the aesthetic,
emotional, linguistic ethos, vision and
aspiration of the common folk in a
simple way. -*


1. The course to which I refer is GT23M,
"Jamaican Popular Music, 1962-1982: Roots
Lyrics as Socio-Political and Philosophical
Text" offered by the Department of
Government, University of the West Indies,
2. For more, see Clinton Hutton, The Logic and
Historical .. ...... .t Flhe Haitian Revolu-
tion and the Cosmological Roots of Haitian
Freedom (Kingston: Arawak, 2005).
3. Peter Tosh's version of this conception of
being is noted thus, in the song "Mystic
Man": "Cause I am a man of the past / And
I am a 1 I .. ,, the present / I'. -il r,. ri the
4. For more on the less complex and more
complex feeding rituals, see Clinton Hut-
ton, "Revival Tables: F.. .i- i ;rI- the
Ancestors and the Spirits", Jamaica journal
32, nos. 1-2 (August 2009): 18-31.
5. For more, see Hutton, Logic.
6. Ibid.
7. Cited in Astley Clerk, The Music and Song-

words of Jamaica, no. 3 t.n, -!,.., 1934), 4.
See also my comments on this song in Hut-
ton, "Revival Tables", 28.
8. Some ci.,- .. j :*. .-.. F' i. r,.J, and faith
include Peter Tosh's "I Am That I Am" and
"Rastafari IS", and Bob Marley and the
Wailers' "Forever Loving Jah", "1 Know"
and "Give Thanks and Praises".
9. See the words of Boy Marley's song "Misty
Morning" on the Kaya album (Island, 1978).
10. See the words of Bob Marley's song "One
Drop" on the Survival album (Island, 1979).
11. Bob Marley likens Babylon to a vampire,
"sucking the blood of the sufferers"
("Babylon System" on the Survival album),
a system whose creators and keepers
"made their world so hard / ... Every day
the people are dying / From hunger and
starvation" ("One Drop" on the Survival
12. This charge to think outside the confines of
the -i .i. i .. il',,-i ; ,, and knowing of the
agency of enslavement, colonialism and

neo-colonialism and, in some instances, to
apply this to the education system, can be
found in a number of reggae songs. They
include "400 Years" by Peter Tosh (and the
Wailers), "In a Dis Yah Time" by the Itals,
"Redemption Song" by Bob Marley and the
Wailers, and "Poor Slave" by Jimmy Cliff.
13. See Clinton Hutton, "Repossession: The
.. i,,,,,r, .. ..- I1 :. Journeying into
Ancestral Ontologies", an unpublished
i ,,.t n ,ro... ihr....'s March-April 2010
exhibition '. ;,ir;,L Repossession, at the
Sir Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative
Arts, University of the West Indies, Mona,
Jamaica. Also see Clinton Hutton, "The
Creative Ethos of the African Diaspora:
Performance Aesthetics and the Fight for
Freedom and Identity", Caribbean Quarterly
53, nos. 1-2 (March-June 2007): 134-38.

All photos of Bob Marley Dale Kevin Robinson,

Chris Blackwell


HOWARD C -1 !-l

president Chris Blackwell was on top of
the world. Acts like the Spencer Davis
Group and Jimmy Cliff had helped
make the London-based company
become, arguably, the music business's
most formidable independent record

That December, Blackwell had
a chance meeting with the Wailers,
a promising but struggling reggae
group from the slums of Trench Town,
Jamaica. What transpired would
guarantee him his place among the
great dealmakers in music history,
alongside Sun Records' Sam Phillips

and Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic Records.
Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny
Livingstone (later Wailer) strolled into
Island's Basing Street offices in
London. They had come to Britain
weeks earlier with their American
benefactors, impresario Danny Sims
and singer Johnny Nash, but were left

to fend for themselves when the two
men returned to New York on urgent
business. Blackwell was introduced to
the Rastafarian trio by Brent Clarke,
a Trinidadian who was active in the
London music scene. Blackwell, in
a 2009 interview with the Gleaner,
recalled that first meeting. "They
looked like they just walked straight
out of The Harder They Come," he said.'
Blackwell agreed to put up the funds
for the Wailers to record their debut
album for Island. The album Catch a Fire
was released in 1973, and while it was
not a big seller, it caught the attention
of underground music followers with
its raw, edgy sound. Blackwell was not
surprised at the response to the group
and their fiery brand of reggae. "They
were nobodies but they were like huge
stars, their attitude and the vibe that
they gave off," he told British music
insider Garry Steckles, who interviewed
him for his book, Bob Marley.2
The Wailers line-up of Marley, Tosh
and Livingstone would record one
more album for Island before Tosh
and Livingstone departed. Blackwell
took the opportunity to market the
light-skinned, dreadlocked Marley
as reggae's first superstar. "He had
something special. I thought I could
position Bob as the Jimi Hendrix of
reggae," Blackwell recalled.3
By 1974 when Island released his
Natty Dread album, Marley was a bona
fide star, hailed by big pop names like
George Harrison, Stevie Wonder and
Carlos Santana. Rolling Stone and Time
magazines had feature-length stories
on him. Marley had the full support of
Blackwell, and that support counted
for a lot.
Yet a mere ten years earlier,
Blackwell had been selling records
from the trunk of his car in London.
Chris Blackwell had started Island
Records in Kingston in 1959, but
moved operations to London three
years later. In May 2009, the music
industry magnate would celebrate the
company's fiftieth anniversary with

OPPOSITE PAGE Chris Blackwell in the Blue Mountains,
THIS PAGE, FROM TOP Coxsone Dodd, Bob Marley,
Cat Stevens

week-long activities that culminated
with a celebratory show at London's
Shepherd's Bush Empire. A number of
the acts once signed to Island, including
Ernest Ranglin, Toots and the Maytals,
Third World, Aswad, Steel Pulse, Sly
and Robbie, Grace Jones, English singer
Cat Stevens, and Irish supergroup U2,
Without Blackwell's vision, it is
doubtful reggae would have taken
off the way it did in the 1970s. The
Island catalogue is packed with some
of the best albums the music has to
offer, headed by Marley's legendary
recordings, Burning Spear's Marcus
Garvey (1975), Bunny Wailer's Blackheart
Man (1976) and Third World's Journey
to Addis (1978). They are complemented
by the soundtrack to The Harder They
Come, the 1972 low-budget movie that
helped introduce reggae to a world
Many reggae buffs believe that the
fact that Blackwell grew up in Jamaica
was one main reason he was able to
break ska and reggae acts, particularly
in Europe. Blackwell was born in
London, the son of an Irish father
and Jamaican mother. His maternal
relatives, the Lindos, were Portuguese
Jews who first came to Jamaica in the
eighteenth century to escape religious
persecution in Europe. They excelled
in commerce, settling in Falmouth, a
thriving port town in Jamaica's western
region. The family eventually set up a
business base in the picturesque seaside
town of Oracabessa, St Mary; once the
hub for Jamaica's banana industry, it
was where British author Ian Fleming
owned a home and wrote the first
James Bond novel. Blackwell grew up
there, and still owns prime property in
that area.
Blackwell learnt his business skills
in Jamaican tourism. As a youth, he
spent a lot of time at the swanky Terra
Nova Hotel in Kingston and taught
water sports at the famous Half Moon
Hotel just outside of Montego Bay.
It was at the Half Moon that Island's
first album Lance Heywood at the
Half Moon was conceived (1960). In
1962, Blackwell relocated to London,
where he established Island as a
leading distributor of Caribbean music

to Britain's growing West Indian
The fledgling label's big break came
two years later with the ska ditty "My
Boy Lollipop", by singer Millie Small,
which entered the British and American
pop charts. It sold millions of copies
and gave Blackwell the leverage to
hold his own in Britain's competitive
independent record network. "It
transformed us from a small company
that distributed records to one that
could make hit records. That song
opened doors for us," Blackwell said.4
"My Boy Lollipop" was followed by
a series of well-received songs from
Wilfred "Jackie" Edwards and Jimmy
Island grew during the 1960s with
the rise of the Spencer Davis Group
(led by a young singer named Steve
Winwood) and the hard-hitting folk
singer Cat Stevens. By the time he
signed the Wailers, Blackwell was a
mill11 i. .n,,; and Island was a respected
independent, as successful as Motown
and Stax in the United States.
Marley became Island's flagship
performer. He was not a mega seller
like R&B or rock performers during

the I '-,- h. but his tours were sold out
and he was a hero to rebels in the war-
torn countries of Central America and
After Marley's death from cancer
in 1981, Island continued to thrive.
Blackwell signed the Irish rock band
U2, which became one of the top-selling
acts of all time; American rock singer
Melissa Etheridge, another major star of
the 1990s, was signed later that decade.
Reggae-wise, Black Uhuru, driven by
Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare's
Taxi production c imp im, released
critically acclaimed albums and
performed to standing-room-only halls
throughout Europe during the 1980s.
But when he sold the company to
Polygram Records for over US$300
million in 1989, Blackwell retired from

the daily grind of the
music industry. In 1995, he
launched Island Jamaica
Records to break new
reggae stars such as Beenie
Man, Spanner Banner and
Luciano, but though the
albums were generally
strong, sales were poor.
Blackwell fared better in
film, funding the 1995
sleeper hit Dancehall Queen.
Blackwell has his
share of critics, such as
the militant Tosh, who
consistently accused
him of exploitation and
unceremoniously dubbed
him "Chris Whiteworse",
because "he isn't black and
he isn't well".5
Don Taylor, Marley's
former manager, was
also not a Blackwell
fan. In his 1995 tell-all
book Marley and Me,6 he
portrayed Blackwell as a
greedy businessman who
behaved no differently
from other independent
record company executives
such as Motown's Berry
Gordy. Like Gordy,
Blackwell sold Island for
a hefty sum. While he did
not walk away from the
music business entirely,
the savvy Island founder
did take advantage of the
opportunity to concentrate
on other interests.
Former Third World
keyboardist Ibo Cooper,
recounting that Blackwell
signed Third World when
they were unknowns and
put them on the bill as

a supporting act for the
Wailers on their historic
gig at London's Lyceum
Theatre in the summer of
1975, admitted there were
cultural problems with
Blackwell, but pointed to
many positives during
Third World's association
with Island, which yielded
six albums. "Business-wise
he did us no wrong. He
allowed us a lot of creative
freedom," Cooper said.7
When the great music
producers of reggae are
discussed, arch-rivals
Clement "Coxsone" Dodd
and Arthur "Duke" Reid
are usually hailed as the
best. Unlike Dodd and
Reid, Blackwell never had
a presence in Jamaica's
dancehalls where many
of the icons got their start.
Dodd and Reid also helped
nurture the careers of
some of Jamaica's greatest
musicians, including
Marley and Alton Ellis.
Yet, for all their grassroots
'cred', from a sales and
marketing standpoint
they never made a major
mark internationally. Chris
Blackwell did, and thanks
to that, reggae is the better
for it.

well with (I-r) junior Marvin, Bob
Marley and Jacob Miller; Blackwell
with Mick /agger; Millie Small
THIS PAGE, FROM TOP Dickie lobson,
Countryman and Chris Blackwell
on the set of the film Countryman;
Chris Blackwell with British reggae
group Aswad at Island Recorlds
London office; Ihicd World


1. Chris Blackwell, interview with the
author, in "PSOJ Hall of Fame", Gleaner,
22 October 2009.
2. Garry Steckles, Bob Marley: A Life
(Northampton, MA: Interlink Books,
2008). 96.

Blackwell, interview.
Steckles, Bob Marley, 112.
Don Taylor, Marley and Me: The Real Story
- As Told to Mike Henry (Kingston/Fort
Lee, NJ: Kingston Publishers/Barricade

Books, 1995; LMH Publishing, 2001).
7. Ibo Cooper, interview with the author,
in "Island Records and the Jamaican
Connection", Gleaner, 21 May 2009.

Alight from the West




When news broke of the possibility of
the removal of Bob Marley's remains
from Jamaica to Ethiopia, it created
a national debate. Who would have
thought that Marley the iconic Rastafari
social rebel/outcast could have so risen
to be claimed as a favourite Jamaican
son? Most Jamaicans now seem con-
vinced of Marley's outstanding contri-
bution, so much so that he may be fast
on the way to attaining some type of
popular sainthood.
The Marley mystique extends far
beyond Jamaica and the Western-based
African diaspora, and has gone full
circle to anchor itself among the people
of Ethiopia, a nation claimed by Rasta-

fari in general and Marley in particular
as home. As in Jamaica, Bob Marley has
emerged as a hero in Ethiopia, and his
image and music have been embraced
by that population with a genuine na-
tional pride. Indeed, the Marley spirit
of devotion to the human cause, and
the ideas of love of country and creator
that he expressed, mirror stories from
Ethiopian folk and religious lore. In
particular Marley has been compared
to the famous Ethiopian saint Yared,
who established the musical composi-
tion of the Ethiopian Orthodox faith
almost two thousand years ago. In
southern Ethiopia, in Shashamane, the
land granted to Africans abroad, there
is a Bob Marley billboard marking the

entrance of the region where Rastafari
have settled, and a stadium is under
construction which will bear his name.
Further, discussions have been held
about erecting a statue to honour the
singer in Ethiopia, making more con-
crete the presence of Marley within this
landscape that seems almost unmarked
by the awareness that he was born in
the West.
Bob Marley, Rastafari philosophy
and livity are fast becoming, for
Africans, a means of breaking mental
chains and bringing closure to the
process of decolonisation or African
liberation. The word "Rastafari", used
as a name for the movement inspired
by the Ethiopian Emperor, developed

out of the combination
of two Amharic words:
"Ras", a title given
to a prince or noble
translated to mean
"head", and "Tafari",
a given name meaning
"creator" or "one to
be feared". By virtue
of the transatlantic
worldview of the
movement (i.e., its
source of inspiration
being Ethiopia and
its operational locus/
impact and celebrants
being located in the
West, in Jamaica and
the African diaspora),
Rastafari from its
inception could be
seen to have an inbuilt
international potential
and appeal. This
should be credited
to the wisdom and
insights of its very
first preacher, Leonard
Howell, who laid a foundation that
has remained intact up to today.2 This
foundation related to championing
the cause of Africans wherever they
found themselves. Howell brought
news of the Great War (World War
I) as the signal for the start of British
relinquishment of colonial authority
over Africans, and of the new emperor
of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie I, as the
redeemer king, deliverer of a new
prosperity for Africans at home and
abroad. Approximately one generation
later (1950s-1960s), after successive
encounters with the police and
incarceration in the mental asylum,
Howell was overshadowed, and the
expression of Rastafari became more
urban and focused on a new young
and militant, warrior-minded youth,
with the identity of the dreadlock
taking primacy. Individuals such as
Ras Gorgan, Prince Emanuel, Porro
and Dermanite, Bongo Watto or Ras
Boanerges, Mortimo Planno, Sam
Brown, Count Ossie and Prophet Gad
were among the emergent young


In the decade before Bob's rise to fame,
Mortimo Planno was the first dread-
locked Rastafarian to assume a position
as an ambassador/ plenipotentiary of
the faith. Planno, through a range of
strategies, pursued the means to devel-
op the Rastafari-Ethiopia bridge.3
When the Government of Jamaica
decided to send a mission to Africa to
look into the prospects for repatriation,
this represented one of the movement's
greatest accomplishments by way of
breaking the silence of slavery. Sym-
bolically Rastafari became the memory
of slavery/ anti-slavery as well as the
vision of African redemption by way
of its championing of the cause of repa-
rations for Africa's damages. The need
for a mission to Africa arose out of the
advocacy of the Rastafari brethren who
had approached the University of the
West Indies to conduct a study of the
movement. The outcome of the study
was a report which recommended,
among other things, a mission to visit
several countries of Africa, and seek
permission for Jamaican immigration.4

Among the members
of the mission were
three Rastafari brethren,
Douglas Mack, Phil-
more Alvaranga and the
sole dreadlocked war-
rior, Mortimo Planno.
This mission represent-
ed the first exposure of
the Jamaican Rastafari
to the international
community. On that
tour the Rastafarians
used the opportunity
to teach the new faith
as well as to update
various Jamaican com-
munities abroad on the
status of the Back-to-
Africa movement (as it
was commonly known).
Planno by the late 1960s
had accumulated a
number of influential
students internationally,
r,_ while he increasingly
-'i '\ focused on document-
ing and recording his
experiences through a
range of writings, paintings and songs.
The Jamaica/ Africa link with Ras-
tafari was established by the early
leaders as an outgrowth from Garvey's
teachings and the Ethiopian emperor's
appeal for help from Africans abroad
in solving the continent's problems.6
This has been the message transmitted
to each generation as the elder-teachers
of the faith have sought to ingrain the
vision of Africa as the active work of
the movement. It has been approached
within the movement through a range
of strategies: Nyabinghi chanting of
Africa and repatriation; self-preparation
by learning the Amharic language;
trods, tours or visits to the continent
and Ethiopia as missions; organisation-
funded re-settling of families and in-
dividuals in Ethiopia/Africa; and the
development of informal trading and
political networking between Rasta-
fari and the African continent.7 Within
Rastafari, being reconnected to Africa

OPPOSITE PAGE Marley billboard outside Shashamane
THIS PAGE Visit of H.I.M. Emperor Haile Selassie to
Jamaica, 1966. To his left is Mortimo Planno.

through one's own experience and
seeking its unity emerge as a progres-
sive vision. By participating in vari-
ous missions to Africa between 1961
and 1979, the elders Mortimo Planno,
Philmore Alvaranga, Sam Clayton and
Douglas Mack helped to develop the
channels required for further develop-
ment of the repatriation process. These
individuals provided the philosophical
inspiration that would later significant-
ly explode with the works of Bob Mar-
ley and reggae musicians in general.
It was during Planno's last of
three visits to the continent in 1979, in
Nigeria, that an important seed was
sown, directly linking the dialogue
between Nigerian youths and the
Rastafari's chief emissary Bob Marley.

The Rastafari were able to capture the
captivity, longing and experience of
exile in Jamaica within the expression
of musical anthems. As a new brand of
revolutionary pan-African leaders, they
were able to develop a language and
medium to "chant down Babylon" by
transforming their experience of hard-
ship into musical inspiration. Bob Mar-
ley rose to international prominence
from a background of being schooled in
the Rastafari experience, but belonging
to the post-Independence generation
of Rastafari youth leaders; and from
this generation revolutionary reggae
music emerged as a medium for break-
ing the silence imposed by slavery and
colonialism and as the way to bring
liberation to the people. According to
Mortimo Planno, who was Marley's
tutor and mentor, Bob was groomed as
a type of "Rastafari Bishop, within the
chess match to ensure that the Black
King don't get checkmate".8 In Marley,
therefore, was the fusion of religious/
political practitioner and pop hero.
Marley had caught the attention of
some youth internationally, particularly
those who had heard of the Rastafari
movement and its music. The year 1979
saw a major expansion of Rastafari
socio-economic linkages, particularly
as it related to Marley's work. By that
time Bob had built himself a new studio
(Tuff Gong), had viewed 'Zion' and
walked the routes of Emperor Haile

Selassie I in Ethiopia, and had had
counsel with Zimbabwean freedom
fighters. Marley's next album was
to benefit from these experiences,
starting a purposeful growth in his
lyrical conversation with black people
worldwide and opening up especially
the awareness of the movement in
Planno's trip to Nigeria in 1979
was partly sponsored by a Nigerian
high court judge, Bankie Forester
Bankie, and Bob Marley. Bankie had
visited Planno in Jamaica in 1976
seeking to recruit reggae acts for the
Second African Festival of Arts and
Culture (FESTAC).9 He had not been
able to attract Bob Marley at that time
(however, Jimmy Cliff took up the
invitation). Bankie hosted Planno in
Nigeria and arranged for meetings with
Nigerian youths to share the Rastafari
faith. Planno was given an interview
in the Nigerian magazine Spear,'0
which proved critical in providing a
framework for fans and Rastafari youth
to connect with Jamaican Rastafari /
reggae icons." One such fan wrote Bob
as follows:

Do you know that your Rasta
reggae music has become a
music of life remembered of
Black Africa, Southern Africa,
Apartheid, Massacre. Your
latest music "Survival" had
rock niggers wild seeking to
know you real...
Victor Y
Abeokuta, Nigeria

Over the next four years after
Planno's 1979 trip to Nigeria, a steady
stream of letters came to him from
fans and followers of Marley's music
and spirituality. The following letter to
Planno provides an example:

Hi Planno,
Your Movement once spread
to Nigeria and I know you did
come but it was halted and
wasn't given much publication.
We agitated to the press, stage
many riots in schools because
we saw that it was the right
move to complete freedom.
It was not until June this year

that a popular magazine the
Spear could publish the
address of Bob Marley.
Tell us more about the
Rastafarian Movement. Many
of us are very interested and
are even going by the name
Rasta... we are still novices -
more information please.
Larry D
Imo State, Nigeria

Knowledge of the Jamaican
Rastafari spread in Africa, especially
after the Survival album featuring
the single "Zimbabwe", followed by
Marley's performance of the song at
the ceremony ending British rule there
in April 1980. The album featured
songs such as "Wake up and Live",
"Ambush" and "Africa Unite", all
songs reflecting the compelling lessons
he had recently learned. Marley
succumbed to his cancer and died
about a year after he performed at
Zimbabwe's independence celebration.
In the months leading up to his death
the Nigerian fans expressed concern
about Marley's health:

This letter is just to know your
present condition of health.
And ask some few questions.
I am a student of technical. I
have been hearing your records
and tunes ... I watched you
in TV at Kano State of Nigeria
where you sing your exodus.
First, can you give me the idea
of what shall I do in order to
become a musician and how to
come to Jamaica myself, father
is not rich enough. And please
give me a little histories.
Secondly, can I write to any
Jamaican musician with this
Thirdly, why don't you
want to visit Nigeria like some
other Jamaican musicians.
I stop here. Please I am
looking forward for your reply.
Emmanuel A. I.
Awka, Nigeria

This letter was just one of hundreds
arriving in Jamaica for Bob Marley

through Planno. Marley died one
month after the letter's date, and
this generated even more letters
expressing grief and condolences to
the family of the reggae king:

I have read about the sudden
death of... Bob Marley and
believe it or not I am having a
heart attack as there has never
been a musician I loved like the
late Bob Marley.
What pains me most is
that we here in Nigeria who
are lovers of Bob Marley had
expected [his] death to flash
all the international magazines
especially Newsweek and Time
but to our utmost shock these
magazines failed us. When
John Lennon of the Beatles
group was shot his pictures
and stories occupied the whole
Time and Newsweek, but what
more of Bob Marley who was
My explanation and indeed
that of all Bob Marley's fans is
that it is because Bob Marley
was anti-imperialistic, anti-
colonialism and anti-crazy-
baldhead so they feel they
can't pay tribute to him'cos he
wasn't in their good books ...
Bassey U.
Kaduna, Nigeria

The reggae king, new Rastafari
plenipotentiary extraordinaire, had
transferred the Rastafari vision for
African unity that he embodied to
his and other children of Rastafari.
Marley only performed in Gabon and
Zimbabwe on the African continent.
However, by the end of his life he
had developed a dialogue with the
youths in Africa through the assertive
confidence of his infectious lyrical
empowerment, connecting the ghettos
and concrete jungles of Lagos, Accra
and Johannesburg to the cry from
Trench Town Kingston for liberation
from neocolonial bondage. Songs such
as "Blackman Redemption" (1979)
transmitted the spirit of Rastafari
simply and clearly:

Tell you 'bout the blackman
Can you dig it? Oh yeah
A blackman redemption
Can you stop it?
Oh no! Oh no! Oh no!

Coming from the root of King
Through to the line of Solomon
His Imperial Majesty is the
power of authority
Spread out. Spread out...

But even within the bold defiance
of the music, the ideas were imbued
with a grand political visionary ideal,
seen for example in "Africa Unite"

How good and how pleasant it
would be
Before God and man ...
To see the unification of all
Africans ...
As it's been said already
Let it be done ...
We are the children of the
Higher man

Africa unite 'cause the children
wanna come home...

These songs gave Marley more
currency in Africa than perhaps any
other pan-African voice had had
since the emperor of Ethiopia was
deposed, and this was done within
the realm of an attractive popular
youth idiom reggae music.

Decades after his death, the
question of how to use Bob Marley's
energy to provide a driving force
for social improvement throughout
Africa was still being considered. In
2005, when the Marley Foundation
moved the official celebration of the
artist's life to Ethiopia, this was in
a real sense an attempt to begin to
engage and to fulfil the Rastafarian
pan-Africanist vision. Through
three concerts in different locations
across the continent (starting with
Addis Ababa in 2005), the Marley
Foundation aimed to take on the
African homeland the objective of
all of these concerts being to aid in a
process of sensitisation, towards uniting
and building the continent.
The Marley Foundation's African
involvement kicked off with the
commemorative celebrations of Bob
Marley's 'earthday' (birthday). Some
three hundred thousand people
gathered in Addis Ababa's Maskel
Square for a free concert in honour
of what would have been Marley's
sixtieth birthday. The concert was seen
as a type of pilgrimage to the spiritual
home of Rastafari for the movement's
most famous son who, even though
he himself did not get to perform, was
given voice by his heiress and children
through their tributes to his earthday.
The celebration saw the assemblage of
an impressive array of stars from Africa
and in particular the African diaspora."
The show was a culmination of four
weeks of activities aimed at promoting
the Rastafari/pan-African vision, the
development and unification of all
African nations, ranging from courtesy
calls on the royal family, church officials
and government members to civic

improvements. Among
the strategies deployed
were exhibitions, film
festivals, panel discussions,
youth workshops and
an international youth
symposium. Responsibilities
undertaken by the Marley
Foundation included
fundraising for HIV/AIDS
education projects, and for
initiatives targeting youth
and women such as the
Shashamane school. In
addition to the proposed
construction of a Bob
Marley monument in Addis
Ababa, a park named in
Marley's honour was to be
developed, as well as a Bob
Marley Youth Development
Centre. The activities
demonstrated the Rastafari
interest in contributing
to Ethiopian/African
development by means
of programmes geared to
encourage a liberation from
mental slavery in many
instances by musical means
- and towards the Africa
Unite objective. The activities helped
to stimulate discussions within the
society about Emperor Haile Selassie
I, his temperament, his idiosyncrasies;
commentaries on the Rastafari
movement and the faith of Rastafari in
His Majesty as the Black Messiah were
also featured in the press.
The Marleys' initiative was
supported by the United Nations
Economic Commission for Africa, the
United Nations Children's Fund, the
World Bank, Africa Union, the city
administration, Ethiopian Airlines, the
Tourism Commission and Coca Cola.
The celebration in honour of Marley
in Maskel Square saw the erection
of an enormous billboard depicting
the late great Bob Marley, fist held
high, surrounded by fifty-four flags
of the continent, emblazoned with a
deceptively simple command: "Africa
The Marley celebration that
commenced in Ethiopia subsequently
moved to the west coast, in Ghana.

and then to southern Africa, in 2006
and 2007 respectively. The aim was
to affect the entire continent by the
power of the Marley message of a
stronger, united Africa. Africa Unite
Ghana in 2006 saw a format similar
to that used in Ethiopia. This time,
however, the event was not pitched to
have the magnitude or impact of the
Ethiopian sixtieth earthday celebration.
Nevertheless, there was no doubt that
it had great significance within the
Ghanaian population, where there has
been a Jamaican Rastafari presence
for more than thirty years. In South
Africa in 2007, the Marleys were only
able to deliver their outreach through
the international youth symposium
and exhibitions. The proposed concert
did not take place due to inadequate

African unity as a vision of Rastafari
efforts is at a unique crossroads after
fifty years of linkages. Throughout the

African continent
both Rastafari
and reggae are
rising forces,
among the group
of urban poor,
males, but
amlni, i south in general,
nm.,n, or whom gravitate to
th mu c of Bob Marley and
reggae overall, listening to
the mn'l-c on cassettes and
CDs, on the radio stations,
and particularly in the
nightclubs. In much of the
continent the movement now
has significant adherents.
South Africa is alleged to
have the largest population
S of African Rastafari.

has become a popular
destination for many within
S the diaspora who seek
to actualise their desire
for repatriation. Kenya,
Zimbabwe and Nigeria have
seen significant reggae music
consumption and assimilation
by their nationals.
Ethiopia, however, holds a
unique space within the Rastafari
focus on Africa, particularly due to
the spiritual connection inscribed
through the doctrine surrounding
the birth of Emperor Haile Selassie.
Through the pioneering work of a
handful of Rastafari over the past few
decades, Shashamane now stands
as an international community of
repatriated Rastafari.'5 In this space,
Rastafari has clearly demonstrated
its intention to play a central part in
Africa's future development. Rastafari
repatriates in Ethiopia are engaged in
a range of activities such as operation
of schools, clinics, hotels and small
restaurants, shopkeeping, handicraft/
clothing manufacturing, and provision
of skilled services (electricians,
masons, carpenters). They form a

TOP Reggae nightclub in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia
onTTOM Marley craft shop in Bahir Dar

major component of the training and
employment needs of the surrounding
community. The Rastafari, indeed, have
had a significant influence in the area
by way of education and entertainment
services. Many of the local children
attend the school run by the Jamaican
Rastafari Development Committee
where they learn both Standard English
and Jamaican. The Ethiopians also
participate in local Rastafari Nyabinghi
celebrations; and they have, of course,
been exposed to reggae music.
Marley has in a relatively short
while become one of the most
referenced African freedom fighters.


1. Shashamane is the name of a town in
Southern Ethiopia developed primarily by
repatriated West Indian Rastafarians and
Afro-American members of the Ethiopian
World Federation. The settlement started in
the mid 1950s from a land grant provided
by Emperor Haile Selassie I. It stands
as one of the most significant African
diasporan cases of returning to Africa. This
is so due to the uniquely prophetic way
that it came into being and its subsequent
history. Shashamane came to be viewed
as a gift from the Might, Holy Father
Creator, Emperor Haile Selassie I, to the
scattered children who had come to hold
the Ethiopian struggles dearly in their
hearts and minds at the time of the Italo-
Ethiopian war (1935-41). This land grant in
Shashamane actualised the desire carried
by the Back-to-Africa movement for a
resting place in the homeland.
2. It is widely acknowledged that Archibald
Dunkley, Robert Hinds and Joseph Hibbert
were contemporaries of Howell, emerging
with the same interpretation of Emperor
Haile Selassie's coronation. Together they
are considered the founding patriarchs of
the Rastafari movement.
3. See Mortimo Planno's treatise on Rastafari
teachings, Earth Most Strangest Man: The
Rastafarian, authored in 1969 but produced
as a single-copy monograph by Professor
Lambros Comitas (New York: Institute
of Man, Columbia University, 1995), and
subsequently electronically published with
full illustrations by Planno. Available at
http:/ /www.irieweb.net/CMS/index.
4. See M.G. Smith, Roy Augier, and Rex
Nettleford, The Ras Tafari Movement in
Kingston, Jamaica (Kingston: Institute of

--!---------- - -- -- - - -- - - - -- - - ------
Undoubtedly, he has contributed more
directly to expanding the ideals of
human liberty and pan-Africanism
universally among the grassroots and
oppressed than any other figure his
only genuine companions in this regard
being Marcus Garvey and the Emperor
Haile Selassie. Marley emerged
out of an intense political period
between a world war and the birth
of a process of global emancipation
and independence movements. He
was able to locate himself within the
Rastafari faith, which he would serve
as diasporic teacher, African griot and
liberation thinker. Ultimately, what

Social and Economic Research, University
of the West Indies, Mona, 1960), 35.
5. In 1998 Mortimo Planno was awarded
a fellowship in folk philosophy by the
Faculty of Social Sciences, University of the
West Indies, Mona. This was to facilitate
the preservation of some of Planno's life
work by helping him to document his ideas
(these can be accessed at the University of
the West Indies' Radio Education Unit).
6. For an example of this Garvey/Rastafari
nexus developing, see the message from
Ras Tafari, 1922, cited in Robert Hill,
The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro
Improvement Association Papers 4 (1)
(Berkeley: University of California Press,
1985), 1006.
7. Today the best politico-economic linkages
with Africa are situated among the Rastafari
and reggae communities, with the Marleys
as key figures.
8. Mortimo Planno, "Bob Marley, Christ
and Rastafari: The New Faculty of
Interpretation", public lecture, Social
Science Lecture Theatre, University of
the West Indies, Mona, 11 May 1998 (see
recording at Radio Education Unit and
Library of the Spoken Word).
9. FESTAC was held in Nigeria in 1977.
10. See Mortimo Planno, interviewed by Tam
Fiofori, "The Truth about the Rastafari
Movement as Told by Brother Cummie",
Spear: Nigeria's National Magazine, August
11. Planno kept over 130 such letters written by
Nigerians and a few Ghanaians.
12. In addition to the entire Marley family's
presence, there was also a reconstituted
I-Three, Baaba Maal, Stevie Wonder, Peter
Gabriel, Angelique Kidjo, Zeleke Gessesse,
and Stone Love Sound System, among the
line-up of acts for the ten-hour concert.

this illustrates is that since the process
of decolonisation commenced, the
bridge of connecting Africa with its
diaspora has seen a variety of strategies
spearheaded by Rastafari. These have
ranged from governmental/political, to
personal, and even to musical attempts
at connecting those lives disrupted by
slavery. To this extent the Rastafari have
emerged as key citizens in Ethiopia,
with a clear and necessary mandate of
building anew Africa, through her sons
and daughters who alighted from the
West. :

The Marley Foundation also sponsored
the participation of Rastafari elders to
journey from Jamaica to attend the concert.
Outstanding among these elders was Bongo
Thawney, who was filmed and became the
protagonist for the documentary Africa
Unite by Stephanie Black.
13. More than two hundred kilometres outside
of Addis Ababa in Shashamane, there
stands yet another billboard featuring
Marley's face, welcoming passersby to
this town, commonly referred to as "Little
Jamaica". The billboard was constructed by
the Ethiopian government in 2004 as a way
of highlighting the Rastafari settlement in
14. The Africa Unite concert was held in
Jamaica in 2008.
15. There have been several scholarly
examinations of the idea of repatriation
and the experience of the repatriated.
Sources that may assist an investigation
of Rastafari in Africa include: Erin
MacLeod, "Development and Cultural
Citizenship: The Rastafari in Ethiopia at
the Turn of the Millennium" (unpublished,
2008); Ababu Minda, "Rastafari in 'The
Promised Land': A Change of Identity",
Africa Insight 34, no. 4 (2004): 31-39; Neil
J. Savishinsky, "Rastafari in the Promised
Land: The Spread of a Jamaican Socio-
Religious Movement and Its Music and
Culture among the Youth of Ghana and
Senegambia" (PhD thesis, Columbia
University, 1993), 342; Smith, Augier, and
Nettleford, Ras Tafari Movement; C. Yawney,
"Exodus: Rastafari, Repatriation, and the
African Renaissance", in A United States of
Africa? ed. Eddy Maloka, 133-85, African
Century Publications Series no. 4 (Pretoria:
Africa Institute of South Africa, 2001).

All photos of Shashamane Jahlani Niaah

A Dub Poet's



or Caribbean Poetry, Stewart Brown and Mark McWatt defined him as a "dub or a
performance poet".1 He was involved in the Spanish Town-based Self Theatrical
Movement and later studied at the Jamaica School of Drama. He also worked for a
number of years for the Sistren Theatre Collective, designing sets and costumes for
Mbala is a musician and a visual artist, and sees himself as an artist who does
not "separate [the] arts" (see interview). He also works as a percussionist with
various musical ensembles such as Akwaaba and the Papiumba Brass Band (with
Hugh "Papi" Pape). His poetry has appeared in various anthologies including Wheel
and Come Again2 and the Oxford Book of Caribbean Poetry,3 and in 2005 he published

a chapbook entitled Light in a Book of
Stone.3 His poetry is both introspective
and steeped in the oral tradition, and
can be seen as a creative synthesis of
these two elements: Caribbean orality
and Jamaican patois rub shoulders with
an introspective streak and a concern
with his "innerverse" (see interview).
Meanwhile, a certain modernist
terseness characterises his poetry and
brings to mind the work of William
Carlos Williams.
Art, the creative urge and the artist
as wordsmith are also recurrent themes
in Mbala's poetry. To Mbala, writing is
an inevitability, and the creative urge
is nagging like a nuisance which has
to be dealt with, as shown in the poem
"pests" which likens poems to clouds of
mosquitoes hovering around the poet's
head, "getting up [his] nose" so that the
poet eventually has to "blow them on
Mbala redefines the concept of dub
poetry in his writing and goes beyond
any cliches associated with this genre.
In his poem "a new dub" he pleads for
a reorganisation of dub poetry and of
reggae too:

ah tink it's time
fi tear it dung
tek it to pieces
an pit it back togedda

The irregular line lengths and breaks
in the rhythmic flow of speech contrast
sharply with the rhythmic regularity
and rhyming that became the hallmark
of some dub poetry in the 1980s.
The following interview with Mbala
took place on 18 August 2008, in Stony
Hill, Jamaica.

Doumerc: Your poetry has appeared
in different anthologies over the years,
and you've been performing and
writing poems for more than thirty
years now. So, when did you first
become active as a poet?
Mbala: Well, when I first started to go
to drama school, from those times I
started scribbling down some things,
you know, I started writing some stuff.
That was around 1974.


Doumerc: Growing up as
a kid in Jamaica, were you
exposed to any type of
Mbala: I don't have memories
of doing poetry in school, you
know. In high school I guess
we did literature, but it was
more kinda English literature,
Shakespeare, stuff like
that, and then I was kinda
streamed as I was doing more
science, maths and physics.

Doumerc: What led you to write poems
Mbala: I was influenced more by
music, or by poets that people call
musicians, like Bob Dylan. Dylan was a
big influence, in terms of words in the
music, people like Joni Mitchell.

Doumerc: Joni Mitchell, the Canadian
folk singer...
Mbala: Yes, but Joni Mitchell grew
from folk to other stuff; she just kinda
morphed into a creature by herself, you

Doumerc: I've read somewhere that
you work with musicians like Akwaaba
di Drummers and the Papiumba Big
Band. Tell me about these people.
Mbala: You don't have many
drummers in Jamaica. Akwaaba is a
kinda loose combination of people. In
fact I haven't played with them for a
little while, because sometimes it's one
set of people, sometimes another set,
sometimes four of us, sometimes ten,
it's a very flexible kind of vibes, but
those guys are, like, drummers! When
I play with Akwaaba I'm playing the
flute, percussion, metal stuff, but those
guys are drummers!

Doumerc: What does
'akwaaba' mean?
Mbala: It means
'welcome' in some
African language.

Doumerc: What about

TOP Mbala, cocaine print
BOTTOM LEF Mbala, dancing
RIGHT Mbala, kuh

Mbala: Papiumba is a combination
of the names of the two people in the
band: I'm Mbala and the other guy is
Hugh Pape and we call him "Papi".
Akwaaba is a drumming group and
Papiumba is more jazz-oriented, with
myself on percussion and Papi on
flute and sax. We also work as a total
instrumental band, and mostly when
we work as an instrumental band, we're
like ninety-eight percent improvised
music, with a set-up.

Doumerc: When you perform your
poetry, do you prefer working with
music or just a cappella?
Mbala: Most of the time I perform with
music. I like mixing it all up. I don't like
to separate arts. And I do visual arts as
well, you know. I used to do silkscreens
and poem posters. I use visual elements
with poetry.

Doumerc: I've heard that you had
worked with the Jamaican company
Mbala: Yes, I used to be Sistren's set
designer and I did a little costume
design for them as well. I did graphics
and logos.

Doumerc: How do you reach your
audience ? I know that you've released
one CD, Mbala [Ricketts Production],



and one chapbook, Light in a
Book of Stone.
Mbala: I guess it's easier to
reach people performance-
wise, but also there are some
poems which work better if
you read them off the page,
you know. So it depends on
_; what the material is. There
k -" are some things that you
need to kinda look at it,
reread it. You just need to
see it. Some material works better in
performance, some material works on
the page. But the thing is, if it's good
poetry, it should work on the page if it
works in performance. I find that there
is some stuff out there that, when it's
performed, it connects, but when you
see it on the page, you can see some of
the shortcomings.

Doumerc: You're primarily known as
a dub or a performance poet. Are you
comfortable with this label?
Mbala: I really don't care one way or
the other. I don't consider myself as
a dub poet in the kind of way some
people think of dub poetry, because
there's a particular style that people
recognize as dub poetry. It's built
around a reggae rhythm, a Rasta
rhythm, and it has a certain cadence
to the words, a certain pattern and
rhyming and stuff, right. I haven't done
stuff in that kind of mainstream dub
poetry vibe for a very long time.

Doumerc: So maybe the phrase
'performance poet' would work better
for you.
Mbala: Yes, but at the same time,
there's stuff I've done which I've put
on paper. There are some poems I've
written that I know I'll perform because
I know they work in
performance. Sometimes
I just read them.

Doumerc: In the poem
"history of dub poetry",
you wrote about the
Sdub poet "amusing,
bemusing, confusing the
Mbala: Well, one of the
roles of the dub poets, in
Jamaica particularly, is

that they were like a kinda voice of the
conscience. The poet to me is just like a
stereo, it kinda gets inside in ways that
some other forms can't reach. Poetry
can seep through some little spaces and
get inside your soul, you know what I
mean? And the poet is there to connect
with that.

Doumerc: In the same poem, you wrote
about the dub poet being a "flapping
dadaist, a griot, a rocking minstrel, a
rapsoman and a calypso man".
Mbala: Yes, because people sometimes
get the picture that poetry cum music
is something that started in Jamaica -
[but it has existed elsewhere,] from the
dadaists to the rapsoman in Trinidad.

Doumerc: The poem entitled "history
of dub poetry: take 2" lumps together
griots, bards, minstrels, deejays and
dub poets. Are they all part of the same
Mbala: I think so. We didn't create
anything new with dub poetry.

Doumerc: As you know, in Trinidad,
rapso grew out of the calypso tradition.
Do you see a connection with dub
Mbala: Yeah man, I see a connection
with all that stuff, and with Brother
Resistance. I saw him in one of the
early videos, back in the day. He's the
one who was pushing rapso.

Doumerc: In another of your
poems, entitled "new dub", you
wrote that it was time to take
poetry apart, and put it back
together again. So was it a plea for
a complete reorganisation of dub
Mbala: It wasn't just dub poetry.
It was in a sense music in general,
and even life when we get stuck into
some grooves more time, and we
do things, and we look for formulas,
so this a hit, and every hit starts to
sound like that, which is why I find
popular music so... boring. And
these people sell millions and
millions of records that's
kinda boring, because they
use the same formula. You
know, I can listen to one
piece of music, I've never

heard it before, and I'm whispering
along with it. I'm humming along
because I know where it's going. Same
pattern, same formula. Boring!

Doumerc: In a way, the same thing
happened to dub poetry. It fell into a
kind of routine, and everyone started
doing the same thing.
Mbala: Yeah, and not only that, because
the pattern is one thing, but people
have taken the pattern and done things
with it, but some people tend to just
regurgitate stuff that Oku Onuora,
Linton [Kwesi Johnson] have said
before many times, and said better.
You have some cliches that
keep coming out: everything is in
"-tion", "it's time for liberation",
"me naw want no frustration",
du du du du du. That's doing a
disservice to poetry, I think. It's the
same for other art forms. There's
always been people who have been
doing stuff with the form that's really
creative and others who just imitate.
Sometimes, the crafting of the poetry
gets short-changed.

Doumerc: What about the status
of dub or performance poetry
today in Jamaica? Do you think
there's an audience for it, a new
generation, or is it something
which is more associated with
the 1980s or the 1970s?
Mbala: It's still associated
with the 1970s, but it's still
around. I mean, what you'll
find is that... like the JCDC
[Jamaica Cultural Development
Commission] has a kind of festival
thing in the performing arts category
and you have school kids doing

dub poetry. They do a good job with
the performance aspect, and the kids
perform very, very well, but a lot of
the time, the words, the patterns, the
subject matter tend to be the same stuff:
fighting against oppression, our people
are suffering. There's a sameness to it,
even if it's well done.

Doumerc: What about the main venues
for poetry in Jamaica ? Are there many
venues available to poets?
Mbala: I don't know if you'll find
that much mainstream performance
of poetry. You'll probably find Cherry
Natural on some shows with reggae
artistes and stuff. There's smaller
venues like the Poetry Society of
Jamaica; we meet every last Tuesday at
the School of Drama, and we've been
doing that from 1989. We facilitate
a fellowship, sometimes we have a
featured poet.

Doumerc: I've noticed that you use a
kind of semi-phonetic spelling some-
times, but your poems are not in patois.
Mbala: Well, in terms of writing the
language, there's a system called the
Cassidy Le Page phonemic system, but
I'm not familiar with that. I kinda use
a bastardised system, because some
English words are the same as the
patois words.

Doumerc: Do you sometimes write in
Standard English?
Mbala: I do write in Standard English.
"Mundane" is in Standard English.
Quite a few are in Standard English,
but I write in patois as well, because
Jamaicans tend to switch depending
on who you're talking to. When I'm
talking to you, I talk like this, and when
I talk to somebody else, I use a more
raw kinda patois. You don't really
think about it, you tailor your speech
to who you're talking to, and therefore
there's a whole spectrum of what you
call ways of speaking. But I like to use
patois because I think that people tend
to think sometimes that there are things
that they can't express in patois. Some
people use patois in dub poetry to talk

TOP Mbala, earth mask
BOTOM Mbala, rising
OPPOSITE PAGE Mbala, mad man

about the suffering, but I feel you can
use patois to talk about anything. You
can get abstract.

Doumerc: How do you make a
decision to write in Jamaican patois or
in Standard English? Is it to do with
the subject matter of the poem, the way
you feel at a particular moment?
Mbala: I'm not sure how this really
works. Subject matter is a factor, but
sometimes a poem will start out on one
side of the language line and end up on
the other side, and some even include
both English and patois in the same
poem. And Jamaican patois can be
quite close to English.
Perhaps in terms of subject matter,
patois can deal with certain things,
especially certain Jamaican tings, in
ways that English just cannot handle.
There are shades of meanings, nuances
that because of cultural or historical
codes in the language just don't have
exact English translations.
I think this is true for all languages.
With traditional dub poetry patois
has tended to deal with a more
limited range of subjects like protest,
revolution, social commentary, but I
have always thought that it could be
used to express even the most profound
thoughts and feelings, and I've always
tried to do this for instance in "snake
of paradise", which mixes in a little
English, "wud boom" and "pbb" -
but words are words and I just love
romping with them, English, patois or

Doumerc: "Mundane" was inspired
by several paintings by Rend Magritte,
and the first section of the poem,
entitled "mundane", was inspired by
"Les valeurs personnelles". Do you see
this painting as some kind of personal
manifesto that applies to poetry too?
How did you first become interested in

1. Stewart Brown and Mark McWatt, eds., The
Oxford Book of Caribbean Verse (New York:
Oxford University Press, 2005), 368.
2. Kwame Dawes, ed., Wheel and Come Again:
An Anthology of Reggae Poetry (Leeds: Peepal

Mbala: Art is important to me as a
poet, as a visual artist, musician, as a
human being. I love Surrealism perhaps
because as in poetry there is so much
beneath the surface, and Magritte,
with his quite conservative method of
painting, has such a quiet, still, other-
worldly feel. Maybe this is what I want
my poems to be like: ordinary words with
a whole other universe under their skins.
I'm interested in the differences
between the outer or public space
and our inner or personal spaces, the
exploration of the "life within a life".
This painting does it for me, and I think
this is what I want poetry to do: to look
at the mundane and see the fantastic
I grew up reading a lot, but
especially comics and science fiction
where the imagination was allowed to
run free, to go deep, deep beneath skin
and light years beyond skin like poetry!
I guess that's why I like Surrealism and
things on the edge where the "truth that
dodges reason" lives.

Doumerc: "Shallows" seems to describe
the artist's task: to go under the surface
of things and come up with something
new. Is every poem a challenge? The

Tree Press, 1998).
3. Mbala, Light in a Book of Stone (Montego Bay:
Calabash International Literary Festival
Trust, 2005).
4. Mbala, "pests", Light in a Book of Stone, 10.

last word, "seachange", seems to be an
echo from Shakespeare.
Mbala: I've had a thing with that word
since I worked on a production of The
Tempest and I did a piece of artwork, a
mask, called "seachange". I think it's
the task of every human being, not
just artists, to live under the surface,
to be aware and connected to our own
personal innerverse, even if we don't
come up with something 'new', though
for the artist it is a challenge to not
repeat the same things too often.

Doumerc: The poem entitled "dj
lovesong" is obviously critical of some
dancehall artistes' attitude towards
women. It cleverly recycles the titles of
some famous dancehall tunes. When
did you write this piece?
Mbala: I think that was 2008. I am
concerned with the treatment of women
- I used to be labelled the "feminist
environmentalist poet" and I work
with a group called Women's Media
Watch trying to sensitise especially
young people about gender issues. I
use the poem in some of our workshops
and as a musician as a human being.
I just can't understand how people,
including the deejays themselves,
don't see the ridiculous and dangerous
contradiction going on here.

Doumerc: "Autobio" seems to warn
against too much autobiography
in poetry. Should the poet avoid
autobiographical elements?
Mbala: I don't think the poet should
avoid autobiography. After all, the
human story is universal. What the
artist has lived is what the reader has
lived, though personally I really don't
need that much detail, and I don't think
people need too much of the details of
my life either. With "autobio" I was also
just having a bit of fun, while trying to
remain truthful. o

5. Mbala, "a new dub", Light in a Book of Stone, 22.

All images Mbala






We shall never explode Prospero's old myth until
we christen language afresh.
- GEORGE LAMMING, The Pleasures of Exile

Recall and recollect Black speech.
- BONGO JERRY, "Mabrak"

fiftieth birthday looming, looking back on
my life with feelings of nostalgia, I consoled
myself by taking stock of my modest
achievements as a reggae artist and kept
melancholy at bay. By then I had sustained
a successful career as a reggae artist on the
international stage for nearly twenty-five
years; my record sales to date were in seven
digits; I had performed all over the world,
sometimes playing to audiences of twenty
thousand or more at music festivals; some
of my recordings were already seen as a part
of the global reggae 'canon'. I began with
the word and was already a published poet
in 1977 when I began to make records. The
music was not only a vehicle to take my
verse to a wider audience but was organic
to it, was born of it. Notwithstanding my
conceit, I realise that my success in the world
of popular music has more to do with the
power of reggae music than the power of my
And yet, at the dawn of the new
millennium, I had earned a reputation as
a poet at home and abroad, had published
four books of poetry, was a part of the
alternative poetry scene in Britain and
Europe; my work was being taught in
schools and universities, translated into
Italian and German, and I was beginning
to receive some critical attention. All of
this I achieved on my own terms from a

Linton Kwesi Johnson (LKI) performs in the USA,


position of cultural autonomy. I had
not sought validation from the arbiters
of British poetic taste. I came to poetry
through politics. In the context of the
anti-colonial, anti-racist, anti-fascist and
class struggles that were being waged,
it was easy for a young aspiring poet
like me to eschew the luxury of an
aesthetic based on the notion of 'art for
art's sake'. In the beginning, writing
verse was for me a political act and
poetry a cultural weapon in the black
liberation struggle. I sought validity
from the black community.
So in January 2001, when I was
approached by Ellah Allfrey, then an
editor at Penguin, with an invitation
to compile a selection of my poems
for publication in the Modem Classics
list, I was at once surprised and
suspicious. Yes, I had jointly published
a collection, Tings an Times, with
Bloodaxe, a mainstream publisher with
an inclusivist agenda and a keen eye on
the market share.' My other three books
were published by small independent
radical and black publishing houses,
Towards Racial Justice, Bogle
L'Overture and Race Today.2 So
when the offer came from Penguin I
wondered if it was some kind of plot to
undermine my street cred. Ellah Allfrey
assured me that her invitation was
based on the best of motives; and Mi
Revalueshanary Fren was published in
2002 in the Modem Classics list.3
Needless to say, the response from
the guardians of the canon of British
poetry was predictable. "Some readers
may find the ushering of Linton Kwesi
Johnson into the circle of immortals a
little premature," mused JC in the Times
Literary Supplement.4 On BBC Radio
Four's World Tonight, critic Sean O'Brien
went a bit further:

One problem, is the prevalence
of what might be called the
expressivist fallacy, which
assumes that the only function
of an artist is to convey feeling.
Art is something made with
craft skills. It's not direct from
brain to tongue. Feelings
deserve to be expressed,
but their expression doesn't
guarantee any kind of literary
success or seriousness.

Poetry editor Michael Schmidt,
commenting on the same programme,
was more forthright if less pretentious.
He said,

Nowadays, when you set out
to promote a book, you have to
promote it on newsworthiness.
And so you say, this poet
killed the Prime Minister, this
poet swam the Channel, and
you don't say this is really a
great first collection, or this
is really a good poet. Because
great doesn't mean anything;
good doesn't mean anything.
What means something is
newsworthiness and Linton
Kwesi Johnson is newsworthy.5

Schmidt must have no doubt
had in mind the Daily Telegraph's 18
March 2002 front-page story under
the headline "Reggae Radical Joins
Betjeman", which sounded the
alarm that the fortifications had been
It is not my intention to use
this forum to reply to critics and
commentators. What I intend to do
is to talk about the influences which
have shaped my verse, the roots of my
poetics, so to speak.

I was born in August 1952 in the rural
town of Chapelton in the parish of
Clarendon, Jamaica. My parents both
came from a peasant background and
belonged to a generation who could
no longer survive on the land. My
father did odd jobs before becoming a
baker. My mother did domestic work
and sewed to supplement her meagre
earnings. My father was illiterate
and my mother's sporadic schooling
ended when she was fourteen years
old. My parents separated when I
was seven. They both went their own
way to Kingston in search of better
opportunities, and my older sister
Eva and I were sent to live with our
maternal grandmother, Miss Emmy.
My grandmother was a subsistence
farmer and a widow. She lived in a
village called Sandy River at the foot
of the Bull Head Mountain, not far

from James Hill, the birthplace of
Claude McKay, the pioneering poet
and novelist. Many years after leaving
Jamaica I was able to relive aspects
of my Jamaican childhood reading
McKay's My Green Hills of Jamaica. 6
My grandmother was illiterate but
steeped in Jamaica's rich oral culture.
Apart from schoolbooks and those from
the mobile library that passed through
Sandy River on rare occasions, the
only book in my grandmother's house
was the Bible, King James Version.
My grandmother was a member of
the Staceyville Baptist Church and I
was required to read to her from time
to time. She was particularly fond of
the Psalms, Proverbs and the Songs of
Solomon. I grew to like the language
of those books of the Old Testament,
and regular reading of them was my
first immersion in written verse. I say
written verse, but the Bible is in fact
part of Jamaica's oral tradition. It is not
uncommon to find illiterate Jamaicans
who can quote passages from the Bible.
Everyday speech in Jamaica often has
biblical references. In fact the lyricism of
Jamaican reggae and dancehall music is
full of biblical language and allusions.
Bob Marley's "Small Axe", for example,

Why boasteth thyself O evil
Playing smart but not being
You're working iniquity to
achieve vanity
If a soh a soh
But the goodness of Jah-Jah
I-dureth for I-ver 7

Psalm 52 begins: "Why boastest
thou thyself in mischief, O mighty
man? the goodness of God endureth
continually. / Thy tongue deviseth
mischiefs; like a sharp razor, working
Reggae DJ Big Youth's "I Pray
Thee" is similarly a rendition of Psalm
2, drum and bass style:

I pray thee
Why do the heathen rage, and
the people imagine a vain
The kings of the earth set

And the rulers take counsel
Against the Lord God Jah Rastafari
and against his anointed, saying
"Come let us break their bands
And cast away their cords from

and me with riddles that delighted
and stimulated the imagination. "John
Brown dead and bury long time but
him body never rotten. What is that?"
my grandmother would ask. When
my sister and I finally gave up after
a number of wrong guesses,
she would answer, "Noh
glass bottle, glass can't
rotten!" Or

reggae DJ, the
late Prince Far I,
also has a version of
Psalm 2 on an album
consisting entirely of reggae
renditions of psalms, drum and
bass style.9 The Guyanese literary
critic Gordon Rohlehr, commenting
on the religious basis of Jamaican
folk-urban culture in the early 1970s,
asserted: "It is difficult today to
separate religious music from the music
of open rebellion."10 As the recordings
of contemporary Jamaican dancehall
artists like Buju Banton, Anthony
B, Capleton and others illustrate,
Rohlehr's observation holds as true
today as it did over thirty years ago.
I began attending Chapelton All
Age School when I was six years
old, staying there for about a year
before moving to Sandy River where
I attended Staceyville All Age School
up to the age of eleven before leaving
for London. We were taught nonsense
rhymes and other nursery rhymes and
poetry parrot-fashion. Some of those
rhymes left an impression on my mind,
such as:

Labour for learning before you
grow old
For learning is better than silver
and gold
Silver and gold will vanish away
But a good education will never


Good, better, best
Never let it rest

Until your good is better
And your better best.

All I can remember of the poems
are two lines about the wind: "O wind
a blowing all day long/ 0 wind that
sings so loud a song". I also remember
an image from the poem of the wind
lifting a lady's skirt. What did leave a
lasting impression was the oral culture
into which I was socialised from birth:
folk songs, work songs, sacred songs,
Anancy and duppy stories, riddles,
skipping rhymes, word games, ring
games and proverbs.
Sandy River, my mother's place
of birth, was almost untouched by
modernity. There were no asphalted
streets, piped water, electricity or
public transport. People walked for
miles or rode donkeys. The social life
of the village revolved around the
Baptist church or the two grocery/
rum shops. In the absence of radio
and television, children created their
own entertainment, and sometimes
we would be entertained by adults,
especially grandparents, on moonlit
nights and at wakes. My grandmother
was an accomplished teller of Anancy
stories that made you laugh and duppy
stories that gave you nightmares
and made you even more afraid of
the pitch-black night. Sometimes my
grandmother would entertain my sister

ask, "Look
under mi
skin, yu si mi
hair; look under
mi hair, yu si mi
seed; look under
mi seed, yu si mi wood. What is
that?" Wood in Jamaican creole is also
a word for penis and seed is testicle.
However, I would not dare let my
grandmother know what I was thinking
and would reply, "Mi no know." My
grandmother's answer would be, "Noh
corn!" When you remove the skin from
the corn, you see the hair, when you
remove the hair, there is the seed, and
once you remove the seed the husk or
the 'wood' is what remains.
There were times when I was
misbehaving, or "a faam fool" as my
grandmother would put it, and she
would give me a coded warning, in
the form of a proverb, to cease. She
would say in a serious tone, "Fire deh a
muss-muss tail him tink a cool breeze."
I knew at once that if I did not stop
whatever I was doing, the consequence
would be serious. Or she would say,
"Chicken merry hawk deh near",
another coded warning. We children
knew about the wide-winged hawk
that would hover, then suddenly swoop
down and steal a recently hatched chick
pecking in the yard. Children played
a chase game based on this hunter-
and-hunted scenario which involved
the use of call and response. Whoever
was 'it' would be the hawk/crier
and the others would be the chicks/
chorus. The chicks would stand in line,
one behind the other, with the hawk

facing them. The hawk would pretend
to be a human calling the chicks for
feeding, pointing to this chick or that
one, improvising description based on
physical attributes or dress. The hawk
speaks first and the chicks reply:

Hawk: Chick chick chick
Chicks: Mi noh waan no cawn
Hawk: Chick chick chick
Chicks: Mi noh waan no cawn

Hawk: Yu si da long neck wan
Chicks: Mek im tan
Hawk: Yu si da red head wan
Chicks: Mek im tan
Hawk: Yu si da sore foot wan
Chicks: Mek im tan
Hawk: Yu si da dry head wan
Chicks: Mek im tan
Then the hawk would say, "Peehaw
di hawk is coming!" at which point the
chicks would scatter in all directions.
The hawk would give chase and
whichever chick was caught would
become 'it' and the game would start all
over again.
Many ring games and word games
involve the use of call and response. In
1983 I had the pleasure of joining the
honourable Louise Bennett, aka Miss
Lou, actress, educator, folklorist and
mother of Jamaican dialect poetry, on
stage during one of her rare London
concerts at the Lyric Theatre in
Hammersmith. We performed a word
game called "Mawnin Buddy" together.
There are several variations of this

Mawnin buddy / Mi noh
buddy fi yu
Den a who den? / Missah
Which tennah? / Tennah saw
Which saw? / Sakah Bya
Which Bya? / Bya flash
Which flash? / Flash cord
Which cord? / Cord Bennett
Which Bennett? / Mistah Bennett


Is a man who go roun di toun
Who play di fiddle fi di lickle
gal Rosie Bentical
Fimi like a fimi gyal
Woae cow / Noh buck
Woae haas / Noh bite
A whey mi have a whey mi gi
mi gyal."

The call and response structure
is common to many Jamaican folk
songs, especially digging songs. One
digging song that rural Jamaicans of my
generation know is "One Shut Mi Gat"
("The Only Shirt I Have" or "My Only

One shut mi gat
Ratta cut it
Some place it cut
Mumma dawn it
Some place it dawn
Fire bun it
Some place it bun
Teacha lick mi
Teacha lick mi an mi kin right
Teacha lick mi an mi kin right
Teacha lick mi an mi kin right

In the late 1970s the DJ Jah Lloyd,
aka Jah Lion, recorded a reggae version
of this song where the hapless rural
persona of the song is urbanised and
becomes poor I natty dread from Trench
Town. One of the interesting things
about Jamaican popular music is the
fact that the lyricists are constantly

drawing from the folk tradition,
updating it and keeping it alive. The
late Jamaican poet Mikey Smith was
adept at bringing elements of Jamaican
oral culture into his poetry.
I once talked to a class of pre-
dominantly black children at St Jude's
Junior School in my neighbourhood.
I was giving them an example of a
skipping rhyme I remembered from
my childhood in Jamaica. So I began
"maskitta one" and to my surprise all
the girls joined in with "maskitta two/
maskitta jump inna hat calalou". Was
this an example of Louise Bennett's
"Colonisation in Reverse"?12 I asked
myself. When I was a boy in Jamaica,
skipping was mostly a girl's pastime,
but there were always boys who joined
in. I was one of them. My favourite
skipping rhythm was:

One two three
Aunty Luelu
Four five six
Aunty Luelu
Seven eight nine
Aunty Luelu
Ten Aunty Luelu
Ten Aunty Luelu
Ten Aunty Luelu

Another element of Jamaica's
folk culture I experienced as a boy
was music of the fife and drum. On
public holidays like Emancipation Day,
Christmas and Easter, there would
be festivities in the village square:
maypole dancing, merry-go-round
and fife and drum music. There were
also times when I could stand in
the village square and hear strains of
pocomania drums of the Revivalist
church. I also remember hearing a
mento band playing at a wedding
reception. Like many boys in Sandy
River, during the holiday festivities
I would make my own bamboo fife
using a hot piece of nail-like metal to
bore the holes. I also used to make my
own drum using a discarded butter or
milk can with a piece of old cloth tied
on for the skin. I would rub mud and
green bush on the skin to chord the
drum to get the right pitch. Another
boy would make a bamboo guitar and
three or four of us would get together
with our rude instruments and get into
the groove.

So, by the time I left Jamaica
in 1963, aged eleven years, I was
immersed in and had absorbed
significant aspects of Jamaica's
culture. I brought my Jamaican
roots to Britain with me and
they took to British soil. When I
began to write verse and make
music it was this grounding
in the cultural creativity of the
Jamaican peasantry, my cultural
heritage, that provided me with
an artistic orientation. It is what
I began with.

The Britain that I grew up in
during the 1960s and early
1970s bears little resemblance
to the so-called Cool Britannia
of multiculturalism, now
apparently in crisis. Even a
decade after the Notting Hill
and Nottingham race riots
of 1958-59 Britain was still a
decidedly racially hostile place
for nonwhites. Racial abuse
was commonplace, racial
discrimination rife, racist and
fascist attacks rampant. There
was not an institution of the
state not riddled with racial prejudice,
none more so than the police and the
judiciary, who together ensured the
criminalisation of a significant section
of my generation of black youth.
Members of the Flying Squad, it was
said, were rewarded with a tie with an
ace-of-spades logo on it after they had
put a certain number of blacks behind
bars. Black children were routinely
sent to 'ESN' schools schools for the
educationally subnormal. Teachers had
low expectations of black students,
which in turn gave some of us low
expectations of ourselves. The colour
bar was alive and well.
It is in this context that the
Caribbean cultural heritage that we
brought to Britain, which our parents
had begun to institutionalise, was
crucial in forging an autonomous
cultural identity. Building on the
foundation laid by our parents,
the black youth of my generation
developed a subculture of resistance
to racial oppression. The nexus of this

subculture was ska, rocksteady and
reggae, the rebel music of the youth
of postcolonial Jamaica, influenced
by the liberation philosophy of the
black consciousness movement and
the ideology of Rastafari. The reggae
music coming from Jamaica spoke
to our condition in Britain. When
Burning Spear asked in a song, "Do you
remember the days of slavery?";13 when
Junior Byles declared, "I an I goin beat
down Babylon";'4 when Bob Marley
asked, "Where is the love to be found/
in disya concrete jungle";'5 and when
Peter Tosh asserted, "You can't blame
the youth"'6, there were resonances in
these songs for Britain's black youth.
Reggae music from Jamaica not only
spoke to our condition here, it was the
umbilical cord that kept us connected to
our roots, reinvigorating our language
with the street talk of Kingston's rude
boys and the dread talk of Rastafari.
With its Rastafarian influence reggae
was a source of spiritual nourishment.
We also embraced Afro-American R&B
and soul music, especially those songs

that spoke to our experience,
like James Brown's "Say It
Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud",
Sly Johnson's "Is It Because
I'm Black", Curtis Mayfield
and the Impressions' "People
Get Ready", the Temptations'
"Power to the People" and
Marvin Gaye's "What's Going
On". But reggae was our music.
I bought my first record
when I was about fifteen years
old. In those days the music
coming out of Jamaica was
rocksteady. Within a year it had
changed to reggae. A couple of
school friends and I started up a
little sound system at our youth
club in Brixton. I was already a
keen student of the music when
I became a sociology under-
Sgraduate at Goldsmiths College.
I wrote my dissertation on the
Sociology of reggae lyricism. I
Wrote two essays on Jamaican
Popular music: "Jamaican Rebel
Music"17 and "The Politics of
the Lyrics of Reggae Music",18
published in the mid-1970s. In
1982 I researched, wrote and
presented a ten-part series on the
history of reggae for BBC Radio One.
The Afro-American poet Amiri
Baraka (formerly LeRoi Jones) has
talked about the centrality of the blues
to his conception of poetry, to his
poetics. Baraka says,

I got my understanding of
words... from the use of
words and music ... If you
listen to the blues, particularly
talking blues, even in urban
blues, you'll hear people like
Larry Darnell, people like that,
where actually their whole
blues is speaking. They don't
do a lot of singing except on
the choruses ... The music was
just a vehicle for the words.'9

Baraka goes on to say that the
verse was poetry, and understanding
that was fundamental to his approach
to poetry. He cites Langston Hughes
as the first poet of the blues. Baraka
says that combining jazz with poetry

was, therefore, a natural thing
for him to do, He adds, "The
idea of being able to speak
freely over music has always
connected in my mind with
poetry."20 When, as I teenager, I n
heard early talking tunes from
Jamaica by people like Sir Lord
Comic, Lee "Scratch" Perry and
Prince Buster, I made the same
Prince Buster was the
master of these talking tunes.
Buster's rap would sometimes
take the form of a dialogue,
introducing a theatrical element
into the music; at other times
he would use monologue.
"The Ten Commandments" is
a straight narrative over a ska
backing, where Buster adapts
the laws of the Old Testament
for a secular purpose from
a decidedly male chauvinist

This is the ten
commandments of man
Given to woman
Through the inspiration of I..
Prince Buster
Thou shall have no other man
but me.21

"Ghost Dance" (aka "Tribute to the
Toughest") takes the form of a letter,
addressed to the narrator's departed
friend, somewhere in the underworld,
named Boneyard:

Dear Keithus my friend
Good day
Hoping you're keeping the best
of health
How is the music down there
In boneyard?22

The third example is Prince Buster's
best-known talking tune, "Judge Dread".
The immediate post-independence
period in Jamaica saw the emergence
of a generation of disillusioned and
rebellious youth and a rise in lawless-

OPPOSITE PAGE Photo taken for LKJ's first record,
THIS PAGE LKJ at Bradford Police Station, 1978

ness. The rudie/rude boy became a
topic of many rocksteady recordings.
One of the most popular was Derrick
Morgan's "Tougher than Tough", which
celebrates the rudie. Morgan sings:

Rudies don't fear no boy
Rudies don't fear
Rougher than rough
Tougher than tough
Strong like lion
We are iron23

Prince Buster's "Judge Dread" is
a reply to Derrick Morgan's "Tougher
than Tough" a corrective. Judge
Dread, otherwise known as Judge
Hundred Years, has come "from
Ethiopia to try all you rude boys for
shooting black people":

Order. Now my court is in
Will you please stand.
First, allow me to introduce myself
My name is Judge Hundred Years
Some people call me Judge

S Now I am from Ethiopia
To try all you rude boys
For shooting black people
In my court only me talk
S Cause I'm vex
- I am the rude boy

Prince Buster's reply to
"Tougher than Tough" was an
instalment in an ongoing lyrical
war with Derrick Morgan,
which began with Buster's
"Black Head Chinee Man" and
Morgan's riposte, "Blazing
Fire". Both "Black Head Chinee
Man" and "Judge Dread"
reflect Prince Buster's black
nationalism. In "Judge Dread"
S1 the fact that he has come from
Ethiopia, the birthplace of Haile
Selassie, the Rasta God, and
the cradle of black civilisation,
adds moral authority and
weight to Judge Hundred Years'
credentials. Buster's black
nationalism prefigures the black
consciousness ethos that was
to become a hallmark of roots

That was 1967. By the early seventies
a new lyrical genre had emerged
called toasting or DJ music, known
today as dancehall or ragga. This new
style of verbalisation evolved from
the rhythmic utterances of the disc
jockey over the microphone, spurring
on the revellers in the dancehall. The
spontaneous improvisations of the
DJ toaster were transferred from the
dancehall to the recording studio. From
the early jive-talk of people like Sir
Lord Comic, with his "I was walking
down Orange Street / Trying to get
some life in my feet / Cause I got music
in my teeth",2 emerged a distinctive
lyrical genre. The advent of multi-
track recording and the introduction
of sound effects like echo and reverb
facilitated the emergence of a particular
style, a sub-genre of reggae, called
dub. Dub is the recording engineers'
art of deconstruction, where a reggae
composition is stripped down to its

drum and bass skeletal structure and
reconfigured, recreated, with fragments
of other instruments, enhancing
the danceability of the music. This
recreated minimalist rhythmic structure
provided the perfect background for
the DJ/toaster to hone his lyrical skills.
Some examples of the lyricism of the
DJ/toaster are Prince Jazzbo's "Prophet
Live", Yellowman's "Gun Man" and
Peter King's "Me Neat Me Sweet".26
For me this was a most exciting
development in reggae which
constituted a new form of oral poetry,
something akin to the griot tradition in
Africa which I variously called 'dub-
lyricism' and 'dub-poetry'. I also used
the term 'dub-poetry' to describe some
of the poetry of Oku Onuora when
I reviewed his book Echo, published
under his former name Orlando Wong,
in Race Today in 1977.27 That is how the
term came into currency in the 1980s
for the new movement of orality in
Jamaican poetry; and Oku Onuora
was responsible for that. In a footnote
to my article "Jamaican Rebel Music"
I describe the art of the reggae DJ like

The 'dub-lyricist' is the DJ
turned poet. He intones his
lyrics rather than sings them.
Dub-lyricism is a new form of
(oral) music-poetry, wherein
the lyricist overdubs rhythmic
phrases on the rhythm
background of a popular song.
Dub-lyricists include poets
like Big Youth, I Roy, U Roy,
Dillinger, Shorty, Prince Jazzbo
and others.28

I have said before that I came to poetry
through politics. As a teenager in the
late sixties I was swept along in the
tidal wave of black consciousness that
came in the wake of the civil rights
movement in the USA. I joined the
British Black Panther Movement and
discovered black literature. Discovering
books written by black authors about
black people was a revelation to me
because nothing in my schooling in the
UK had given me the slightest hint that
such a body of writing existed. I am a

slow reader, but I read as avidly as I
could: history, politics, philosophy and
creative writing. I didn't understand
a lot of what I read, but one book
in particular left a deep and lasting
impression on me: The Souls of Black
Folk by W.E.B. DuBois.29 One sentence
that registered on my consciousness
was where he wrote about the problem
of the twentieth century being the
problem of the colour line. DuBois
wrote movingly about the "shadow of
the veil" that blighted black life in the
USA. What I found amazing was that
DuBois was making those observations
at the dawning of the twentieth
century. Moreover, although DuBois
I had written about the experiences of
Afro-Americans in the immediate post-
S emancipation period, I could relate
What I read to my own experience. The
Souls of Black Folk changed my life. It
awakened something within me and I
felt an urgent need to express myself,
to articulate my thoughts and feelings
about the black experience in Britain.
That is how my engagement with
poetry began.
One of the first books of poems
I read was a thin volume of Afro-
American poetry simply titled Black
Poetry.3 The twenty-five poets featured
included Arna Botemps, Gwendolyn
: Brooks, Countee Cullen, Langston
SHughes, LeRoi Jones (aka Amiri
SBaraka), Claude McKay, Sonia Sanchez,
Don L. Lee and Margaret Walker. I was
immediately struck by the range of
S style, form, language and themes: from
the sonnets of McKay and Countee
Cullen, the lyrical elegance of Jean
Toomer, Dudley Randall's wit, Brooks's
powerful call to action, Jones's unusual
diction and Lee's hip street language.
Black Poetry whetted my appetite
for poetry and set me on a journey
of discovery. In the Black Panther
movement I got a chance to hear the
recordings of the Last Poets who, like
Lee, used the everyday language of
black Americans as the vehicle of their
poetic discourse, accompanied by
S Then I found out about New
R Beacon Books, Britain's first black
i publishing house and bookshop. I had
! no idea at the time that New Beacon

was the source of most of the black
literature I had found in the Panthers.
The bookshop was located in the front
room of its founders, John La Rose and
Sarah White, in Finsbury Park. My
first visit to the shop lasted an entire
afternoon, most of which was spent
talking to John La Rose, one of the most
remarkable people I have ever met.
Through him I got to meet Andrew
Salkey, the Jamaican poet, novelist and
broadcaster. They both became my
mentors and introduced me to a whole
range of literature including poetry by
Aime Cesaire, Kamau Brathwaite, Okot
p'Bibtek, Christopher Okigbo, Tchicaya
U'Tamsi, Derek Walcott, Martin Carter
and Bongo Jerry, as well as literary
journals from the Caribbean like BIM
and Savacou.
In 1966 Brathwaite, La Rose and
Salkey founded the Caribbean Artists
Movement (CAM), a unique coming
together of Caribbean writers, visual
and performing artists and intellectuals
whose impact continues to reverberate
in Britain and the Caribbean. I caught
the tail end of the movement in the
early seventies. I consider myself a
beneficiary of CAM's legacy; I am what
the cooling embers of the movement
spawned. In the preface to her book on
the Caribbean Artists Movement, Anne
Walmsley writes of the organisation's
aims and objectives:

They sought to discover
their own aesthetic and to
chart new directions for
their arts and culture; to
become acquainted with their
history; to rehabilitate their
Amerindian inheritance and
to reinstate their African roots;
to re-establish links with the
"folk" through incorporating
the peoples' language and
musical rhythms in Caribbean
literature; to reassert their
own tradition in the face of a
dominant tradition.31

I recall attending CAM events at
the Keskidee Centre in North London;
meeting or just seeing people like
Wilson Harris, George Lamming, Sam
Selvon, painters Errol Lloyd, Aubrey

Williams and sculptor Ronald Moody.
It was around that time that I met Eric
and Jessica Huntley, whose small black
publishing house, Bogle L'Ouverture,
later published my second book of
poems, Dread Beat an Blood, when no
one else would. Through the literary
journals BIM and Savacou I was able to
get a sense of what was being written
in the English-speaking Caribbean
and the critical response. Savacou was
the journal of CAM and I would look
forward to getting a copy from New
Beacon. Savacou 3/4, a special issue of
new writing, much of which reflected
the new black consciousness of the
time, had a tremendous impact on me.
Two poems by Bongo Jerry, "Sooner
or Later" and "Mabrak",32 captured
my imagination, perhaps because I
had heard Andrew Salkey recite them
before I saw them in print.

Sooner or later.
But mus'.
The dam going to bus' and
every man will break out
and who will stop them?
The force?
What force can stop this river
of man
who already know their course.
The force is a centenarian. And
that is far too old
one hundred years of brute
force. Don't tell me dem no
"Oh" defence force,
but dem na' defen' nott'n:
dem only come to know the
ways of Babylon,
but not to partake.
Dem a fake.
Watch if dem don't defen'
black man.
Stop them if you can.
(Bongo Jerry, "Sooner or Later")

Savacou 3/4 was not well received
in some quarters. The poet Eric Roach
from Trinidad and Tobago wrote
an article attacking the contents for
its emphasis on blackness, singling
-- -- -- -- -- - -- - - - -
OPPOSITE PAGE, FROM TOP Burning Spear, Oku Onuora,
Kamau Brathwaite
THIS PAGE, FROM TOP W.E.B. DuBois, LeRoi ones,
Bongo Jerry

out Bongo Jerry's poems. Gordon
Rohlehr's spirited reply to Roach in two
articles/essays, "West Indian Poetry:
Some Problems of Assessment" and
"Afterthoughts",33 both published in
BIM, have endeared me to his literary
criticism. A year or two later came
Salkey's anthology of Caribbean
poetry, Breaklight,3 where I read for
the first time Louise Bennett's poem
"Colonisation in Reverse". Other poems
from that book which stuck in my mind
were "The Song of the Banana Man" by
Evan Jones and Martin Carter's "Poems
of Shape and Motion", Tony McNeil's
"Ode to Brother Joe", Dennis Scott's
"Uncle Time" and Mervyn Morris's
"The Early Rebels".
By 1972 the Black Panther
Movement had become the Black
Workers Movement, signalling a shift
to a politics in pursuit of racial equality
and social justice. Within a matter of
months it disintegrated. Bereft of any
organisational framework through
which I could make a meaningful
contribution to revolutionary change,
I became more focused on cultural
activities. My Black Panther experience
had given me a solid political
grounding. We had studied Eric
Williams's Capitalism and Slavery, W.E.B.

DuBois's Black Reconstruction in America,
C.L.R. James's The Black Jacobins, E.P.
Thompson's The Making of the English
Working Class, Frantz Fanon's The
Wretched of the Earth" and bits of Marx,
Lenin and Mao. I was now in a better
position to locate myself in the world.
Finding out about CAM could not have
happened at a more crucial stage of my
quest for self-discovery. Then I came
across a recording by Count Ossie and
the Mystic Revelation of Rastafari called
Grounations, a three-album set of Rasta
drumming, singing, poetry and oratory
on black history. Grounations blew my
mind. I began to adopt the external
trappings of the Rasta youth; stopped
eating pork and tried unsuccessfully to
grow dreadlocks. I embraced Rastafari
but refused to call myself a Rasta
because I could not accept the divinity
of Emperor Haile Selassie. Neither
could I reconcile myself to the notion
of repatriation as a viable or even
desirable political project. I had already
rejected Christianity and Islam because
of their complicity in the enslavement
and colonisation of black people.
But there was something about the
spirituality of Rastafari, its anti-colonial
stance and its alternative world view,
that I found alluring.

I teamed up with a group of
drummers with whom I had been
at school, who were learning the
art of nyabinghi drumming. They
called themselves Rasta Love and I
would improvise and chant my verse
accompanied by them. I learned to play
a bit of percussion too. The Jamaican
painter and playwright Dam X (aka
Stephen Hall) also joined the group. I
wrote Voices of the Living and the Dead
for voices, drums and dancers and it
was staged at the Keskidee Centre in
1973, directed by the Jamaican poet
and novelist Lindsay Barrett. Lindsay
gave me a Ghanaian box drum which
became my instrument in Rasta Love. It
was from then that I began to try to find
my voice for myself as a poet. Prior
to that I had been writing in English,
imitating whomever I happened
to be reading at the time without
proper absorption. Then I started to
experiment with language, rhythm and
form using Jamaican creole. Having
no grounding in poetry, I started with
a clean slate, improvising, inventing
and learning my craft as I went along.
For a while I felt that my lack of formal

L-R Sam Selvon, John La Rose and Andrew Salkey

training in the art of writing verse was
a disadvantage. I was disabused of that
notion by Sam Selvon who insisted
the opposite was true. Selvon told me
that starting with a clean slate allowed
for the possibility of originality; and
he cautioned against listening to too
much talk about 'proper poetry'. I
told Andrew Salkey that what I was
trying to do in my way was related to
the tension between Jamaican creole
and Jamaican English and between
those and English English. I think he
understood what I was trying to say.
In the end I opted mostly for the
language I was most comfortable with
and confident in, my first language,
Jamaican creole or what Kamau
Brathwaite calls 'nation language'. I
made other choices too. I wanted to
write poetry that was accessible to
those whose experiences I was writing
about, namely the black community; I

wanted to write verse that was relevant,
that people could relate to their every-
day experience; I wanted to write oral
poetry that could hold the interest
of the reader as well as the listener. I
heard music in language and I wanted
to write word-music, verse anchored
by the one-drop beat of reggae with
metre measured by the bass line or a
drum pattern; I wanted to write lines
that sound like a bass line or a drum
Having made these choices, I
embarked on my long apprenticeship
in search of this elusive thing called
poetry. +

This is an adaptation of a lecture which was
first given as the Arthur Ravenscroft Memorial
Lecture at Leeds University in 2005.


1. Tings an Times (London: Bloodaxe, 1991).
2. These books were: Voices of the Living and
the Dead (London: Towards Racial Justice,
1974); Dread Beat an Blood(London: Bogle
L'Ouverture, 1975); Inglan Is a Bitch (London:
Race Today Publications, 1980).
3. Mi Revalueshanary Fren (London: Penguin,
2002) was in 2005 moved to Penguin's Selected
Poems list.
4. JC, "NB", Times Literary Supplement, 15
March 2002, 16.
5. BBC Radio Four, The World Tonight, 18 March
6. Claude McKay, My Green Hills ofJamaica
and Five Jamaican Short Stories (Kingston:
Heinemann Educational Books, 1979).
7. The Wailers, "Small Axe", Burnin (Island;
ILPS9256), side 2, track 1.
8. Big Youth, "I Pray Thee", 7" 45 single (Negusa
9. Prince Far-1, "Psalm Two", Psalms for I (Carib
Gems; CGLP1002), side A, track 1.
10. Gordon Rohlehr, "Afterthoughts", BIM 14, no.
56 (January-June 1973): 230.
11. Louise Bennett, "Mawnin Buddy", Yes Mi Dear
(Island; ILPS9740), side 2, track 5B, part 3.
12. Louise Bennett, "Colonisation in Reverse",
SelectedPoems (Kingston: Sangster's, 1982),
13. Burning Spear, "Slavery Days", Marcus Garvey
(Micron Music; MM7021A), side 1, track 1.
14. Junior Byles, "Beat Down Babylon", Beat Down
Babylon (Trojan; TRL52B), side 2, track 1.

15. Bob Marley, "Concrete Jungle", Catch a Fire
(Island; ILPP9241), side 1, track 1.
16. Peter Tosh, "Can't Blame the Youth", 7" 45
single (Intel-Diplo; PT2259A).
17. Linton Kwesi Johnson, "Jamaican Rebel
Music", Race and Class 17, no. 4 (Spring
1976): 397-412.
18. Linton Kwesi Johnson, "The Politics of the
Lyrics of Reggae Music", Black Liberator 2, no.
4 (1975): 363-73.
19. Amiri Baraka, "Talk at the Free Jazz Weekend at
Penn State", Mixed Blood, no. 1 (2004): 8-9.
20. Ibid.
21. Prince Buster, "Ten Commandments", Fabulous
Greatest Hits (Prince Buster; MS.I TGI 0075),
side B, track 4.
22. Prince Buster, "Ghost Dance", Fabulous
Greatest Hits, side B, track 3.
23. Derrick Morgan, "Tougher than Tough",
Pressure Drop: Volume Three (Mango; MBOX
25 3), track 8.
24. Prince Buster, "Judge Dread", Fabulous
Greatest Hits, side B, track 1.
25. Sir Lord Comic, "The Great Wuga Wuga", More
Intensified, Volume Two: Original Ska 1963-67
(Island; IRSP3).
26. Listen to Prince Jazzbo, "Prophet Live", Natty
Passing Thru (Black Wax Label; WAXLP
1), side A, track 5; Yellowman, "Gun Man",
Them a Mad Over Me (J & L Records; JJ060),
side A, track 3; Peter King, "Me Neat Me
Sweet", Great British MCs (Fashion Records;
FADLP001), track 4.

27. Linton Kwesi Johnson, "Reviews: The New
Caribbean Poets", Race Today 9, no. 7
(November-December 1977): 164-66.
28. Johnson, "Jamaican Rebel Music", 398.
29. W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls ofBlack Folk (orig.
pub. Chicago: A.C. McClurg, 1903).
30. Dudley Randall, ed., Black Poetry (Detroit:
Broadside Press, 1969).
31. Anne Walmsley, The Caribbean Artists
Movement: A Literary and Cultural History
(London: New Beacon Books, 1992), xvii.
32. Bongo Jerry, "Sooner or Later", Savacou 3-4
(December 1970-March 1971): 12; Bongo
Jerry, "Mabrak", Savacou 3-4 (December
1970-March 1971): 15.
33. Gordon Rohlehr, "West Indian Poetry: Some
Problems of Assessment", BIM 14, no. 54
(1972); Rohlehr, "Afterthoughts".
34. Andrew Salkey, ed., Breaklight (London:
Hamish Hamilton, 1971).
35. Eric Williams, Capitalism and Slavery
(1944; repr. Chapel Hill: University of North
Carolina Press, 1994); W.E.B. DuBois, Black
Reconstruction in America (1935; repr. New
York: Free Press, 1998); C.L.R. James, The
Black Jacobins: Toussaint L 'Ouverture and
the San Domingo Revolution (1963; repr. New
York: Vintage); E.P. Thompson, The Making
of the English Working Class (London: Victor
Gollancz, 1963); Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of
the Earth (New York: Grove Press, 1965).

Akan Echoes in

Jamaican Folk Melodies


a modem melody composed in a
particular Ghanaian musical genre
and detected a resemblance to certain
Jamaican folksongs. Although I have
been unable to recover the Ghanaian
song in question, I attempt below to
identify the structural affinities that
underlie the resemblance I observed.
This task has been enabled by reference
to an analysis of features of the musical
genre by the composer of the song
I heard, the musicologist Professor
Kwabena Nketia.' The Ghanaian
musical type analysed belongs to the
Akan people, and the instrumental
accompaniment to the song genre in
question is the seperewa (pronounced
with the stress'on the first syllable,
The Akan are an ethnic group
occupying the western part of today's
Ghana (formerly the Gold Coast) and
the eastern part of the Ivory Coast.
Among the sub-groups of the Akan are
the Ashanti, the Guan, and Fanti, and
other Twi-speaking peoples who came
to be lumped under the misnomer,
Coromantyns.2 Apart from the Fon-Gbe
peoples of the Slave Coast, the Congo,
Angolans, and the Igbo and Niger Delta
peoples, the Akan were among those
most significantly represented in the
Jamaican enslaved population.3

One type of Akan music is sung
to an eight-stringed harp-lute called
the seperewa or sankuo. A nineteenth-
century British commentator described
it as being "played like a guitar and
[producing] a soft and soothing tone".4
Another speaks of "the low sound
of their plaintive melody" since "the
instrument is chiefly employed to
give expression to the more pensive
moods of the mind".5 J.H. Kwabena
Nketia explains that the instrument
is not intended for performance on
its own, but rather is "a vehicle for
the expression of mood and thought
embodied in song".6
The Jamaican melodies which
seem to me to bear resemblance to the
plaintive quality of seperewa songs
are: "Eva", "Yeri Mi", "Done Baby, Doh
Cry", "Bad Mada 'n La", "War Dung a
Monklan'", "Cobaly", "Sammy Dead",
"Before Mi Married", and "Fe Me
Love". Apart from their wistful tone,
they share with seperewa music
the combi,'itIo, ol certain
structures: .

* the frequency of crotchets and
* the occurrence at the close of a
verbal breath-group or sentence of a
melodic motif featuring a descent of
a third or a fourth followed by a rise
toward the tonic
* the occurrence of stepwise or
interlocking note progressions,
that is, a combination of thirds and
adjacent notes in the construction of
musical phrases
* the tendency to use sequences of
repeated notes especially in phrase-
final positions.

Pr Seperewa

The prominence of quavers and
crotchets is a feature of "Yeri Mi": Yeri
mi, mi nana. Yeri mi. Countryman a
dig hole fe bury me

tierm 01 i 1 hI I I I.........

Ye-ri mi mi na-na ye-ri me



bu-ry me

coun-try man a dig hole fe

"Bad Mada 'n La": Wanda whe mi do
yu mek mi:


.1 I I~

Wan da whe mi

do yu mek mi

"Eva": What you goin' ta do wid dat
follow-line gal:

What you going ta do wid dat foll-ow line gal

"Sammy Dead": Sammy plant piece a
corn dung a gully:

I -~ I

1 Sam my plant

piece a corn

dung a

gul ly.

"Done Baby": You madda gone a

Done ba by done cry You mad- da gone a foun-tan

Here are two examples of the melodic
motif featuring a descent and then
a rise, occurring at the close of some
sentences in seperewa music. The first
sample exhibits at its start the clustering
of short notes we just mentioned, while
its closing musical phrase features a
pitch descent of a third.

na me-nya hoa, me kro. Kwan-kwaa nnua na me-nya ho me kro. E-ho-nom na mma-baa-wa


Sammy forlorn,
Guadeloupe, 1890s




The second sample features a cadence
made by a descending fourth.

, ,| EF __E

'Bi bi ri bi

e. nne me-nna

West India Regiment soldier
in Zouave uniform
We hear similar cadences in "Eva"
where there is a fall of a fifth before two
one-tone step ascents: What you goin'
ta do wid dat follow-line gal Eva:

What you goin ta do wid dat foll-ow line

E va


In "Bad Mada 'n La": Wanda whe mi
do yu mek mi name a ring:

9H A .

Wan da whe mi

do yu
do yu

mek mi

name- a

Si' dung an tell 'tory:

fa r I' ^ ^ : J j -1- : '=

Bad Ma da'an law

oh, Si' dung an'

tell 'to ry.

In "Sammy Dead" a series of step
descents is followed by a rising third,
and the chorus follows with a descent
of a sixth and a rise of a fourth: Sammy
plant piece a corn dung a gully, aha:


piece a corn dung a


1 Sam my plant

gul ly. (A ha!)

"Before Mi Married" ends its first
phrase with a rise of a fourth, then a
descent of a sixth, followed by an ascent
of a third: "Before mi married an' go
hug up mango tree:

1 t 41 Chorus

Be -fore mi mar-ried an' go

Interlocking note progressions occur in
"Done Baby, Doh Cry", in ascending
thirds: Sweetie water never dry:

Swce-ti wa-ter ne-ver dry

hug up man go tree;

In "Cobaly", in descending thirds: Take
him put him dung de alley:

S r i rI -

One di deh Co ver-ly Take him

put him dung de al-ley

In "Fe Me Love", the progression of
interlocking thirds is ascending and
then descending: Strong an' everlasting:

Strong a' c vc

Guadeloupe, 1900

In "War Dung a Monklan'", an intricate
play of ascending and descending
thirds form the first three phrases: War
dung a Monklan'. war dung a Morant
Bay. war dung a Chigga Foot:

War dung a Monk an' War dung a Mo ran Bay

The chorus features descending thirds
beginning with adjacent notes: War,
war. war oh. war oh:

Warwar waroh Waroh

The use of repeated notes in sentence-
final positions occurs in "War Dung a
Monklan'": Heavy war oh:

heavy war oh

in "Yeri Mi": Countryman a dig hole fe
bury me:

coun-try man a dig hole fe bu-ry me

in "Fe Me Love": Only for me:

Ion T T~ -

On l for me

War dung a Chi gg foot

West India Regiment
soldier, pre- 1858







r ia

My contention is that the nine Jamaican
songs examined here contain in some
of their parts echoes of the melodic
and rhythmic phrases of seperewa
music. Each song contains at least
two of the four structural elements
extracted here. Correspondingly, I
am not in a position to claim that any
one of these nine songs is a variant
of any particular seperewa song. The
African descendants in Jamaica very
likely no longer played the seperewa
and therefore the Akan music became
disconnected from its instrumental
accompaniment, thus freeing the
melody and rhythms from the
restrictions of the lute-harp fingering.
In addition, the use of a language such
as the English-based Creole introduced
the Jamaican speakers and singers to
a stress-timed language rather than a
syllable-timed language like Twi, the
language of the Akan. The syllable-
based tone language used with the
seperewa was one of the factors which
accounted for its songs' rhythmic
reliance on the crotchet and the quaver
(since the seperewa could not sustain
notes), and the tonal patterns of Twi

would account for the melodic turns
of the Akan songs.7 With lyrics now
independent from both language and
instrument, the Jamaican songs needed
only to adopt the seperewa singing
techniques in a selective manner.
It may also be that some of the
techniques pointed to here, or similar
combinations of these structures,
occur in African musical genres other
than that of the seperewa. These are
areas that others interested in refining
Caribbean historical reconstruction can
explore. Whatever the future findings,
it still is pertinent to recall the general
observation made by Kwabena Nketia,
that the creative artist

draws from the body of fixed
forms and structures such
as rhythm patterns, melodic
motives, and cadential patterns
... Knowledge and experience
of a musical system and its
modes of operation are thus
prerequisites of the creative
process, even where these are
not verbalized or systematized
into a coherent body of creative
techniques... (italics mine)8

Thus, when our foreparents wished
to express longing, pathos, distress
and gentleness, they had recourse
to traditions of song such as those
associated with the seperewa. They
therefore coopted older patterns to
create new ensembles.
This attempt at historical
reconstruction is an exercise in
discovering traces of musical style that
strengthen our understanding of the
cultural deposits left by a group with
substantial demographic presence in
Jamaica's past. We already know of
the Akan cultural legacy left in the
figure of the spider-god Ananse, and
in the cycle of Ananse stories; we
also hear the Akan presence in the
tonal patterns of the Maroon abeng
horn, and in the names Accompong,
Kojo, Kofi, Kwao, Fiba and so on, not
to mention several lexical items in
Jamaican Creole.9 It would therefore not
be surprising if Jamaica's traditional
musical compositions were to show
melodic and rhythmic vestiges of Akan
provenance. o


1. I wish to thank Suzanne Flandreau, Head
of the Reference Library at the Center for
Black Music Research at Columbia College
in Chicago, for securing for me a copy of
Kwabena Nketia's article on "Generative
Processes in Seperewa Music". I also thank
Dr Suzanne Shirley for assistance with
musicological analysis, scoring, and piano
illustrations of seperewa selections. The
views in this paper are, however, mine. The
scoring for "Fe Me Love", "Done, Baby,
Doh Cry", "War Dung a Monklan' ", "Bad
Mada 'n La'" are reproduced from Olive
Lewin, "Rock It Come Over": The Folk Music
of Jamaica (Kingston: University of the West
Indies Press, 2000). "Sammy Dead" and
"Before Mi Married" are excerpted from
Mango Time: Folk Songs of Jamaica, by Noel
Dexter and Godfrey Taylor (Kingston: Ian
Randle Publishers, 2007).
2. This is the name of one of the ports on the
Gold Coast from which enslaved persons
were shipped across the Atlantic. The people
of that area are Fanti.
3. The most significant numbers from the Gold

Coast during the seventeenth century were
1,501 in 1677 and 1,383 in 1700. Persons from
that region doubled between 1757 and 1775
to 5,323, but declined to the 1757 figure by
the year 1801. The periods of most intense
trading out of the region were in 1680, 1700-
1705,1720,1750-1760,1775-1776, and 1800.
See David Eltis, Stephen D. Behrendt, David
Richardson, and Herbert S. Klein, eds., The
Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade: A Database on CD-
ROM (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1999).
4. John Beecham, Ashantee and the Gold Coast
(London: John Mason, 1841), 168.
5. Brodie Cruikshank, Eighteen Years on the Gold
Coast of Africa (London: Hurst and Blackett,
1853), 268.
6. J.H. Kwabena Nketia, "Generative Processes
in Seperewa Music", in To the Four Corners:
Festchrift in Honor of Rose Brandel, ed. Ellen
C. Leichtman (Warren, MI: Harmonie Park
Press, 1994), 122.
7. It is to be observed that the soundings of the
Maroon abeng horn are similarly staccato-
like primarily, with occasional long notes;

in addition, the abeng melodies carry the
tones of speech, though to my knowledge,
no attempt has yet been made to decipher
the phrases they may echo. The Maroons
are descendants of runaway slaves who
made hamlets at various mountain sites in
Jamaica's interior.
8. Nketia, "Generative Processes", 117.
9. See David Dalby, "Ashanti Survivals in the
Language and Traditions of the Windward
Maroons of Jamaica", African Language
Studies 12 (1971), 31-51; Kenneth Bilby,
"How the Older Heads Talk: A Jamaican
Maroon Spirit Possession Language and Its
Relationship to the Creoles of Surinam and
Sierra Leone", Nieuwe West-Indische Gids
57, nos. 1-2 (1983): 37-88; Mervyn Alleyne,
Roots of Jamaican Culture (London: Pluto
Press, 1988), 127-28; Beverley Hall-Alleyne,
"An Ethnolinguistic Approach to Jamaican
Botany", African Survivals in the Linguistic
Heritage of Jamaica, African-Caribbean Research
Review 3 (1996): 1-40.


Johnny "Dizzy" Moore


has been silenced at least in live
situations. Moore was a musical
architect of the highest standard.
He was a founding member of the
most innovative musical aggregation
this country has ever produced: the
Skatalites. His musical credentials,
artistic creativity, feel for the blues,
innovative inquiry, eloquent
expressionism and sophisticated
delivery are unrivalled except among
those musicians with whom he helped
create the very foundation of Jamaican
popular music: ska. He was also a
teacher, philosopher and big brother to
many, including me, enlightening us on
the inextricable link between livity and

music and its social implications. What
he, along with Tommy McCook, Roland
Alphonso, Don Drummond, Lester
Sterling, Jah Jerry, Jackie Mittoo, Lloyd
Brevet, Lloyd Knibb and others did at
Rasta camps, dancehalls, nightclubs
and theatres, as they performed and
reasoned about music and life, was
rare, daring, selfless and determining.
Dizzy embodied the essence of his
art. With his death in August 2008 a
living connection to the memory and
history of the development of Jamaican
popular music disappeared.
Johnny Moore was a product of
the famed Alpha Boys Home, and
along with schoolmates like Don
Drummond, Rico Rodriquez, Tommy

McCook and Cedric Brooks he
established an international reputation
as an outstanding musician. Jamaica
recognized this in bestowing on him the
Order of Distinction in 2007.
I was only a youth in Rockfort
when I first became aware of Dizzy,
an ital Rastaman blocking sounds
against colonialism, the queen and
all of Babylon, sounds that would
have been treasonable had he issued
them from a public podium or written
them (as Roger Mais did).' In those
dark and backward days the idealism
that Dizzy and his community of
Rastafari brethren at Count Ossie's
camp embodied was revolutionary,
but considered madness. Both Brother


Sam Clayton and Dizzy told me that
on a police raid of the camp sometime
in 1959, Dizzy's hat was left hanging
on the branch of a tree. An officer
enquired, "All unu madman, whofa
hat dis?" There was no answer. Again
he asked, "Whofa hat dis?" Again,
no answer. On the third time, Dizzy
answered, "I man hat." The policeman
slapped Dizzy, pulled his bayonet and,
with the others joining in, slashed all
the drums, saying, "Is dem drums mek
all a unu mad!"
But it was also at Count Ossie's
camp that Dizzy honed his musical
individuality, his musical language
and his distinctive voice. It was a
sound informed by a grammatical
intelligence that allowed him to express
himself through the trumpet in that
lean melodic style of his. He possessed
an idiosyncratic rhythmic concept, an
acute harmonic sense and detailed
melodic intelligence, all rooted in the
He gained this from exposure
to bebop innovators Charlie Parker,
Dizzy Gillespie and, most directly,
Miles Davis. Moore immediately
began incorporating bebop idioms and
harmonies in his music, fusing bebop
aestheticism with the dynamism of
Nyabinghi percussive elaboration. A
concentration of timbres and colours
drawn from bebop's harmonic
refinement augmented his palate. He
coaxed the listener to embrace his
improvisations, in idioms that were
modem and relevant because he had
ears and the kind of mind that took
nothing for granted. He was youthful
in his ideas, but excitingly personal and
riveting in a feel and form which were
unmistakably his.
Dizzy's most fruitful period was
spent in the brilliant but brief lifespan
of the extraordinary Skatalites. And
to fully appreciate his prowess as
musician and trumpeter, one must first
navigate the rhythmic landmines set by
Jackie Mittoo, Jah Jerry, Lloyd Brevet
and Lloyd Knibb, the troublesome
four, who served as timekeepers
and gatekeepers to the kingdom of
glorious saxophones of Tommy
McCook, Roland Alphonso and Lester
Sterling with Dizzy and his trumpet

at the centre, like Eshu-Elegua at the
crossroads, between them and the
eccentric genius Don Drummond on
trombone, whose creative oddity was
both auditory and visual but whose
social personality was all but vocal
With Drummond, Dizzy achieved
rare simpatico. The trombone-
trumpet conversation was structured
for their unique playing styles. It is
hard to imagine any other trumpeter
as complementary as was Dizzy
to the Skatalites and in particular
to Drummond. In response to
Drummond's pathos, guile and
confidence, Dizzy asserted elegance
without sacrificing the element of
surprise, conveying it with seer-
like storytelling qualities. Resulting
from their virtuosity was a heavenly
Yet for all his individual distinction,
Dizzy submitted himself to the
requirements of the band and the
artistes he happened to be backing. In
the Skatalites it was his serenity that
stood between the fire and fury that

engulfed Roland Alphonso on the
one hand, and Tommy McCook on
the other. His understated dynamism
effectively balanced the weight
between the other horns as well as
anchoring the section and taking the
edge off the power of the saxophones.
Furthermore, Dizzy was the medium
whose introspective solos, nuanced
expressionism and keen harmonic
concept provided the launching pad
that prepared us for the enchanting
poetic solos of the troubled genius Don
Drummond. He played simply and
tastefully, gradually unveiling hidden
complexities in his solos. At the top of
his form his entry points, accents and
fills all sneaked up on the listener and
darted away in delightfully surprising
ways that would relieve ska of its
occasional heaviness, giving the whole
enterprise a welcome lift. Although his
harmonic ideas were often innovative
and stimulating, my greatest pleasure
in listening to him came from his
subtle, relaxed approach to the beat that
consistently produced swinging, soulful
and deeply emotional solos: the way
in which he absorbed the expanding
harmonies of bop without forsaking his
lean, rich, natural trumpet sound.
On live sets I have seen him shift
the balance with just the interjection
of an intriguingly playful note, yet
one of complex authority. Introducing
a whole new concept into a song
during performance and influencing
its direction seemed to come naturally.
He was aware of the creative
advancement associated with modern
jazz, and it came out during sessions
at Bro' Woody's on countless Sunday
afternoons. His playing there displayed
an undisputed maturity. His trademark
phrasing, as well as his delight in
performing for friends and associates
hanging on to every note without
expecting the kind of perfection that
removes the human element from
music, was refreshing. He displayed
all the wit, daring and intelligence that
are the signs of a remarkably seasoned
Whether with the Skatalites or
with individual members, Dizzy
played searching, conceptually daring
intervals with coy irresistibility,

imparting nuanced melodic sketches
and sophisticated lyricism. In song
after song his inquisitive personality,
relaxed passion and idiomatic
knowledge inextricably link him to the
development of an authentic Jamaican
musical expression. For example, on
any number of classic tracks by the
Skatalites or Drummond, or indeed, the
music of any featured member of the
band, the clarity of Dizzy's contribution
brings into focus his hide-and-seek
style of soloing and proves that the
aggregation's musical achievements
were virtually incomparable. But if
one's listening habits stress technique
then one will miss the real story -

one will miss Dizzy's musicality, for
though he was a smart musician and
an outstanding trumpeter, he had a
desire for the kind of innovation that
favours human emotion rather than a
showcasing of academic skill.
Dizzy made few recordings as
a leader. Perhaps because of his
democratic nature, he preferred to
remain a stabilising ingredient in
the Skatalites rather than becoming
yet another individual star in a band
already made fragile because of
personal ambitions. Yet, there is so
much exceptional music to savour from
his recorded output that he could count
among his admirers innumerable local

and international artistes and music
lovers, including two young lawyers
not yet politicians, P.J. Patterson
and Anthony Spaulding, Skatalites
bandleader Tommy McCook, and
schoolmate Rico Rodriquez. From the
jazz world, trumpeter Lester Bowie,
master trombonist George Lewis, jazz's
most influential drummer Max Roach,
and our own multi-instrumentalist
Douglas Ewart all admired Johnny.
What makes his music so amazing is his
constant search for ways to apply the
art of self-expression and improvisation
to the form of ska music, drawing from
a wide repertoire of jazz, pop, R&B and
movie themes. The different techniques

and approaches of the various
instrumentalists in the Skatalites
brought out of Dizzy qualities of
drive, introspection and passion.
Passion was a part of Dizzy's
personality. Yet, in contrast to
the persona generally associated
with trumpeters, he was never an
extrovert, but expressed his feelings
in metaphors and one-liners, with wit
and humour. His wisdom came from
a solid family background; from his
academic and creative achievements
at Alpha; from the nurturance of
the nuns, especially Sister Ignatius -
"Sister Iggy" to Dizzy. It came from
his tenure in the army; from his early
years as a young Rastafari, from
his association with Count Ossie's
camp in Rockfort, his days and
nights in Dungle and Back o' Wall,
his membership in the Skatalites. It
came from his years living abroad in
Canada and New York, where, like
so many Caribbeans, Dizzy migrated
in the late 1960s to seek a better life
abroad; there he engaged in multiple
endeavours, permissible and not
permissible, to school his children,
to maintain his musicianship, and
to survive; and there he triumphed,
he lived lavishly, and he went broke.
Along the way he kept his consistent
interest in humanity and never
abandoned the principles of Rastafari.
When stripped of all opulence, he
displayed dignity, pride, grace and
kindness, but not without his sarcastic
brand of humour.
With Johnny "Dizzy" Moore's
transition, we have lost not simply a
remarkable musician and humanist
but also a piece of our historic memory.
Dizzy personified the history and ethos
of an era whose stories and music
do not actually come alive except
when key individuals are involved
in its recreation. His performances in
latter years with surviving members
of the Skatalites and a few other top-
quality musicians reminded us of the
exclusive group of genuine jazz and ska
innovators they were. His passing also
draws closer the ending of an epoch.
The silence in live situations, however,
can be relived through listening to the
body of works available. Revisiting

all the recordings Dizzy made with
the Skatalites, both as orchestra and
backing band, should not only be
a personal requirement but also a
collective/ communal and educational
necessity. It will instil aesthetic
standards and artistic values in fans
and in students of the liberal arts and
humanities. Consistent listening will
also reiterate the importance of the
music and the time and circumstances
that informed it, allow us to recall what
we have forgotten, reinforce what we
remember, allow new revelations, and
provide pure musical delight. Above
all, it will animate the life and the
contributions of individuals such as

Johnny "Dizzy" Moore and hold them
aloft as exemplars of authentic artistic
innovation. o

1. Roger Mais was charged, arrested and
imprisoned in 1944 for writing an article
titled "Now We Know" published in
Public Opinion (and reproduced in Jamaica
Journal 29, no. 3 [2006]: 10), which was
considered seditious by the then-colonial
government of Jamaica. He spent six
months in prison. In 1954 he wrote the
first book that celebrated Rastafari, Brother

Painting Like a Prophet



Farris Thompson suggests that artistic
expression sometimes exposes "theflash
of the spirit of certain people especially
armed with improvisatory drive and
brilliance ".' Thompson refers to "visual
and philosophic streams of creativity
and imagination, running parallel to
the massive musical and choreographic
modalities that connect Black persons of
the western hemisphere, as well as the
millions of European and Asian people
attracted to and performing their styles,
to Mother Africa. All of these traditions
... are ancient and charged with nobil-
ity of blood and purpose."2
University lecturer and artist Dr
Clinton Hutton is a Renaissance man
"charged with nobility of blood and

purpose". He is a most modem if not
postmodern individual in an ancient
self. Hutton has reclaimed himself, in
spirit, in soul, in body. In fact, Hutton

has repossessed so much of his tradi-
tional culture that if this were another
time he could be arrested and charged
for practising obeah, sorcery or sha-
manism. Through his diverse artistic
and academic knowledge, Hutton is the
embodiment of the flash of the spirit.
With Repossession, his recent
exhibition of paintings at the Philip
Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts,
University of the West Indies, Mona
(March-April 2010), Hutton has
revealed much that he has reclaimed. It
is a synthesis of knowledge emblematic
to cosmological ideas as varied as those
of the Yoruba, Bakongo, Dahomean
and Egagham, but not without their
creolised adaptations across the black
Atlantic world. He has also more than

ably united his trans-disciplinary approach
to academics and his cultural interests into
a unified whole, with Mother Africa as its
elemental source.
Those at the exhibition opening
experienced a confluence of different
art forms: Hutton's paintings, music
by Chicago-based Jamaican multi-
instrumentalist Douglas Ewart, and poetry
by Trinidadian master painter and poet
LeRoy Clarke (who opened the exhibition)
which demonstrated how intrinsically
connected these disciplines are and how
seamlessly they join to enhance the aesthetic
and the narrative of each. As such, the
audience was treated to an exercise in the
interdisciplinary nature of the arts. And
as Hutton's oeuvre demonstrated, he
also shares spiritual, socio-historical and
philosophical perspectives with Clarke,
whose influence is evident in his work.
In Repossession, philosophy, religious
inquiry, political thought, music, dance
and art including photography plus
Hutton's search for the inner self, morphed
into a single expression. This convergence
of philosophy, the arts and the audience
was as complex and comprehensive as a
masquerade carnival.
Hutton's aesthetic is influenced by an
Afro-centred vernacular on the one hand in
response to Eurocentric edict on the other;
both remain dichotomous sources of what it
means to be Caribbean, even at this moment
of our regional, national political and
cultural development. Each of the thirty-two
paintings in the exhibition, executed on large
and small canvases and on paper, featured
images and forms in oils and acrylics with
detailed expanded themes that revealed
Hutton's interest and ongoing investigation
and interrogation of the African diasporic
The aesthetics of art, music, dance, and
traditional masquerades festival/ carnival/
celebrations and especially African diasporic
religious rituals have always been central
to Hutton's work. Allegorical references im-
bue his pictures as if they were socio-cultur-
al, religious and political texts designed for
his students' benefit and that of audiences
who, like he, are increasingly interested in
traditional mores and their extant relevance

OPPOSITE PAGE Vertieres, 2005-2010
THIS PAGE, FROM TOP Pantheon of Ancestral Gods, 2009
Ogun Oh!!!, 2009
Passage of Ogun, 2009

I- -1".

to being and knowing. Expanding upon
the native symbolisms associated with
expressions of Jamaican spiritualism
such as Rastafari, Revivalism and Myal,
Hutton in this exhibition summoned
the greater diaspora by adding Santeria,
Candombl6, Orisha, Kumfa, Spiritual
Baptist, and Vodun, signified among
other things by ground drawings or
ideographs. As if it were a visual ac-
count of history and spirituality and
the philosophy of being, Hutton's art
brought fixed mementoes of historic
moments such as the Haitian Revolu-
tion which demonstrated the centrality
of African-derived religions.
Perhaps Vertieres, a depiction of the
Haitian people defeating Napoleon's
troops, and the exhibition's centrepiece,
best captures such historic moments. It
encapsulates the energy of Vodun and
a sense of magic which is captured in
its lucid narrative through Hutton's
rhythmic flow and compositional
order. He demonstrates a willingness
to both harmonise and contrast colour,
and to reference life's agreements as

well as its conflicts, all united by his
sense of history, imagination, painterly
characteristics, and form. In this large
work (66"x 47") the terror of bloody
confrontation is depicted through
violent images featuring machetes,
clubs and muskets. It is a depiction
of battle: the struggle between Black
Haitians and the French army, each
desperately seeking victory, the latter to
remain masters over Africans thrown
into slavery, the former to attain the
liberty and dignity to be masters of
their own destiny. Throughout the
exhibition the works reflect the magic
and power of Vodun. Hutton carefully
includes signs and symbols that
provided the sense of invincibility that
sustained Haitians over the thirteen
years of the revolution (1791-1804)
as they engaged the well-fortified
French army, becoming the only colony
of enslaved people to win freedom
through military means. It is the anger,
agony, hope, determination, will, fear
and courage to overturn the system of
slavery that Hutton captures on canvas.

In Passage ofOgun, two spirit forms
appear as reflections from the skin and
metal assemblage of drums. One stares
out from the composition cross-eyed
and transfixed or is it transfixing? The
other, perhaps Ogun himself, whose
spirit dominates, among other things,
war, iron and technology, displays the
confidence he must have exhibited as
he inspired and instigated the Haitian
Revolution. Closer examination reveals
multicoloured croton leaves hidden
yet in plain view within and as part
of the colour field and texture of the
piece. Here Hutton reaches a spiritual,
philosophical, and creative zenith; and
the canvas becomes a colour field that
at once conceals and reflects shapes or
ideograms and cosmographic signs. As
in the case of the spiritual renaissance
in 1960s free jazz, and characteristic
of the textural quality and dense
improvisations of tenor saxophonist
John Coltrane's "sheets of sound",
colour, texture and form in Hutton's
compositions converge to reflect

aspects of humanity in relationship to an Afro-New-World
expression of a liberated ethos.
Also like the multi-rhythmic signature of Coltrane's
black master drummer Elvin Jones, the percussive
splendour (rich red against blue) of Ogun Oh! complements
the melodic flow of Pantheon of Ancestral Gods just as
happens when piano and bass lay out and pair the
saxophonist in dialogue with his drummer. In these two
pieces, more attention to harmonising polyrhythm and
melodic spontaneity, in some places an alternative or
counter melody, is present. The yellow tones that meander
alongside sage, sometimes disintegrating within turquoise,
and the illuminating umber that flows beside blazing reds,
give the feel of a complex musical composition arranged
with more than one melodic line present, and together
with bold rhythmic brushstrokes create a density that
is as '.lilr.l.ri., as a Sun Ra performance, or a Native
Baptist sankey sung with its offbeat phrasing that one
would experience at a Revivalist meeting.4 In this pair of
works, counterpoint and the overlapping of colour fields
like harmonic overtones are essential. They preserve the
musical styles and overall integrity of all the genres and
rituals they represent. Therefore call and response, tonal
colours, short contrapuntal lines, syncopation and layered
texture, all ingredients in black ritual and secular music,
infiltrate not just Ogun Oh! and _:i i'.. .. of Ancestral
Gods, but also any number of pieces in Hutton's show. As
multiple metres dominate the music of diasporic blacks,
visual syncopation and multilayered textures dominate the
paintings of Hutton.
The joie de vivre exuded by Hutton's oeuvre expresses
the kinetic energy found in various religious groups.
Beingness in Becoming, among the most kinetic works here,
portrays a combination of dancers/beings in brightly
coloured regalia: Jonkanoo pitchyy patchy), a signature
of the aestheticism of diasporic art; two Revival figures;
Trinidadian blue devils; the robin redbreast (long regarded
in Jamaican folklore as the expression of an ancestor/ dopi/
duppy), demonstrating the fluid relationship between the
world of the living and that of the dead. The dancers wheel
and turn to the beat of drums and chants in a universe of
ecstatic percussive incantation. Beingness in Becoming is
an indication that Hutton associates the spiritual with the
secular as a single expressive ethos.
Another composition, The Unconquerable Drums, is
explained by the artist:

Legba, the crossroads God, messenger God and
God of epistemology, emerges from a plumed drum
in the Cuban cosmology and spirituality, a Vodun
drum, a Nyabinghi repeater drum of Rastafari
and the steel pan of Orisha Ogun, signifying that
despite the immense unspeakable horror of slavery
Africans persevered. The crossroads, the source of
contemplation, of taking stock, of renewal, is etched
in a face with four eyes, ii .l in seeing beyond

OPPOSITE PAGE Mama Africa, 2005
THIS PAcE Tanze. 2005

the ordinary and signifying an alternative vision of
knowing and being. At the top of the crossroads the
eyes are that of a leopard and of the sacred fish. At the
bottom, the eye of the cock [rooster] in Haitian Vodun as
well as one of that of Joseph Hibbert, the most mystic of
the founders of Rastafari... Around the crossroads is a
circle made by a snake biting its tail, signifying infinity /
eternity/ continuity. The snake circle is called uroboros
and was said to be a symbol of the Haitian Revolution.'

Mama Africa has as its main subject Peter Tosh. It focuses on
the late reggae singer/musician whose Africanist and spiritualist
philosophies are captured in this composition. His fixed stare
on the nude Orisha, Yemoja (Yorubaland, Nigeria), alternatively
known as Yemanja (Brazil), Yemaya (Cuba), and LaSirena
(Haiti), is spellbound. Both subjects share primary space with
a prized fish as offering. All are set against a sparsely arranged
Revival table, decorated with a vase containing crotons. The
scene morphs into an image of Haile Selassie, with offerings of
eggs, cerassee, ganja and leaf of life as if the leaf of life were
the antidote to the effects of a very lethal indigenous plant
also on the table. Tosh and Yemoja are located within lush
vegetation that extends the view across the ocean to a barely
discernable sphinx, a symbol of black achievement. Between the
offering and the sphinx is Yemoja, whose fertile strong female
body represents Mama Africa. She is holding a signature staff
decorated with cowry shells, beads and colourful twine, the

symbol of birth and death. The piece conjures Tosh's firm belief in African
spirituality and magical forces and his emotional embrace of Mama Africa
from which he was torn centuries ago (Tosh, the man of the past, living in the
present, walking into the future).
Tanze is the ultimate expression of female cosmic power. Here Hutton's
painting incorporates the morphing of the goddess, who was martyred
and transformed to a sacred fish, then reshaped as a leopard. Her scream
becomes the birth of the voice, and the voice demonstrates the power of the
words to cause change: Nommo.' The scream spews forth life cells that gave
birth to the four-eyed man, whose image is repeated throughout. He is en-
dowed with the ability to see beyond the ordinary. In Tanze colours are more
subtly blended in comparison to most of the other paintings on display, but
the musical tonalities remain vivid. Here, we see purples, yellows, various
tones of blue and green becoming blue-green, reminding us of trumpeter
Miles Davis's recording "Blue in Green" (1958), which painted a picture of
allure that invited the listener to embrace the temperamental jazz star. Tanze
is one of the darker paintings in the show, but as one moves away light pops
out at different moments before disintegrating, as at the bottom where the
fish becomes a galaxy of cells radiating life to the universe.
These works refer to the art of black expression that is embedded in
cultural continuities and represents repossessed sensibilities and memories,

some originating from before the triangular
experience, which have survived through
slavery to the present in diasporic populations.
Hutton is also interested in the idea of resistance
that seems instinctive to the historic imagination
of African descendants. The exhibition
conveyed Hutton's complete devotion to
heritage and the desire to avail his viewers
to the spiritual and metaphysical journey of
blacks in the New World. Contained in that
journey are signifiers and symbolic imperatives
that point to the resilience that fortified the
struggle to become free citizens and to achieve
empowerment. More importantly, the works
illustrate that blacks achieved these liberties
largely on their own terms and through their
own agency, thus shaping their own identities
to significant degrees.
Like the best of our singers at the height
of classic reggae, Hutton is determined to
simultaneously educate, elevate and illuminate
the aesthetic richness of African diaspora
achievement. His dedication to tradition and
his willingness to revise history, preserve native
religious narrative and question hegemony,
make him unintimidated by European
What the exhibition Repossession confirms
is that philosophically, his works not only
reflect the encounter with native-based African
rituals, they are themselves African-based
rituals, practices with roots in Benin, the Gold
Coast (Ghana), Calabar (Nigeria), Yorubaland,
Kongo and other sites of kidnap, which were
transmitted all over the diaspora, which have
lasted well past the triangular experience,
and survived in varied forms. These rituals
materialise through memory, imagination and
the creative potential that is theflash of the spirit.
The artist has acknowledged that he listens
to a wide variety of music, sounds as diverse
as the philosophies and cultures that interest
him: ritual music, blues, calypso, mambo, ska,
jazz, reggae and rap. Therefore, his art provides
a visual sound effect that is a logical extension
of the music from around the Caribbean
and from black America that took shape in
relation to their African antecedence. His works
visualise the honking ululations and screams
that define the blues, jump blues, spirituals
and any order of black religious practice,
especially those sounds we hear from the amen
shouters and praise hollers whose gyrations in
back-street tabernacles and ritual spaces recall
blues dance undulations. These sensibilities,

THIS PAGE The Unconquerable Drums, 2008
OPPOSITE PAGE Beingness in Becoming, 2008

therefore, are logical extensions of the elements
that are emblematic to Thompson's concept of
flash of the spirit.
Hutton's art covers central themes relating
to the repossession of the essentials of African-
derived aesthetics and religious practices
for the wellbeing of both individual and
community. He professes that these religions
provide healing, a sense of purpose, and
serve as models in the long resistance against
cultural, social and political domination, and
that they fortify the idea of liberation. Hutton
believes that the magic and power of traditional
African-derived philosophies provide
possibilities otherwise nonexistent.6 He also
believes that the understanding of traditional
mores, rituals and aesthetics, their usage and
their power, can make things happen Ashe.
Therefore, as demonstrated by this exhi-
bition, the philosophy that directs his work
comes from a diasporic connectivity fundamen-
tally derived from West and Central Africa. In
Hutton's case, it would seem to me, in addition
to other sensibilities, it is the Yoruba cosmology
that he embodies. "The Yoruba," Thompson
tells us, "assess everything aesthetically from
the taste and colour of a yam to the qualities of
a dye, to the dress and deportment of a woman
or a man." He adds:

The Yoruba religion, the worship of
various spirits under God, presents a
limitless horizon of vivid moral beings,
generous yet intimidating. They are
messengers and embodiments of
Ashe, spiritual command, the power-
to-make-things-happen, God's own
enabling light rendered accessible to
men and women ...

Elsewhere he explains:

A thing or work of art that has Ashe
transcends ordinary questions about its
makeup and confinements: it is divine
force incarnate... Ashe literally means,
"So be it." May it happen.'

I suggest that no other Jamaican artist has been as grounded in, indeed
possessed by, an Afro-diasporic sense of history and philosophical thought
and been as thoroughly convinced in the powers of the ancestors and the
flash of the spirits) to transmit values, lessons and Ashe, as is Hutton.
It is in this context that the observation made of Hutton's artistic
development by sociologist and writer, Erna Brodber, is so much on target:
"Once you painted prophets. Now you are painting like a prophet." 4

All photos Clinton Hutton except where otherwise noted.

1. Robert Farris Thompson, The Flash of the
Spirit: African and Afro-American Art and
Philosophy (New York: Vintage Books, 1"s- I i,,
2. Thompson, Flash of the Spirit, xiii-xiv.
3. Personal communication, 3 September 2010.
4. See Clinton Hutton, "The Revival Table:
Feasting with the Ancestors and Spirits",
Jamaica Journal 32, nos. 1-2 'i u.L lr I211', i

5. The Banto term 'Nommo' denotes the power
of words to cause change. Nommo is also
an Afrocentric term employed by Molefi
Asante that refers to the powers of the word
to generate and create reality. Asante further
sees it as a communal event that moves
towards the creation and maintenance of
the community. Melbourne S. Cummings
and Abhik Roy quote Asante as also seeing

Nommo as the power of the word to create
harmony and balance in disharmony.
6. Clinton Hutton, The Logic and Historical
Significance of the Haitian Revolution and
the Cosmological Roots of Haitian Freedom
(Kingston: Arawak Publications, 2005).
7. Thompson, Flash of the Spirit, 5.
8. Ibid., 7.

An Idea Emerges from the Heart


difficult of all human challenges is to
see clearly the appropriate and most
meaningful course of action in times of
great upheaval and incomprehensible
disaster. When the earthquake of 12
January 2010 devastated Haiti, that
was the position that many found

themselves in. People with the best
intentions sent clothing and canned
goods, money and used camping
equipment; but even months into
the relief effort, many of us were still
at a real loss as to the best direction
forward. It seemed as though everyone
around me was beginning to come to

terms with how unprepared we really
were to deal with the disaster and
its unfolding aftermath of shortage,
disease, and crime of all stripes.
I am an artist from Louisiana who
was hosting a Haitian artist, Frantz
Jacques, at my house in Georgia when
the quake struck. I had come to know

him and several others in Port-au-
Prince as a result of my participation
in the first ( --ith. Biennale held in
downtown Port-au-Prince along the
Grand Rue Jean Jacques Dessalines
during the first three weeks of
December 2009. He and I, and some
friends who happened to be visiting,
watched helplessly as the news
repeated the same four minutes of
poorly constructed interactive maps
and video for several hours. The
feelings of anger and frustration that
I had felt in the wake of Hurricane
Katrina came flooding back to me. I
had no idea what to do, what I could
do; I was a graduate student who could
barely feed myself, let alone donate
cash or equipment. My heart, one might
say, was trembling.
Melinda Brown is the creative
director of an arts-based urban
intervention project called ROKTOWA
located in downtown Kingston. She
and I narrowly missed each other in
Port-au-Prince: she arrived the day I
left and met the same people whom I
had come to know over the three weeks
of the biennale. The two of us would
meet as a result of our mutual friend
Frantz Jacques staying at my house.
The day after the earthquake, email
messages attempting to find him came
pouring in. Melinda's messages were
among those that he asked me to help
him respond to. I eventually introduced
myself and began corresponding with
her about the possibility of coming
to Kingston to assist her with the
programme she was developing called
"From the Trembling Heart". It would
be a long-term aid project in the form of
an artists' residency. The idea seemed
like a natural progression of her desire
to establish robust channels of cultural
exchange among the islands of the
broader Caribbean region. I began
to feel our helplessness and anger
transform into a sense of purpose.
The ROKTOWA has evolved over
the last three years from Melinda's
personal art practice into a community-
based practice that seeks to do
something that is emergent in the
global picture and totally unique here
in Jamaica. She has aligned herself
with artists and artisans from across
the island. They are ceramicists, stone



masons, sculptors and performers from
places like Rosetown, Top Jack and
downtown Kingston. The virtually
untapped creative genius that she has
taken upon herself to unearth and
expose to the broader culture both here
and abroad is the current from which
the ROKTOWA gains its strength. She
felt, in the wake of the disaster in Haiti,
that it was only natural to parlay the
successes she has experienced here into
a more regional programme. It was
with this in mind that she went to Haiti
in the spring to seek out the artists she
had met a few months before and invite
them to participate in the residency.
In all, eight Haitian artists came
to Kingston to participate for varying
lengths of time in the three-month
residency program. They were Ronald
Bazile, also called Cheby; Lionel
St Eloi; Frantz Jacques, also called
Guyodo; Myrlande Constant and her
son and apprentice Charles Feret;
Nathalie Fanfan; Jean Frederic, also
called Wabba Upking; and Claudel
Chery, also called Zaka Lalwa. They
participated in exhibitions, workshops
and collaborations with Jamaican
artists, musicians and filmmakers.
The disaster, in its way, sped up the
timetable of what Melinda had been
devising long before, a true regional
cultural exchange.

Simultaneously with the production
of the residency programme, a show
of new works by Jamaican artist Laura
Facey was due to take place in one of
the galleries at the ROKTOWA in late
May. The Sunday the show was to
open was the same day the police and
army finally broke weeks of tension
and proceeded into the downtown
neighborhoods that surround the
ROKTOWA. The residency studios
were temporarily moved to a house
provided to us by the University of

OPPOSITE PAGE Frantz "Cuyodo" Jacques, Untitled
THIS PAGE, FROM TOP Franti "Cuvodo" dacques with
an untitled sculpture at the Riverton scap yard;
Frantz "Guyodo" lacques in the foreground, draw-
i;,- '.y Robeit August Peterson in the background;
I !St E/oi works on a halo for Erzulie, has relief
mixed media wall sculpture featured in the June
2010 exhibition at ROKTOWA; St Eloi constructing
the metal moulding around Erzulie

the West Indies. With some time to
reconnoitre and plan a new strategy, an
invitation was extended by Laura to the
Haitians to participate in a collaborative
exhibition. She and Melinda devised
a new, more theatrical production that
included a nine-night performance by
the St Ann Senior Citizens Cultural
Group, a collaborative musical
performance by Lionel St Eloi and
Jamaican instrumentalist Charmaine
Lemonius, and opening commentary
by Veerle Poupeye, executive director
of the National Gallery of Jamaica.
The array of material and technical
knowledge that the Haitians brought
with them had found its complement
in the fertile soil of the Jamaican art
community. The vibrant success of the
exhibition proved this. The exhibition,
in a sense, became a definitive
statement of possibilities and potentials
explored to their fullest.
By the time the exhibition came
about on 20 June, only three exhibiting
artists remained from the Haitian
contingent. Constant displayed seven
Drapo Voudou, or Voudou flags, six of
which were completed in the first six
weeks of her stay here. St Eloi showed
mixed media paintings and sculptures,
and Guyodo included works on paper
and several bricollage sculptures
made from refuse found in scrap yards
around Kingston. The works were
drawn together by their thematic and
formal elements, yet by virtue of their
material and technical aspects the
installation sparkled with a vibrancy


that is only achievable through the
collage of disparate modalities.
One can clearly see the formal
training of St Eloi, an alumnus of
the Centre d'Art in Port-au-Prince,
coupled with his unique playfulness
and good-humoured irreverence in his
paintings and sculptures. My sense
is that this conundrum of adherence
to and divergence from the thematic
and symbolic narrative tradition
unique to Haitian visual art is an
important component of the broader
culture of the Caribbean. In Haiti, in
particular, it seems that everything
and its other walk hand in hand, at
once acknowledging and ignoring

one another. One need only look at
the attitudes toward gender, sexual
identity and race relationships within
Caribbean culture to lend credence
to this assertion. In St Eloi's offerings
one can view a canvas sculpture of
a naked queen of the night on her
throne, a rendering of the Virgin and
Child surrounded by gifts and bottles
of alcohol, and traditional tableaux of
marching bands and produce trucks
that could very well have ended up
in tourist markets. He inserts visual
jokes, political quips and environmental
, warnings with such compositional
skill that to the uninitiated they appear
innocuous when really they represent
a sly wink and a nod to the tragicomic
Theatre of life.
Constant's body of work represents
San entirely new direction in the art of
the Voudou flag. Used for centuries
as ceremonial standards and seen as
part of the larger religious practice
of Haitian Voudou, the Voudou flag
has had a new light shed on it and
is now considered as much objet
d'art as cultural object. This is due
in large part to the steady output of
Constant's atelier in Port-au-Prince.
Her father was a houngan (Voudou
priest) and her mother was a bead
worker in a wedding-dress factory. She
eventually went to work at the same
factory where she learned the craft of
beadwork. Her religious influences
and her occupational education
naturally morphed into a set of unique
approaches to the craft of Voudou flag

making. The relationship of the small
beads to the sequins on a flag from
the traditional school is one where
function takes precedence. The small
bead is used to secure the sequin to the
tapestry. In Constant's compositions
this relationship is dismantled and
reassembled in such a way that the
beads become formal, rather than
simply functional, materials used
for their shapes, sizes and reflective
qualities. She applies them in fields of
colour, using a combination of beads
and sequins to make bas-relief textiles
that sparkle with such radiance that
they transcend the realm of religious
object and are fully decipherable as
narrative compositions with attention
paid to aesthetic and formal issues.
Traditionally, Voudou flags range in
size from a few square feet up to nine
or ten square feet at the largest. For the
exhibition, Constant displayed a flag
that measured roughly thirty square
feet. She has not only expanded her
material language but also the very
format upon which she works. The
combination of these two core elements
has provided her with more freedom
to render her narratives with a depth
unseen in many other flag makers.
Though she is pushing forward with
each composition, I sense in her work
a strongly rooted connection to the
tradition from which she comes. Her
reverence for the symbolic language of
her religious tradition and her care in
the rendering of the formal elements
of her compositions have cemented

her work firmly within the tradition of
Voudou flag making.
Guyodo lives in a downtown
Port-au-Prince neighbourhood just
off of the Grand Rue Jean Jacques
Dessalines. This bustling community
of mechanics and woodworkers in the
middle of downtown is dotted with
piles of car parts, tyres and wood to
be turned into craft objects aimed at
tourist markets. As a natural extension
of their occupations as wood and metal
workers, the Sculptors of the Grand
Rue, with whom Guyodo is loosely
associated, have developed practices
that include references of Claude Levi-
Strauss, William Gibson and even
Slavoj 2izek. What I find endlessly
intriguing in Guyodo's bricollaged
sculptures is that what academics and
aesthetes have been preaching for the
past half century in Western academies
is being put into practice with no
greater aplomb than in the downtown
ateliers of artists like Guyodo. His
themes are divergent slightly from
those of St Eloi and Constant. He
deals with a more contemporary set
of images, babies in strollers, men and
women in various states of decrepitude,
and giant visages cut and shaped from
oil drums. He claims no adherence to
the formal traditions of Voudou, yet his
works on paper betray this assertion.
He mixes and mashes traditional Ve-Ve
lines and forms to create spectres and
creatures that stare back at the viewer
with thousand-yard gazes. His work,
placed in the context of the other two

artists on display at the ROKTOWA,
represents a departure in material,
procedural and narrative concerns, yet
is grounded enough in Haitian visual
culture to provide the viewer some
space with which to view each of the
works in the exhibition with a fresh eye.
The From the Trembling Heart
residency programme ended in late
July 2010, just over three months from
the first arrivals. Our mission was to
address the needs of the art community
of Haiti as directly as possible. In doing
this, we simultaneously addressed
a growing and ever more important
need for stronger bonds of community
between our islands and among all of
the islands in the Caribbean. As the
global dialogue on the Caribbean turns
a generational corner and new modes
of thought on the region make their
way forward, ROKTOWA is actively
positioning itself to take an active role
in the current debate. +

OPPOSITE PAGE, FROM TOP Myrlande Constant With
her Drapo V..j.l. I .. . I r ,on La Croix, one
of the Haiti I .... ..r .f .death; Melinda
Brown views Constant's Drapo frame -.. i. 1 ,
two Drapo with J.. Dessalines and the Drapo
of Baron La Croix; Our dining table doubled as
meeting table and drafting board, many times all at
once: L-R, Robert. u, .... i Pelerson, Alec "Banton"
Champagnie, Marie Gooden, Claudel "Zaka"
Chery, Frantz "CGuyodo" Jacques, Lionel St Eloi and
Dion "Sand" Palmer.
THIS PAGE ROKTOWA studios where guests could
enjoy an impromptu musical performance or a
conversation with artists from Haiti, Jamaica or the
USA. L-R: Lionel St floi, gallery director Susanne
Fredricks, ;,. curator Michael McMillan and
lean "Wabba Upking" Frederic.

Northwest Trelawny


la. Court House Id. Tharp House (circa 1776-1778)
b. Barret House ruins (bui 1799) le. Boundary wall
1c. Phoenix foundry (1810) f. St Peter's Church (1796)

has been well documented, but not
much has been published on the origin,
composition and source of the building
stones and stone objects found on the
different estates around the island.
This article sets out to briefly examine,
describe and illustrate some of the
many interesting geo-archaeological
structures, sites and objects found in
northwest Trelawny (see Figure 1), once
the most prosperous sugar-producing
region in the island.

During Tertiary times, a period in
Earth's geological history dating back
more than twenty million years, large
deposits of sediment were accumu-
lating on the sea floor in the Jamaica
region. This included the direct precipi-
tation in deep water (about 640 feet/200
metres or more) of microscopic-sized

crystals of calcium carbonate (the pre-
cursor of chalky limestone), in which
silica-rich solutions were present and
which ultimately solidified to form
hard bands and rounded nodules of
chert and flint. In this rather quiet ma-
rine environment the calcium carbonate
(CaCO,) was gradually deposited in
horizontal (or near-horizontal) layers,
called beds, that also contained the
remains of microfossils, called fora-
minifers, along with imprints and im-
pressions of other fossilised life forms.
In the shallower water closer to the
shoreline, colonies of coral proliferated
and gave rise to thick deposits of reef
organisms and other forms of marine
life. Subsequent tectonic forces (or earth
movements) acting in the region about
five million years ago eventually up-
lifted both the deep- and shallow-water
limestone facies above sea level.
In many places today along the
north coast of Jamaica one can see the

deep-water limestone neatly stacked
in layers one above the other, like a
deck of cards, while in other areas they
have been thrust upwards at an angle
and are steeply inclined or folded. As
a general rule, the upper part of this
sequence is composed of soft, fine-
grained chalky limestone with large
nodules of flint and chert, changing to
a harder, microcrystalline limestone
in the lower part. Both units comprise
what is known in Jamaican geological
circles and the published literature as
the Montpelier Formation of Miocene
age (ranging from twenty-five to five
million years).
Structurally, the limestone occurs
as: (1) thick layers of 3.2 feet (1 metre)
or more; (2) thin layers of less than 3.2
feet (1 metre); and (3) massive outcrops
lacking observable stratification (bed-
ding). Additionally, uplift and folding
also produced fractures, called joints,
and any or all of the exposed limestone

outcrops are either broken or possess
irregular patterns of weakness to some
degree. Once limestone is exposed to
the atmosphere it is subjected to chemi-
cal erosion by the dissolution of calcite
by carbonic acid (HCO,) in rainfall.
As a consequence the softer variety of
chalky limestone is more easily eroded
than the harder, more compact micro-
(i .ti i n'.. (or micritic) limestone.
Fringing the coastline at several
places along the north side of Jamaica
is a series of raised reef terraces formed
during the Quaternary Period, which
extends from two to three million years
ago to the present. In 1899, the name
Falmouth Formation was applied by
R.T. I i1 I rt the shell-rich deposits, char-
acterised by the single-shelled gastro-
pod (or univalve mollusc) called Bulla
(later described by E. Robinson).2 This
formation also contains the unaltered
remains of other gastropods living to-
day in Jamaican coastal waters, such as
the keyhole limpets, top shells, turban
shells and ceriths, plus several types of
pelecypods or bivalve shells, such as
the Venus clams (especially the genus
C';... 'i cockles, lucines and scallops,
and various species of coral.

OPPOSITE PAGE FIGURE I Location map of selected sites
in Falmouth and NW Trelawny
THIS PAGE FIGURE 2 Court house

In most regions of the world, build-
ings and other structures were initially
constructed using materials local to
the area.3 Consequently, the condition
in which the Montpelier and other
limestone formations were found by
the early colonisers of Jamaica was
extremely important, since the natural
and human possibilities for shaping
and splitting rocks was a deciding fac-
tor in usage. Because Jamaica is blessed
with an excellent variety of abundant,
high-quality, durable white limestone, it
was not necessary for the British land-
owners to import expensive, heavy and
difficult-to-transport exotic stone from
overseas to build their sugar factories
and plantation homes. In general, the
sugar works were built near to or within
the canefields or adjacent to river water,
which was a source of irrigation and
power, whereas the great houses were
built on rising ground near the works
or on hilltops overlooking the estates.
The main material used was accept-
able- to good-quality limestone ranging
in colour from white through shades
of pale pink to light brown, which
was quarried nearby and then cut and
shaped by metal hammers, chisels and
saws usually made of cast iron. A
re-examination of many finely dressed
eighteenth-century estate buildings
reveals that the limestone used was of
varying quality some fine-grained and

hard, or medium-grained and sandy,
and others chalky and soft. In nearly all
cases, fossils are present but not all are
visible to the naked eye.

In 1758 an act was passed for dividing
the island of Jamaica into three coun-
ties: Cornwall, Middlesex and Surrey.
At that time St James was one of the
largest parishes in the island and the
inhabitants at the eastern end found it
extremely difficult and costly to journey
to Montego Bay to transact their busi-
ness. After Sir William Trelawny arrived
in Jamaica in 1767 to assume duties as
the new governor, a petition from the
freeholders and inhabitants in eastern
St James was presented to the House of
Assembly in 1770 seeking separation;
and according to the records, an act to
that effect was subsequently passed by
the House and supposedly signed by
the governor. However, there appears
to be some confusion as to when the
new parish was officially named Tre-
lawny. This confusion stems from the
fact that in December 1770 one of the
land deeds refers to "a lot of land at a
place called Martha Brae Point other-
wise known as Falmouth, Trelawny",4
yet the minutes of the House of Assem-
bly clearly state "that, in the said year,
1774, the said parish of St James was

divided by an act of this island, and the
windward part was made a separate
parish, for the ease and convenience of
its inhabitants, and called Trelawny par-
ish ...".' The most likely explanation
for the discrepancies between the land
deeds and the minutes of the House
is that the petition submitted in 1770
was not enforced and never officially
entered into law until 1774, by which
time the parish name Trelawny, in hon-
our of the governor, and the town name
Falmouth, in memory of his birthplace,
had already appeared on property
holdings several years previously.6 Sir
William Trelawny died in 1772.

Falmouth is an old seaport town
famous for its beautiful Georgian-
designed buildings. In 1996 the town
of Falmouth was declared a national
monument by the Government of
Jamaica, and in 2001 the Falmouth
Heritage Renewal a US-registered,
non-profit organisation with public
charity was founded. Its mission is
"to preserve and restore the historic
buildings of Falmouth, Jamaica while
making the lives of the people who
live there better".7 Charitable donations
raised so far have greatly assisted in
the training of several local persons
as well as in restoration work on such
buildings as the court house and the
Anglican church.
Several interesting and historically
important structures exist in and
around Falmouth, and only a few have
been selected for further discussion.8

The Court House
The court house, constructed between
1815 and 1817, is the most elegant,
impressive and imposing Georgian-
style building in Falmouth. It was
built on land formerly occupied by
the original Fort Balcarres, which was
relocated in 1802 to its present site, but
little remains today except a cannon
and the seawall. In August 1926 the
court house was badly damaged
by a fire and had to undergo major
restoration work. The front of the
building, which faces the harbour,
consists of an arcaded ground floor,
and a classical pedimented portico


supported by four Tuscan stone
columns, beneath which is an elegant,
curved double-staircase leading to the
upper storey (Figure 2). The original
wooden shingle roof, however, which
consisted of three bays running from
the front to the rear of the building, was
altered and runs across as seen today,
while the timber window sliding sashes
were replaced by fire-resistant iron
In its heyday it was the venue
for both official and social functions
(including balls, concerts, plays and
receptions) in contrast to its more
restrictive purpose of modem times as

the administrative centre for the courts,
parish council offices and town hall.

Barrett House, No. 1 Market Street
At the northern (or seaward) end of
Market Street are the decaying remains
of a house built by the Barrett family in
1799. Sadly, all that exists of this past
Georgian masterpiece are the walls of
the ground floor (Figure 3a). Originally
it was a two-storey building. The upper
floor, doors and windows were made of
timber (largely cedar and mahogany),
and at the front of the building the
upper storey projected outwards,
supported on wooden columns to form
a piazza at street level. Small, semi-
circular wrought-iron balconies (made
in the Regency style) were an elegant
A close examination of the ground-
floor cut-stone wall reveals that it
consists of three distinct rock types,
two of which are varieties of local
limestone, while the third is imported
slate. The most common type is a
coarse-grained bioclastic limestone
containing numerous and readily
identifiable unbroken shells and shell
fragments (2 to 3 inches, or 5 to 7.5
centimetres in length) with occasional
pieces of coral and assorted sand-sized
particles of mineral matter, embedded
in a moderate to weakly cemented
calcareous matrix (Figure 3b).9 The
wall of the first floor consists of twelve
courses of blocks of bioclastic limestone
that average 12 inches (30.5 centimetres)
in height and 6 inches (15.2 centimetres)
in thickness, but vary in length from
about 10 inches (25.4 centimetres) to
as much as 23 inches (58 centimetres).
This material is geologically equivalent
to the Falmouth Formation. Similar
building blocks, some measuring 10 x
12 x 6 inches, can also be seen at several
other places, such as in boundary
walls at and in the area around the
intersection of Lower Harbour Street
and King Street, the Phoenix Foundry
(described later), and the derelict
building at the southwest comer of
Queen and Duke Streets. But where did
these stones originate?
At the western end of the town
of Falmouth was a marl pit that was
also known as the "Quarry" which
was owned by the Barrett family. In
his History of Trelawny, Daniel Ogilvie

records that in October
1802 the land was
acquired from the late
Mr Barrett for 300 and
that "there was then a
fairly high mound at
this spot, but for years
it had been dug and
removed for building
and repairing the
streets of Falmouth,
until depressions had
been made so deep
as to be below sea
level. This process ...
progressed until about
the year 1895, when the
prisoners had to haul
stones from Greenside
to the Prison yard to be
broken for the streets of
A geological
examination of Greenside and the
environs reveals that the dominant
rock material belongs to the Montpelier
Formation described previously;
whereas at the western end of the town
the exposed elevated reef rock, with
its well-preserved fauna of corals and
molluscs, does indeed correspond to
the Falmouth Formation. In 1794, a
circular race track was constructed
on an elevated piece of land largely
surrounded by the mangrove swamp
on the south side of the town. This land,
known as Cave Island, was also owned
by Barrett and might have been another
source of building stone two hundred
years ago. In 1954 a new hospital was
constructed at the western end of the
town on the former "Quarry Lands",
and the old race course gave way to a
housing development.
Another interesting feature (not
noted in previous descriptions of
Barrett House) is the presence of
horizontal and vertical slabs of slate
between some limestone blocks,
the purpose of which was to offer
protection against moisture (Figure
3c). This is known as a damp-proof
course, a technique also used in the
construction of several buildings and
walls at Port Royal."

remains (2008)
FIGURE 38 Bioclastic himeslone with faunal remains
FIGURE 3c Slate
FIGURE 3o Dated keystone

The third rock type present is a
fine-grained, white microcrystalline
limestone, corresponding to the
Montpelier Formation. This material
is harder, more strongly cemented,
and more extensively used in the
top two courses, where the stone has
been cut in squares, rectangles, and
other polygonal shapes to form flat
(or jack) arches over windows and
doorways. Over the front door, the
date 1799 is carved into the keystone,
thus -,iln- ,il, the year in which the
building was erected I yun. 3d). Using
the average thickness of the courses it
is estimated that the height of the wall,
from ground level to top course, is at
least 12 feet (about 3.6 metres). The
presence of imported red bricks 2 to
2.25 inches (5 to 5.7 centimetres) thick is
also visible at the front of the building.

The Phoenix Foundry Dome
Located at the corner of Upper Harbour
and Tharp streets is a stone structure
with a lower circular base and an upper
conical section that curves uniformly
towards an apex (Figure 4). The circular
base is approximately 7 feet (about
2.1 metres) tall and consists of ashlar
stone blocks of fairly regular size
(with an average height of 9 inches
or 22.8 centimetres), laid in seven
horizontal courses in which the joints
are continuous. This pale yellow-

white building stone
is naturally formed
elevated reef rock
(kii. n in geological
parlance as a bioclastic
limestone) and is
identical to that used
in the construction of
the wall around part
of the Dome, as well as
Barrett House described
previously, St Peter's
Anglican Church and
several other walled
structures in Falmouth.
Built into this
structure 3 feet (91.5
centimetres) thick are
six arched openings,
the largest of which
measures 6 feet (1.85
metres) in height and 8
feet (2.46 metres) in width at ground
level. The other five are smaller (3 feet
wide), semi-circular arched openings,
two of which are still open. On the
inside the entire stonework is faced
with brick. The symmetrical cone,
which caps the ashlar stonework, is
also built of red and yellow-brown
bricks, but the outer surface exposed
to the atmosphere is coated with lime
The enclosing wall (seen in Figure
4) is also composed of the same marine
fossil-rich limestone, along with blocks
of a harder fossil-poor microcrystalline
limestone, and imported red bricks
measuring 9 inches (23 centimetres) in
length by 2.25 inches (5.7 centimetres)
in height that form the arched openings,
which were eventually bricked up
many years ago.
The Dome was part of the Phoenix
Foundry built in 1810 by John Field,
an English engineer, "as an iron
foundry to make and repair machinery
for sugar estates and ships".'2 The
whole industrial complex extended to
Tharp's Wharf and was also used to
manufacture bedsteads for the British
army. At that time Trelawny was the
largest sugar-producing parish and
Falmouth the busiest seaport along the
north coast, hence the need for an iron
foundry with skilled workers, most of
whom were from Scotland and other
European countries.

This small but unique relic
from the past is the only known |
one of its kind in Jamaica, and
will be restored and preserved as
part of Jamaica's rich industrial

Tharp House
John Tharp, whose father owned
Batchelor's Hall sugar estate in
the parish of Hanover, was born
in 1744. Both his parents died
while he was young; he and his
two sisters were brought up by
two uncles, who sent him to Eng-
land where he attended Eton and
Trinity College in Cambridge. On
returning to Jamaica he went to Potosi
Estate bordering Good Hope Estate to
gain experience in managing a sugar
plantation. In December 1766 he mar-
ried Elizabeth Partridge, who along
with her sister was co-heiress of the
Potosi Estate. According to P.J. Tenison,

This estate, situated on the
level plateau above the Martha
Brae River, was productive
and utilised the water from a
series of waterfalls to provide
the power for grinding its
sugar cane. The Great House
was on the edge of a very
steep embankment which
overlooked the factory at the
river side and a stone chute
which conveyed the sugar cane
to the i:c. ..

In 1767 John Tharp sold the family
property at Batchelor's Hall in Hanover,
and was able to buy approximately
three thousand acres of the Good Hope
land in Trelawny for 74,000. This ac-
quisition combined with his share of
Potosi made him, at the age of twenty-
three, the largest landowner in what
was still then the parish of St James.
Thus, in 1767 he owned Good Hope,
Wales, Lansquinet, Potosi (part owner),
Pantrepant, Windsor Pen and the upper
reaches of the Martha Brae River. He
also acquired other properties, includ-
ing Covey, Merry-Wood (Merry Wood)
and Top Hill.
Thomas Reid's subdivision map"
of Martha Brae Point (Falmouth)
surveyed on 12 June 1775 clearly
shows that John Tharp had by that

.A* *Aft. a .

time bought the waterfront property
on which he subsequently built a
house and wharf, both of which were
most likely completed between 1776
and 1778. The former is a very modest
two-storey structure in which the first-
floor living quarters were built over a
ground floor cellar. Access to the upper
floor is by way of a staircase, the steps
of which are made of finely cut and
dressed white limestone identical both
lithologically and palaeontologically
to that used in the construction of the
front and side steps and verandah at
Good Hope Great House and the front
steps at Wales Great House. Tharp
House also bears some similarity in
design to Good Hope Great House.
Sometime during the 1840s
the property was acquired by the
government and Tharp's Wharf became
Government Wharf. Throughout much
of the twentieth century the house
was occupied by the Collector of
Taxes, Customs and the Public Works
Department. Fortuitously in September
2004 a week before Hurricane Ivan
affected Jamaica the collectorate was
transferred to a better building on
Seaboard Street. In 2008 the property
was acquired by the Port Authority
of Jamaica and will be incorporated
into the new plan for the Falmouth
waterfront development including
the construction of a new cruise ship
pier, and it is proposed to restore and
convert Tharp House into a museum.

Boundary Wall
The built environment in Falmouth
has no shortage of interesting and
unusual structures, and among these is

S a patchwork boundary wall at the
corner of Queen and Duke streets.
The rather chaotic mix of imported
red and brown bricks, neatly cut
and dressed local fine-grained
white limestone blocks, local
coarse-grained, shell-rich bioclastic
limestone blocks, and assorted
S cut stones of irregular size and
shape, some of which have one or
more flat faces, is fascinating. Such
uncoursed stonework is perhaps
S best described as random rubble
masonry (Figure 5).
Clearly, some of the material
has been recycled from other
buildings, and although the
capstone and the course below consist
essentially of well-laid, cut-white-
limestone blocks, the rest of the wall is a
haphazard mix of brick and stone set in
lime mortar. The shell-rich limestone is
poorly cemented and has been attacked
or fretted by acidic rainfall (that is,
rainfall containing carbonic acid),
giving rise to highly pitted surfaces.

St Peter's Anglican Church
In 1794 a tender for 900 submitted by
Mr William Danny was accepted and
he was instructed to erect a building
"no less than 3 feet deep and to rest on
bedrock. Walls to be 3 feet in thickness,
20 feet in height, enclosing 50 feet all to
be done in the best white lime, mortar
and the best stones available ... to be
completed in 18 months.""
Construction began immediately
thereafter and when completed
in 1796 it was named St Peter's
Anglican Church. Also known as the
Falmouth Parish Church, it was built
on land donated by Edward Barrett
of Cinnamon Hill, and was originally
designed to hold three hundred
persons. The churchyard, however,
contains over four hundred graves and
the oldest gravestone found so far dates
back to 1783.
The tower is approximately 60 feet
(18.3 metres) in height, and in 1798 an
onion-shaped cupola was erected over
it for protection from the weather, but
it was replaced in 1937 by a pyramid-
shaped wood-shingled spire because
it was easier to repair and maintain.
The spire is crowned with a globe upon
which rests a Greek cross.'

Around 1800, twin
vestries were added to
the south wall, and in .
1842-43 the extension
on the western side
was completed, thereby
increasing the seating
capacity to one thousand
persons and reportedly
making it the largest church
in Jamaica at that time.
In 2007 the Falmouth
Heritage Renewal restored
two windows on the eastern
side of the church, and
another of their goals in
the near future is to try to
restore the whole exterior of
the church.
Among the features of
interest on the inside are
the beautiful mahogany
furniture and four Tuscan
columns that support the roof. It should
be noted, however, that on the morning
of 12 September 1988 Hurricane Gilbert
hit Jamaica and did extensive damage;
as a consequence, two of the original
timber columns had to be replaced by
reinforced concrete.

Falmouth United Church
In stark contrast to this stone church is
the Falmouth United Church founded
in 1834, located due north on Rodney
Street, which is built entirely of yellow-
brown stock bricks from London,
England. Note also the more modern,
tall and evenly spaced, round-arch
wooden window frames with clear and
frosted glass panes.

Orange Valley Estate
In 1955, when the Henderson family
purchased the 2,200-acre Orange Valley
Estate at the western end of Trelawny
close by the border with St James, it
was still a sugar-producing plantation,
but by 1966 it had become unprofitable
and was closed. A year later it was re-
opened as Jamaica's first commercial
stud farm for breeding horses for the
horseracing industry.

THIS PAGE FIGURE 6 Former slave hospital, Orange
Valley Estate (2002)

In the context of this article,
however, what is of greater interest is
that, unusually for the late eighteenth
century, the original owners of Orange
Valley Estate, the Jarretts, built one of
the finest slave hospitals in Jamaica.
(The other was at Good Hope Estate,
built by John Tharp.) Today, this two-
storey Georgian building is roofless,
but one cannot help being impressed
by the finely cut and dressed blocks of
local white limestone used to build the
walls, and the symmetrically placed
doorways, arched Palladian windows
and circular ('bull's eye') openings on
the upper floor (Figure 6). In the centre
is a solid cut-stone wall, which divides
the building into four large rooms. A
Latin inscription on a marble tablet
mounted over the inner doorway of the
entrance vestibule serves to remind us
that the hospital was built in 1797 by
H.N. Jarrett and designed by E. Earl,
Elsewhere on the estate are the
fascinating remains of parts of the sugar
works, including a mill with Palladian
arched doorways and windows, which
up to the arrival of Hurricane Gilbert
in 1988 still retained its slate roof; a
tall brick (on top) and cut-limestone
(below) chimney stack; and the boiling
house with underground brick furnace

Holland Tower Mill (William
Knibb High School)
The windmill was an
engineering marvel
developed in Europe in
-- mediaeval times. In the
Seighteenth and nineteenth
centuries windmill
S technology reached the
(,l J. jib*L-.n i, and these
..- structures were built with
locally quarried stone,
i and dotted the landscape
of many islands, such as
Antigua, Barbados, Jamaica,
St Croix, St Kitts, Tobago
and others. These thick-
walled, conical-shaped
stone structures housed the
support for the huge wind
sails (blades), gears and
rotating shaft that converted
wind energy into the power
needed to grind the sugar cane in order
to liberate the juice from which sugar
was then extracted. The crushed cane
trash (bagasse) was collected and used
as fuel in the nearby boiling house.
In 1804, James Robertson, an early
Jamaican cartographer, mapped the
sugar estates on the island7 and with
icons indicated the type of mill used,
whether it was powered by animals
(cattle), water or wind. According
to this source there were at least
ninety windmills in operation across
the island. One of the largest and
best preserved of these is the stone
tower situated on the grounds of the
William Knibb High School, which was
originally part of the Holland sugar
This massive, conical-shaped
structure is built with large square and
rectangular blocks of local cut white
limestone laid in twenty-six courses, the
two lowest of which are each 18 inches
(46 centimetres) in height. It is roughly
30 feet (9.2 metres) tall and 5.5 feet
(1.68 metres) thick at the base with an
outside diameter of 30 feet (9.2 metres)
and an inside diameter of 19 feet (5.8
metres). This design was crucial to the
stability of the structure and allowed it
to support and withstand the strain of
the huge sails that rotated on a boom
facing the wind (Figure 7).

Most of the metal
used in this and other
windmills around the
island was later sold for
scrap, while the wooden
caps have long since
disappeared, either by
natural decay or from
use as firewood, leaving
behind hollow stone
shells, many of which
are now home to fig trees
and other vegetation. But
despite the numerous
hurricanes and tropical
storms that have it I r.1 -
Jamaica over the past
two hundred years,
the Holland tower
mill is in remarkably
good condition and is a
testament to the skill of
the craftsmen, including
the enslaved, that
meticulously fashioned
these beautifully shaped limestone
blocks from rough stone taken from
nearby quarries.

Green Park Plantation
Green Park is located at the eastern
end of the Queen of Spain's Valley,
approximately four miles (6.4
kilometres) due southwest of Falmouth.
In 1764, these fertile lands, then part
of St James parish, were opened up
for development, and a Kingston
merchant originally from England,
named William Atherton, acquired land
and invested his money in what was to
become the Green Park sugar estate.'1
Initially the main house was bu 11 0I1p i'
simple lines, but in 1779 Atherton sold
his Kingston business, created the great
house we still see today by making
extensive alterations to the original,
and moved in to oversee the running
of the estate. At that time Green Park
reportedly had 559 slaves and was the
third largest plantation in the parish of
When the operation began in 1764
a cattle millI was installed to generate
power to grind the sugar cane, and then
in 1773 Atherton built a windmill using
local cut white limestone to make the
tower. This structure, in harmonious

union with a fig tree, can
still be seen today.

Site of the Gales Valley
Sugar Factory
The elegantly
proportioned and finely
dressed cut-white-
limestone blocks that
were used to construct
the University Chapel
on the Mona campus
of the University of the
West Indies originated
in Trelawny, at a place
called Gales Valley. This
Georgian building was
once part of the Gales
Valley sugar works
built in 1799 by Edward
Morant Gale (Figure
8a). In 1955, the owner
of Hampden Estate,
Mrs Charlotte M. Kelly-
Lawson, donated the then
roofless, but still standing and beautiful
old 1., .,I r house to Her Royal Highness
Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone,
and first chancellor of the University
of the West Indies. The remains of the
building as seen from the air in 1953
and at ground level in 1955 are shown
in Figures 8b and 8c, respectively.
Princess Alice's vision was to dismantle
the building and convert it into a chapel
at Mona, but to do this required the
services of a highly skilled contractor.
Such a person was A.D. Scott, of
Kingston, under whose meticulous
supervision each section of the building
was assigned a letter and every stone
within each section designated a
number, such as, A-l, A-2, A-3, B-1,
B-2, B-3. So as not to damage the
superbly cut stones during the journey
to Kingston only one layer was placed
on each truck bed. The entire cost of
transportation was paid for by F.M.
Kerr-Jarrett, owner of Barnett sugar
estate on the outskirts of Montego Bay.
But while the task of demolition
took only six weeks, that of
reconstruction was many times longer
- about three years. As Ray Fremmer
noted in the Gleaner, "In 1960, five years
from the beginning of the demolition
of the eighteenth-century sugar mill
in Trelawny, the University Chapel at

Mona was dedicated. Its donor, Mrs.
Charlotte Kelly-Lawson, had died two
years earlier, but her grandson, John
Farquharson, attended the function as
her representative."1'
Two years later (1962), a portico
was added to the front of the
chapel. Today, the former site of this
architectural masterpiece at Gales
Valley is covered by bush and trees, but
hidden from view in the undergrowth
are the remains of a forgotten cut-stone
tank once part of the original sugar
works. Some of the limestone blocks
have been identified as belonging to
the Montpelier Formation, but some
may also be part of another limestone
sequence, called the Bonny Gate
Formation.20 In general, the dressed
rectangular blocks average 12 inches
(30.5 centimetres) in height, but some
are quite massive and up to 5 feet (1.5
metres) in length.

Good Hope Estate
The Good Hope Estate was settled
in 1742 by Thomas Williams of
Westmoreland, and the present great
house, built with cut stone and 'Spanish
wall', was erected about 1755, replacing
an earlier timber-framed house. In 1767
Williams's son sold the estate to John
Tharp, who took up residence in the
Good Hope Great House. During the
next ten years Tharp concentrated on
purchasing more land, more slaves,
and building more sugar works and
estate houses. In addition, having been
inspired by Potosi, he constructed
an ingenious cut-stone dam and an
elaborate cut-stone canal system to
utilise water from the Martha Brae

OPPOSIEm PAGE, FROM TOP FIGURE 7 Holland Estate windmill
tower at William Knibb High School
FIGURE 8A Gales Valley sugar works in 1925 (Photo
University of Exeter)
FIGURE 8B Gales Valley aerial view, 1953. Source:
Film 19, Run 3, Frames 024-026 taken in 1953 for
the Government of Jamaica.
FIGURE 8c Gales Valley sugar works before disman-
tling in 1955 (Photo courtesy of the National Library
of Jamaica)
THIS PAGE, FROM TOP FIGURE 9A The counting house
(view from the back) behind the great house
FIGURE 9B Good Hope Estate aerial view, 1953.
Source: Film 19, Run 4, Frames 010-012 taken in
1953 for the Government of Jamaica.
FIGURE 9c Limestone verandah floor
FIGURE 9o Rounded coping stones
FIGURE 9E Effects of weathering on chalky white
FIGURE 9F Cut-white-limestone bridge spanning
Martha Brae River

River to generate power for the sugar
factories at Good Hope and Lansquinet.
When Tharp died in 1804, his es-
tates were valued at 500,000, including
2,800 slaves. A grandson, who should
have inherited the estate in 1818 when
he reached the age of twenty-four, was
declared insane. During the 1830s, a
nephew, Joseph Tharp, ran Good Hope
Estate and it prospered, despite the abo-
lition of slavery in the British Empire
in 1838. Then, in the late 1860s, it was
broken up and sold off, but the Good
Hope sugar works continued to operate
until 1902.21
In 1912, when John T. Thompson,
an American banker, bought Good
Hope and adjoining estates, he found
that much of the land was covered in
logwood scrub, dense bush and some
trees, and that many of the buildings
dotting the landscape had long been
neglected and were in a ruinous
state. When he commenced clearing
and cleaning up the land he soon
realized that it had once been part of
a vast sugar plantation consisting of
numerous well-constructed, cut-white-
limestone buildings. He noted, too,
that the sugar works were designed
to take full advantage of water power
provided by the Martha Brae River,
which rises at Windsor Caves and
meanders northwards, passing through
Pantrepant and Good Hope estates and
the village of Martha Brae on its way to
Rock Bay in Falmouth Harbour.
In addition to the Good Hope Great
House with its large detached kitchen,
the counting house (now known as
the 'Honeymoon Suite' see Figure
9a), the ice house (with its engraved
stone tablet), and the carriage house,
all perched on the hill overlooking the
vast estate which spread out for several
miles in all directions, Thompson found
numerous other well-constructed cut-
white-limestone buildings. Included
in this group were a small, slate-
roofed, cut-stone sentry box or gate
watchman's house at the main entrance
leading up to the great house; an estate
office with an oval date stone inscribed
"J.T.:1792", and opposite this a small
Palladian-style building, possibly a
bookkeeper's or artisan's quarters
(currently occupied by David Pinto,
a ceramicist); a slave hospital (now in

ruins) built in 1799 (the same time
that other structures were being
erected, such as the Gales Valley
sugar works, the Orange Valley
Slave Hospital, and the Barrett
House in Falmouth); an overseer's
house; and a doctor's house. The
estate as it appeared from aerial
photographs taken in 1953 is
shown in Figure 9b, with the river
and roads clearly visible.
Collectively the built heritage
is fascinating, but one feature that
is particularly worth noting is
the very large slabs of limestone
that constitute the floor of the
verandah on the western side of
the great house. The largest one
examined by the author is some
8.5 feet long (2.6 metres) by 4 feet
(1.22 metres) wide and 5 inches
(12.8 centimetres) thick (Figure
9c) It is a very fine-grained,
moderately hard limestone that
has been highly polished and was
mostly likely quarried from a site
near the river. These are the largest
single slabs of limestone used
for construction yet seen by the
author anywhere in Jamaica, and
to excavate, transport and fashion
such large pieces more than two
hundred years ago would have
required great care and much
muscle power. Moreover, because
of the highly fractured nature
of most limestone exposed at
surface in Jamaica, it is rare to
find outcrops from which such
large pieces can be extracted without
breaking. Similar stone albeit of
lesser dimensions was also used in
the construction of the front steps at
Good Hope, Wales, and Tharp House
in Falmouth. Also worth noting are
the semi-cylindrical coping stones that
form a capping along some boundary
walls (Figure 9d); the intact slate roof
on the gate watchman's house at the
main entrance to the great house;
the variously coloured flagstone
(sandstone) squares used as paving
stones for walkways and courtyards,
which originated in Yorkshire
(Yorkstone) and elsewhere in England
and were shipped as ballast stone from
Bristol; and the effects of weathering
on the soft, chalky Jamaican limestone



used in the construction of some
buildings (Figure 9e).
Thompson found an elegant,
superbly constructed stone bridge with
stone piers (Figure 9f) spanning the
river on the valley floor; also, on the
eastern bank of the river, a complete
sugar works with a red brick lime kiln,
old quarry site (from which much of
the building stone was extracted) and
a boiling house; while on the western
side, there was an old octagonal cattle
mill, an undershot water wheel, and an
elaborate mile-long cut-stone canal for
conveying water from a cut-stone dam
to power the waterwheel.
Thompson cleared the land and
planted coconuts, and had many of
the buildings repaired. In 1933 his son
turned the great house into a guest

house for American visitors.
In 1950 Patrick Tenison bought
Good Hope and Covey.2 He and
his American wife ran the great
house as a small luxury hotel and,
as noted by his brother Robin,
"they had eighty horses and
there were two hundred miles
of clearly marked trails on two
thousand acres".23 They loved the
buildings, but never had enough
money to restore them properly.
When Patrick Tenison died in
1989, the estate was purchased by
an interest group headed by Tony
Hart, a well-known businessman
from Montego Bay who has
continued to restore and transform
the property into a much-sought-
after vacation spot and location for
special events.

Wales Great House
The nearby Wales Great House,
presently owned by the Muschette
family, is superbly constructed
with great precision, and
overlooks its own sugar works,
now largely in ruins except for the
tall limestone and brick chimney
stack and the remains of a circular
cattle mill. Not much is known
about this estate, but the house
was most likely built in the late
1760s or early 1770s for the estate

The Potosi stone chute, briefly
mentioned by T,,-nt .ni ',.nd others,2" is
simple, but ingenious, steeply inclined
ipen conduit built for the purpose of
onveying harvested sugar cane from
he edge of a cliff face to the Potosi
ugar factory located approximately
00 feet (about 30 metres) below on the
western embankment of the Martha
3rae River.
In September 1905 the great house
t Potosi was destroyed by a fire
hat, according to a Gleaner report,
originated through a spark escaping
rom an adjoining pasture whilst being
leaned by a labourer and which caught
he house .. .".26 The report noted that it
vas not inhabited at the time.
The remains of the sugar works as
t appeared in the late 1960s is shown

in Figure 10a. In a site visit in May
2006 it was virtually impossible
to make out the structure from a
distance of 10 feet (3 metres) away
due to the heavy overgrowth of
trees and shrubs around and over
it (Figure 10b), but a clearing away
of part of the brush revealed that,
despite the decades that have
passed since it was last used, the
chute is still in good condition,
and stands as a unique monument
to our creative past.
This unusual structure is
the only one of its kind known
to exist in the island. Built at an
angle of 45 degrees, the floor of
the chute measures 10 feet (3.05
metres) in width and is estimated
to be 200 feet (61 metres) long.
A unique feature is the staircase
wall on either side made with
squared rectangular blocks of
cut white limestone (Montpelier
Formation) measuring 24 inches
(61centimetres) in width and 10
inches (25.4 centimetres) by 10
inches (25.4 centimetres) in height
and thickness, and laid in step-like
fashion so as to permit movement
up and down the chute to clear
blockage (Figure 10c). Another
interesting construction feature
is at the top of the chute where
there is a building, presumably I
for storage of cut cane, at which
the corners of the walls, instead
of intersecting at the traditional
90-degree angle, are rounded, thus
creating a curved wall.

Another interesting structure, from a
geo-heritage perspective, is the walled
remains of a small, one-level, two-room
rectangular building about 30 feet (9
metres) long by 18 feet (5.5 metres)
wide. Each room has a semicircular

sugar works, c. 1968 (Photo courtesy of the Jamaica
Tourist Board)
FIGURE 10 Same view showing ruins masked by
i. .. . (May 2006)
FIGURE 10c Staircase wall of the limestone chute hid-
den by heavy overgrowth (May 2006)
THIS PAGE, FROM TOP FIGURE I The structure called 'Prison'
FIGURES 12a-12c Remains of Covey sugar works built
in 1785

, .- . -

arched doorway faced with red brick on
the interior, and neatly cut and dressed
blocks of white limestone on the
exterior, including the quoins that form
the wall edgings (Figure 11). The walls
of this unique structure are clad with
oval to rounded uncoursed nodules
of chert or flint in varying shades of
brown, which are found in abundance
on parts of the Good Hope property.
Those of the right size and shape were
knapped to produce a flat face and
set in the wall. Capping the wall is a
single layer of flagstone (a fine-grained
sandstone imported from England); this
supported a roof built of grey Welsh
slate, which has long since collapsed,
but is evidenced in fragments still to be
found in the grassy undergrowth beside

the walls. Unfortunately, the
keystone over the front entrance
on the western side has been
dislodged, and unless replaced
this arch will likely collapse in the
near future.
Built into the south wall is
S a narrow vertical slit, called a
loophole, which served the dual
purpose of allowing the guard
on duty to watch the property
without being detected and
enabling him to shoot through it.
Their use in walls has continued in
many parts of the world up to the
present day. Speculation abounds
as to the primary purpose of this
building some say it was a sentry
house, others a prison. Whatever
the true purpose, it is one of a
kind in this part of Trelawny -
perhaps in all Jamaica and is
thus architecturally unique. But
differential settling of the clay-rich
alluvial soils on which it rests has
caused cracks to develop, and a
sincere effort should be made to
S try to preserve it.

Covey Sugar Factory (Ruins)
Tucked away and hidden from
view on gently sloping land
adjacent to the Martha Brae River,
S and situated approximately 1.5
miles (2.4 kilometres) southwest
of the Good Hope Great House,
are the remains of a former sugar
factory, called Covey,27 created by
John Tharp in a single year, 1785. It
was reportedly the most productive and
profitable sugar estate in all Jamaica.
In 1805 Jamaica was the leading
exporter of sugar in the world, with
almost a hundred thousand tons being
produced, but following emancipation
in 1838 sugar production declined and
Covey was abandoned. The remains of
the sugar factory are still preserved to
this day (Figures 12a-12c).

Site of Former Lansquinet Sugar Works
On the night of 17 December 1966, a
new tourist attraction built with old
stone and timber opened with much
fanfare in the town of Ocho Rios. The
brainchild of Dr Robert Page, it was
built in one year, and named "The

Ruins" after the well-known ruins on
the shoreline at Discovery Bay that
had long fascinated him, like so many
What is of significance in this geo-
historical account, however, is that
the cut stones with which he built
The Ruins originated in Trelawny.
According to one published source,2"
J.E Thompson, the then-owner of
the Lansquinet property, planned to
build a mansion at Rock Village on
the outskirts of Falmouth using the
finely cut and dressed white limestone
blocks that Tharp had used almost
two hundred years earlier to build
the Lansquinet sugar works adjacent
to Good Hope. To achieve his goal
Thompson demolished the factory and
sent the cut stones to a courtyard at
Rock where they would remain until he
was ready to start construction. But he
never pursued his goal, and so when
Page approached him, he eagerly sold
him the stones. As mentioned earlier,
in 1950 Patrick Tenison bought Good
Hope and Covey from the Thompson
family; the remaining properties were
sold off during the following five

In 2008 a pair of millstones was found
on the Good Hope property (Figure
13a). Geologically speaking the rock
consists of numerous rounded to
sub-rounded pebble-size and smaller
fragments of milky white quartz,
embedded in a groundmass consisting
mainly of sand-sized grains of quartz
and other minerals. It is called a quartz
conglomerate\ sandstone (Figure
13b) and the underside still bears the
characteristic groove and channel
marks (Figure 13c). These rather
large and heavy stone objects are not

FROM TOP FIGURE 13A Imported domal millstones
found in July 2008
FIGURE 13B Oblique view showing shape and
geological features
FIGURE 13c Under side showing grooves and channel
FIGURE 14 Dimensions of the millstone
FIGURE 15A Boundary stone enclosed by modern-day
cattle trough
FIGURE 158 Another boundary stone dated "IT:

9, `

A s

indigenous to Jamaica; presumably they
were imported by Tharp for grinding
corn to produce cornmeal or cornflour.
This matching pair is the only one of
its kind known to exist in the island,
and in this regard they are unique.
They were most likely manufactured in
Wales, perhaps at Monmouthshire, or
one of the other quartz conglomerate\
sandstone regions nearby that
produced millstones. Its dimensions are
shown in Figure 14.

Date Stones
The life of John Tharp especially the
role he played in the development
of the sugar industry in Jamaica and
the sugar trade between Britain and
Jamaica, and the care that he afforded
his slaves has been the subject of
numerous publications. But anyone
who cares to physically examine the
structures he built cannot help but be
impressed by his passion for meticulous
detail and precision in construction. The
Good Hope Great House and adjoining
buildings referred to above have been
featured in many publications,2" but
other notable structures still standing
today include the lime kiln, the sugar
factory, the bridge, the dam on the
Martha Brae River, and Wales Great
So, too, are the inscribed
cornerstones that he left behind at
the boundary of each property with
his initials 'JT' above the year of
acquisition. Today, most of the dated
cornerstones are overgrown and
difficult to locate. In fact, there are
probably few persons alive who know
where to find them. In my quest to find
one I was indeed fortunate to have the
guidance of a longtime worker at
Wales who led me to
S such a location
at the corner
of the Wales
and Pembroke
properties; there,
a cattle trough
now encloses the
late stone (Figure
I ;a) fashioned out
1 4. .a block of local
i Ite limestone

Figure 14. Dimensions ofa domal millstone, Good Hope. Trelawny

Oblique view

Central hole is called the eye

, 0 'Sideview
1 (20.3 cm)

(137 cm)

from the property. It is approximately
rectangular in shape with a slightly
rounded head and measures 22 inches
(61 centimetres) in height above the
ground, 12.6 inches (31.75 centimetres)
in width, and 7.5 to 8 inches (17 to 20
centimetres) in thickness (Figure 15b).
Of the few examined, all have bevelled
edges. Tharp was also particular about
distance stones, as evidenced by one
found by the Muschette family some
years ago, on which the carved number
5 (presumably for 5 miles) appears
near the top and is enclosed by a circle
measuring 7.6 inches (19 centimetres)
in diameter. Many of the stones have

taken on a grey patina, having been
exposed to the atmosphere and organic
substances for more than two hundred
years. 46

The author sincerely appreciates the assist-
ance given to him by many persons, but
he is deeply grateful to the following: Paul
and David Muschette of Falmouth; Tony
Hart and his son Blaise, and Roger Newman
of Good Hope Estate; Alec Henderson of
Orange Valley Estate; Stephen D. Porter
of London, England; the late Diana Porter
Kirchhoff; and the late W. (Billy) Hopwood.
A special debt of gratitude is also ex-
tended to Georgette D'Aguilar and Michele

Samuels of the Mines and Geology Division,
situated at Hope Gardens in Kingston, for
archival aerial photographs covering Gales
Valley and Good Hope Estate taken in 1953
for the Government of Jamaica, and Emeritus
Professor Edward Robinson for helpful dis-
cussions on geological matters.
Sincere thanks also to the following per-
sons and organizations: the Jamaica National
Heritage Trust, especially Audene Brooks;
the Jamaica Tourist Board, in particular Mat-
thew Blake for the photograph of the Potosi
ruins; the National Library of Jamaica; and
the Bill Douglas Centre for the History of
Cinema and Popular Culture, at the Univer-
sity of Exeter Library (Special Collections
Section) in England.


1. Robert T. Hill, "The Geology and Physical
Geography of Jamaica: A Study of a Type
of Antillean Development", Bulletin of
the Museum of Comparative Zoology 34,
Geological Ser. 4 (1899): 101-2.
2. Edward Robinson, "Observations on the
Elevated and Modem Reef Formations of
the St Ann Coast", Geonotes 3 (1960): 18-22.
3. Note, however, that despite the cost of
transportation, many important structures
around the world, such as cathedrals,
churches, forts, government and private
mansions, stately homes, and public build-
ings, were made using exotic stones from
distant places. In England, for example,
marble was imported from Italy for floor-
ing, pillars and sculptures; while here in
Jamaica, the British brought mostly bricks,
flagstone and slate as ballast in sailing
ships and used these, in many instances in
combination with the local limestone, for
walls, flooring and roofing.
4. Ivor Conolley, and James Parrent, "Land
Deeds That Tell the Story of the Birth of
Falmouth", Jamaica Historical Society Bulletin
11, no. 15 (2005): 387.
5. Journal of the Assembly of Jamaica 9 (16 No-
vember 1793), 243.
6. See Conolley and Parrent, "Land Deeds".
7. Falmouth: A Vision for the Future (pamphlet,
Falmouth Heritage Renewal, Virginia) 1,
no. 1 (Summer 2005), 4.
8. Readers interested in more information
on the history of Trelawny and Falmouth
should consult published works such as
Daniel L. Ogilvie, History of the Parish of
Trelawny (Kingston: United Printers, 1954)
(available online at http://www.jamaican-
familysearch.com/ Samples/ histre.htm);
Georgian Society of Jamaica, Falmouth
1791-1970 (Kingston: Georgian Society of

Jamaica, 1970); Marcus Binney, John Har-
ris and Kit Martin, Jamaica's Heritage: An
Untapped Resource, ed. Marguerite Curtin
(Kingston: Mill Press, 1991); and Carey
Robinson, The Rise and Fall of Falmouth,
Jamaica (Kingston: LMH Publishing, 2007).
9. Another type of limestone, called coquina,
bears a strong resemblance to this material,
but strictly speaking true coquina consists
of weakly cemented broken shell fragments
with little or no fine material.
10. Ogilvie, History, 44-45.
11. See Anthony R.D. Porter, Bricks and Stones
from the Past (Kingston: University of the
West Indies Press, 2006).
12. "Falmouth's 'Dome': Link to the Past",
Daily Gleaner, 17 August 1990, 15.
13. Patrick J. Tenison, "History of Good Hope",
Jamaica Historical Society Bulletin 5, no. 8
(1970): 104.
14. See Conolley and Parrent, "Land Deeds".
15. Valentine Isaacs, "History of the Church",
in Trelawny Parish Church of St Peter the
Apostle 1796-1996 (Falmouth: Bicentenary
Anniversary Committee, 1996), 11.
16. George Palmer, "Trelawny Parish Church"
in Trelawny Parish Church of St Peter the
Apostle 1796-1996 (Falmouth: Bicentenary
Anniversary Committee, 1996).
17. See, for example, James Robertson, Map of
the county of Cornwall in the island of Ja-
maica, 1804 (scale 1 inch = 1 mile), National
Library of Jamaica, Kingston.
18. Ray Fremmer, "Green Park: An 18th
Century Plantation", Jamaica Historical
Society Bulletin 6, no. 7 (1974): 71-77.
19. Ray Fremmer, "The Stone Chapel That Was
Moved", Sunday Gleaner, magazine, 25 May
1980, 12.
20. Stephen K. Donovan, and Trevor A.
Jackson, "Field Guide to the Geology of

the University of the West Indies Campus,
Mona", Caribbean Journal of Earth Science 34
(2000): 17-24.
21. Readers or researchers interested in more
details of the Tharp family, such as deeds,
estate plans, inventories, details of slaves
and records of the sugar trade will find
a huge amount of material at the County
Record Office in Cambridge, England, and
also at the Jamaica Archives and Records
Office in Spanish Town, Jamaica.
22. Patrick J. Tenison, "History of Good Hope",
Jamaica Historical Society Bulletin 5, no. 8
(1970): 110.
23. Robin H. Tenison, "A Personal Memory of
Good Hope", Georgian Society of Jamaica
newsletter (London chapter) 13, no. 2
(Autumn 2005): 1-2.
24. Tenison, "History", 103-10.
25. See Philip Wright and Paul F White,
Exploring Jamaica: A Guide for Motorists
(London: Andre Deutsch, 1969), 47.
26."Fire in Trelawny, Potosi Great House
Destroyed", Daily Gleaner, 2 September
27. See Tenison, "History", 105; also William
B. Goodwin, Spanish and English Ruins in
Jamaica (Boston: Meador Publishing, 1936),
28. Ray Fremmer, "Something New to Build
Something Old", in The Story of the Ruins,
ed. Basil G. Porterre et al. (Nassau, Baha-
mas: Mantalent, 1971).
29. See, for example, "Good Hope Estate,
Trelawny", The Jamaican (2001): 22-26;
Joann Biondi, "Of Manors and Mansions",
Caribbean Travel and Life (1996): 62-65.

-------- --- - --
All photos Anthony R.D. Porter except where
otherwise noted.

Endemic Trees of Jamaica

been produced by the Natural History
Museum of Jamaica, a division of the
Institute of Jamaica. The publication is
the main output of the Endemic Trees
of Jamaica Project which commenced in
2004 with the mission of undertaking a
thorough documentation of Jamaica's
endemic trees.
The seed of this project was
planted by Professor Ronald Young,
chairman of the Natural History
Museum of Jamaica, in a meeting
with the researchers of the Natural
History Museum. It germinated in the
Botany Department, and through a
project proposal to the Environmental
Foundation of Jamaica funding was
acquired and administered through
the Natural History Society of Jamaica.
The project was spearheaded by Keron
Campbell, botanist.


vi o


i l.

The plant has grown and borne
fruits. Endemic Trees of Jamaica presents
a compilation of trees cited from
several sources as being endemic to
our island of wood and water. Each
endemic is featured on a separate page
t ati. pl, 'r. id.- ;frift 1 tr11, i -ui .i-J th .
Nc.lt. ,lh -h> i' init., -\ % ino ', in- >:,ninii.'jI
r.-ini,.-. ii ,in i,, d1,-criptlon tti\>.rint,;

and fruiting period, distribution and
general facts, and is illustrated by
specimen images, photographs and
distribution maps. This information
is conveyed with less jargon than
is usually found in a botanical
publication. With this format, it is
envisioned that readers will be more
easily able to identify these Jamaican
treasures. Through access to this
information it is hoped that better
decisions will be made with respect to
conservation of our natural heritage.
The book, totalling some 320 pages,
covers 316 species which fall under
fifty-five plant families. The top three
families represented are Rubiaceae
(Coffee family), Myrtaceae (Myrtle
family) and Euphorbiaceae (Spurge
family) with fifty, thirty-five and
twenty-five species respectively.
The work is ongoing, through
the processes of data collecting and
,.' d, i 'l IN F- I ii L', .le n d ri j mi h 0 l ,
, il" ii'\ -, ,i'nhhr dl-o. .r,,_ "

The new series "Glimpses of Our Documentary nFf, it, .," is designed to expose the great wealth t'..(,;i, a:. : and
rare material housed by the National Library of Jamaica. Each issue will feature a document from the collection.

George William Gordon's

Iast L efter

Transcription of letter from George Willianm
Gordon to his wife Lucy written hours befo,,
his execution on 22 October 1865, as it
appeared in the Illustrated London News
9 December 1865:

My Beloved Wife, General Nelson h.-
been kind enough to inform me that
the court-martial on Saturday last has
ordered me to be hung, and that the
sentence is to be executed in an hour
hence; so that I shall be gone from this
world of sin and sorrow. I regret that
my worldly affairs are so deranged,
but now it cannot be helped. I do not
deserve this sentence, for I have never
advised or took part in any insurrec-
tion. All I ever did was recommend
the people who complained to seek
redress in a legitimate way; and if in
this I erred or have been misrepre-
sented, I do not think I deserve the ex-
treme sentence. It is, however, the will
of my Heavenly Father that I should
thus suffer in obeying His command to
relieve the poor and needy, and to pro-
tect, as far as I was able, the oppressed.
And glory be to His name! And I thank
him that I suffer in such a cause. Glory
be to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus
Christ; and I can say it is a great honour
thus to suffer, for the servant cannot
be greater than his Lord. I can now say
with Paul, the aged, "The hour of my
departure is at hand, and I am ready
to be offered up. I have fought a good
fight, I have kept the faith, and hence-
forth there is laid up for me a crown
of righteousness, which the Lord, the
righteous Judge, shall give me." Say to
all friends an affectionate farewell, and
that they must not grieve for me, for I
die innocently. Assure Mr. Airey and all
others of the truth of this. Comfort your

,- -, '-ft ,-j--- ---^ .-'- ,e -
S... ..
,4-, .-- .LSZ.-'------'. -1

.. -, -a,- ~,
^^..^.ir- .' s- .~t "^ ^ *^

-i I- -- -- "--

. ---- ;-

S .. ,-- ,- -- ---

lhv -art. I
certainly little expected this. You
must do the best you can, and the Lord
will help you, and do not be ashamed

have suffered. The Judges seemed
against me; and from the rigid manner
of the Court I could not get in all the

Judges took the former and erased
the latter. It seemed that I was to be
sacrificed. I know nothing of the man
Bogle. I never advised him to the act or
acts which have brought me to this end.
Please write to Mr. Chamerovzow, Lord
Brougham and Messrs. Hencknell and
Du Buisson. I did not expect that, not
being a rebel, I should have been tried
and disposed of in this way. I thought
His Excellency the Governor would
His Excellency the Governor would

have allowed me a fair trial, if any
charge of sedition or inflammatory lan-
guage were partly [? fairly] attributable
to me; but I have no power of control;
may the Lord be merciful to him! Gen-
eral Nelson, who has just come for me,
has faithfully promised to let you have
this. May the Lord bless him, and all the
soldiers and sailors, and all men. Say
farewell to Mr. Phillips, also Mr. Licard,
Mr. Bell, Mr. Vinon, and Mr. Henry Du-
lasse, and many others whom I do not
now remember, but who have been true
and faithful to me. As the General has
come, I must close. Remember me to
Aunt Eliza in England, and tell her not
to be ashamed of my death. Now, my
dearest one, the most beloved and faith-
ful, the Lord bless, help, preserve, and
keep you. A kiss for dear mamma, who
will be kind to you and Janet. Kiss also
Annie and Jane. Say good-by to dear
Mr. Davison, and all others. I have only
been allowed one hour. I wish more
time had been allowed. Farewell also
to Mr. Espeut, who sent up my private
letter to him. And now may the grace of
our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all.
Your truly devoted and now nearly
dying husband,
G.W. Gordon.
I asked leave to see Mr. Panther,
but the General said I could not. I wish
him farewell in Christ. Remember me
to auntie and father. Mr. Bamsay has
for the last two days been kind to me. I
thank him. O

Letter from Cordon to his wife Lucy IMSS 892a-c); and
copy of transcription of the letter in the Illustrated
London News. This transcription begins with the
words "My Beloved Wife", while the MSS clearly
reads "My Beloved Lucy"; other than that the
transcription is faithful.
From the collection of the National Library oflamaica.


Bradshaw's Final Bow



BRADSHAW eluded all the
pitfalls, landmines and life of
debauchery that plagued, and
continue to plague, too many
of our artists across disciplines.
He was able to navigate his
path around vices which so
often lead to the physical and
psychological demise of artists
who therefore never or barely
achieve their promise. That
ability to survive, to avoid
the social decadence often
associated with the artistic
community, allowed Bradshaw
to get the better of mankind's
most desired gift, the definitive
yardstick, and that unavoidable
adversary: time.
An emerging star during the
war years (1940-1944), Sonny
Bradshaw was popular with
dance audiences, and overcame
the challenges and impediments
of the entertainment business,
outlasting successive trends that
soared into and then fell from
vogue. He also organised bands,
big and small, in every decade
until his death on 10 October
2009 at the age of eighty-three.
Bradshaw was a complete
musician, who played trumpet,
adding its warmer-sounding rela-
tive, the flugelhom, in his mature years.
He was also a competent pianist and
was more than useful playing bass,
drums, organ and trombone. His play-
ing encapsulated the lyricism of Miles
Davis and the warm melodiousness
of Harry James, whose popular song
"The Man with the Horn" Bradshaw
made his band's theme. He was also an
imaginative arranger, a composer, and
an energetic bandleader with an eye for
discovering young talent. Bradshaw
encouraged the playing of music that
he thought was good, believing, like

Duke Ellington, that there were only
two types of music, good and bad, and
that genre specification was only neces-
sary for the insular listener.
As bandleader, he was determined
to continue with live instrumental
music as a public option, swinging it
in basic 4/4 time at all tempos while
also reflecting homegrown styles as
state-of-the-art achievement. His solid
knowledge of arrangement was bal-
anced by the scope of his imagination,
which reflected colours, textures and
forms that were particularly stimulated
by the idiomatic nature of Jamaica's cul-

tural range and the swing music
of the wartime era, updated to
capture the advancement of suc-
ceeding decades. Therefore, the
scope of vernacular expression
that he often infused into a per-
formance made him one of the
finest of the Jamaican musicians
associated with the jazz tradition
and, in general terms, popular
music on the local scene over the
last fifty years.
Bradshaw's capability
to integrate his respect for
tradition with his interest in
contemporary music allowed
for arrangements that provided
rich textural freshness and
rhythmic timbres. No matter
how trite or mundane some of
the audience-pleasing pieces at
their starting point, Bradshaw's
infusion of Caribbean flavours
could elevate them to reflect a
zesty quality or contemplative
experience. Meanwhile, stock
arrangements by Count Basie,
Ellington and others, including
material by local composers,
inspired his big band to present
Elegant and meditative 6tudes
as well as hot, sprightly and
exhilarating performances,
With Dean Fraser's graceful
majesty on Marley's "Redemption
Song" and Marjorie Whylie's stylistic
range on piano being the high points.
To the dismay of some conservatives
and the pleasure of nationalists,
Bradshaw also took the National
Anthem out of its colonial yoke and
arranged a big-band version with a
lilting Jamaican accent and rhythmic
nuances to highlight its relationship
to local sensibilities. Arrangements of
traditional numbers like "Rucumbine",
or of songs that were not yet classics
such as the Wailers' "Road Block", and
subsequently Marley's "Redemption


Song", benefited from the deep
wisdom and diverse knowledge
Bradshaw possessed. Years later, the
man considered by many young bulls
to be close-minded would re-commit
the syntax of Tiger's "Wanga Belly" to
a jazz structure, sending his audience
- many of whom would otherwise
thumb their noses at dancehall -
rocking to the musicality that is always
possible if this style of music is given
consummate arrangements. Amid the
band's performance there were vocal
standards delivered by Sonny's wife
Myrna Hague, with such taste that
the whole affair hinted at a chic
occasion in the midst of a Revivalist
meeting; and this was most likely
the wellspring that provided Sonny
with the staying power to persist for
such a length of time in his crusade
for homegrown distinctiveness with
an international essence.
Perhaps Bradshaw's greatest
skill was that of organiser, not
only of bands boasting the best
available musicians, but of
events and concerts. His flagship
production, the Ocho Rios Jazz
Festival, celebrated its twentieth
year in June 2010. Over his sixty-
odd years of putting together bands

and performing music, Bradshaw
recognized and advanced the talents
of his peers, some of whom, such
as Joe Harriott, Wilton Gaynair,
Harold McNair, Sonny Gray, Tommy
McCook and Don Drummond, went
on to achieve international acclaim
as important jazz innovators and
improvisers. He also used his small
group, the Sonny B 7, to nurture and
polish young musicians who would
become seminal contributors to reggae
as well as continue the tradition of large
and small band music regardless of

Bradshaw encouraged the setting
of challenging creative goals that
transcend mediocrity, and was of the
opinion that the audience would follow
since they too would be stimulated to
expect higher creative and production
standards. He also challenged those
he mentored, as well as our so-called
musicologists, music critics and music
historians, to adopt a more critical
and analytical approach to reviews
and discussions since they and the
public would be better enlightened.
He wanted the artists to grow from
substandard to brilliant, and critics to
move from wilful cheerleading to
intelligently rigorous analysis. He
believed that these features would
extend the aesthetic as well as the
content and value of the arts without
loss of the audience, indeed, that
they would increase the art world's
fan base. Although he has taken his
final bow and left the stage, there is
still much radiance to be gathered
from the aura of Sonny Bradshaw.
Let us hope that all he has
bequeathed will be taught to future
generations of musicians. Op

Bradshaw with wife, Myrna Hague

Jamaican Folk Tales and

Oral Histories on DVD and CD


The book Jamaican Folk Tales and Oral
Histories by Laura Tanna was oriina II',
published by Institute of Jamaica ,Z.
Publications in 1984, and
has metamorphosed --.
with several additional .......:
features since then. Most '" .
important are the two. ..
collections of actual
narratives now available "
on CD, allowing one not .' *"
only to read a selection *i*
of stories, but also to hear
them, with today's technology.
Transcriptions of four narratives
on the CDs were added to the book in
appendix 1, while appendix 2 includes
the pronunciation key for phonemic
writing created by Prof. F.G. Cassidy
and other Caribbean linguists so that
Jamaican English could be written in a
standardised form. Today few writers
outside of academia actually use this
script, but because Prof. Cassidy was
one of Tanna's advisors, he allowed
her to include the key and a phonemic
transcription of one of the book's
narratives so that anyone interested in
pursuing this way of writing Jamaican
Creole would have a ready model
from which to learn. The effort was
successful: as I have found, even the
non-Creole speaker sounds authentic
when reading the phonemic story
Few people have video machines
any longer, but fortunately Tanna
has transferred onto DVD interviews
conducted with performers over
twenty-three years ago, in which they
spoke about their early lives and how
they actually learned the old-time
stories. There is also a seventy-six-
minute selection of folk tales, including
an invaluable session with the iconic
Louise Bennett-Coverley when she still
lived in Gordon Town. Through the

takes us with her on her journey
into a rich aspect of Jamaican oral
culture. By writing in the first person
and detailing how the tales were
collected, she introduces readers to the
performers as individuals and gives
glimpses of their lives. We meet and
get to know people like Miss Adina,
Henrietta Barnes and Thomas Rowe,
and also see the familiar faces and hear
the distinct voices of cultural icons
"Miss Lou" and Ranny Williams.
The deep respect Tanna has for the
storytellers who shared their cultural
traditions with her resonates in her
writing when she shares how she met
the performers and how, in many cases,
she built lasting relationships with
them. She did not simply show up at
their doorsteps and expect to record
the material. Instead,
Tanna came prepared
to meet and learn
about each performer,
to meet their families,
to better understand '
their homes and lives ..
so as to be better able ',
to understand their '-
storytelling and its
cultural relevance. .

In writing down the tales, she
d.lib;r t 1.l-, dJi not translate them
,i.,l -irndar.i r english; instead, Tanna
prc-cr'. ...1 rtihii integrityy by transcribing
th,_m a.- they were recorded,
,inekid ing for the reader to
r,:id the tale as it was spoken
Said thereby get a better
riunderstanding of how it
n .actually performed.
Tanna's thorough
Sin.ilysis of both the
t! i ture and the meanings
I I th, material is particularly
j.,JIlt_ because each represents
retention trom African traditions and
adaptations to life in a creolised society.
The combination book/DVD/CD set
is certainly an important addition to
any serious Jamaican cultural scholar's
collection. Those who buy the full
set can read, hear and see the tales
being presented for themselves. The
historical value of this collection cannot
be overemphasised. Tanna's incisive
introductions contribute to a greater
understanding of our language and
culture, and of the role of oral traditions
in Jamaican history. It is a unique
educational and entertainment package
for Caribbean studies.
For me, the highlight of the book
is its collection of trickster or Anansi
tales. I have great respect for Anansi
as a character. With his cleverness
and unfailing ability to have an
answer for every situation,
Anansi reminds us that
the enslaved were not
ignorant, weak, passive
Individuals who merely
accepted their fate and did
nothing to challenge it. Part
Sf Anansi's strength comes
I rom the fact that before
Transplantation to the West
Indies, he was grounded

in an ancient African belief system in a
unified world.
On transplantation to the Caribbean
these beliefs remained strong and
animal trickster tales allowed the
enslaved to express their wildest
fantasies and their deepest anxieties
without fear of retribution. Anansi tales
were and are measures of self-reliance
and self-affirmation. Animal tricksters
like Anansi who think like humans
and experience human emotions
without being treated as such, served
to implicitly indict the dehumanising
system of slavery.
In conveying the value of the oral
tradition, Tanna teaches that collecting
the telling of a tale on video/DVD,
audiocassette/CD or in writing, with or
without photographs, can never equal
the actual experience of participating
in a storytelling session. This book and
the accompanying CDs and DVD are,
however, as close as one can come.

In the early 1980s, then-editor of
Jamaica Journal Olive Senior proposed
to Prime Minister Edward Seaga that
the journal staff could also publish
books. Under Mr Seaga's instructions,
Institute of Jamaica Publications
(IOJP) was created in 1983 at a time
when it was exceedingly difficult
to get Jamaican material published.
Prime Minister Seaga commissioned
a series of books on the country's art
and culture to celebrate Jamaica's
twenty-one years of independence.
Jamaican Folk Tales and Oral Histories
was the first in that series.
Appropriately, the first volume
reached into Jamaica's largely African
past to preserve and make assessable
the oral traditions of everyday
Jamaicans who still had memory
of their old-time traditions. Prof.
Harold Scheub, my advisor in the
Department of African Languages and
Literature, University of Wisconsin-
Madison, had walked hundreds
of miles throughout the Transkei
recording Ntsomi narratives in
Africa and recognized the power of
music. Because repeated sayings and
songs form the core of so much oral
narrative, my doctoral dissertation on

Jamaican Folk Tales and Oral Histories
By Laura Tanna
Kingston: Institute of Jamaica Publications,
1984; DLT Associates Inc., 2010
ISBN: 0-9674991-1-9 (pbk); x, 154 pp; J$1,800
Jamaican Folk Tales and Oral Histories (CD 1) J$750;
Maroon Storyteller (CD 2) J$750; 60 mins. each
Jamaican Folk Tales and Oral Histories (DVD)
J$1,500; 20 + 76 mins.

Jamaican oral narratives was based
on transcriptions of ninety hours of
taped recordings I made throughout
Jamaica, primarily in 1973/74. With
Dr Frederic Cassidy, author of Jamaica
Talk and co-author of the Dictionary of
Jamaican English, as my other advisor,
along with a specialist in West African
literature, the basis for Jamaican Folk
Tales and Oral Histories was born.
Vibart Seaforth at the Jamaica School
of Music transcribed the songs into
musical scores for the printed book
which appeared in 1984. At that time,
because of the inclusion of Jamaican
Creole English in various chapters,
without IOJP this traditional material
might not have been published.
Twenty-six years later, it is still in
print and has been used in libraries,
universities and schools around the
Portable video equipment
circa 1973 was literally the size of a
footlocker and rare. If camcorders
had existed then much more might
have been preserved. But with the
cooperation of IOJP and the Creative
Production and Training Centre
(CPTC), we were able to bring a
number of the traditional storytellers

Institute of Jamaica Publications launched Jamaican
Folk Tales and Oral Histories at Jamaica House
on 31 July 1985 with all contributors invited by
the Rt. Hon. Edward Seaga. Those appearing
in this photograph, I-r: Laura Tanna, Malcolm
Armstrong (partially hidden), Alexander "Brother
Martin" Parker, Adina Henry, Prime Minister Seaga,
Margheritta Lawrence, Leslie "Busta" Barnes, Louise
"Miss Lou" Bennett-Coverley performing (centre
front), and the brother of Randolph "Ranny"
Williams on the right.

together to create a video in 1987
which in 2010 has been transformed
into a DVD. During filming I saw
that Adina Henry's memory was
fading. Her performances were too
precious not to share, and going
back to my reel-to-reel field tapes,
I produced what in 2010 is now
Jamaican Folk Tales and Oral Histories
(CD 1). Thomas Rowe, the Maroon
performer, approached me in 1992 to
produce something for all his visitors
to Accompong. This audio material
is now Maroon Storyteller (CD 2). The
entire package of book, DVD and CDs
makes a unique interactive approach
to Jamaican traditional narratives.
Storytellers received royalties
for their participation in the book
and audio-visual material, so we
have kept in touch despite Jamaica's
changing fortunes. Bongo, Henrietta
Barnes, George Cawley, Louise
Bennett-Coverley, Adina Henry, Mann
Rowe, Thomas Rowe, D.F. Shalland,
Sebert Smith, Nehemiah Williams
and Rannv Williams have all died,
but through their voices which live
on in this material, we remember and
cherish them still.
-Laura Tanna

Remembering Pamela O'Gorman



commitment to the development of
Jamaican music and musicians. She
was a formidable force for change,
a cornerstone in the foundation
of building respect for Jamaican
forms, and a strong believer that
a sound music education could be
built on moving from the known to
the unknown, that developing an
understanding of the elements of music
- melody, harmony, rhythm, metre,
dynamics and form, the balancing
of blocks of sound in the processes
of composition and arrangement
- could proceed from the familiar
to the unfamiliar. She used all the
resources that came to hand from the
environment around her, the human
resources, the physical, social and
organisational circles, and her own
recognition that looking beyond the
stratification of the society was an
Pam observed the society closely,
sought to recognize those who were
operating naturally in a way that
complemented and supplemented
her basic philosophy, and started to
bring together a cadre of explorers
and experimenters who would create
a viable model for music education
that would stand the test of time. She
challenged local musicians to take
what they had been fashioning through
experience and had been sharing rather
tentatively, to analyse, test and create
formulae, structure and methods that
could be offered in a formal system.
Pam, Australian by birth, had first
come to Jamaica in 1958 from London,
where she had recently attained her
LRAM qualification at Trinity College,
having been invited by Noelle Foster-

When they met, Noelle
introduced Pam to Jamaican

folk music and she was
completely captivated with
it. When Noelle decided to
go back to Jamaica she said to
Pamela, "Look, I am opening
up a studio in Kingston.
Would you like a job, even for
a year?" Pamela jumped at the
chance "because I wanted
to meet the people behind the

Pam taught with Noelle for many
years before moving to the University
of the West Indies (UWI) where, as
director of the Music Unit (1970-1975),
she invited me to teach the art of
hand drumming. She listened to and
sometimes observed my teaching,
performing and notation as well as my
activities in the wider society; and as
chairman of the board of the Jamaica
School of Music, she recommended
me to Dr Henry Havergal, the then
director, to head the Folk Music
Research Department at the school. On
Dr Havergal's return to Britain in 1975,
Pam assumed the post of director (a
post which she held until 1987) and

then the work of transformation began.
The Folk Music Research Depart-
ment was charged to develop courses
in Jamaican studies, which started with
students in music education (school
music teaching). That group was made
up of experienced classroom teachers
from primary schools mainly, and
developed from a request for formal
courses to expand what had been
taught in teacher training colleges.
This was put forward by a teacher
who came to be involved in the further
development of the programme to
include an in-service component
taught on a day-release. In addition to
methods and materials for classroom
teachers, there were the practical
aspects of aural and sight singing,
further studies in music literacy and
music history, and a grounding in
Jamaican music, requiring collection,
analysis, and the presentation of
research findings.
At this time also came the
establishment of the African-American
Department, charged with the exploration
of jazz in all its aspects instrumental
skills, improvisation, harmony, ensemble,
vocal ensemble, arrangement and
composition. The department had a
judicious mix of African-American and
home-grown, locally and internationally
educated musicians to guide its
programme of activities.
The conservatory-type institution
that had existed was transformed with
several 'fell swoops', with focus on
instrumental and vocal skills existing
side by side with organic examination
of the elements, nature and materials of
music which were relevant to the needs
of Jamaican students. Pam insisted
that the School of Music should be a
truly Jamaican institution, bringing
the melodic contours and rhythmic
integrity of the music to the fore,


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