Front Cover
 Front Matter
 Table of Contents
 Editor's note
 Back Cover

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Caribbean Quarterly
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Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover
    Front Matter
        Page i
        Page ii
        Page iii
        Page iv
    Table of Contents
        Page v
        Page vi
    Editor's note
        Page vii
        Page viii
        Page ix
        Page x
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    Back Cover
        Back Cover
Full Text




S -




; ct4o

Aw .ew-d


a journal of Caribbean culture

Guest editor: Clinton Hutton

The flagship journal of the University of the West Indies

Caribbean Quarterly
Volume 56, No. 4

ISSN ooo8-6495

2010, University of the West Indies
Copyright reserved and reproduction without permission strictly forbidden.

All correspondence and contributions should be addressed to:
The Editor, Caribbean Quarterly
Office of the Vice Chancellor
University of the West Indies
PO Box 130, Mona, Kingston 7, Jamaica.
Tel.: 876-970-3261; Fax: 876-977-6105
Email: cq@uwimona.edu.jm or kimberly.robinson@uwimona.edu.jm
www.http://uwi.edu /cq/default.aspx

Manuscripts: We invite readers to submit manuscripts or recommend subjects for
discussion in Caribbean Quarterly. Scholarly articles, personal essays, poems, short stories
and book reviews of relevance to the Caribbean will be gratefully received. Contributors
should refer to the guidelines at the back of this publication. Articles submitted are not
returned. Contributors are asked not to send international postal coupons for this purpose.

Caribbean Quarterly is published in March, June, September and December.

Subscription rates:
Individual Institution
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UK 65 85
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Exchanges: Exchanges are conducted by the Gifts and Exchanges Section,
Library, University of the West Indies, Mona, Kingston 7, Jamaica.

Back Issues and microfilm: Information for back volumes supplied on request.
Caribbean Quarterly is available on microfilm from Xerox University Microfilms
and in book form from Kraus-Thompson Reprint Ltd.

Abstract and index: 1949-2009 Author Keyword and Subject Index available on the website.
The journal is abstracted by AES and indexed by HAPI.

Cover illustration: Clinton Hutton, Don Cosmic 2, oil on canvas.
Cover and book design by Robert Harris
Set in Adobe Garamond 11/14.5 x 24
Printed in Jamaica by Phoenix Printery

Editorial Board 1 e

EDITOR: Kim Robinson-Walcott

RUPERT LEWIS, Professor of Political Thought, and Associate Dean, Graduate
Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, UWI, Mona (Chairman)
SIR RoY AUGIER, Professor Emeritus, History, UWI, Mona
DAVID BARKER, Professor of Geography, and Head, Department of Geography
and Geology, UWI, Mona
ANN MARIE BISSESSAR, Professor of Public Management, and Head, Department
of Behavioural Sciences, UWI, St Augustine
BRIDGET BRERETON, Emerita Professor of History, UWI, St Augustine
MICHAEL BUCKNOR, Lecturer, Department of Literatures in English, UWI, Mona
GRACELYN CASSELL, Head, University of the West Indies Open Campus,
HENRY FRASER, Professor of Medicine and Clinical Pharmacology (retired), and
Immediate Past Dean, Faculty of Medical Sciences, UWI, Cave Hill
CLEMENT IMBERT, Professor of Materials Technology and Manufacturing
Processes, and Deputy Dean, Faculty of Engineering, UWI, St Augustine
BARBARA LALLA, Professor of Language and Literature (retired), UWI,
St Augustine
EVELYN O'CALLAGHAN, Professor of West Indian Literature, UWI, Cave Hill
VERENE A. SHEPHERD, Professor of Social History, and University Director,
Institute for Gender & Development Studies, UWI
DAVID C. SMITH, Coordinator, Institute for Sustainable Development, UWI, and
Coordinator, University Consortium for Small Island States
LINDA E. SPETH, General Manager, University of the West Indies Press

Throughout P fibbean there are groups of men and women who are coming together
to learn to deepen their intellectual interests, to find out through discussion and reading
more about themselves, their history, the lands in which they live, the world round about
them. This journal is published for these men and women . for all men and women
who seek after knowledge; to be a bond between them, and to give them information
about each other. [CQ] ... will aim at accuracy, objectivity, and clean thought, clearly
expressed. Above all it seeks to establish and strengthen the tradition of the book and of
learning in the Caribbean.
-Philip Sherlock, co-editor, Caribbean Quarterly I, no. I (April-June 1949)

Caribbean Quarterly (CQ) is one of the oldest periodicals in the English-
speaking Caribbean. Regarded as the flagship publication of the University of
the West Indies (UWI), it was launched by the then Department of Extra
Mural Studies (School of Continuing Studies), UWI, in 1949, to be a platform
from which research findings, university information, and general knowledge
could be effectively disseminated within the campus and non-campus territo-
ries. It is now produced by the Office of the Vice Chancellor.
CQ concerns itself with Caribbean culture in all its interdisciplinary ram-
ifications. It is an outlet for the publication of results of research into, consid-
ered views on, and creative expressions of matters Caribbean. We invite
original submissions on topics which are of general interest and relevance to
the Caribbean islands and the neighboring mainland of Central and South
America. Submissions should be previously unpublished. CQ publishes schol-
arly articles, personal and critical essays, poetry, short fiction and book reviews.
All scholarly articles are peer-reviewed; we insist on scholarly rigour, but we
also encourage accessibility and discourage excessive use of academic jargon.
An overall picture of life in one of the oldest settled parts of the Western hemi-
sphere emerges with information on its social and material culture, ethnology,
history, peoples, religion and creative arts. U


Editor's Note / vii

Introduction / ix



Distant Drums: The Unsung Contribution of African-Jamaican Percussion
to Popular Music at Home and Abroad / 1


Oh Rudie: Jamaican Popular Music and the Narrative of Urban Badness in
the Making of Postcolonial Society / 22


Naturally: The Crucial Contributions of Sonia Pottinger / 65


Don Drummond and the Philosophy of Music / 86


The Jones High Fidelity Audio Power Amplifier of 1947 / 97


Merritone: Music from Morant Bay to the World / 108



Poems / 115

"She Tells Herself'


Claudette Williams, The Devil in the Details: Cuban Antislavery
Narrative in the Postmodern Age / 116


Notes on Contributors / 122

Books for Review / 124

Submission Guidelines / 126

Editor's Note

2010 HAS BEEN A YEAR of challenge for Caribbean Quarterly (CQ). In February,
Professor the Honourable Rex Nettleford, OM, Vice Chancellor Emeritus,
UWI, and editor of CQ for forty years, died suddenly. In September, Dr
Veronica Salter, managing editor of CQ since 1991, retired. For two decades,
Professor Nettleford and Dr Salter had jointly produced CQ as a labour of
Then, in October, editorial board member Professor Barry Chevannes died
unexpectedly. Professor Chevannes, a personal mentor, had been keenly inter-
ested in the welfare of CQ and had followed its development closely.
I assumed the role of editor of CQ in October 2zoo, and inherited this spe-
cial issue on pioneering icons of Jamaican popular music guest edited by Clin-
ton Hutton, most of which had already been compiled by Dr Salter. I thank
her for her hard work, for her encouragement, and for the dedication to CQ
which she demonstrated right up to the day of her retirement and still

Kim Robinson-Walcott, PhD
December 2010




PART ONE OF "PIONEERING ICONS of Jamaican Popular Music" was previously pub-
lished as a special issue of Caribbean Quarterly (vol. 53, no. 4, December 2007).
We now present part two, a collection of six essays rooted in the tradition of those
in the first volume. And, as in the first volume, we examine the less obvious, the
more subterranean signatures and building blocks of the social, technical, aesthetic
and ideational iconic expressions of Jamaican popular music in its pioneering
moments. This is what made part one a special contribution to the growing body
of literature on Jamaican popular music. I dare say that this volume will not fail
to do likewise.
First, we feature Kenneth Bilby's article "Distant Drums: The Unsung Con-
tribution of African-Jamaican Percussion to Popular Music at Home and
Abroad". Bilby's seminal work on Jamaican hand drummers and their profound
aesthetic and linguistic contribution to the architecture of Jamaican music allows
the hitherto obscured voices of hand drummers to speak to us with fascinating
stories of a creative ethos.
Before the rude boy theme was on the radar of our social scientists,' it became
a major expression in Jamaican music beginning in 1966, and bringing to the
nation's consciousness what would become the central ontological postcolonial
basis of our woes. In my article "Oh Rudie: Jamaican Popular Music and the Nar-
rative of Urban Badness in the Making of Postcolonial Society", I unearth aspects
of an underlying postcolonial socio-political process whose violent expressions
inspired the making of rude boy songs, three years after Jamaica gained its inde-
pendence from Britain. Within this context, I categorise and analyse the contents
of a large sample of rude boy songs and denote their national significance.
Klive Walker, in his article "Naturally: The Crucial Contributions of Sonia
Pottinger", takes us on a journey into the life and work of Sonia Porringer.

Clinton Hutton

Pottinger is one of the most important figures in the pantheon of producers of
Jamaican popular music. This pioneering female producer, who also initiated the
production of gospel music in the Jamaican recording industry, is treated by
Walker with the attention congruent with her pivotal role in the development of
Jamaican popular music.
In his contribution "Don Drummond and the Philosophy of Music", Earl
McKenzie gives us a peep into the life and work of Don Drummond, the first
star of Jamaican popular music. He does this through a philosophical overview
of poems on Drummond, written by some ofJamaica's leading poets. This trom-
bone mystic became a muse to Jamaican poets in a way no other musician has
been. It is within the creative language of this muse that McKenzie beckons us to
see Drummond.
The essays in this issue include one by Hedley Jones. Jones, now ninety-three
years old, is the father of Jamaica's electronic sound technology. He played a lead-
ing role in the development of the electronic guitar and sound system technology
and its global aesthetic appeal. Moreover, he trained a cadre of students who
would become the central agency of sound system technology in Jamaica. His
essay "The Jones High Fidelity Audio Power Amplifier of 1947" is an adaptation
of a chapter of his forthcoming memoir, which he graciously allowed us to publish
in this volume.
Finally, in his essay "Merritone: Music from Morant Bay to the World",
Neville Ying takes us into a nostalgic boyhood adventure of rituals, entertainment
rituals and rites of passage, and the making of the aesthetic business known as
Merritone. Merritone, the quintessential pioneering sound system, was founded
by Val Blake in Morant Bay, St Thomas, Jamaica in 1950 the epoch of Tom
the Great Sebastian, Trojan, and Sir Coxsone Downbeat, among a few other
brand-name national sound systems. Val Blake's sons Trevor, Winston, Tyrone
and Monty continued their father's sound system after his death. Merritone is
now sixty years old, the longest serving sound system business in the world. It is
a model of enterprise through networking and friendship. E


i. The first scholarly work published on the rude boys was Garth White's "Rudie, Oh
Rudie!" (Caribbean Quarterly 13, no. 3 [September 1967]: 39-44). White, a Jamaican
popular music enthusiast, was the first to subject the emerging popular music forms
to intellectual enquiry.

Distant Drums

The Unsung Contribution of African-Jamaican Percussion
to Popular Music at Home and Abroad


OVER THE LAST FEW YEARS, I have been seeking out and interviewing as many of
Jamaica's professional session drummers and percussionists as I could find.'
In 2005, I finally succeeded in tracking down Alvin Patterson, better known
as Seeco. During the years when Bob Marley took reggae music to the inter-
national stage, Seeco was his main percussionist. While we were discussing
the foundations of Jamaican popular music, Seeco made a comment that was
particularly interesting to me. "The drum is the whole build-up of the reggae,"
he told me. "I know long time it is coming from the drum. The whole music
come from the drum. Drum come like the first music. Drum is the first music,
you know. So I think drum produced the reggae. It's a drum sound."2
If this is so if reggae is a "drum sound", as Seeco insists then why is it
that we come across so little about drumming and drummers when we read
about the history of Jamaican popular music? More specifically, why do we
hear so little about hand drummers and percussionists and their role in the
creation of Jamaica's phenomenal soundscape? True, the fundamental role of
drum and bass in reggae is widely recognized. And aficionados of Jamaican
music can certainly name some of the key studio drummers in the history of
recorded Jamaican music. Many will know, for instance, of Lloyd Knibb, Carl-
ton Barrett, Leroy "Horsemouth" Wallace, or Lowell "Sly" Dunbar. Those
who have dug deeper may also be able to cite other important players such as
Drumbago (Arkland Parks), Winston Grennan, Joe Isaacs, Hector "Bunny"

Kenneth Bilby

Williams, Hugh Malcolm, Fil Callender, Lloyd "Tinleg" Adams, Paul Doug-
las, Michael "Mikey Boo" Richards, Carlton "Santa" Davis, or Lincoln "Style"
Scott. All of these session drummers and others I have not named here -
deserve much more credit than they have yet to receive for the tremendous
role they have played in shaping Jamaican popular music.
Yet, as important as they are, I do not intend to focus in this article on
such noteworthy drum set players. I would like to direct attention, rather, to
some of Jamaica's rhythm specialists who have received even less credit -
namely, the hand drummers and percussionists who bridge the country's older
African-Jamaican musical heritage and the newer urban sounds for which
Jamaica has become famous.
If one figure stands out among this latter group, it is undoubtedly Oswald
Williams, better known as Count Ossie. Count Ossie deservedly achieved
fame during his lifetime as one of the earliest players and certainly the leading
promoter of the Rastafarian genre of drumming that came to be known as
Nyabinghi.3 By the time of his tragic death in a road accident in 1976, Count
Ossie was so revered in Jamaica that he was almost immediately memorialised
in a reggae song by the Trinidadian-Jamaican calypsonian Lord Laro.
"Though he is gone," Laro reminded mourners, "his music still lingers on
. Count Ossie lives in every beat of the Congo drum."4 There is indeed
little doubt that Count Ossie's name will live on. But Count Ossie is not the
only important or talented hand drummer or percussionist in the history of
Jamaican music.
How many students of Jamaican music have heard of Babu Bryan? Very
few, I would venture to guess. Yet, according to some, Babu Bryan is the great-
est Jamaican drummer who ever lived. Unfortunately, his playing was never
recorded, and very few details are known about his life. Babu, also known as
Matthias, was born in the nineteenth century and lived into the mid-twentieth
century. He spent a good portion of his life in the small community of Leith
Hall, near Morant Bay in St Thomas parish. Although few Jamaicans have
heard of this great drummer, his name lives on among Kumina practitioners
in St Thomas even today. Not only his skill as a drummer but also his tremen-
dous spiritual power remain legendary. Babu, it is said, could play the Kumina
drums with such force and beauty that he could draw the spirits of deceased
drummers to the world of the living, where they could be heard, but not seen,
playing the drums alongside him.5


It makes sense to treat Babu Bryan as an important part of the larger tra-
dition of Jamaican music, for the Kumina style of drumming that he brought
to such heights in St Thomas parish eventually made its way to West Kingston
and other urban fringe areas, where it contributed in numerous ways to the
development of popular music not least through its multiple intersections
with the Buru drumming tradition that played such a large part in the growth
of Rastafarian sacred music during the 1940s and 1950s.6
We need to give proper consideration specifically to the Buru (or Burru)
tradition as well.7 Among the Buru drummers of the first half of the twentieth
century was one outstanding and very influential musician who, like Babu
Bryan, remains unknown to most Jamaicans, not to mention the rest of the
world. The man I am referring to is Watta King. Not to be confused with the
notorious West Kingston bad man Woppy King, nor with the Rastafarian
patriarch known as Bongo Watto, who were two entirely different individuals,
Watta King was a Buru master drummer of Kongo descent who migrated to
West Kingston from Clarendon parish.8 Although he made his living as a bar-
ber, and was not himself a Rasta, Watta gained renown as a drum-builder dur-
ing the 1940s and 1950s the very time that Rasta consciousness was beginning
to gather force in West Kingston. During these formative years of the Rasta
faith, Watta King was the owner of the most sought-after set of African-style
drums in the area, and he and his fellow Buru players became the main drum-
mers for the earliest grounations, or ceremonial gatherings, in the Rasta
hotbeds of Salt Lane and Back-o-Wall.9
It appears that Watta King represents the crucial link between the rural
Buru tradition of St Catherine and Clarendon, and the nascent Nyabinghi
tradition of West Kingston. His playing appears to have served as a model for
many in the first generation of Rasta drummers, and his great influence can
be traced through at least four important drummers of later years (and likely
several others). Baba Job (also known as Brother Job), who was to become
Count Ossie's mentor, and Seeco Patterson, Bob Marley's percussionist who
I mentioned earlier, both spoke to me of Watta King as their "teacher" the
man most responsible for their early development as drummers. And Skully
Simms, one of the most important session hand drummers from the 1970s
on, told me in considerable detail about the influence Watta King had on
Unlike Baba Job or Seeco, Skully never actually played with Watta; but he

Kenneth Bilby

used to watch him very carefully,
and would sometimes go off to the
side by himself and try to play
along with Watta's rhythms, using
an overturned bucket or tin can or
any other makeshift instrument
that might be at hand. As Skully
himself told me,

I never really play with him. But I stand
up and listen to him play, and watch him
play. And sometime when he's [playing]
he and de rest of big man I take a lit-
tle condense pan, and I go one side and
just practise like dem on de condense
pan, the milk tin. I would just play on
the milk tin, just while they playing de
same, I'd just go on wid dem. That's the
Baba Job (also known as Brother Job) way I self-taught."

Count Ossie himself was inspired by Watta King's drumming, and indi-
rectly absorbed a good deal from this Buru master, by eventually becoming a
student of Baba Job the same Baba Job who had started accompanying
Watta King on the fund drum when he was still a young boy, and who later
became Watta's main protgd.I2 Indeed, according to Baba Job, Count Ossie
first started to learn by watching the two of them Job and Watta King -
play together. Only later did Ossie build up the courage to try his hand on
the drum together with Job.'3
In fact, the cultural ferment that went hand in hand with the rapid growth
of West Kingston in the 1940s to 1960s produced many talented drummers
and percussionists who inhabited the overlapping social spaces in which
Kumina, Buru, and nascent Nyabinghi drumming and, indeed, Revival
drumming as well were practised. The names of these drummers and per-
cussionists, some of them virtually forgotten, others well-known and still active
today, should also be enshrined in the history of Jamaican music a history
that is still largely unwritten. Let me list just a few of these names here: Tiwiwi;
Night Shirt; Bigan; Galaroo; Esseku; Rubal Dayas; Chichi Dayas; Chippen-


dale; Brother John of Corn Lane; Kurukang; Pa Ashanti, otherwise known as
Bobo Shanti; Bongo Ewan; Brother Keyman; Brother Solomon; Ras Michael;
Brother Joe; Brother Jack; Harry T. Powell; Bongo Herman; Sticky Thomp-
son; Sky Juice; Tony King.14 These practitioners of indigenous African-
Jamaican arts of drumming and percussion deserve credit for their special
contribution to Jamaican music for Jamaican popular music as we know it
today could not have come about without them or their forerunners.15
An apt emblem of the impact of the African-Jamaican rhythmic heritage
on Jamaican popular music is the recently departed Brother Mortimo Planno
- a man who is widely recognized as Bob Marley's original mentor in Rastafari
philosophy, and who, it is often said, urged Bob to carry the message of Rasta
to the world through reggae music. For those who knew Planno well, he was
"Brother Kuminari", or "Brother Kumi" for short. As the many eminent
drummers who passed through his Trench Town yard during the i96os will
tell you, this honorific name reflected Planno's life-long love of the African

Brother Joe (Eric MacDonald)

Kenneth Bilby

Kumina drumming that was a vital part of the West Kingston soundscape
during the 1940s and 1950s. One such drummer was Skully Simms, who gave
me the following account:

Him [Planno] get de name by loving Kumina, as a Rastaman. Because when de
Kumina people dem come from St Thomas, him will go out deh whole night and
stay deh like meself, and watch dem. And dem call him Kumi, through dat Kumi-
nari. So dem call him Kuminari, Kumi, Kumina. A only dem three name weh
dem call him pertaining to Kumina.'6

The paths through which influences from older local musical traditions,
including drumming and percussion traditions, have entered Jamaican record-
ing studios are profuse and complex. Some are obvious, others more indirect.
Certain important trap drummers, for example, ranging from Lloyd Knibb
to Horsemouth Wallace and Santa Davis, have explained to me specific ways
in which they consciously inserted rhythms from traditional African-Jamaican
drumming genres such as Buru or Nyabinghi into their playing.17 Many other
Jamaican session musicians, including guitarists, bass players, and key-
boardists, speak of their ongoing exposure to various kinds of traditional
drum-based African-Jamaican music, and the ways, both conscious and
unconscious, in which this informal rhythmic education has affected their
playing. This indigenous presence of the drum goes back to the earliest days
of recorded popular music in Jamaica. It is exemplified by one of the first
mento performers to become a recording artist, and the first to become a star
(albeit one labelled for marketing purposes as a "calypsonian") namely, Lord
Flea (Norman Thomas). According to a number of those who knew him well
in the 1950s, Lord Flea was a frequent participant in informal Buru gatherings
in West Kingston; he often played Buru drums and sang along with the Buru
choir, and he knew a large number of traditional Buru songs. As Skully Simms
(who for a time lived right next door to Lord Flea) put it, "[He used to sing
Buru] dung a Back-o-Wall. Bad Buru singer, man! That's why him was so
good ina calypso!"'8
But the most obvious and best-known example of this kind of early influ-
ence in urban popular music is that of Count Ossie, who put his unforgettable
rhythmic stamp on the historic 1959 recording of "Oh Carolina", by the Folkes
Brothers. It was Prince Buster, the producer of this session, who first invited
Ossie and his drummers into the studio. When I interviewed him a few years


ago, Buster spoke to me eloquently about the importance of the African Buru
and Nyabinghi drumming he experienced in the Salt Lane area as a young
man to the formation of his own musical vision. This vision was based partly
on the idea of bringing downtown Kingston's musical vibes, including the
stigmatised African drumming of Back-o-Wall, to the masses via his "Voice
of the People" sound system and record label.
In Buster's own words:

I just sit down round deh one day and just remember [Count] Ossie. So I remember
Ossie a play dung a [Salt Lane, in the old days when Buster was a young boy, before
Ossie moved permanently to East Kingston]. God! Me hit dis pon music. So me go
up deh to Ossie first time and say, "Ossie, wah happen? Why you don't do some
recording?" And him say, "Wah happen? Record? ... wah?!" Me seh, "Yeah man!"
Him seh, "Wah? . wid you band?" Me seh, "No, man! Just our group ya so."
"Buster, dis ya group cyaan mek record!" because him don't used to drum, bass,
playing a guitar, him just want fill in. And me seh, "No, Ossie, de same f--ing
sound weh me a hear dung a Salt Lane. Nutten more." And him give me all him
word, say, "All right, we'll come" . We cause dis fe happen. And again I tell you,
this is one time when I know I beg God fe edit my words and thoughts and my
actions. If I did go a America [like Coxsone and some of the other early record pro-
ducers], maybe I wouldn't do it [bring Ossie to the studio] then. I would just be
one of dem, and do de same ting, rhythm and blues. But by being somebody weh
create something a de people dem eye, it move ina a direction weh I don't even

It is difficult to overestimate how wide-ranging these kinds of influences
from Jamaican drumming (and other grassroots) traditions have been over the
years.20 For some idea of the extent to which these urban interactions with
traditional African-Jamaican rhythms contributed to the development of
Jamaican popular music and, eventually, to popular music of the world
through the globalisation of reggae one need only turn to the Wailers. All
three foundational members of the Wailers Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and
Bunny Wailer carried these rhythms deep within them, as a result of direct
experience. It is clear that all three absorbed rhythmic influences from the fre-
quent drumming to which they were exposed while growing up in Trench
Town, and later on, at the grounations they made a point of attending as they
matured as artists and became more focused on the cultural principles of
Rastafari. More importantly, according to several of the musicians I have inter-

Kenneth Bilby

viewed among them Seeco Patterson, Ras Michael, and Family Man Barrett
- Bob, Peter, and Bunny all used to sit in on the drums from time to time at
Mortimo Planno's yard, Bob most often taking the funde part, while Peter
was comfortable on both funde and repeater.2" And they sometimes played
the Nyabinghi drums on other occasions as well.22 Those who saw Tosh per-
form as a solo artist during the 198os will remember that he often included a
segment of binghi-style drumming in his act, delighting audiences by taking
over the repeater himself and launching into extended solos.23
What do the hand drummers and percussionists who specialise in this art
themselves have to say about the impact of Jamaica's African-based percussive
traditions on popular music? How do they see their contribution to the newer
forms of Jamaican music that can now be heard across the world? What effect
did their presence have on the sounds that were born in the studios of
Kingston during the critical years of the 196os and 1970s?
For the remainder of this article, I would like to outline a few of the ways
in which, according to the players themselves, studio percussionists and hand
drummers have left their mark on recorded music in Jamaica. During my
interviews with professional percussionists and drummers, most of those I
talked with pointed to both structural and aesthetic aspects of the music they
were involved in creating in the studio. The four dimensions I will briefly dis-
cuss here are the following:
i) the influence exerted by Jamaican percussion traditions on rhythmic struc-
ture in popular music;
2) the importance of'space', and spatial relationships, in constructing musical
3) the concept of 'seasoning' or adding 'spice' to music;
4) the idea of music as 'language' as a special way of communicating impor-
tant messages.

First, the question of rhythmic structure. The basic rhythm of reggae is
often likened to that of a heartbeat, and the same is true of the double-pulse
beat of the funde drum in Nyabinghi music.24 For this reason, most hand
drummers see the two forms as being fundamentally linked, and it is often
said that the rhythmic 'feel' of reggae comes directly from the funde drum,
even if the characteristic 'ska' or 'skengay' of the reggae rhythm guitar is gen-
erally on the 'afterbeat' or 'off-beat', while the funde, in contrast, most often


plays on the 'on-beat' or 'down-
beat'.25 According to Bongo Her-
man, for instance,

reggae is a heartbeat . is a heart-
beat, is a internal beat . [The
funde, that's the one-two. That is S
where the music start from. And a
man tek the guitar and skank it up,
and a speed it up. And then you
[have] 'mm ch[n-hn, mm chon-hn,
mm chon-hn', with the guitar ...
[The skank of the guitar is] straight .
from the fund . Him just
'chuk', and bring it up. For the
funde, it go so.e6

Similarly, Brother Joe, who did
aod daruly Bofers a sessions awo Bongo Herman (Herman Constantine Davis)
a good deal of session work on both
fund and repeater for Coxsone Dodd at Studio One beginning in the late
i96os, had this to say: "The beat of [reggae] music come from Nyabinghi, you
know... [In] the binghi, the funde... you see, the "chap-chap, chap-chap,
chap-chap" . [the funde] first bring in that 'chap-chap' there, you know."27
Meanwhile, Seeco Patterson explained:

The sound [of reggae] just come up, you know. It just come up out of us. That
sound just come up. But I think it come from the drum. The drum express it. You
understand? And it pick up from there. . What the first man play what I used
to play, and then what this person beat here [on the fund] this is the reggae beat,
you know, on the funde drum ... The repeater, he play the double sound. But the
funde, he play the reggae.28

Hand drummers and percussionists also sometimes attribute the rhythmic
structure of the 'one drop' to the influence of Nyabinghi drumming. The
'one drop' is a rhythmic principle that appears in various guises in several of
the major stages through which Jamaican popular music has gone, from ska
and rocksteady through to the Rasta cultural explosion of the 197os, where it
came into its own as a defining feature of so-called roots reggae. Pa Jack a
funde drummer who contributed to several sessions at Studio One in the late

Kenneth Bilby

1960s, and who has played on many
well-known reggae recordings since
then suggests that "the fund
drums, and the Nyabinghi, it just
cause the whole one drop... The
one drop is really one-two, one-
two. So the drop of the drums bal-
ance the whole sequence of the
S, music, that them call it 'one
These statements echo the com-
ments of many other studio drum-
mers and percussionists, and in fact
other studio musicians trap
drummers, guitarists, bassists, key-
S "' boardists and horn players often
a make similar and compatible state-
Seeco (Alvin Patterson) ments about the role of Nyabinghi
or 'kete' drumming in shaping the
rhythmic structure of reggae. Some of these other musicians also speak of hav-
ing been influenced by Nyabinghi, Buru, or Kumina rhythms that they
encountered outside of the studios. And, of course, the evolution of reggae's
rhythmic structures) is more complex even than this, involving as it does
influences from a number of other musical contexts as well, including mento
and Revival. But the presence of these drummers and percussionists in the
studios from early on appears to have reinforced the ongoing infusion of ele-
ments from Jamaica's drum-based traditions into the evolving rhythmic struc-
tures of recorded music, not only directly through the interventions and
contributions of these rhythm specialists to the music being recorded, but also
because of the motivating force of the symbolic meanings associated with the
presence of African-related drums and percussion in the studio. In effect, the
presence of these hand drums and other percussion instruments served as both
a sign and a catalyst of the 're-Africanisation' and 're-indigenisation' of a local
popular music that had come to be dominated for a time by North American
Then there is the question of 'space'. A number of writers have pointed to


the emphasis on 'space' as a distinc-
tive characteristic of reggae and its
offshoots. Some have made the
observation that in much Jamaican
music, spaces, silences, or gaps, and
the way these are left empty or
filled, have as much importance as
the actual notes or chord progres-
sions that are sounded. This prin-
ciple is particularly audible in the
new kinds of bass lines that began
to emerge during the rocksteady
era, and it developed into a defin-
ing characteristic of 197os reggae. .
But perhaps the clearest expression
of this tendency is the cavernous,
spatially manipulated dub music
that eventually evolved into a dis- Pla Jack (Albert Hewitt)
tinct branch of reggae.
Several of the percussionists I interviewed alluded to very similar ideas in
describing what makes their art and the art of Jamaican percussion in general
- what it is. Tony King, otherwise known as "Georgie" a percussionist who
played on hundreds of sessions in
all the major studios during the late
rocksteady and early reggae periods
i went into considerable detail
when he discussed this question of

It just come naturally. You know?
Because, I know that to get a sound, to
hear my sound through the mike, to pick
up my sound, the best way I'm gonna
have to be heard is not coming down on
the beat that [the trap drummer would]
drop on. So when he would come on the
Georgie (Tony King) beat down, I would wait till he'd drop,

Kenneth Bilt.,

then I'd come after, to get that beat, like
a turnr, chke". Or when he'd come
with the one drop, I would do something
between the space now. So while the gui-
tar would do "ch&-kep", I would do
something different. I would come into
the little empty space there ... You can't
be too busy full up with too much
noise ... I realise that that's the best way
for me to be heard, and not get drowned
out, is to come in on a half-time, or a lit-
tle space in between we'll come in with
a little bell sound, or a little whatever. So
that's how I pick up my little sound.30

Sticky (Uzziah Thompson) Sticky Thompson talked about
similar things. Sticky is a major stu-
dio percussionist who has lent his talents to innumerable sessions and has
recorded with virtually every important artist in the history of reggae.

If me and [a trap drummer] a play, me find something fe match weh him a do, you
know. Is you fe find something fe match wid de drum. Becau de drum is a very del-
icate thing, you know. Him is de main thing fe de music. De drums is de main thing
fe de music. So you can't confuse him. Anything you a do with de percussion, you
have fe mek sure you naa confuse de drummer, you naa confuse de bass, or none of
de man dem. So you find de right touch, and a touch it de right way, and naa trouble
nobody. Drop it in between de drum and the bass. A so me play, you know. Me
drop my percussion between de drum and de bass. A so me work.31

Funde player and percussionist Pa Jack uses similar language, pointing out
that "the guitar really allow a space fe drop with the funde. And through it
drop with the funde, the repeater play over it, you know? That's how one
drop come in."32 And Seeco also speaks of the importance of working with
empty space. "I just fill those gap," he says. "All de gap dem that leave there,
I go between them."33
This aesthetic of openness, of playing in between, of taking advantage of
empty space and the contrastive potential of silence versus sound, is clearly
shared with dub music; and, since its manifestation among percussionists came


first, it seems very likely that this played a part in the emergence of the dub
genre. Like dub, Jamaican percussion is associated with an experimental
attitude an attitude expressed by several of the percussionists I interviewed.
A statement by Bongo Herman serves to illustrate this tendency:

Any instrument that have a sound can be used as a percussion instrument. And that
is what I do. I don't want to stick to one thing. I play every little thing that have a
sound. I remember one of the time, I went studio and pick up a bottle, and crash it,
ina de studio pash! and tape it, and put some effects on it. I broke it, and you
hear a "pash!" And you put some effects and some reverb on it, and you get a nice
sound out of it. And then now, you have, like, a man sleep ina de studio and snoring.
A man can put a mike a him mouth, and put that on the tape too. Those are the
days when we were creating things for the music. You understand what I'm saying?34

Herman remembers doing this kind of experimentation during the 1970S
at Channel One, Randy's, and especially Scratch Perry's Black Ark Studio -
for Perry was particularly receptive to such experimentation, and to the
aesthetic potential of both percussion and spatial manipulation.
The quest for stylistic variety and novelty in percussion playing is associated
with an aesthetic idea that almost every studio percussionist I talked with
brought to my attention an idea
embodied in a culinary metaphor.
The art of percussion, I was told
again and again, is best conceived
of as a kind of 'cooking', a method
of 'seasoning' or adding 'spice' to
music, a way of enhancing its
'taste'. According to veteran studio
percussionist Sky Juice,

Basically, percussion is all about
seasoning, you know. Like if you're
cooking, you can't cook without
seasoning. So percussion is season-
ing. If you don't have percussion in
music, it's like it's empty. It doesn't
have any taste. Percussion is sea-
soning. So I play the drums like Sky Juice (Christopher Burth)

Kenneth Bilby

some congos. I play tambourine. I play different kind of style, for every song must
have a different kind of claim. Every song must be different . Everyone has a
different style. Sticky has a different style, Sky Juice has a different style, Bongo
[Herman] has a different style, Skully has a different style, Alvin [Haughton] has a
different style . Everybody doesn't sound the same way. It's like seasoning, you
know. You have to have scallion, thyme, onion, pepper, black pepper. You know?
So everything manage together. So everybody plays different, you know? Everybody
cooks different, tastes different. It's from seasoning.35

Sticky Thompson almost echoes Sky Juice:

Lotsa man play percussion, but different-different style, you know? .. And my style
is my style. And [Bongo] Herman have fe-him style. And everybody else have dem
style ... Nobody no really tell me what to do. Because me have taste. Me is a good
chef, you know. So when I cook, I know the taste. And you can't cook without
season. So I know the kind of season to put in the music to mek it taste.36

Bongo Herman too relies upon this same metaphor in trying to sum up
his art as a percussionist. As he puts it,

Me is a man weh . pick up [and] play all three, four, five instrument pon one
tune before it done. For is a spice, is a seasoning. So is like you a cook. So you have
fe know when fe put little salt and little ting until it taste nice. So me have a table,
and me spread out de whole a dem. And me play all five piece a instrument pon dat
song deh before de song done.37

To me, this widely-shared culinary metaphor independently invoked by
each of the percussionists I quote above, and others beautifully suggests the
great importance of the role played by percussion in the development of pop-
ular music in Jamaica. For in Jamaican culture, one might argue, music is just
as basic, and in some ways just as necessary, as food. And what would Jamaican
cooking be without scotch bonnet, without salt, pimento, scallion, thyme, nut-
meg, and all the other combined spices that make it so special? Perhaps it is no
accident that Jamaican cuisine, like Jamaican music, has spread across the globe
and become an emblem of this country's remarkable cultural vitality.
Finally, there is the widespread understanding among drummers and per-
cussionists that rhythm carries the capacity to 'speak', much like actual lan-
guage. This notion is clearly related to a broader idea of music as language
that appears to be a general cultural principle shared by peoples across sub-


Saharan Africa, as well as by people throughout the African diaspora. There
is good reason to believe that this idea, as it occurs in the Western hemisphere,
stems at least in part from the importance of so-called surrogate languages or
'speech surrogates' varieties of 'talking' drums, horns, and flutes in the
ancestral cultures of those whose foreparents were brought from Africa to the
Americas. While such musico-linguistic systems, which use instruments to
communicate by reproducing aspects of actual speech, are not unique to
Africa, having also been documented in Asia and elsewhere, the scholar Walter
Ong38 makes the important point that "Africans have produced probably the
most highly developed acoustic speech surrogates known around the world".
The general idea of music as language is often expressed in Jamaica, not
just by drummers and percussionists, but by other studio musicians who were
exposed to older African-Jamaican musical traditions while growing up. But
it is an understanding that appears to be particularly prominent among those
who specialise in drumming and other forms of percussion. Indeed, there are
still drummers and abeng blowers in the Maroon communities of Jamaica
who use their instruments, literally, to speak that is, to communicate specific
messages by producing certain sound patterns that imitate actual speech.39
This concept of music as speech, which still exists in a literal form in Maroon
communities, has been retained, though in a less literal way, in other African-
Jamaican drum-based musical traditions, such as Kumina and Buru. I would
argue that it has also been retained, though perhaps in even more figurative
ways, by Jamaica's professional percussionists, not to mention other studio
Thus, it is not surprising that a veteran of Jamaican recording sessions such
as funde player and percussionist Pa Jack would claim, as he did during our
interview, "I know from youth seh drum speak, you know . the sound of
the drum speak."40 Nor is it surprising that, in concluding our discussion,
studio percussionist Sky Juice would say, "I don't talk, you know, I make my
percussion do the talking. I make the percussion do the talking."41 It was
famed Nyabinghi drummer Ras Michael, though, who most clearly sum-
marised the larger implications of this capacity for instrumental speech. As he
phrased it, "All of the drummings and the styles and thing is just a African
tradition, and those are what our foreparents came with from Africa. [They]
communicate with the drums." It is because of this history that in Michael's
words "the Nyabinghi ... [is] a heartbeat message centre".42

Kenneth Bilby

And so one might argue as well that one of the most important things about
reggae and Jamaican popular music more generally their frequent use as
bearers of messages, vehicles for social commentary, and often, powerfully
worded protests against social inequality and economic and political injustice
- owes a good deal to African-Jamaican drumming and percussion traditions,
and their continuing presence, in one form or another, in urban recording
studios. For even in the studios, these drums and percussion instruments con-
tinue to 'talk' with a powerful voice though in complex, often indirect, and
symbolic ways and they help the other players of instruments to do so as
well, along with the singers of songs.
To the extent that the world should be thankful for the gift of Jamaican
popular music and few other music have travelled so far and given so many
people of diverse backgrounds immense listening and dancing pleasure, as
well as new kinds of awareness a substantial portion of these thanks must
go to those rhythm alchemists who have drawn from Jamaica's deepest
African-based drum and percussion traditions and helped to produce what
has become one of the world's most remarkable musical streams. May their
names, as well as their deeds, live on. 3H


1. I would like to express my appreciation to the various musicians who contributed
to this article for enthusiastically sharing their histories, and for their essential con-
tributions to Jamaican music. Special thanks to Herbie Miller for his generous and
indispensable help in making contact with several of the drummers, percussionists,
and other musicians interviewed for this study.
2. Alvin "Seeco" Patterson, interview by author, Kingston, 18 September 2005.
3. Garth White (as Razac Blacka), "Master Drummer", Jamaica Journal it, nos. i & z
(August 1977): 17.
4. Kenneth Lara (Lord Laro), "Count Ossie Lives" on LP, Lord Laro, Yu Have Fe Dred
(Kingston: Wildflower, 1977).
5. For references to Babu Bryan from Kumina oral tradition, see Kenneth M. Bilby
and Kia Bunseki Fu-Kiau, Kumina: A Kongo-Based Tradition in the New World, Les
Cahiers du CEDAF 8 (Brussels: Centre d'Etudes et de Documentation Africaines,
1983), 16-17; 25; 104. See also Monica Schuler, "Alas, Alas, Kongo A Social History


oflndenturedAfrican Immigration into Jamaica, 1841-1865 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins
University Press, 1980), who renders this great Kumina drummer's name as "Bob
O'Brien" (o108-o9).
6. For more on the complex interconnections between Kumina, Buru, and early
Nyabinghi music in West Kingston, see Kenneth M. Bilby and Elliott Leib, From
Kongo to Zion: Three Black Musical Traditions from Jamaica (booklet accompanying
LP) (Cambridge, MA: Heartbeat Records [HB-17], 1983); see also Bilby and Leib,
"Kumina, the Howellite Church and the Emergence of Rastafarian Traditional
Music in Jamaica", Jamaica Journal 19, no. 3 (August-October 1986): 22-z8.
7. The most detailed discussion of the Buru-Nyabinghi connection to date is to be
found in Verena Reckord, "Rastafarian Music: An Introductory Study", Jamaica
Journal II, nos. i & 2 (August 1977): 6-8; the same article also includes some con-
sideration of possible Kumina influences on Nyabinghi drumming (8-9). See also
Yoshiko S. Nagashima, Rastafarian Music in Contemporary Jamaica: A Study of
Socioreligious Music of the Rastafarian Movement in Jamaica, Performance in Culture
No. 3 (Tokyo: Institute for the Study of Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa,
Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, 1984), 67-91. For another part of this story
that has received even less exposure, see John P. Homiak, The Half That's Never
Been Told: Pa Ashanti and the Development of Nyabinghi Music (Kingston: Emperor
Haile Selassie I Theocracy Government [Serial No. i], 1990). For transcriptions of
typical Kumina, Nyabinghi, and (one variant of) Buru rhythms, see Keith Marogh-
ini, Spiritual Drumming: Jamaica's African and Indian Musical Heritage (n.p.: Palita
Productions, 2007), 22-36.
8. In her biography of Leonard Howell, the first prophet of Rastafari, journalist Hlkne
Lee in her book The First Rasta: Leonard Howell and the Rise of Rastafarianism
(Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books, 2003) confuses Watta King with the similarly
named Bongo Watto (244-245). While Lee is fully justified in suggesting that Watta
King "should probably be recognized as the missing link between the [Buru and
early Rasta] communities" (245), her erroneous assumption that this key figure in
the transition from Buru to Nyabinghi and the Rastafarian patriarch known as
Bongo Watto were one and the same needs to be corrected. Watta (or Watto) King
and Bongo Watto were most definitely not the same person. The latter (also known
as Ras Boanerges), who is widely remembered as founder of Youth Black Faith and
custodian of an important tabernacle in West Kingston during the 195os-6os, is
credited with playing an important role in the developing Rastafari faith see Jah
Bones, One Love: History, Doctrine and Livity (London: Voice of Rasta, 1985), 28-
29. In contrast, the master Buru drummer known as Watta King, despite his close
ties with the emerging Rasta community in West Kingston in the 1940s-5os and his
critical contribution to the musical genre that came to be known as Nyabinghi, did
not consider himself a Rasta and never grew dreadlocks; in fact, he made his living

Kenneth Bilby

partly as a barber, according to my interview with his apprentice Baba Job. As
opposed to Bongo Watto, who for years had a camp at 9th Street in Trench Town,
Watta King resided closer to the water, spending much time in Back-o-Wall/The
Dungle, Salt Lane, and the Foreshore Road area (now Marcus Garvey Drive). Dou-
glas Mack, in his book From Babylon to Rastafari: Origin and History of the Rastafar-
ian Movement (Chicago: Frontline, 1999), includes Watta King in his list of "the
Foreshore Road and Greenish [i.e. Greenwich] Farm brethren" (65).
9. All information on Watta King in this article, unless otherwise noted, comes from
my interview with his principle 'student', Baba Job (Job Clayton), conducted in
Kingston on 17 January 2oo2. Having begun an apprenticeship with him when he
was still a young boy, Baba Job remained close with Watta King for many years.
Although his name is sometimes spelled "Watto King" in the literature on Rastafar-
ian music, Job pronounced it "Watta" (/wita/) throughout our interview.
10. In my view, Noel "Skully" Simms, though he remains vastly under-recognised, is
one of the most important figures in Jamaican music. Under various names and in
several capacities, he has made outstanding contributions across different periods
and genres. As an R&B-influenced singer during the 1950s (part of the duo, Bunny
and Scully), he made some of the earliest recordings in the history of Jamaican pop-
ular music. During the ska, rocksteady, and early reggae eras, under the names Mr
Foundation and Zoot Simms, he continued to sing and to make excellent recordings
many of which exemplify beautifully the creative process of indigenisation through
which Jamaican popular music came fully into its own in the i96os and 1970s. As if
this were not enough, in the 1970s Skully became one of the most talented and
sought-after studio hand drummers and percussionists in Kingston. He has played
on countless sessions, with every major artist and many lesser-known ones, and he
remains active today.
in. Noel "Skully" Simms, interview by author, Kingston, 9 October 2005.
12. For earlier discussions acknowledging Count Ossie's debt to both Watta King and
Baba Job ("Bro. Job"), see Reckord, "Rastafarian Music", 8-9, and Nagashima,
Rastafarian Music, 89-90.
13. Like Watta King, Baba Job has not received enough credit for the role he played in
the development of Nyabinghi drumming out of the Buru tradition. Baba Job was
influential not only while the new Rastafarian drumming genre was first emerging
in West Kingston during which time he was Watta King's favoured second drum-
mer, and often played lead when Watta himself was not present but also in the
Wareika Hills camp later started by Brother Lover in the east, with which Count
Ossie was also closely associated. In this early Wareika Hills camp, according to
Mack in From Babylon to Rastafari, "Brother Job was the master Akete drummer at
that time" (62).
14. Those names that have come down to me exclusively through oral sources I have


chosen to spell as I heard them; some of these spellings may have to be revised as
more information comes to light. The name I spell "Dayas" here, for instance, may
represent a Jamaicanised pronunciation of 'Diaz'. Much work remains to be done
on identifying and giving proper credit to the pioneering musicians who have been
ignored by music historiography based exclusively on written sources. The early
Rasta drummer and "musical genius" whose name is given by H6l~ne Lee as "Brother
Rubba" (Lee, The First Rasta, 245, following Jah Bones, One Love, 28) may be the
same person whose name I render as "Rubal Dayas". The drummer "Bra John" from
Rose Town, who often played together during the 19505 with "Brother Rubba" and
who is characterized by Jah Bones as "the greatest Rasta aketeh repeater drummer
in the whole of Jamaica" (Jah Bones, One Love, 27-28), may well be the same person
as the drummer who appears in my own list as "Brother John of Corn Lane".
15. There were yet other musicians coming from quite different backgrounds who also
exerted an important influence on the development of studio percussion in Jamaica.
One important contributor whose name must not be forgotten is Denzil Laing, who
had previously been active during the 19505 as a singer and instrumentalist with a
variety of menro bands. Laing has not received enough credit for his important con-
tributions during the 196os and 1970s as a session percussionist in Kingston. Not
only is he said to have been a particularly skilled maracas player, but he is cited by
a number of players, such as Tony King, for the guidance and encouragement he
gave to younger percussionists trying to break into Kingston's burgeoning recording
industry at this critical moment in the development of Jamaican popular music.
16. Noel "Skully" Simms, interview.
17. Lloyd Knibb, interview by author, Hull, Massachusetts, 5 March 2ooo; Leroy
"Horsemouth" Wallace, interview by author, Kitson Town, St Catherine, 15 May
2005; Carlton "Santa" Davis, interview by author, Washington, DC, 7 November
18. Noel "Skully" Simms, interview.
19. Prince Buster (Cecil Campbell), interview by author, Kingston, 17 October 2oo5.
20. Many of these connections remain undocumented. For instance, when interviewing
Baba Job (see note 9), I was surprised to learn that during the 1970s, by which time
he was considered an elder, this pioneer in the transition from Buru to Nyabinghi
drumming had actually played repeater on a number of tracks on Bob Marley's Natty
Dread album, including "Them Belly Full (But We Hungry)" and "Revolution".
Baba Job described to me how one day in 1973 or 1974, Alan "Skill" Cole had arrived
(sent by Marley) to pick him up and bring him over to a session at Harry J's studio
as it turned out, one of the sessions at which the tracks for Natty Dread were
recorded. (Marley knew this Buru and Nyabinghi elder well enough to have his own
personal nickname for him; he used to call Baba Job by the endearing moniker
"Jammo", after Jomo Kenyatta.) Despite his contributions to this seminal session,

Kenneth Bilby

Baba Job was never credited on the Natty Dread liner notes; and his presence on a
number of Marley recordings is not mentioned anywhere in the book by Roger Stef-
fens and Leroy Jodie Pierson, Bob Marley and the Wailers: The Definitive Discography
(Cambridge, MA /Kingston: Rounder Records /LMH Publishing, 2005).
21. Alvin "Seeco" Patterson, interview; Michael Henry (Ras Michael), interview by
author, Los Angeles, California, 29 November zoo6; Aston "Family Man" Barrett,
interview by author, Poughkeepsie, New York, 21 August 1999. Reminiscing in an
interview with Chuck Foster, Ras Michael similarly commented on these early drum
gatherings in Trench Town with all three primary members of the Wailers: "We
had Nyahbingi there whe we sing and chant, Bunny, the said Mr Marley, the said
Peter with Ras Michael and some other elders chanting iya" (Chuck Foster, Roots
Rock Reggae: An Oral History of Reggae Music from Ska to Dancehall [New York: Bill-
board Books, 1999], 121).
22. Around 1974, the three foundation members of the Wailers went into the studio
and played Nyabinghi drums on an instrumental version of Vivian "Yabby You"
Jackson's "Love Thy Neighbour", produced by Family Man Barrett. According to
Roger Steffens and Leroy Pierson, Bob Marley and Peter Tosh both played repeater
on this track, while Bunny Wailer played funde (Steffens and Pierson, Bob Marley
and the Wailers, 80o). The evocative name given to this historic recording "Distant
Drums" inspired the title of this article. The recording can be heard on the CD
Aston "Family Man" Barrett, Cobra Style (Cambridge, MA: Heartbeat Records, HB-
157, 1999).
23. This can be seen, for instance, in Tosh's performance of"Rastafari Is" on the DVD
Peter Tosh: Captured Live (EMI/Capitol, 2002).
24. Echoing many of the drummers I myself interviewed, Harry T. Powell told Helene
Lee that "the funde is the base, the rhythm of the heart" (Lee, The First Rasta, 232).
25. The idea that the funde in Nyabinghi music always plays on the 'downbeat' a
notion that sometimes crops up in the literature on Jamaican music is an over-
simplification. One need only listen carefully to Count Ossie's recorded body of
work to recognize that for certain songs and in certain performance contexts he and
his drummers shifted the double-pulse of the funde to the 'afterbeat', corresponding
exactly with the structural position of the 'skengay' rhythm played on guitar (or
sometimes piano) in much reggae. Furthermore, in traditional Rastafarian drum-
ming more generally, according to Olive Lewin in her book Rock It Come Over: The
Folk Music of Jamaica (Kingston: University of the West Indies Press, 2000), the
rhythm of the funde is sometimes changed to the off-beat "depending on the drum-
mer's interpretation of the chant or song being accompanied" (204). It is also sig-
nificant that in an old variant of the Buru tradition that I myself have documented
in rural St Catherine, the bear of the funde, though it consists of the exact same fun-
damental double-pulse 'heartbeat' pattern as that of the funde in contemporary


Nyabinghi, always falls on the 'afterbeat' just as the 'skengay' in reggae of the
classic era.
26. Herman Constantine Davis "Bongo Herman", interview by author, Kingston, 26
January 2005. One writer who agrees with Bongo Herman (and other session hand
drummers) on this point is Verena Reckord, who argues that as the Rastafarian influ-
ence on the emerging reggae genre began to increase, "the fundeh ridim could be
heard in [the] 'Skengay' pattern of the rhythm guitar" (Reckord, "Rastafarian
Music", 13).
27. Eric MacDonald ("Brother Joe"), interview by author, Red Hills, St Andrew, 17
October 2005.
28. Alvin "Seeco" Patterson, interview.
29. Albert Hewitt ("Pa Jack"), interview by author, Temple Hills, Maryland, 5 Decem-
ber 2005.
30. Tony King ("Georgie"), interview by author, Centerville, New York, 18 November
31. Uzziah "Sticky" Thompson, interview by author, Kingston, 30 May 2005.
32. Albert Hewitt ("Pa Jack"), interview.
33. Alvin "Seeco" Patterson, interview.
34. Herman Constantine Davis ("Bongo Herman"), interview.
35. Christopher Burth ("Sky Juice"), interview by author, Bull Bay, St Thomas, 16 Octo-
ber 2005.
36. Uzziah "Sticky" Thompson, interview.
37. Herman Constantine Davis ("Bongo Herman"), interview.
38. Walter Ong, "African Talking Drums or Oral Noetics", New Literary History 8, no.
3 (Spring 1977): 411.
39. For examples of both drum language and abeng language recorded in Jamaican
Maroon communities, see Kenneth M. Bilby, Drums of Defiance: Maroon Music
from the Earliest Free Black Communities ofJamaica, CD and accompanying booklet
(Washington, DC: Smithsonian Folkways [SF 40412], 1992).
40. Albert Hewitt ("Brother Jack"), interview.
41. Christopher Burth ("Sky Juice"), interview.
42. Michael Henry ("Ras Michael"), interview.

Oh Rudie

Jamaican Popular Music and the Narrative of Urban

Badness in the Making of Postcolonial Society


Rudeness and gun
Is the talk of this town
The gun fever is bad
The gun fever
-The Valentines

See they want to be the star
So they fighting tribal war
-Bob Marley

For due to political fiction
Due to political fiction
Man and man gone in a different segregation
We living so near and yet so far
All because ofpolitical war
-Half Pint


THE FIRST MAJOR SOCIO-POLITICAL theme to be identified and extensively com-
mented on in early modern Jamaican popular music is the phenomenon of
the 'rude boy'. This theme emerged in Jamaican popular music in the mid-
1960s, some two to three years into Jamaica's postcolonial journey. By 1965,


the die was cast; criminality was stepping up. The transformation of pre-
independence gangs into warring tribal entities was already becoming a mode
of political organisation and mobilisation, and an ontological signature in the
definition of political culture and political power in the making of the post-
colonial Jamaican landscape. This article examines some of the underlying
factors that gave rise to the expressions of badness, which in turn inspired the
agency of Jamaican popular music to create and to develop rude boy songs as
part of the ideational mapping, weaving and questioning of postcolonial
society in the first ten years of independence, 1962-72.

The origins of Kingston gangs

Urban gangs such as the Mau Mau,' formed in 1948/49, and the Phantom,
founded in 1959/60, existed in Jamaica's capital, Kingston, prior to Jamaica
becoming an independent nation state in 1962. Other pre-1962 gangs included
the Vikings, Spangler, Phoenix, Skull and Pigeon. A central feature of these
gangs was the absence among them of a modus operandi and culture of inter-
gang warfare. Lloyd Bradley noted that "[a]t the beginning of the i96os, it
was rare for these gangs to fight each other".2 In a number of interviews I
conducted in 2009 and 2010oio with founding members of the Mau Mau, Phan-
tom and Spangler gangs,3 all the interviewees affirmed this fact. One noted
former star high school cricketer and footballer of Excelsior High School, who
grew up in Rae Town, recalled that although violence was endemic to the
modus operandi of some communities of Kingston's poor, gangsters from all
over Kingston would ritually congregate at certain entertainment spots to
enjoy themselves without resorting to inter-gang rivalry. One of these gather-
ing spots was the Palace Theatre, venue of the popular Vere Johns' Opportu-
nity Hour. Another was the Barbecue on Fleet Street on Friday nights. This
former Excelsior student said:

Barbecue is a place pon Fleet Street whey the man dem from the west, the man dem
from the east, the man dem from the north ... meet every Friday night. And Duke
Reid or Coxsone [would] play music. Dat cyaan miss you pon a Friday night, you
know. 'Cause it is the best in recorded music you getting. And just the whole cama-
raderie and the gathering. Man from west and from south and man from east a play
dice outside and card. Lantern and all kind a ting. A beehive of activity.4

Clinton Hutton

The reasons that some gang members of old gave for forming or joining
gangs had their roots in colonial oppression and injustice. Members of Mau
Mau, Phantom, Spangler and other gangs that I have interviewed at different
times, in different venues, men now in their late sixties and seventies, all spoke
of a persistent regime of race/class prejudice, unemployment, lack of education
and training, neglect, alienation, and a future devoid of optimism. Poor,
uneducated, untrained, stigmatised urban young black males in Kingston,
who were seen as most resistant/immune to the European civilising ontology,
became the central target of the colonial 'civilising' mission, with the police
as the principal 'civilising' agency. These men spoke of the persistent rituals
of police violence, torture, insults, persecution and general harassment directed
at them, and suggested that forming gangs was, in part, the joining of forces
to respond to colonial police excesses.
Persons who became gang members in Jamaica came predominantly from
social formations referred to in the Marxist division of labour theory as the
lumpenproletariatt'. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels described the lumpen-
proletariat in very uncomplimentary language as the "dangerous class", "the
social scum", whose "conditions of life ... prepare it far more for the part of a
bribed tool of reactionary intrigue".5 Marx and Engels further argued that the
lumpenproletariat was "a recruiting ground for thieves and criminals of all
kinds, living on the crumbs of society, people without a definite trade, vagabons
gens sans feu et sans aveu [folk without hearth or home]". Moreover, they were
"thoroughly malleable" and "as capable of the most heroic deeds and the most
exalted sacrifices as of the basest banditry and the foulest corruption".6
The lumpenproletariat had emerged in Jamaica in the early post-emanci-
pation period, when attempts by the former slave-making classes and their
British colonial backers to corral emancipated Africans into an ontologically
degraded labouring class shaped by the epistemology, psychology and culture
of enslavement, bred a class of African-Jamaicans which colonial reports and
society called vagabonds, among other demeaning names. By denying eman-
cipated Africans reparation7 for their enslavement, and artificially increasing
the price of land up to sixty times the market rate for African-Jamaicans8 so
as to strategically fetter black access, as well as using state intervention to pre-
vent or to curtail black proprietorship,9 the post-emancipation elites engen-
dered a class of African-Jamaicans with little option but to make a living
primarily by anti-social means.


In 1865, The Report on the Moral Condition of the City of Kingston and Its
Environs gave a description of the condition, activity and identity of this class
of black Jamaicans that is worth quoting at length:

[T]here will be found among the juvenile class a large amount of ignorance, crime,
destitution and juvenile delinquency ... Inmates from infancy of the lowest dens of
infamy and accustomed only to scenes of profanity, indecency and vice . haunting
the railway terminus, the wharves, and landing places of the city; the arrival of foreign
steamships, the shore, the race course, the yards and streets and lanes of the city;
having no ostensible employment, but spending their whole days in idleness, cor-
rupting and debasing one another . In some instances and deliberately trained
and brought up to steal and plunder to support themselves and minister to the
vicious passions of their still more wicked and depraved parents . Impatient of
restraints, rude, boisterous, regardless of all decency .. the cursing, swearing and
blasphemy of mere children defies description. They seem to vie and contend with
one another for a shameless pre-eminence in this abominable vice . unrestrained
licence . has given them a kind of premature and mock spirit of regardless men.
They assume the airs and manners of our criminal adults, and with all the boisterous
unblushingness of maturity in wrong doing, do they resist advice and retort rebuke
and behave as utterly insensible to shame or public opinion. Imitating the airs and
the black guardism of older persons, they swear, swagger, and fight, buster and blas-
pheme with a volubility and a recklessness such as is most painful to witness.'0

This stratum of Kingston's post-emancipation poor became the cultural,
psychological and ontological bloodline of the social formations from which
youth gangs such as the Mau Mau, Park, Phantom, Vikings, Spangler, Skull
and Phoenix would emerge in Jamaica in the second half of the twentieth cen-
tury. Subsequent to The Report on the Moral Condition of the City of Kingston
and Its Environs, a number of other similar reports were published which shed
light on this developing social landscape." In 1892, the Daily Gleaner described
the borough known as Smith's Village (which would comprise the con-
stituency of Western Kingston fifty-two years later) as "disgraceful" and
"filthy" and "principally inhabited by labourers and those of our population
who live from hand to mouth".12 Furthermore:

In Smith's Village proper, which consists of some dozen pathways dignified by the
name of streets, there are 139 houses . A few are of the rateable value of 8, but
the vast majority are "class" houses rated between 1 and 4, while not a few are put
down on the assessment roll at los. On looking over this roll in fact strikes the reader

Clinton Hutton

as very significant, viz, that a large number of the structures, for they can hardly be
called houses, are classed as being "in very bad order".

"[F]ilth and abomination . abound in the streets and lanes" where these
"structures" called houses were built, noted the same Gleaner report. Indeed,
these streets and lanes "practically invite disease and should an epidemic occur
it would be an impossibility to prevent its spread". The Gleaner also noted
that in Smith's Village everythingig is favourable for those who have any incli-
nation to break the laws" because, among other things, "the streets are to a
great extent lonely and deserted at night, and even where more thickly popu-
lated, the people are so thoroughly accustomed and inured to deeds of
violence, that they take comparatively little note of what is going on . .".3

Applauding badness

This place which was deemed "the home of wickedness and vice of the most
depraved description"'4 in the last decade of the nineteenth century became
the abode of perhaps the two most notorious criminals of Kingston's streets
in the first fifty years of the twentieth century: Aston Jolly ("Whoppy King")
and Vincent "Ivanhoe" Martin ("Rhygin"). Both men were born in rural
Jamaica and migrated to Smith's Village when they were boys.
Whoppy King was born in Lucea, Hanover, in 1908 and came to Kingston
at age twelve years, settled in Dungle and attended the nearby Ebenezer School
on Spanish Town Road. He was first arrested and sentenced at age fifteen
years. Thereafter, he took on a life of crime: robbery, extortion, rape and mur-
der. When Whoppy King was arrested for killing Sidney Garel and raping
and seriously wounding his girlfriend Bernadette Hugh on the Palisadoes
Road in 1951, thousands of people gathered at the Cross Roads Police Station
where he was being held and "even more turned up at the Supreme Court
building at Justice Square, downtown Kingston for his trial and conviction".'5
He was executed by hanging, in the St Catherine District prison, Spanish
Town, on 4 April 1952. On the day of his execution by the state, it was esti-
mated that about half of the population of Spanish Town gathered outside
the prison to await the announcement of his death.16
Rhygin, also called the "Two-Gun Killer", "Alan Ladd" and "Captain Mid-


night", was born in Linstead, St Catherine in about 1924. As a little boy, he
moved to Kingston and became a resident of Western Kingston. When he
was fourteen years old in 1938, he was sentenced by the Kingston resident mag-
istrate to a dozen lashes from the tamarind switch, for committing a vicious
attack. Sentenced to do prison time in 1943 and 1946, he escaped from the
General Penitentiary in Kingston in 1948 and etched a murderous path, start-
ing with a policeman and a woman, until he was shot and killed by the police
on 19 October 1948 at Lime Cay, in a gun battle lasting over one hour. He
was twenty-four years old. When news broke of his death, "thousands of per-
sons, police and civilians alike, lined the streets from the Kingston waterfront
to a morgue in Kingston".17
The performance of badness, choreographed and starred in by these two
men with the audaciously bold reckless courage, defiance and impish adven-
turousness usually identified in Hollywood cinematic characters, especially
those in Western and gangster movies, became part of that evolving culture
of honour, respectability and mythical invincibility in the iconographic terrain
of Jamaican ontology which led to some degree of admiration for badmanism
among the populace.18 And it was this ethos of badness that a section of the
postcolonial political elite would harness and develop into a murderous tribal
partisan political theatre, with consequences of epochal proportions.
The agency and signatures of badness were not only harnessed for a sinister
power game that would set Jamaican postcolonial politics on a murderous
partisan journey. Such agency and signatures were endowed with a stamp of
elite recognition, approval and certitude which made partisan political rude
boys ontologically and psychologically more vicious, more daring, more bold,
more audacious and more a law onto themselves in the performance of bad-
ness. It would set the standard for badness and its enactment in postcolonial
Jamaican society.
This enhanced daring and audaciousness in performing badness is captured
in several songs about the rude boys. They include "Rude Boy Train"
by Desmond Dekker and the Aces, and "Tougher than Tough" by Derrick
Morgan. In "Rude Boy Train":
Rude boy get off a circuit charge
Rude boy get off a circuit charge
Do be do be doo
Do be do be doo

Clinton Hutton

Rude boy a loot and a shoot and a wail
Rude boy a loot and a shoot and a wail
Do be do be doo
Do be do be doo

Double Oh Seven is back on the scene
Double Oh Seven is back on the scene
Do be do be doo
Do be do be doo'9

"Rude Boy Train" is a confident, boastful announcement of rude boy's tri-
umph: "Rude boy get off a circuit charge". And for emphasis, the announce-
ment of his triumph is repeated, with a mocking refrain aimed at the court
and people who wanted him put away: "Do be do be doo /Do be do be doo."
The circuit court failed to convict him for crimes) for which he increasingly
feels confident he won't be convicted.z0 He comes back triumphantly on a
rude boy train, a rude boy boat, a rude boy plane, like a star: "Double Oh
Seven [James Bond] is back on the scene" engaging once more in activities
for which the circuit court failed to convict him: "Rude boy a loot and a shoot
and a wail".
Hartley Neita asserted that "popular singers had been glorifying the men
involved in these crimes, who had earned the name of'Rude Boys' or 'Rud-
ies'".2" Neita noted that among the songs glorifying the men involved in these
crimes were "007 (Shanty Town)" by Desmond Dekker and the Aces,
"Tougher than Tough (Rudies Don't Fear)" by Derrick Morgan, and "Johnny
Too Bad" by the Slickers.22 Similarly, Edward Seaga, in describing the rise of
violent attacks in Jamaica in the mid-196os as the product of the emerging
rude boy era, said, "Popular singers were already commenting in lyrics which
glamourised the concept, the daring role of the 'rude boys', some of whom
were embracing violence with guns. "23
I suggest that Neita's and Seaga's description of the attitude of popular
singers to the rude boys as glorification or glamourisation is a gross overstate-
ment. To the credit of popular singers, the overwhelming majority of songs
they did expressed opposition to the activity of the rude boys. In a survey/con-
tent analysis I did of thirty songs about the rude boy, twenty of them can be
categorised as being against the rude boy, while only ten can be deemed to be
in support of the rude boy. Twenty-six of the total sample of thirty songs were


released between 1966 and 1967, the period when the epochal framing of a
tribal postcolonial political ethos that had been in the making for less than
five years surfaced in a mighty explosion.
However, it is not what Seaga said about some rude boys embracing guns
that is essential to our understanding of the history of our postcolonial political
ethos and the predicament the country is in today. It is what he did not say
about them.

The birth of inter-gang warfare

Inter-gang warfare was a postcolonial political phenomenon engineered by a
segment of the emerging national political class. Inter-gang warfare was thus,
from its genesis, political warfare.
Barry Chevannes noted:

Until 1963 inter-gang rivalry was unknown. What brought it about was the attempt
by members of the ruling party to tackle the social dislocation by programmes aimed
especially at organising the youths. In fact the constituency representative held the
Cabinet post of Minister of Community Development and Welfare. Thus it was
that the Park gang formed a club called Wellington United and became affiliated to
the Youth Development Agency.24

What Chevannes outlined above gives us a peep into the birth of a post-
colonial ethos that the late University of the West Indies (UWI) professor
Carl Stone would call 'garrison politics', whose expressions inspired songs
about rudies.


Edward Seaga became Member of Parliament for Kingston Western on to
April 1962. Of the 14,023 voters on the list for that constituency, just over 80o
percent voted, with Seaga of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) polling 5,859
votes, while Dudley Thompson of the People's National Party (PNP) polled
5,171 votes.25 In the four general elections before 1962, the JLP and the PNP
had each won Kingston Western two times.z6 Thus, in every other election

Clinton Hutton

Back-o-Wall in 1962

in Kingston Western, the electors had changed the JLP for the PNP. It was a
typical swing constituency. This ended in 1962; and the JLP has held the seat
since, because the government, through the Member of Parliament Edward
Seaga, caused a fundamental shift to take place in the demographic makeup
of the constituency which led to the reconstitution of a population of voters
decidedly in favour of the JLP.
Western Kingston was described by Seaga as having the largest slum in
Jamaica: Back-o-Wall (Bak-A-Waal). "But it was more than a slum," Seaga
has argued. "It was also the most notorious criminal den of the country, an
image which the residents encouraged because the police were afraid to enter
its fearful environs." For Seaga,

There was absolutely no way this situation could be allowed to continue. In order
to both create proper housing and disperse the criminal elements, Back o' Wall [sic]
had to be demolished. In its place I planned a forty-acre community for four thou-
sand residents living in a variety of structures: some high-rise condominiums, other
townhouse type complexes and some bungalows.27


Back-o-Wall then became, for Seaga, not a legacy of colonial agency, but
mostly a problem of criminality, the expression of the agency of "the most
notorious criminal den" in the whole of Jamaica, which must be dispersed. It
was, for Seaga, "the cancer in West Kingston".28 Hence, the basis for the jus-
tification that would be advanced to explain what took place in Western
Kingston in the i96os.
Paradoxically, Edward Seaga was one of the most progressive members of
the Upper House of the colonial parliament in the epoch of self-government.
Moreover, he was, in some respects, more in tune with and sympathetic to
the cultural, ideational and identity-forming ethos of the poor than perhaps
most politicians on the eve of independence and in the early postcolonial
period. But in the trench of partisan political competition, something went
By 1962, Western Kingston had become the epicentre of the nation's woes;
the signature of an apocalyptic journey into a terrain of fruitless empathy and
trust; a cathedral of sorrow constructed in the building of a marasmic and
miasmic postcolonial state. And the centre of that epicentre was Back-o-Wall.
In many respects, Back-o-Wall was still a late-nineteenth-century, early-
twentieth-century landscape in 1962. Hartley Neita's description of this space
in an article he wrote after accompanying Premier Norman Manley on a tour
of this area in 1961, was characteristic of the descriptions of squalid Kingston
in reports published in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century.
According to Neita, who was working in the government's public relations

We walked from early morning until mid-afternoon through some four acres of
squalor. Saw shacks, the walls of which were made of pieces of rotten wood and
cardboard, crocus bags and covered with rusty sheets of zinc. The families slept on
pieces of cardboard covered with scraps of cloth . There were no roads, just beaten
tracks winding way around each hut. Sometimes we stepped into swards of mud
and the faeces of pigs and goats . There was no grass or trees for shade or fruit.
Every now and then we came upon a shrivelled gungo pea plant . There was no
piped water. They had a tapped water main along the Spanish Town Road and
carried water inside the community where they had constructed a make-shift shower
.. One man had built a latrine and he charged residents one penny to use it. The
alternative was at the edge of the community in sandy soil where men and women
scraped a shallow hole and squatted over it to drop their night food . The smell

Clinton Hutton

from the combination of the rotting wood, mud, sour water and faeces and scraps
of cooked food waste, was a nauseous, stomach-turning smell.'9

The bulldozers and flames of the JLP government first came in 1963 and
again in 1966: bulldozers and flames clearing land, behind the wall, of the tatus
(shacks) and ranches of "the most notorious criminal den of the country";
bulldozers and flames directed by a government that came to power in 1962
to guide the affairs of the newly independent state; bulldozers and flames onto-
logically cultivating hurt and rage, animosity, and segregation, fragmentation
and retaliation.

The creation of Tivoli

When the new housing district of Tivoli Gardens was built over the footprints
of the bulldozers and flames that cleared Back-o-Wall, persons deemed to be
supporters of the PNP, including victims of the demolished Back-o-Wall,
were denied abode therein. And Carl "Bya" Mitchell, the JLP enforcer, would
tell one of his friends, who would tell me, of the immense pride he felt having
his own home, where he no longer had to run up and down setting pots,
cheese pan and basin to catch rain water coursing through the roof of his old
dry-weather ranch. For that reason, he would forever be grateful to Mr Seaga,
and place his loyalty to him above the JLP.
The acquisition of a house in Tivoli Gardens was perhaps the most impres-
sive dispensation of political patronage to a segment of the poor at the time.
But to those poor who had their shacks demolished and became refugees,
Tivoli Gardens was a symbol of injustice, enmity and hurt that must be resis-
ted. Hence, a clash allegedly took place at the housing estate between sup-
porters of the PNP and JLP in June 1966 when "a PNP gang invaded the
settlement, protesting they were not allotted any houses".30 The die was cast.
The progressive idea for model housing for Kingston's poor that Seaga envis-
aged was aborted in the way it came to life.
According to the logic of this emerging tribal political order, "In West
Kingston, political activists were too fearful of potential harm to live among
persons of other political persuasions. Hence, although many of the original
families of Back o' Wall could have been accommodated, few applied."3'
In any event, JLP supporters needed to live together, Seaga argued, hence


negating the view that "many of the families of Back o' Wall could have been

JLP supporters sought to live in an enclave where they could protect themselves
[from PNP supporters] ... They [the police] could never be depended upon to assist
or protect anybody on the JLP side, and [there was] more than one reason for the
people in West Kingston to have sought to put themselves in an area where they do
not have to look over their shoulders, because they were safe among the residences
in which they lived.32

Notwithstanding any such attempted retrospective justification, the way
in which Tivoli Gardens was created and peopled led to an arms race in West-
ern Kingston in the 196os. Youth gangs which prior to independence were
not fighting with each other became deadly tribal partisan enemies in the pay
of postcolonial political elites, one party bent on clearing West Kingston of
the opposite party and the opposite party bent on preventing it. And when
the guns could not come quickly enough through the political channel, they
were acquired by other means. Some were stolen from legal firearm holders.
An impressive haul of guns came from the Henderson store near the wharf in
downtown Kingston. Some Spanglers allegedly broke into the store one night.
Some guns were also said to be stolen from the shooting range gun storage
room off Mountain View Avenue. Pandora was stalking the land, fashioning
an ontological state of hurt, pain, fear and revenge. The ethos of the romance
of death had begun.

Rastafari oppressed

Mortimo Planno, the noted Rastafari leader, remembered Back-o-Wall and
neighboring township communities in the 1950s and 196os:

Back-o-Wall, Ackee Walk, Dungle, was Rastafari community. Dem call it squatta
land. We buil' up shacks an' live in dem an' tings. Bustamante, second year a 'im
political manoeuvrin', cause KSAC fe destroy dose community bruk down de res-
idence an' we have fi move up an' down . Dungle where I use to reside was a area
like a big cricket ground, football field area an' tatu right around' i'.33

Dance and concerts were held in this space. Many of the people living in this
area were refugees from Pinnacle, the Rastafari commune in St Catherine,

Clinton Hutton

which had been destroyed by the colonial security forces in 1954. Some three
thousand persons had been affected by the destruction of Pinnacle.
It was in the Dungle that Johnny Nash first met Bob Marley. He went
there to a concert where he saw Marley perform and was thoroughly impressed
with him. It was from this meeting that Marley would later link up with
Danny Sims. The social-aesthetic impact of these township communities on
the emerging Jamaican popular sounds ska, rocksteady and reggae should not
be underestimated. Justin Hinds related that before the destruction of Back-
o-Wall in 1963, he went into that community, having left an audition by Duke
Reid's studio, which he had come into Kingston from St Ann to do. Having
been in the line for some time along with other persons waiting to be audi-
tioned, he got a bit nervous, since the audition was being done on the street
side, in front of everyone. So Hinds left and "went to a place call Back-o-Wall,
which [is] known as Tivoli Gardens today". According to Hinds,

There was a lot of dread in those day, that stayed there. You know, that chant the
Iyabinghi sound. I was there hanging out and there came a brother [by] the name
of Bongo Noel. You know, one a de elder dread. He said, "Well, where are you
from?" I tell him, "I from St Ann" and he said to me, "Well, we are doin' some
chanting today." And I start to play on the Iyabinghi drum and you know, impress
And Lord Creator was there, Wilfred Edwards, Jackie Opel and all these people.
So, they said to me, "You can really sing." So there was a guy there from the studio,
from Treasure Isle and he went back to Duke Reid and tell him this guy that was
there before, can really sing. So he send for me and I went over to the studio to see
him. So he said, "What's the name of your song?"34

That song became his first recording, "Carry Go Bring Come", a massive hit.
With respect to the creative cultural activity in Dungle, Planno said:

Our cultural setting was playing music wid we mout', yu know. We didn't have no
instrument but we could improvise. We could be a trumpeter, saxophonist play
de music an' de riddim, yu know. We 'ave we drums, yes. Rastafarian drums. But
we usually use we mout' fe really keep up a cultural form . until we 'ave musicians
like Houdini, come in wid 'im guitar. An' we 'ave singers. We had some good singers
at the time, like Cliffie, Monkey Bread. De politics get hot and Monkey Bread get
shot. He was de firs' one who dead eena de 'ole episode of de violence.35

Planno noted that "some great artists" such as Lord Flea (Norman Thomas)


An epochal welcome for His Imperial Haile Selassie i, 1966

and Alvin "Seeco" Patterson came out of that improvisational space/episode.
Planno also promoted dance: "Down a de big tree down a Dungle we usu-
ally put up soun' system, yu know, play outdoor music an' ting." As for the
concerts and their significance to the development ofJamaican popular music,
Planno noted: "I usually keep concert on de dungle. Dat is wey almost' every-
ting started, almost yu know. On de dungle, until we move to Trench Town,
5th Street yard"36 where a long list of the who's who in Jamaican music hung
out, rehearsed and performed. Among them were Ken Boothe, Alton Ellis,
Dobby Dobson, Joe Higgs, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer. This
ontological spot of Jamaican music had its counterpart in East Kingston,
Count Ossie's Rasta camp. Some of Jamaica's greatest musicians such as
Tommy McCook, Don Drummond, Rolando Alphanso, Johnny "Dizzy"
Moore, Wilton "Bra" Gaynair, Jah Jerry and Carl Masters entered into musical
communion, mediated by the Nyabinghi drums.
Joseph Owens noted that Dungle had the highest concentration of Rastafari
in the island and that by the early 1960s the shanty-town community was

Clinton Hutton

known as the "Rasta's Vatican".37 Among prominent Rastafari residing in
camps in the area were Planno, Bongo Watto, Prince Emmanuel, Watta King,
Bro Skipper, Sam Brown and Ken Frasier.
According to Planno, "We usually preach our Rastafari doctrine along de
street, yu know."38 Emmanuel was well known for this. His preaching pre-
vented several young men from joining up with the Member of Parliament
and Minister of Community Development and Welfare. One person said he
refused to join, despite the temptation of seeing five-pound notes buttoned
down the front of the shirts of youths who had joined, because Prince
Emmanuel preached that black people should not support Seaga because the
Arabs were the first to enslave Africans. This Spangler, having refused to join,
was told that he had to leave the community. This he did, moving to East
Kingston. Another person in a similar position went to live in August Town
- the understood position being that "if you are not with me, you are against
In 1958, Prince Emmanuel had convened an islandwide twenty-one-day
convention of Rastafari at Ackee Walk where he had his camp.39 An estimated
three thousand persons attended and several clashes took place between Rastas
and the police.40 And in the 1962 general elections, Ras Samuel Brown ran as
an independent against Edward Seaga (JLP), Dudley Thompson (PNP) and
Byron Moore (PPP), getting only seventy-eight votes.
Sam Brown was arrested on Wednesday, 22 June 1966 in a raid carried out
on Foreshore Road shanty town. The Gleaner on the following day reported:

The Police in a massive pre-dawn land, sea and air operation, yesterday held 35 per-
sons at the Foreshore Road shanty town seat of sporadic gang and political clashes
in West Kingston.
Seventeen of those held in the raid were arrested on various charges and the other
18 detainees will be formally charged as soon as investigations are completed, Police
The detainees include Sam Brown, chairman of the Rastafarian Movement in
Jamaica and an unsuccessful West Kingston candidate in the 1962 General Elections.

According to the Gleaner, also arrested was "Roy Bryan, alias 'Stinky'
Rogers", whom the police believed to be a leader of a west-end gang. He was
wanted for shooting and the "hurling of three sticks of dynamite which fell
only yards from police commissioner Gordon Langdon" on the afternoon of


13 June. The police revealed that they had confiscated "the largest quantity of
explosives and ingredients of home-made bombs seized by Police in their series
of raids since the violence erupted two weeks ago". And in another "swoop
on the shanties later, officers of the Lands Department, guarded by riot police,
served notices on the squatters to quit their shacks by Tuesday. The notices
were also posted on some of the huts . ." The Gleaner reported that "squatters
on Industrial Terrace were also served io-day quit notices by the KSAC Public
Health Department last Friday. Their shacks are across the road from the low-
income Tivoli Gardens housing settlement where almost all residents are
Jamaica Labour Party followers."41
On Tuesday, 12 July 1966, the bulldozers were sent in, accompanied by
men who set fire to everything in their way that could be burnt.

The bulldozing of Shanty Town

On Wednesday, 13 July, the Gleaner made the following report:

Bulldozers moved swiftly yesterday, sweeping squatter shacks into massive heaps, at
the Industrial Terrace and Foreshore Road shanty towns in Kingston's west. Then
crews from the Public Works Department and the Ministry of Housing set fire to
the shanties, which numbered over 8oo, sending black smoke skywards.

The Gleaner further reported that "squatters and their children braved the
huge towering flames and intense heat to retrieve items of furniture, building
board and post they failed to move out before the operation began". "For
many," the Gleaner noted, "there was a mad rush to beat the bulldozer .
Squatters scampered back and forth to secure spots, hurrying to clear out their
belongings as the bulldozer's shovel loomed . ."
"Meanwhile," according to the Gleaner, "the Minister of Agriculture and
Lands, the Hon. John P. Gayles, announced yesterday [that] 'all West
Kingston squatter settlements set up on Government lands will be bulldozed,
and bulldozed until they are completely cleared'." The Gleaner further noted
that "yesterday's bulldozing at Industrial Terrace wiped out the remainder of
what was Back-O-Wall [sic], the larger part of which was demolished in 1963
to make way for the new low-cost Tivoli Gardens housing estate". "The Tivoli
Gardens housing project," the Gleaner told us, "is to be expanded on the

Clinton Hutton


One bulldozer partly sank while destroying the Foreshore Road township of Shanty Town in

cleared Industrial Terrace land, while the Foreshore Road land is wanted for
industrial development, a Government spokesman said."42
The Gleaner of Thursday, 14 July 1966 stated that

the half-mile stretch of squatter shacks on Kingston's waterfront from the Fire Float
station to Hunts Bay Power station, was a picturesque red and grey late yesterday,
as raging flames sent huge mushrooms of smoke skywards the end of the Foreshore
Road shanty town, Jamaica's biggest.
It was also the end of the two-day operation in which Public Works Department
bulldozers crushed, piled and burnt shacks remaining at the Industrial Terrace and
Foreshore Road squatter settlements.

At the end of it all, "over 1500 shacks" on Foreshore Road and Industrial
Terrace "were bulldozed and razed during the operation", the Gleaner noted.
Some squatters, the Gleaner said, "moved hundreds of other shacks to Riverton
City, Moonlight City, Sligoville, Tower Hill and Spanish Town, while others
have either rented rooms or moved to the May Pen cemetery".43 And some
of them slept in the open at Industrial Terrace, while others slept on the side-


walks of Foreshore Road. Two days later the Gleaner reported: "An estimated
100 children are remaining shelterless with their parents either on the
bulldozed settlements, May Pen Cemetery or Industrial Terrace and Foreshore
Road sidewalks." That was after the police were "trying to get squatter children
sleeping with their parents on the sidewalks of Industrial Terrace and
Foreshore Road . and May Pen Cemetery into Corporate Area Homes
of Safety". The overwhelming majority of mothers "refused to part with
children", the police said.44
The bulldozing, the razing, beginning in 1963, of some two thousand poor
Jamaicans' homes to clear the way for other poor Jamaicans equally victimised
as colonial subjects up to 1962, was a powerful symbol of postcolonial injustice
and misuse of power, the muse of hurt, bitterness, resentment, segregation
and instability. One expression of this was the dynamite attack on police per-
sonnel in Shanty Town. Superintendent Howard, whose car was dynamited,
was seriously hurt.
One man who was in Shanty Town at the time told me that some of the
people living there, including himself, came from Back-o-Wall when their
homes were bulldozed in 1963. He said after they "bruk down" his "ranch",

Destroying Foreshore Road township shanties, 1966

Clinton Hutton

he went "down a whe' dem call Shanty Town" and "put up a next ranch" and
when they "come down deh an' bruk wey dat again .. some man start throw
some dandemite [dynamite] eena de road .. an' Howard car go up eena de
air and drop pon de ground." He told me: "A bare dandemite de man dem a
fling, yu know."45 The sticks of dynamite the men hurled at the police had
short fuses and were normally used by them to "fling eena de bongle [bundle]
a mullet" in the nearby sea, to blow them up for sale and for food. Two of
these fishermen, Stinky and Kaakas (carcass) were said to have been sent to
jail for ten years each, for the bombing of Superintendent Howard.
This bombing incident, and all the various events stemming from the bull-
dozing and razing of hundreds of homes in Shanty Town, inspired one of the
most popular rude boy songs, "007 (Shanty Town)" by Desmond Dekker and
the Aces. The song begins by locating the rude boys within a Hollywood
movie terrain: Ocean's Eleven. And, as in "Rude Boy Train", "007" (Bond)
represents the classical rude boy character: "Oh Oh Seven / Oh Oh Seven /
At Ocean's Eleven / And now rude boys a go wail / 'Cause dem outa jail /
Rude boys cannot fail / 'Cause dem mus' get bail". And in the space that was
Shanty Town:

Dem a loot, dem a shoot, dem a wail
(A Shanty Town)
Dem a loot, dem a shoot, dem a wail
(A Shanty Town)
And rude boy deh pon probation
(A Shanty Town)
And rude boy a bomb up de town
(A Shanty Town)46

In Shanty Town the security forces eventually prevailed because "Police
get taller / Soldier get longer" and "Rude boy a weep and a wail". So, on close
examination, "007 (Shanty Town)" is not really that categorical glorification
narrative that Neita made it out to be.
Prince Buster was also inspired to do a song on the Shanty Town affair.
He called it "Shanty Town". In this song, Buster was not sympathetic to the
rude boys.

Too late, the rude boys goin' to jail
Too late, dem can't get no bail


Too late, seven years in dem tail
Too late, the Minister put on the pressure.

He, however, framed the destruction of Shanty Town as an exercise of power
that was excessive and without empathy as well as an exercise in powerlessness.

A woman with a baby crying
The same time all dem bulldozers came in
The cops was standing by
Dem baton sticks was long
And all the people could do
Is to stand up watch dem
Mash up dem belongs.47

1966 State of Emergency

The bulldozers and flames which obliterated the homes of hundreds of
Kingston's poor within the first four years of their country's independence
and set them on a journey of hostile tribe-making and segregation, mediated
by rude boys embracing the guns on behalf of postcolonial state-building elites
and inspiring the rude boy narrative in Jamaican popular music in 1966, were
not the only signature of the postcolonial fragmentation of a national spirit
before it could grow. That fragmentation also found expression in an increase
in political violence of an ontologically defining quality so much so, that
the government declared a state of emergency in October 1966, ostensibly to
bring it under control.48
This violence included several high-profile killings and brought into exis-
tence an aquifer of murderous offerings that would grow deep, deep and wide
over four decades into a catchment of homicidal inspirations, the musings of
death, possessing zombified shells of alienated souls young men making
dopis to satisfy the potency of their ontological impotency. Among those killed
were Rudolph Lewis, better known as "Zackie the High Priest", Douglas
Campbell, otherwise called "Tuku Keith", and Kenneth Green, better known
as "Rashie".
Rudolph "Zackie the High Priest" Lewis, or "Ifla", was killed on Friday,
30 September 1966. He was a twenty-five-year-old casual worker from Salt

Clinton Hutton

Lane. Lewis, a JLP activist, was leader of the Phoenix, or Twenty One Strong,
or Toughest gang. He was the first in the pantheon of gunmen/gangsters to
become a 'don', a type of grassroots militia leader with an agency congruent
with the newly created postcolonial political community exemplified by the
Tivoli Gardens model. This young man was allegedly a key player, under his
Member of Parliament, in the making of what Carl Stone called a garrison
The killing of Zackie immediately drew a response from some of his JLP
counterparts, suggesting that they believed the PNP was responsible. As a
result, "the situation in Western Kingston was described by police high-ups
as uneasy and indications are that further violence can be expected in that
area", the Gleaner reported. The newspaper also noted that

JLP gang members are reported to be on the search for the four men who killed
Rudolph Lewis, otherwise known as Zackie, on Friday night. JLP West Kingston
sources have identified Douglas Campbell, the man killed by the police yesterday,
as one of the four men concerned with Lewis's killing, but the police report that
they have no evidence to support this.49

The police report was perhaps true. One source told me that Zackie was
not killed over politics but over a woman. He was killed in Jones Pen in a
fight over this woman, according to the source.
Campbell ("Tuku Keith") was killed by the police on 2 October 1966, two
days after Zackie was killed in Jones Pen. Campbell, who also called himself
Keith Anderson, was from Regent Street. He was described by the Gleaner as
"a man with a police record and a leading member of the Vikings Gang, which
in recent months has been identified, along with the Phoenix Gang, as taking
part in political violence in Western Kingston". Campbell "was a strong-armed
supporter of the People's National Party organisation in Western Kingston",
according to the Gleaner. Tuku Keith was shot by the police and hit by their
vehicle. The Gleaner reported that he "was shooting at the occupants of the
vehicle when it ran him down".50 A former comrade and friend of his told
me that he was shot in the leg by the police and was endeavouring to get away
on a bicycle when the police vehicle ran him over.
The other high-profile killing of 1966 was that of thirty-two-year-old Ken-
neth Green ("Rashie") of Bread Lane, who according to the Gleaner "was
gunned down at the James Bond Lawn, a bar and dance spot at 32 Fleet Street,


November ii". Rashie, a port worker who was described by the Gleaner as "a
PNP strongman",51 was a leading Speng One Spangler and activist PNP gun-
man. Two leading JLP activist gunmen, Desmond Paige ("Bobsie"), a twenty-
two-year old port worker of Salt Lane, and Alvin Gordon ("Mikey"), a
twenty-six-year-old port worker of 28 Pink Lane, were jointly charged with
the killing of Green.
The trial of these two men revealed, to some extent, allegations about
behind-the-scene goings-on of postcolonial elite/gangster politics. Although
both men denied having guns or shooting Green, in an unsworn statement
Gordon appeared to have admitted to the court a justification for the killing
of Green. According to a Gleaner report on Gordon's unsworn court state-
ment: "Two weeks before the shooting incident took place he got a message
from Green saying that he (Gordon) had better pray to God that he (Green)
didn't catch him, because he had told the police that he (Green) shot a man
called Zackie to death." Was it this perceived threat to his life that inspired
Gordon to act in defence of his life on ii November 1966 when he felt that
the threat was about to materialise? He told the court that on that day, "he
went to James Bond Lawn to a dance. He was at the back of the premises with
Paige, Lungs, and a girl called Beverley. While he was standing at the back of
the premises, a fellow came up to him and said that Green and a car load of
men were outside asking for him."52
Apart from the barrage of gunshots that witnesses for the prosecution said
they saw the accused pump into Green from close quarters as he entered the
dance at James Bond Lawn, they also told of incidents weeks to a few days
before Green's demise that may have motivated his killing. For example, Karan
Maragh ("Bully" or "Coolie Bully"), who, along with Green, Stanley Brown
("Duddus") and Herbert Allen ("Busta"), drove in Stanley Ennis's car to the
dance at James Bond Lawn on the night Green met his death, told the court
that a few days before, he had been searched for "offensive weapons" by
"Paige", "Damper Dan", "Zackie" and "Bellymus", while "Mikie [Mikey],
Bobsie and Edward Seaga, Minister of Development and Welfare, were watch-
ing the search". Maragh also told the court that before they searched him,
Gordon said, "I come to search for Rashie. When you see him, tell him I want
him dead or alive." Gordon also reportedly said, "Uncle Eddie, a one a them
this and a going to search him now".53
The statement of another witness for the prosecution inspired this Gleaner

Clinton Hutton

headline: "Witness tells of Seaga with guns . ." That witness was Stanley
Ennis, who drove Green and his friends to Fleet Street the night he was killed.
According to the Gleaner, Ennis testified as follows:

One evening before the shooting I was on Montague Street working; it was the sec-
ond week in August Minister of Development, come in his car driven by a chauf-
feur with five men in his car and the car stopped in Ebenezer Lane. I knew Mickie
[Mikey] and Zackie who were in the car. [Mikey] is the same person who I saw
shooting on Fleet Street. The Minister and the men came out of the car. The Min-
ister went to the back of the car and opened the trunk and took out two revolvers
out of the car.

Wilton Hill, who was representing Gordon ("Mikey"), "objected on the
ground that this happened in August and the act is allegedly committed in
November",54 but the judge overruled him.

Rude boy narratives

It was these dramatic developments in 1966 that inspired the epoch of rude
boy narratives in Jamaican popular music. While relatively fewer songs, such
as "Dance Crasher" by Alton Ellis and "Simmer Down" by the Wailers, sig-
nalled the birth of the rude boy theme in Jamaican popular music in the early
i96os, by 1966 it was in full bloom. Indeed, between 1966 and 1967 an average
of one rudie song was being released weekly. As I noted earlier, most of these
songs did not glorify or glamourise the rude boys. Most rejected their violent
Neita, in his assertion thatht popular singers had been glorifying the men
involved in . crimes", had placed "Johnny Too Bad" as one example of
songs glorifying the rudie. However, "Johnny Too Bad" was not in support
of the rude boy:

Walking down the road with a pistol in your waist
Johnny you're too bad
Walking down the road with a ratchet in your waist
Johnny you're too bad
You're just robbing and stabbing and looting and shooting
You're too bad.


Neita cited these lines as proof of the song's support for rudies, but this
can hardly be taken as a glorification. Moreover, that part of the song which
Neita did not quote left no doubt as to what category it should be placed in.

One of these days when you hear a voice say come
Where you gonna run to?
One of these days when you hear a voice say come
Where you gonna run to?
You gonna run to the rock for rescue
There will be no rock (No rock)
You gonna run to the rock for rescue
There will be no rock (No rock)55

Here in the warner cosmology of the Jamaican culture of justice, the rude
boy will meet his day of reckoning, as these aphorisms show: "Chicken merry
hawk dey near"; "Every day you carry bucket to the well one day the bottom
will drop out"; "Think you in heaven but you living in hell".
The other two songs that Neita listed as glorifying rudies were "007 (Shanty
Town)" by Desmond Dekker and the Aces and "Tougher than Tough (Rudies
Don't Fear)" by Derrick Morgan. I have already dealt with "007 (Shanty
Town)"; it is more ambiguous than Neita made it out to be. Seaga listed one
song, "Tougher than Tough", as typical of rude boy songs, a glamourisation
model, capturing the essence, the core value of a "new militancy, disrespectful
of authority". 56 (Certainly, the Jamaican popular singers did not create this
"new militancy, disrespectful of authority". How, then, was this postcolonial
phenomenon created and cultured?)
"Rude Boy Train" by Desmond Dekker and the Aces was a classical rude
boy glorification song. It easily fitted Neita's and Seaga's categorisation. So,
too, "Tougher than Tough" by Derrick Morgan. However, the story that
Morgan told me about the genesis of "Tougher than Tough" puts that song
in a different perspective. Morgan noted that he wrote the song because he
was coerced into writing it by one of the most feared names in the pantheon
of Jamaican bad men: "Buzzbee". Buzzbee (Carlton Butler) visited Derrick
Morgan at his Greenwich Farm home and demanded that he write a song for
him, after Butler asked the popular singer why he had not made any rude boy
tunes. According to Morgan:

Clinton Hutton

Desmond Dekker (centre) and the Aces, 1967

This "Rudies Don't Fear" have a little history behind it. This guy Buzzbee, was one
a de Jamaica bad man . [Him] cut you outa you clothe as you 'quint. Use gun.
And he came to me in the same Greenwich Farm where you is here. They were
havin' a dance on West Avenue. Alton Ellis came out with "Cry Tough" and
Desmond Dekker do "Rude Boys Train Is Coming Now". And him [Buzzbee] come
to me and say, "How come you no come [out] with no rude boy tune. Wha' hap-
pen?" Him want one [tune] fe next Friday. His song fe play at dis dance, and make
sure that I bring it. So me sey, "But me nuh have no song! Wha' kin' a song you
want?" Im sey, "Me want a song wey me sey a my song dat!"

Morgan said he left his home the next day out of fear. He went and related
the story to Leslie Kong of Beverley's Records where he worked and recorded
his songs. Morgan related that Kong said, "Well Derrick, write something an'
mek we mek a acetate give 'im." According to Morgan: "I go round de piano


and I ding and ding and ding, an' I come up wid dis song 'Rudies Don't
The song was recorded and taken as a dub plate on the Friday night at
about eight o'clock to Buzzbee at the West Avenue dance. Buzzbee, Morgan
said, gave the dub plate to the disc jockey, Chappy, and told him not to play
it until midnight: "Is twelve me waan hear i'."
At midnight Chappy played "Rudies Don't Fear". Buzzbee heard the first
lines: "Rudies in court / Rudies don't fear".

But when it reach the part where it said "Strong like lion / We are iron", he said,
"Stop it dere." Then he said, "Gi' me a bax [box] a beer ... Everybody 'fraid a 'im,
you know. [So] they give him de bax a beer and him tell Chappy to reply the song.
And when it reach "Strong like lion / We are iron", 'im jus' tek out a beer an' crash
it againstt de wall: "Raaaa iron" ... 'im jus' start get mad.

Buzzbee went upstairs and, rapidly shaking another bottle of beer,
deposited spurts and sprays of it on some young women, said to be associated
with the Spanglers. They were all dressed in red and white. They left
the dance. But: "Dat tune couldn't come off a de turntable fe de res' a de
The tune that could not be taken off the turntable that night went like this:

Rudies in court now boys
Rudies in court
Rudies in court now boys
Rudies in court

Now this court is in session
And I order all you rude boys to stand
You're brought here for gun shooting
For ratchet using and bomb throwing
Now tell me rude boys
What do you have to say for yourselves

Your Honour
Rudies don't fear
Rudies don't fear no boys
Rudies don't fear

Clinton Hutton

Rudies don't fear no boys
Rudies don't fear

Rougher than rough
Tougher than tough
Strong like lion
We are iron

Rudies don't fear no boys
Rudies don't fear
Rudies don't fear no boys
Rudies don't fear58

Carlton "Buzzbee" Butler came from 9th Street, Ghost Town, close to
Clock Circle. He was about six feet two inches tall, with low-cut hair. He
often went to a dance wearing only bath trunks or shorts, with his money,
pipe and ganja stuck in the waistband. On the Sunday following the Friday
night dancehall release of his dub copy of "Rudies Don't Fear", he took the
dub plate up to a dance on Waltham Park Road. He was dressed in his trade-
mark trunks and Clarks booties. There he was shot in the head and died the
next day. This was 1966. Another brand-name bad man met his demise.
I was told by someone who knew him well, and fought with him several
times over a woman with whom both of them were having an affair, that
Buzzbee made his living by stealing. Until he got rid of the loot, he would
hide the stolen items in a toilet pit in which, halfway or so up, sheets of zinc
were placed. Above the zinc would be operated like a normal toilet to mask
the stolen items below it.59
In "Ghost", Prince Buster would eulogise Buzzbee and other bad men,
especially those who were killed in the 1966-67 period, and imprinting on
the imagination and psyche of Jamaicans, including recording artists, an era
of violence that would shape the ontological terrain of the country. In the
letter-writing tradition Prince Buster sing-talks in "Ghost Dance":

Dear Keithus (My friend)
Good day
I hope you're keeping the best of health
How is the music down there in bone yard?


I hear that Buzzbee have a sound system
And that Niya Keith is the disc jockey
But dem cyaant get no Red Stripe Beer
Fe sell eena de dance at night.60

Among the other persons eulo-
gised in "Ghost Dance" were
Zackie the High Priest and
Rashie: "Tell Zackie the High
Priest / Who used to lead the
Toughest / And who could go,
'Uuwbaaah Toughest!!!' / Give
him my regards / Tell him Prince
Buster says 'hello' / And Keith -
if you should see Rashie / You
know Rashie from Back-o-Wall /
Give him my regards."
Prince Buster's "Ghost Dance"
represented that category of songs
that was anti-rude boys. It specif-
ically represented, within this cat-
egory of anti-rude boy songs, the J
ultimate outcome of a view in the
warner-prophesy tradition that Prince Buster, 1969
the rude boy would meet his demise if he did not change his ways. "Johnny
Too Bad" represented this classical example of the warner-prophecy tradition
of anti-rude boy songs. The end of all ends, hinted at in "Johnny Too Bad",
was death, what Prince Buster in more euphemistic language referred to as
being sent to "bone yard" (the cemetery).
In this bone yard destination, the rude boy's ability to jollificate, enjoy life
and exercise freedom was abolished for good. That was the whole point of
"Ghost Dance", a lesson to all rude boys and potential rude boys to cease and
settle, to simmer down. Young men, men in their prime of life, brand-name
bad men such as Buzzbee, Niya Keith, Zackie the High Priest, among others,
ended up dead, killed by the gun of fellow rude boys or members of the secu-
rity forces. And, with almost prophetic certainty in "Johnny Gunman", Jackie
Edwards warned:

Clinton Hutton

You said you don't really want to change (Oh no)
You think you're a big man with your gun
Well let me tell you there is nowhere you can run (No no)
The bobbies will one day bring you down
Johnny you are a gunman (Gunman)
Johnny you are a gunman (Gunman).6I

In "Don't Be a Rude Boy", the Rulers' warning, "You're going to be killed
by mistake", would suggest a perception or awareness of the possibility of
extra-judicial killing of rudies by the police. Hence the Rulers' exhortation:
"Why don't you change your way, rude boy / Try to be a good boy ... / And
when you walk down the street / People will respect the man they meet".62
The use of jail time as a means of dealing with the rude boy appeared to be
a common talking point in Jamaican popular music. In some of these songs,
going to jail, and especially coming from jail, became for the rude boy a sig-
nature of honour and status, an enhancement of his reputation for badness
and often a reflection of the politician's intervention on his behalf, which
added to his status and aura. Songs in this category include "Let Him Go" by
the Wailers, "007 (Shanty Town)" by Desmond Dekker and the Aces, and
"Rudie Is the Greatest" by the Pioneers.
Other songs tended to see a long jail term as a way to cut the rude boy
down to size or to put him out of business. In "Denham Town", for example,
Winston and George warned the rude boy: "[I]f you don't behave / You will
always go to jail",63 while Prince Buster jeered rude boys in "Shanty Town":
"Too late, seven years in dem tail".64 The life-sentence jail term was seen as
particularly effective in curbing or ending the agency of badness, as indicated
in "Rudie Bam Bam" by the Clarendonians: "Now this look like the end of
Mr Rude Boy / For the judge give him life sentence, friend / What a bam
It was in Prince Buster's cinematic-like masterpiece "Judge Dread", some-
what of a response to Morgan's "Tougher than Tough",66 that this message,
draped in a philosophy of crime-fighting, was best articulated. This philosophy
of crime-fighting sought to overwhelm rude-boy badness with police/judicial
You rough you tough
You rough you tough


Now my court is in session
Will you please stand

First, allow me to introduce myself
My name is Judge Hundred Years
Some people call me Judge Dread
Now I am from Ethiopia
To try all you rude boys
For shooting black people

In my court is only me talk
Cause I am vex
I am the rude boy today.

Judge Hundred Years then proceeds to try those rude boys brought before
him. Four of them in all: Two Gun Case, Rude Boy Adolphus James, Rude
Boy Emmanuel Zachariah Zackiepalm and George Grab-an'-Flee. Here are
two examples of how Judge Dread deals with the rude boys. This is the case
of Adolphus James:

Adolphus James
(Yes sah)
I see where you have been charged
Ten shooting intent
Five murder charge
Six grab and flee charge
(But yu honour)
Hush up!
Guilty or not guilty?
(Nat guilty sah)
I don't care what you sey
Take four hundred years
Now stand down.

And his treatment of Emmanuel Zachariah Zackiepalm:

Emmanuel Zachariah Zackiepalm
(Yes sir)
You've been charged
Fifteen charge of shooting with intent

Clinton Hutton

Fifteen murder charge
And I heard that you was de one
Down there in Sutton Street
Who tell de judge "Rudie boys don't care"
Well dis is King Street
And my name is Judge Dread
And I don't care
Now take four hundred years.67

While "Judge Dread" was, to an extent, a response to "Tougher than
Tough", other factors pertaining to the violent signatures of the rude boys
were largely at play, such as the awe, the dread they engendered in segments
of the population. In this regard, Prince Buster noted in "Too Hot" that
"Rude boys never give up their guns / No one can tell them what to do /
Pound for pound they say they are ruder than you / Get out insurance and
make up your will / If you want to fight them".68 Similarly, in "Beware" by
the Overtakers:

Toughest escape from jail (Beware)
Toughest don't care nor fear (Beware)
If they catch you at nights
They will turn off your light (Beware)
Remember they are rough
You must remember they are tough
They put down their ratchet
And out with their gun (Lord)
Toughest escape from jail (Beware).69

This pervasive zone of badness and perturbation in which many citizens
feared that they were cornered and trapped, found expression from another
angle in the song "Rudies All Round" by Joe White:

Rudies all around
Rudies don't fear
Rudies all around
Rudies don't care

From Kingston to Montego Bay
Rudies everywhere
Cop shot rudies


Rudies shot cop too
Rudies don't fear ...
Cop shot rudies
Rudies shot cop too
Rudies don't fear
Cop bomb rudies
Rudies bomb cop too
Rudies don't care.70

This song seems like a precursor to Junior Murvin's 1976 hit song "Police and
Thieves", denoting a shared space and agency to police and thieves, both "scar-
ing the nation with their guns and ammunition",7' a consequence of the par-
tisan politicisation of youth gangs and the police. As a result, partisan political
police activists sided with political gangsters, while another category of police
embraced traditional badness. In either case, both these categories of police
and the thieves scare the nation with their guns and ammunition in "Police
and Thieves".

Conscious lyrics

Pro-rude boy songs were decidedly fewer in number than anti-rude boy songs.
Furthermore, not all of these songs could be placed in the category of glorifi-
cation and glamourisation. There is a category of pro-rude boy songs in which
badness was not condoned. Instead, the rude boy was portrayed as a social
being shaped in the socio-historical culture of slavery, colonialism and preju-
dice emanating from the postcolonial Jamaican state. "Set Them Free" by Lee
Perry and the Sensations and "Let Him Go" by the Wailers are two such songs.
In "Set Them Free", Lord Defend, representing Emmanuel Zachariah
Zackiepalm, Adolphus James and Lord Grab-an'-Flee, speaks to the judge and
jury saying it is not "fair to sentence these men to five hundred years" in jail

They are from a poor generation
Having no education, no qualification
So, they are driven to desperation

Clinton Hutton

Can't get a job
They have been forced to rob
I am not suggesting that they should
But as you know a hungry man
Is an angry one
So, give them a chance, your Honour
Please think it over
Before you throw them over
Please give them a break
To mend their mistake
Your Honour as you already know
That robbery was from creation
For it was robbery that befall the black man.72

In "Let Him Go", the Wailers sing: "You frame him / You say things he
didn't do / You rebuke him / You scorn him / You make him feel blue / Let
him go".73 These two pro-rude boy songs, unlike Prince Buster's anti-rude
boy narrative, "Judge Dread", might be a more reasonable approach, philo-
sophically, to dealing with the rude boy issue.
More than that, of all the rude boy songs, "Let Him Go" and "Set Them
Free" came the closest to being explicit political narratives:74 these came closest
to making the link between the rude boy and the historical socio-political sys-
tem which gave birth to them. Most rude boy songs made no such link. They
were in the main, acontextualised narratives. This would change, especially
after 1972.

The early 1970s

By the first half of the 1970s, the term 'rude boy' had lost its currency, but
not its agential expressions, including the political ethos it helped to shape
under the guidance of a section of the postcolonial state-building elite. It was
during that time that the first peace treaty among gangs was initiated. It was
during this time as well that the second stage of the building of garrison con-
stituencies began, under the PNP. Member of Parliament for Southern St
Andrew and Minister of Housing Anthony Spaulding ("The Trench Town


Rock"), would embrace the Tivoli Gardens model with open arms and, in
some cases, supersede that model in the vulgarity of the methods used to
cleanse Labourites from the political/electoral landscape: methods which even
some Spanglers/Vikings found objectionable. But he could not have gar-
risonised his constituency and catalysed others without support from a higher
level, until there was a realisation that he must be checked.
The embracing of the Tivoli Gardens model of political organisation and
mobilisation to bring balance to the political equation meant a multiplication
of bitterness, animosity and distrust in the evolving political culture. Tribalism
had, in some ways, become so much a way of being, knowing and doing, it
had now become so cultured, so entrenched, so much of an ethos of mutually
inflicted injustice, of mutually inflicted hurt tit for tat hurt, ritualised hurt,
ritualised revenge that in some ways, it engendered an agency with a kind
of social psychology and agenda that can best be described as rooted in a kind
of ontological determinism.
Although Jamaican popular songs no longer embraced the rude boy theme
by that name, during that time they spoke to the consequences of its agency
and the new terms which emerged to language its evolving existence. In this
respect, a number of songs expressed opposition to the tribal division of poor
Jamaicans into warring political factions. These songs include "Ballistic Affair"
by Leroy Smart (written by Frankie Jones) ; "Ambush in the Night", "Top
Rankin" and "Rat Race" by Bob Marley and the Wailers; "In a Dis Yah Time"
by the Itals; "Blood Money" by Pablo Moses; "Political Fiction" by Half Pint;
and "Peace Treaty" by Peter Tosh.
These anti-tribalist narratives are eloquent expressions of opposition to a
political process antithetical to the sanctity of life, peace, community and
development. "Ballistic Affair" is an expression of the lamentation of the frag-
mentation of the spirit of a nation before it could be constituted, a lamentation
of the country's woe:

We used to lick chalice
Cook ital stew together
Play football and cricket as one brother
But through you rest a Jungle
And you might black a Rema
You a go fight againstt your brother
Dat noh right my sister

Clinton Hutton

Let us all live as one
Throw 'way your gun, throw 'way your knife
Let us all unite
Everyone is living in fear
Just through this ballistic affair.75

In "Ambush in the Night" the political objective of tribalism, the division
of the community of the poor into warring camps to facilitate their control
by state-building elites, is articulated:

Through political strategy
They keep us hungry
And when you gonna get some food
Your brother got to be your enemy.7'

And in "In a Dis Yah Time", the Itals represented those who fell prey to
tribalism and its modus operandi as, perhaps, being carried away by captivity,
or mental enslavement:

In a dis yah time
Man you have to mine
You get carried away by captivity
Carry away by captivity ...
How you a go say
That you love Jah Jah
Yet you a fight tribal
againstt your brother
In a dis yah time.77

This mental captivity ethos which impelled black Jamaicans to "fight tribal
againstt [their] brother" was the product of a system of knowing, educating
and socialising young people to see and to accept conquistadores, pirates, slave
traffickers/slave makers, colonisers and whiteness as role models.
This epistemological, ontological and pedagogical problematic found
expression in a number of songs. They include, among others, "Can't Blame
the Youth" by Peter Tosh, "Music Lesson" and "Babylon System" by Bob
Marley and the Wailers. In "Can't Blame the Youth", Tosh went into a mil-
itant accusatory lamentation discourse:


You teach the youth about Christopher Columbus
And you said he was a very great man
You teach the youth about Marco Polo
And you said he was a very great man
You teach the youth about the pirate Hawkins
And you said he was a very great man
You teach the youth about the pirate Morgan
And you said he was a very great man ...
All these great men were doing
Robbing, raping, kidnapping and killing
So called great men were doing
Robbing, raping, kidnapping
So you can't blame the youth
You can't fool the youth. . .7

And in "Music Lesson" Bob Marley was equal to the task:

Music gonna teach them one lesson
Music gonna teach them one lesson
Music gonna teach them one lesson
Music gonna teach them one lesson

Teach them about Marco Polo
Teach the good youth Christopher Columbus
How these wicked men
Rob, cheat, kill the poor in our defence of this land ...

Heard they're from this far land
The colour of our skin made us understand
Why is this teaching Marco Polo?
Couldn't it be one of them great African?79

Located within the cosmological terrain of these two songs are elements of
the epistemological, ontological and pedagogical roots of a postcolonial vision
of freedom, justice and sovereignty as being antithetical to colonialism and
neo-colonialism, the route dominantly taken by Jamaican postcolonial minor-
ity ethnic elites. This colonial and neo-colonial ethos informed a core belief
of the elites that black sovereignty should not and could not be allowed to be
a mainstream expression of national development.
The wholesale destruction of Back-o-Wall and neighboring township

Clinton Hutton

UWI students broke through a police cordon while demonstrating against the ban imposed
on lecturer Dr Walter Rodney, 1968

communities in 1963 and 1966, the mass detention and imprisonment and
abuse of innocent Rastafari around the Coral Gardens incident of 1963, the
incident that triggered the anti-Chinese riots of 1965,80 and the banning of
University of the West Indies lecturer Walter Rodney for teaching black con-
sciousness to the poor of rural and inner-city communities in 1968,8x were
driven by this colonial and neo-colonial ethos and the fear of black sovereignty.
This fear was summed up thus in Prince Buster's song "Doctor Rodney (Black
Power)": "To be black with ambition in Jamaica / It's a dangerous thing /
Doctor Rodney .. / Black power . ."82
It was within the rubric of this postcolonial political creation, where man
"a fight tribal" against his brother, where "man and man gone in a different
segregation" and "living in fear," that Bob Marley urged the people in "Rev-
olution" to "Never make a politician grant you a favour / They will always
want to control you forever".83 Marley, who was a witness to the political con-
trol of young men from both sides of the political fence, who personally knew


and interacted with PNP and JLP gangsters84 and who was apparently familiar
with some of their ideas, aspects of their social psychology, ambition and activ-
ity, described in "Crisis" the political landscape they helped to fashion:

So, so, so much has been said
And so little been done
They still killing, killing the people
And they having, they having, having lots of fun
Killing the people
Having their fun
They just want to be the leader
In the house of the rising sun.85

This kind of crime must be punished. And Marley insisted in the
warner/prophecy tradition, that "someone will have to pay / For the innocent
blood they shed every day / Oh, children, mark my word / It's what the Bible
say".86 Those who authored the system must be dealt with: "Back them up /
Oh, not the brothers / But the ones who set them up / Time alone, Oh time
will tell".87 This has not happened thus far, despite the nation's revulsion over
the Dudus affair. Maybe such revulsion has not yet reached that catalytic
moment. LC.


1. A founding member of the Mau Mau told me in an interview (o20 January zo2o)
that the name "Mau Mau" was given to his gang by the police to signal to white
Jamaicans, the British colonial population and all white people living in Jamaica,
that the intention of these gangsters was to kill them in the same way that the Mau
Mau were killing whites in Kenya.
2. Lloyd Bradley, Bass Culture: When Reggae Was King (London: Viking, 2ooo), i8o.
3. I conducted these interviews on 7 October 2009; 14 October 2oo9; 21 October 2009;
28 October 2009; it November 2009; 25 November 2oo9; 6 January o2010 and 20
January 2010.
4. From an interview conducted with a former star footballer of Excelsior High School
by the author, 28 October 2009.
5. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Works, vol. i, Institute of Marxism-Lenin-
ism (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1969, 1976), 118.

Clinton Hutton

6. Ibid., 219-20.
7. Slaveholders throughout the British Caribbean were compensated to the tune of 20
million for the loss of Africans and their stock, by the British Parliament when the
Africans were emancipated.
8. See Clinton Hutton, "'Colour for Colour; Skin for Skin': The Ideological Founda-
tions of Post-Slavery Society, 1838-1865, The Jamaican Case" (PhD thesis, University
of the West Indies, Mona, 1992), 50-51.
9. Ibid., 36-40.
to. Don Robotham, "The Notorious Riot"- The Socio-Economic and Political Bases of Paul
Bogle's Revolt, Working Paper no. 28 (Kingston; Institute of Social and Economic
Research, University of the West Indies, Mona, 1981), 75.
ii. A number of these reports, originally published in the Gleaner and the Jamaica
Times, were republished in Brian L. Moore and Michele A. Johnson, eds., "Squalid
Kingston "1890-192o: How The Poor Lived, Moved and Had Their Being (Kingston:
Social History Project, Department of History, University of the West Indies, Mona,
12. Ibid., i1.
13. Ibid., 14-16.
14. Ibid., 29.
15. See the "Whoppy King" story at http://vintageboss.blogspot.com/2oo7/o6/whoppy
16. Ibid.
17. See "The Story of Rhygin: The Two-Gun Killer" at http://www.jamaicaobserver.
com/news/128534 7/9/2010.
18. Rhygin and Whoppy King were inspiration to some boys who would become gang
members and individual bad men. One leading ex-member of the Spangler gang
told me that he knew Rhygin from he was six years old. He also knew Whoppy
King. They were part of his community. They were like stars to him. One day he
witnessed Rhygin face to face with some policemen. He fell on the ground with his
two guns in his hands, rolling and firing at the lawmen in making his escape.
19. Desmond Dekker and the Aces, "Rude Boy Train", re-issued on Rudies All Round:
Rude Boy Records i966/1967, CD, various artists, Trojan, 1993.
20. Political rude boys became increasingly confident that they could get away with
committing crimes, including murder, because of their close association with mem-
bers of the political elite in whose names they allegedly committed criminal acts.
One former political gang member told me that he was slapped with over twenty
serious criminal charges over his most active political years and walked away with
hardly a scratch. This ex-gang member was sure his lawyers, who were themselves
influential political actors, were able to get him off circuit charges because they had
the ear of judges and other persons in the justice system. Political gangsters were


also able to get witnesses to avoid the courts by demonstrating their elite connections
as an expression of power, as well as threatening or actually employing violence
against witnesses to get them not to comply with the courts.
21. Hartley Neita, Hugh Shearer: A Voice for the People (Kingston/Miami: Ian Randle
Publishers, 2005), 249.
22. "Johnny Too Bad" is said to have been partially written by Trevor Wilson, the
brother of Delroy Wilson, a star singer of Jamaican popular music. See Kevin
O'Brien Chang and Wayne Chen, Reggae Routes: The Story of Jamaican Music
(Kingston: Ian Randle Publishers, 1998), 146.
23. Edward Seaga, My Life and Leadership, vol. i: Clash of Ideologies 193o-i98o (Oxford:
Macmillan Education, 2009), I56.
24. Barry Chevannes, "Rastafari and the Urban Youth", in Perspectives on Jamaica in the
Seventies, ed. Carl Stone and Aggrey Brown (Kingston: Jamaica Publishing House,
1981), 394.
25. Byron Moore of the People's Political Party (PPP) polled 249 votes, while independ-
ent candidate Samuel Brown, a Rastafari leader, polled 78 votes. (See An Election
Summary Electoral Office of Jamaica, www.eoj.com.jm/elections/elect_sum.htm.)
26. The JLP won the seat with its founder and leader Alexander Bustamante in 1944,
while the PNP candidate, Kenneth Hill, won in 1949, beating Hugh Shearer. Hugh
Shearer then won for the JLP in 1955, beating Iris King of the PNP and Kenneth
Hill, who ran for the National Labour Party (NLP). In 1959, the PNP candidate
Hubert Wallace beat the JLP candidate Hugh Shearer by 99 votes.
27. Seaga, My Life and Leadership, 152-53.
28. Star, 30 August 1966, 2.
29. Quoted in Seaga, My Life and Leadership, 153.
30. Amanda Sives, quoting from Gleaner, 22 June 1966, in Election Violence and the
Democratic Process in Jamaica 1944-2007 (Kingston/Miami: lan Randle Publishers,
2010), 67.
31. Seaga, My Life and Leadership, 158.
32. Seaga, quoted in Sives, Election Violence, 67.
33. Mortimo Planno, interview by author, Kingston, 18 July 2002.
34. Justin Hinds, interview on Prophesy Live, CD-album, Melodie/Passage Productions,
35. Planno, interview.
36. Ibid.
37. Joseph Owens, Dread: The Rastafarians of amaica (Kingston: Sangster's Book Stores,
1976), 24.
38. Planno, interview.
39. For more on Rasta camps, see Douglas R.A. Mack, From Babylon to Rastafari: Origin
and History of the Rastafarian Movement (Jamaica/London/Republic of Trinidad and

Clinton Hutton

Tobago: Research Associates School Times Publications and Frontline Distribution
International Inc. & Miguel Lorne Publishers, 1999), 59-80.
40. Owens, Dread, 20.
41. Daily Gleaner, 23 June 1966, 1,4.
42. Gleaner, 13 July 1966, 1.
43. Gleaner, 14 July 1966, i.
44. Gleaner, 16 July 1966, 2.
45. I interviewed this man on ii November 2009.
46. Desmond Dekker and the Aces, "007 (Shanty Town)", re-issued on DesmondDekker
and theAces, CD, Trojan, 1985.
47. Prince Buster, "Shanty Town", lyrics from http://www.lyricstime.com/prince-
48. A number of rude boy songs commented on the 1966 state of emergency. They
include "Soldiers Take Over" by the Rio Grandes ("Soldier tek over / Soldier tek
over . / Rude boys gone and hide / Rude boys gone and hide"); "Curfew" by
Bobby Aitken ("Tell me rude boy what you gonna do / Tell me rude boy what you
gonna say / When the soldier soldier take over"); and "Copasetic" by the Rulers
("It's a state of emergency / Government call in the military / They say all bad men
must fall"). All these songs were re-issued on Rudies All Round: Rude Boy Records
49. Gleaner, 3 October 1966, 1.
5o. Ibid.
51. Gleaner, 3 March 1967, I.
52. Gleaner, 6 July 1967, 4.
53. Gleaner, 24 December 1966, 9.
54. Gleaner, 24 December 1966, 23.
55. The Slickers, "Johnny Too Bad", re-issued on Tighten Up, vols. 3 and 4, CD set,
Trojan, 1992.
56. Seaga, My Life and Leadership, 156.
57. Derrick Morgan, interview by author, 14 April zoo2005.
58. Derrick Morgan, "Tougher than Tough", re-issued on Blazing Fire, vols. I and 2,
CD set, Unicorn Records, 1993.
59. The person who spoke to me about Buzzbee was an ex-Spangler. He theorised that
Buzzbee's habitual wearing of trunks without any other item of clothing except for
footwear, sprang from his method of nocturnal robberies, breaking into homes, etc.,
and wearing trunks and shoes only, on a body oiled to reduce the chance of him
being held.
60. Prince Buster, "Ghost Dance", re-issued on Prince Buster: Fabulous Greatest Hits,
CD, Melodisc Records, 1998.
61. Jackie Edwards, "Johnny Gunman", seven-inch vinyl, Bread label, 1971.


62. The Rulers, "Don't Be a Rude Boy", re-issued on Rudies All Round: Rude Boy Records
63. Winston and George, "Denham Town", re-issued on Rudies All Round: Rude Boy
Records I966/I967.
64. Prince Buster, "Shanty Town", lyrics from http://www.lyricstime.com/prince-
65. The Clarendonians, "Rudie Bam Bam", re-issued on The History of Ska, CD,
Receiver Records, 1995.
66. Indeed, Prince Buster's "Judge Dread" was far more than a response to "Tougher
than Tough". Ordinary persons fed up with the upsurge in crime asked Prince Buster
to make anti-rude boy songs. His own revulsion over crimes committed by persons
he grew up with was perhaps enough motivation. According to Buster, "The 'Judge
Dread' record came out of real life. Those four men [in the song] that were harassing
and aggravating the community were people I'd grown up with, only now I follow
a different path, and the good people were fed up with their behaviour. They came
to me as the one who could do something as I was not scared. These so-called big
men was harassing old people and schoolchildren, but the thing that made me
explode against them was when they went into a school in West Kingston, rape a
girl, beat up the teacher and almost rape her too. From that came 'Judge Dread', a
record that would play on my sound system, and others, to shame them. Which was
important for the people" (Bradley, Bass Culture, 189-190).
67. Prince Buster, "Judge Dread", re-issued on Prince Buster: Fabulous Greatest Hits.
68. Prince Buster, "Too Hot", seven-inch vinyl, Blue Beat label, 1967.
69. The Overtakers, "Beware", re-issued on Rudies All Round: Rude Boy Records 1966/1967.
70. Joe White, "Rudies All Around", re-issued on Rudies All Round: Rude Boy Records
71. Junior Murvin, "Police and Thieves", re-issued on Tougher than Tough: The Story
of amaican Music, CD set, Island Records, 1993.
72. Lee Perry and the Sensations, "Set Them Free", re-issued on Rudies All Round: Rude
Boy Records 1966/1967.
73. The Wailers, "Let Him Go", re-issued on Bob Marley and the Wailers: Greatest Hits
at Studio i, CD, Studio i/Heart Beat, 2003.
74. Prince Buster was at times explicitly political, but this was less reflected in his rude
boy songs and more obvious in songs such as "Doctor Rodney (Black Power)" and
"Police Trim Rasta".
75. Leroy Smart, "Ballistic Affair", re-issued on Tougher than Tough: The Story of
Jamaican Music.
76. Bob Marley and the Wailers, "Ambush in the Night", re-issued on Survival, CD,
Tuff Gong/Island Records, 1979.

Clinton Hutton

77. The Itals, "In a Dis Yah Time", re-issued on The Itals: Early Recordings iz7i-iz79,
CD, Nighthawk Records, 1987.
78. Peter Tosh, "Can't Blame the Youth", re-issued on Peter Tosh: Honorary Citizen,
CD, Sony Music Entertainment, 1997.
79. Bob Marley and the Wailers, "Music Lesson", lyrics from Complete Lyrics of Bob
Marley: Songs of Freedom, intro. by Noel Hawks (London: Omnibus Press, 2001),
8o. For more on the anti-Chinese riots, read Derwin St B. Munroe, "Riots in Post Colo-
nial Jamaica" (MPhil. thesis, University of the West Indies, Mona, 1989), 76-86.
81. Read Walter Rodney, The Groundings with My Brothers (London: Bogle L'Ouverture
Publications, 1969) for some of the issues that he discussed in his meetings which
he had with inner-city and rural folks in 1968. For more on the Rodney affair, read
Norman Girvan, "After Rodney: The Politics of Students in Jamaica", New World
Quarterly 4, no. 3 (1968); Ralph Gonsalves, "The Rodney Affair and its Aftermath ",
Caribbean Quarterly 25, no. 3 (September 1979): 1-24; Rupert Lewis, Walter Rodney:
1z68 Revisited (Kingston: Canoe Press, 1998); Rupert Lewis, "Jamaican Black Power
and Walter Rodney in 1968: A Private Archive", Jamaica Journal 32, nos.
1-2 (August 2009): 42-49.
82. Prince Buster, "Dr Rodney", lyrics from http://www.popsite.com/BLANKBUS-
83. Bob Marley and the Wailers, "Revolution", Natty Dread, LP, Tuff Gong/Island
Records, 1974.
84. Political gangsters with whom Marley interacted include men like "Leggo Beas'",
"Yami Howie", "Tek Life", "Junior Skull", "Earl Frouza", Claudius Massop and
Tony Walsh: men in the category Marley described in "Iron Lion Zion" as wanting
"to be the star / So they fighting tribal war" (lyrics from Complete Lyrics of Bob Mar-
ley: Songs of Freedom, 70-71). It was persons from this stratum who shot Bob Marley,
and others, on 3 December 1976.
85. Bob Marley and the Wailers, "Crisis", Kaya, LP, Tuff Gong/Island Records, 1978.
86. Bob Marley and the Wailers, "We and Them", Uprising, LP, Island Records, 1980.
87. Bob Marley and the Wailers, "Time Will Tell", Kaya, LP, Tuff Gong/Island
Records, 1978.


The Crucial Contributions of Sonia Pottinger


Sonia Pottinger and the documented history of reggae

SONIA POTTINGER IS NOT AN easily recognisable name in the history of Jamaican
popular music. This is probably true of many iconic figures other than Bob
Marley. Sonia Pottinger's profile, however, is tiny when compared even to
that of Count Ossie or Don Drummond or Lee Perry, none of whom the
written history treats with adequate attention.' Reggae fans, even analysts and
researchers of the dancehall generation, can be forgiven for not knowing the
important contributions Pottinger made as a producer during the music's
rocksteady, early reggae and roots periods. They can be forgiven because the
written and, to an extent, oral historical accounts of reggae tend to nurture
the idea that performance in studio or on stage, and in particular the role of
the record producer, were strictly male activities. Despite the fact that reggae's
current dancehall incarnation is currently sliding into its third decade, young
fans and analysts who are serious about reggae probably know only about
foundation producers Clement "Coxsone" Dodd and Arthur "Duke" Reid.
The history tells us that Dodd and Reid were two of the best producers during
Jamaican popular music's gestation, birth and adolescence. If mentioned at
all, Sonia Pottinger is treated as secondary to those primary producers. Very
often, she is only discussed as a footnote to the stories of the pivotal recordings
she produced for Marcia Griffiths, Judy Mowatt, Bob Andy and harmony trio
Culture. In an ironic way, the reggae history is just as guilty of marginalising
reggae women as the reggae industry.2

Klive Walker

The first documentation of the
music's history surfaced between
the late i960s and the early 1970s.
.o Most of the authors were Jamaican
A omen, and most of them wrote
groundbreaking articles that were
about the male personalities of the
music. Jamaican music historian
Garth White's seminal 1966 essay,
among other things, introduces the
Sonia Pottinger Wailers in the context of the
ska/rude boy era which was in full
swing at the time.3 Guyanese scholar Gordon Rohlehr's 1971 essay about con-
temporary Caribbean culture highlights the iconography of ska trombonist
Don Drummond, who had died two years before.4 Jamaican poet Robin
"Bongo Jerry" Small wrote verse in tribute to Drummond in 1969.5 Jamaican
Anthony McNeill's Drummond poem was published in 1972.m6
Though women researchers such as Pamela O'Gorman, an Australian
who was then the principal of Jamaica's School of Music assessed the music
during that period, they only discussed the work of male recording artists.7 It
appears that Verena Reckord in her 1977 essay "Rastafarian Music" may have
been the only analyst who wrote about women's involvement in Jamaican
music during that initial period.8 The focus of Reckord's essay is really another
male icon, Count Ossie, but she does manage to supply vital information
about Anita "Margarita" Mahfood as a performing artist in her own right, in
addition to discussing how Mahfood brokered Count Ossie's introduction to
a Jamaican mainstream audience.9
The second phase of documenting reggae's history began in 1977, when
Bob Marley and Peter Tosh pushed roots reggae into the international main-
stream. From that time until 1993, the documentation of the history of
Jamaican popular music seemed to become the preserve of writers living out-
side the Caribbean. The significance of this second phase is that reggae history
graduated from essays and articles to books. The vast majority of these books
were Bob Marley biographies.'o A notable exception to the Marley biography
'rule' was Jah Music (1980), written by Sebastian Clarke (now Amon Saba
Saakana), a Trinidadian who lived in the UK for many years." Clarke's


Caribbean perspective was very different in that his publication, while featur-
ing a prominent chapter on the Wailers, provided a more complete history of
Jamaican reggae and an engaging assessment of reggae in the Caribbean dias-
pora locations of the UK.12 However, Jah Music, despite the significance of
its contribution, did not really highlight reggae women. The avalanche of
books about Marley was a blessing because it was necessary to reveal biogra-
phical information about him and elaborate on the genesis of his music, and
a curse because brilliant icons and innovators of Jamaican popular music other
than Marley were at best peripheral or at worst not mentioned at all. Of
course, that expulsion to the margins of history extended to the women of
reggae, including Sonia Pottinger.
One of the few attempts to address reggae women was the essay "The
Wrathful Madonna: Two Women in Reggae" by Carol Cooper. That essay
appeared in Reggae International, a 1982 anthology edited by Americans
Stephen Davis and Peter Simon. Carol Cooper is an African-American writer
with self-described "eclectic pop-cultural and sociological obsessions".'3 The
focus of "Wrathful Madonna" on profiles of Marcia Griffiths and Sandra
"Puma" Jones (the African-American female member of the most famous and
most celebrated line-up of Black Uhuru, winner of the inaugural reggae
Grammy Award) is pioneer work. Cooper even finds room in what is really a
brief essay to mention the importance of Sonia Pottinger's collaboration with
The third phase of the writing about reggae began in 1993 and still contin-
ues. Multiple versions of the popular Bob Marley biography continue to clut-
ter the landscape of the reggae book like a dancehall album with an assortment
of average singers and deejays performing over the same rhythm. The Bob
Marley biography became its own 'cottage industry', with a constant recycling
of old information and previously seen analyses. In some cases the only inter-
esting aspect of these books was the photographs. In fact, many of these books
were meant to be collections of Marley photographs with brief accompanying
text.'4 However, this period has also seen the rise of books with fresh, new
perspectives on Bob Marley's life and career.'5 These books have undertaken
a more in-depth evaluation of Bob Marley's art and have attempted to assess
Marley's iconography and legacy in a rigorous way.16
This phase also introduced books chronicling the digital dancehall phe-
nomenon which began in the early 198os. Books about dancehall have docu-

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mented women's role in the music as recording artists and performers. One
reason for this is the fact that female dancehall stars like Lady Saw refused to
accept secondary status. Another reason is the rise of prominent women
authors Carolyn Cooper and Donna Hope. Carolyn Cooper's first book Noises
in the Blood!7 is important in several ways. One is that it is a book about reggae
culture, not just the music but poetry, theatre, storytelling and cinema. More
relevant to this discussion is the fact that it highlights the contribution of
women: one essay discusses the late Louise Bennett,18 another assesses gifted
dub poet Jean Breeze,19 and a separate essay on dancehall considers several
female deejays including Lady Junie, Lady G and Shelley Thunder.20 Cooper's
second book Sound Clash contains a chapter dedicated to the work of female
deejay Lady Saw and a chapter analysing two dancehall films that feature
women as their main characters.2'
Another development is the arrival of multiple books that have attempted
to undertake a more comprehensive history of reggae, and in so doing have
discussed innovators and iconic personalities other than Bob Marley.22 These
books have assisted in filling the previously ignored gaps in reggae history.
Some of them have actually investigated the exploits of women in rocksteady
and roots reggae. In doing so they have not been able to avoid discussing
the role of Sonia Pottinger.23 So far it has been male authors who have tackled
an assessment of Pottinger's role, though a female writer would certainly
bring a much needed woman's perspective to the understanding of her
Between May and September 1995, Garth White wrote a series of articles
in an alternative Jamaican bi-weekly newspaper called The News. In the first
article of the series, White's initial sentences tell us the raison d'etre of
the series: "I have been put to task by some feminists who . appreciate the
column [but] accuse me of showing benign neglect [for] the particular con-
tribution and place of the female artist in reggae. Standing happily corrected,
I decided to devote a brief series of articles to this topic."24 Maybe we should
thank these Jamaican 'feminists' for what is really a groundbreaking series.
In particular we should thank them for the few details of Pottinger's career
that White reveals in the series' fifth article, "Behind the Scene(s): From Sonia
Pottinger to Trish Farrell".
Steve Barrow and Peter Dalton in their book Reggae: The Rough Guide25
provide invaluable information about Sonia Pottinger. In my book Dubwise:


Reasoningfrom the Reggae Underground, I consider Pottinger as a reggae pro-
ducer who has earned iconic status in a chapter that discusses the overall
importance of women to the rocksteady and roots periods.26 In that chapter,
Pottinger's journey as a producer shares space with the stories of Phyllis Dillon,
Millicent "Patsy" Todd, Judy Mowatt, Rita Marley and Marcia Griffiths. The
story of Pottinger's crucial contributions, however, deserves its own space
uncluttered by the narrative of others.

A quality rocksteady producer with a successful career

Sonia Pottinger's husband Lindon was the first producer in the family. During
the late 1950s and early i960s, he owned a record label, Gaydisc, that had suc-
cess with the instrumentals "King Size" and "Faberge" and with Jamaican boo-
gie blues and proto-ska records on which singers Winston Samuels and Jimmy
James appeared.27 Lindon Pottinger died in the mid-196os.28 Sonia's career
as a producer began, it seems, due to a set of circumstances resulting from her
husband's death rather than as an act of someone who possessed an over-
whelming ambition to work in record production. In that context, Sonia
discussed her transition to becoming a producer in the music industry: "Well,
I tell you, part of it was need .. because I had three children to take care of
. I was estranged . and, you know, I believe if I am doing anything I
[should] do it well . now I heard some music [and] I thought [if I had an
input I] could improve some of the things . ." 29 In a separate interview,
Sonia explained in more practical terms her reasons for taking control of the
family business in 1966: "I needed to work and not work for someone [else],
and so I invested in the music industry."30 Porttinger seems to be suggesting
two reasons for entering the music industry: financial necessity and the
confidence that she could make a distinct contribution as a producer.
Sonia Pottinger's first release, "Every Night" by Joe White and Chuck, was
recorded in Duke Reid's Treasure Isle studio using a band led by trumpet
player Baba Brooks, with whom she shared supervision of the recording
session. Brooks probably had more input since this was Pottinger's initial
assignment as a producer. However, from that first session, Pottinger demon-
strated a keen, intuitive sense of what sounded right when she insisted, "Please
don't do it over [again]."31 She wanted to use the first take of the tune because

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it sounded great to her. Pottinger's insights were proven to be deadly accurate
when "Every Night" an R&B ballad featuring White's plaintive soul vocal
and Lyn Taitt's distinctive guitar chords became a hit record. So, even
though Pottinger became a producer out of necessity, she demonstrated a nat-
ural aptitude for the work from the start of her career.
After that taste of success, Pottinger produced some of the better emerging
singers of the day. In 1966, she worked with Stranger Cole solo and in duet
with Millicent "Patsy" Todd, as well as Roy Richards and a vocal group called
the Saints. 1966 was pivotal for Jamaican music when in the fall of that year
it morphed from ska to rocksteady. For Pottinger this meant that she began
her career as a new producer at the dawn of a new era of music. This provided
her with an opportunity to place her stamp on the new sound of Jamaican
popular music. In 1967, when rocksteady experienced its only full year of dom-
inance, Pottinger continued to record Stranger Cole and the duo of Stranger
and Patsy. She released discs by singer Monty Morris, pianist Leslie Butler
and a number of singles for a harmony group called the Ethiopians.
Millicent "Patsy" Todd appears to have been the only female vocalist
recorded by Pottinger during the rocksteady era. Aside from the duet work,
Pottinger also produced two solo recordings for Patsy, "Fire in Your Wire"
and "Pata Pata Rock Steady". Those solo efforts were historic. Together with
the tracks produced by Coxsone Dodd including "First Cut Is the Deepest"
by Norma Fraser and "You Don't Love Me" (re-titled "No, No, No" in
subsequent versions) by Dawn Penn, these records represented the beginning
of a process of women carving out a niche for themselves in the Jamaican
recording industry as solo artists. Before those singles surfaced, women were
mainly ghettoised as junior partners in a wide variety of male-female duet
There is a crucial difference between Pottinger's two Patsy solo recordings
and those Coxsone-produced singles by Fraser and Penn. The songs by Fraser
and Penn are about unrequited love. "Pata Pata", originally recorded by
Miriam Makeba, is a song about a Johannesburg dance. Calypso Rose's "Fire
in Your Wire" reflects the sensibility, if not the literal storytelling, of female
sexual empowerment. The decision to cover a Trinidadian calypso and a South
African township song is quite interesting, particularly when the typical covers
in those days were versions of well-known R&B recordings. Pottinger even
enlists Count Ossie and his hand drummers to provide the rhythmic pulse


for this Jamaican version of "Pata Pata". The inclusion of Count Ossie and
his group on that track emphasised the African quality of the song by com-
bining a South African township melody with a Nyabinghi interpretation of
the song's rhythm. Both Count Ossie and Pottinger saw the ensemble's
African-Jamaican Nyabinghi drumbeats as having a direct link to the hand
drum rhythms of the continent. As Pottinger said, "I was one for drums. It
was a dream of mine that when I go to Africa, I would tape drums and more
drums and come back and work with it. Unfortunately, when I went I never
had the chance to. But I used what I could find like Count Ossie."33 These
Patsy Todd tracks were very popular at the time, receiving generous rotation
on Jamaican radio. Already, after only several months in the business, Pot-
tinger had a number of hit records to her credit and the distinction of making
her initial contribution to the promotion of female talent.


1968 was a big year for the only woman producer in rocksteady. That year
Pottinger released four classic tracks of the period: The Gaylads' "Hard To
Confess", Ken Boothe's "Say You", the Melodians' "Swing and Dine" and
"Little Nut Tree". The Gaylads were really a quintessential rocksteady har-
mony trio, so much so that the group did not survive the initial years of the
reggae era. Winston Delano Stewart, Maurice Roberts and Harris "BB"
Seaton, the Gaylads' three voices, recorded mainly for Coxsone, but the
Pottinger-produced "Hard to Confess" represents, arguably, their best rock-
steady work.
Ken Boothe's voice is clearly one of the best in reggae. In a crowded field
of gifted rocksteady vocalists, Boothe was an important component of that
family of extraordinary singers that included Alton Ellis, Delroy Wilson, John
Holt and Leroy Sibbles. Boothe rose above his impressive rocksteady material
to make a vital contribution to the roots era with the international hit "Every-
thing I Own" in 1974. Like the Gaylads, Boothe was mainly a Coxsone artist;
however, his work with Sonia Pottinger is classic. Boothe's "Say You" may
not be his single best rocksteady recording, but it is certainly one of his best
vocal performances.
Brent Dowe, Tony Brevette and Trevor McNaughton as the Melodians,

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though recording their initial tracks as a group with Coxsone, really made
their mark as rocksteady artists with Duke Reid's Treasure Isle label. Their
Treasure Isle material included the outstanding rocksteady recordings "You
Don't Need Me", "Come On Little Girl" and "You Have Caught Me". The
Pottinger-produced "Little Nut Tree" and in particular the exquisite "Swing
and Dine" are certainly more than comparable to their work at Treasure Isle.
The Melodians went on to leave huge footprints on the roots reggae landscape
with international hits "Sweet Sensation" and "Rivers of Babylon", but "Swing
and Dine" remains a true rocksteady classic.
If the debate about whether Coxsone Dodd or Duke Reid should be
crowned the undisputed king of rocksteady producers has been decided in
favour of Reid, then maybe that discussion should be re-opened to at least
consider Sonia Pottinger as a contender, if not the eventual monarch. Clearly,
many of her top-quality 1968 productions place her rocksteady work in the
same category with the best recordings of Dodd and Reid.

Sonia Pottinger and early reggae

During the early reggae period, from late 1968 to about 1972, Sonia Pottinger
continued to produce quality recordings, some of which became popular hits.
It seems as if talented singers enjoyed working with Pottinger, and she cer-
tainly produced for several outstanding voices. In 1969, Delroy Wilson,
arguably the most soulful vocalist of rocksteady and early reggae, recorded
"Put Yourself in My Place" and "I'm the One Who Loves You" for Pottinger.
It is significant that Pottinger not only produced many of the great male voices
of that time, but also assisted in crafting tracks for them that continue to
endure as some of the most important recordings of their careers.
Pottinger's attraction to nurturing female talent continued, as she recorded
at least ten songs with Judy Mowatt. In 1971, when Mowatt began working
with Pottinger, she had recently emerged as a solo artist after providing lead
vocals for the Gaylettes, an all-female vocal group. Due to contractual obliga-
tions, most of the initial singles Pottinger produced for Mowatt were issued
under the name Julianne. The standout recordings of those Julianne singles
include "I Shall Sing", a cover of Three Dog Night's "Joy to the World", and
"Rescue Me", a cover of the song originally performed on record by Motown


artist Fontella Bass. Those three tracks featured Mowatt's commanding, robust
voice interpreting these songs in a self-assured tone. At the dawn of the roots
era in 1973, Pottinger produced "Emergency Call" and a cover of the Wailers'
"Mellow Mood" for Mowatt. Even a cursory listen to those recordings demon-
strates Pottinger's ability to successfully integrate a woman's take-charge vocal
approach with the rugged, rebellious rhythms of roots reggae. Pottinger's
expert handling of those early Mowatt roots tracks was merely the beginning
of a new chapter for her career.

A high-calibre roots producer

As the mid-197os arrived and roots established itself as the dominant force in
reggae, the pioneer producers were gone. Duke Reid and Leslie Kong had
died. The activity of Coxsone Dodd and Prince Buster in Jamaica with regard
to new work was severely reduced. For all intents and purposes, the production
of innovative reggae records was left to Lee Perry, King Tubby, the Hookim
brothers, Bunny Lee, Joe Gibbs, Herman Chin-Loy and Niney Holness, who
all represented a significant element of the next generation of gifted producers.
Sonia Pottinger went on to craft outstanding music that stands up to work
by those prominent roots producers.
There are five albums that define Pottinger's work during the roots era:
Cumbolo, Harder than the Rest and International Herb by Culture, and Marcia
Griffiths' Naturally and Steppin'. Naturally and Harder than the Rest were both
released in 1978, while Steppin', Cumbolo and International Herb followed in
1979. Pottinger's productions for Culture took her into different territory than
the R&B-inspired rocksteady vocals that fronted her hit records of the 196os.
She showcased very different studio skills to work with the earth-tone lead
vocal of Joseph Hill, a voice urgent and gritty. Pottinger clearly understood
how to present and contextualise the commanding tones of Hill's voice accom-
panied by the discordant harmonies of Albert Walker and Kenneth Paley. A
large part of that presentation was the insidious roots rhythms supplied by
trap-drummer Sly Dunbar and bass guitarist Robbie Shakespeare, supported
by Willie Lindo and Bertram "Ranchie" McLean on guitar, Ansel Collins and
Earl "Wire" Lindo on keyboards, and an outstanding horn section of saxo-
phonists Cedric Brooks and Felix Bennett, trumpet player David Madden,

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and trombonist Vin Gordon. Pottinger's contribution to all three of those
Culture albums assisted them to become important entries in the roots reggae
The collection of songs appearing on the Naturally album is the result of a
convergence of three exceptional talents: Marcia Griffiths, one of the best
voices in reggae; Bob Andy, one of the greatest songwriters in Jamaican pop-
ular music; and Sonia Pottinger, the gifted producer who brought the whole
project together. Pottinger related how the idea of the album came about:

I remember when I was in New York, and so was she [Marcia Griffiths], and she
called and said, "Mrs P, why don't you record me?" And I said to her, "The first
thing we will record will be a lot of your hits that you've done as a duo [Bob and
Marcia], we'll do them singly, and make a good album." And so we came up with
Naturally, which is a classic.34

Pottinger's description of the project's genesis reveals her innate under-
standing that Marcia Griffiths as a solo artist required a different kind of duet
with Bob Andy: a partnership in which her outstanding voice interpreted
Andy's poetic lyrics and sublime melodies. That approach featuring the same
crack studio band she used in the Culture sessions produced an important
album. In reality, some of the tracks on Naturally, like "Feel Like Jumping",
were songs that Andy had written for Marcia's voice when she was an artist at
Coxsone's Studio One. Other songs such as "I've Got to Go Back Home"
were originally recorded by Andy himself. As I have noted elsewhere, Andy
composed seven of the ten songs on the album, many of which had been pre-
viously recorded by Griffiths for Coxsone. They reappear on Naturally as fresh,
mature, fully ripe interpretations.35
The Pottinger-Griffiths collaboration which also produced the Steppin'
album is significant for other reasons: "Marcia Griffiths is like my relation.
We do have a very good rapport with each other."36 That statement by Pot-
tinger alludes to a sense of kinship with Griffiths that fuels the creativity of
their collaborations. Though Pottinger references a sort of familial kinship,
there is certainly a kinship of sisterhood, a relationship of two women at the
height of their creative powers. Pottinger recalled remarks by Griffiths regard-
ing their creative experience together: "Quite recently, I heard Marcia on an
interview, and she said she was from my stable, and coming from my stable
she had to be disciplined, because that [is] what I stand for. And I felt very


tall about that."37 Griffiths' comments suggest she realized work born from
an environment of discipline would possess a certain quality. Naturally and
Steppin' are arguably two of the finest examples of the work of both Pottinger
and Griffiths. Those two albums rank as crucial elements of roots reggae.
While there is nothing in the comments of either Pottinger or Griffiths that
speaks directly to the idea of a sisterhood of creativity, there is ample evidence
to suggest that Sonia Pottinger was clearly in the business of creating a nur-
turing environment for female reggae artists.

Pottinger and female recording artists

Pottinger's work with female recording artists has already been considered
here as an important aspect of her contribution to the music. She did not just
produce records for talented female singers, she provided an environment for
women in which they could express themselves in a different context and with
a different approach from when these women worked with male producers.
Despite the secondary status of women in the Jamaican music industry, par-
ticularly during the i96os, it is true that male producers were responsible for
quality records by female talent.38
Dodd had been the first to record Marcia Griffiths as a solo artist, though
he did not immediately find the correct aesthetic context for her. Griffiths'
only real hit with Dodd was the original version of "Feel Like Jumping". Reid
had bigger success with Phyllis Dillon, clearly one of the brightest talents of
rocksteady, by finding the right mix of song, music and arrangement to prop-
erly showcase her voice. The common thread that connects the work of these
male producers with female singers during that period is that lyrics of the
songs they recorded were not necessarily empowering to women and quite
often focused on themes of male-female relationships in which the women
were at the mercy of their lovers.
There are several examples of female recording artists produced by Pot-
tinger whose songs offered more than lyrics in which the woman's heart was
broken by a man. As mentioned previously, Pottinger's Patsy Todd singles
"Fire In Your Wire" and "Pata Pata Rock Steady" are different from the typical
songs women were given to record. The way in which Pottinger produced
both records was distinctive in that both tracks sound bold, brash and

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assertive, supporting the fun and bravado of the lyrics. These songs reflected
a femininity that was less the sixties cliche of the 'weaker' sex, more a realistic
mix of strength, confidence and vulnerability.
Judy Mowatt's work with Pottinger, if not in an overt proto-feminist
mould, certainly can be viewed as her initial steps in that direction. At the
very least Mowatt's assertive, take-charge vocal approach was allowed to
develop and mature during her tenure with Pottinger, until that approach met
its match in the lyrics of the Black Woman album, a benchmark for themes of
independent womanhood in reggae.39 Though Marcia Griffiths' career has
been built on songs of romance, it is not surprising that "Steppin' Out of
Babylon", a social commentary song which she wrote about her life's trials
and tribulations, gave the Pottinger-produced Steppin' album its title and was
its lead track.
Beyond Todd, Mowatt and Griffiths, Pottinger produced Carlene Davis
and Lorna Bennett, also notable singers. Those productions, which included
Davis's "Love and Harmony" and Bennett's cover of Diana Ross's "It's My
House", also dealt with themes other than simple romance. "Love and Har-
mony" expresses the need for peace and unity among all Jamaicans but in par-
ticular between adversarial supporters of Jamaica's political parties, whether
they were gangs of gunmen or fanatical supporters. "It's My House", though
a romantic song, places the woman as the subject of its narrative, which
describes how she establishes her own ground rules for a lover who wishes to
share her love and her house. In addition to the thematic diversity of the
recordings Pottinger produced for female artists, there was a diversity of talent:
she worked with several women including lesser known artists such as the
Ebony Sisters, Sonya Spence, Barbera and Sharon Black.40

Investigating Pottinger's role as producer

The gift of the great producers in ska, rocksteady and reggae was their ability
to supervise a creative collaboration between the artists, the musicians and the
sound engineer in producing quality recordings. During the time of rock-
steady, Coxsone Dodd had the Soul Vendors as his studio session band, artists
like Delroy Wilson, Ken Boothe and the Heptones, and sound engineer Syd
Bucknor, Dodd's cousin, who was the main audio engineer when Studio One


was established in 1963. Occasionally, Australian Graeme Goodall worked on
some Studio One recording sessions. Goodall was the pioneering engineer in
Jamaica during the late 1950os and early 196os who worked on recordings for
Dodd, Reid, Leslie Kong, Prince Buster and others when they all used Ken
Khouri's Federal Studios.
Duke Reid's recording team at that time comprised Tommy McCook and
the Supersonics as session band, a talent pool of singers that included Alton
Ellis, Phyllis Dillon and the Paragons, and skilled engineer Byron Smith.
When Duke Reid built his Treasure Isle studio on the top floor of his liquor
store on Bond Street, he had enlisted Byron Smith as his chief engineer. The
very talented Smith was previously a protdgd of Goodall at Federal. According
to Goodall, "Byron was my student and I'm glad to say that he was better in
a lot of senses than I was. I think he got an incredible sound on all that Treas-
ure Isle stuff, just incredible."41 Sonia Pottinger's rocksteady crew involved
artists Stranger Cole, Patsy Todd and Count Ossie, with Baba Brooks's band
as studio musicians. Since Pottinger used Treasure Isle Studios, it is probable
that the services of Byron Smith were available to her.
Each producer had a distinct sound which was related to some degree to
the quality of the sound equipment at their disposal, but it also had to do with
the skills and objectives of the producer and the engineer. Reggae producer
Bunny Lee compares the sonic texture of Duke Reid's Treasure Isle studio,
Ken Khouri's Federal studio and Coxsone's Studio One:

Every studio had a sound you could identify. Like Treasure Isle, they had a high-
end sound, you could get a clarity out of the horns and their organs and stuff like
that. Federal, now, you could get more of a quality of sound because them was into
modern equipment . They were more into clarity. Those guys used to record
uptown reggae. Studio One, you couldn't hear no midrange, you could only hear
bass, and you could get more weight on the high end. But then again, they had their
own sound.42

Pottinger's rocksteady sound was certainly a cousin to the Treasure Isle
sonic texture, because she was using his equipment and most likely his engi-
neer, but the music on her records was supplied by session musicians super-
vised by a different band leader using different arrangements. In addition to
those two factors, the inclusion of Pottinger's own sonic objectives assisted in
crafting a distinct sound for her recordings.

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If Pottinger's impressive rocksteady production team is not convincing as
one that equals the team of either Dodd or Reid, then consider her roots reg-
gae stable: Marcia Griffiths and Culture have already been mentioned as being
her main artists during that time, while the Revolutionaries, featuring Sly and
Robbie, were identified as her studio session band. Her engineer then was
Errol Brown, a protdgd of Byron Smith and Duke Reid. Brown is Duke Reid's
nephew and succeeded Smith as the chief engineer at Treasure Isle in the pre-
roots era. He manipulated the knobs on Reid sessions for Alton Ellis, Phyllis
Dillon, the Techniques and others. In addition to engineering for Sonia Pot-
tinger, Brown worked the board at Bob Marley's Tuff Gong on several of the
Wailers' Island albums in the late 1970s. Pottinger's roots production team is
exceptional by any standard, and her supervision of the sessions that produced
stellar albums by Griffiths and Culture is proof of her abilities as an outstand-
ing roots producer.
The role of a record producer can range from simply providing the money
for a recording session to being involved in the intricate details of song selec-
tion, songwriting, arrangement, selection of musicians and supervision of the
way that the specific sound of the record is crafted. Bunny Lee described what
Dodd and Reid brought to the studio as producers:

Duke Reid is a great producer, he knows what he wants. Duke Reid going inna the
studio and him rell the musician, "Look bass, I want you to do this . ." and the
bass [plays a line] and Duke say, "No! This is what I want, play this." Coxsone was
a good selector, him come a evening time when ... [Sylvan] Morris done the work,
and select the tune [that is to be released or played on the sound system].43

Sylvan Morris is the skilled engineer who succeeded Bucknor at Studio
One in 1968 and remained there throughout the early reggae period. Lee's
comments about Reid's sophistication do seem to mirror reality, as is evi-
denced in the overall clean, warm sound that was characteristic of Treasure
Isle productions. His assessment of Dodd, however, may not be precise. By
all accounts Dodd was present for certain sessions and had a sense of the sound
he wanted. It may be that Dodd became less involved with studio sessions
during the post-1968 period, but any suggestions that his role in the studio
during the time of ska and rocksteady may have been minimal are contradicted
by Goodall: when interviewer Peter I suggested that the actual producer
in most cases was the engineer, Goodall responded, "Yeah. Well, except for


people like Coxsone, Duke Reid, Mudies, Smith, Sonia Pottinger they actu-
ally produced, and Leslie Kong of course, they actually sat in there."44
As mentioned previously, one aspect of Sonia Pottinger's role as producer
was understanding when a recording was complete, as in the example of Joe
White and Chuck's "Every Night" described earlier. In that situation she
strongly suggested to the band leader not to do any more recording takes
because the one they had just completed was perfect. Another area in which
Pottinger contributed to the creative process was in editing and fine-tuning
song lyrics. Joseph Hill alludes to that aspect of Pottinger's involvement when
he says, "I went to the studio first, because Mrs Pottinger was the person who
was assisting us in penmanship . .".45 The literal meaning of penmanship is
someone's style or manner of handwriting, but Hill appears to be suggesting
that Pottinger helped to edit and fine-tune their lyrics. The following state-
ment by Pottinger regarding his "Natty Never Get Weary" composition
underscores the idea that she was not teaching Culture stylish handwriting:
"The songs he [Hill] was writing were making sense at the time."46 That com-
ment seems to suggest that there was a time when the lyrics of certain songs
composed by Culture required work so that they would "make sense".
Pottinger was also known to provide backing vocals for many of the artists
she recorded. She appears on the Culture track "Weeping Eyes". She had this
to say about her vocal contribution to certain recording sessions: "Even with
Marcia Griffiths sometimes I would go in the studio and give her the har-
mony. I have done backing with Judy Mowatt. Any artist who is in there and
I think I can fit in, I just jump into it... as long as it enhances the produc-
tion."47 Pottinger seems to have had a close working relationship with her
audio engineers. She assessed Errol Brown's working relationship with Duke
Reid as compared to her collaboration with him:

He [Errol Brown] is a wonderful engineer. I think he was good when Duke had
him, but I think he was a little nervous, because you know Duke was a severe man.
When I took over there [Treasure Isle Studios], he got into his own ... I would say
to him, "Errol, I don't listen so loudly to the monitors and I think it is more melo-
dious and you can hear the flaws." And he would listen ... I would say, "I think I
would add a shade more drumming right there" and so on. He was always ready to
please, so you know he would do well.48

Pottinger's comments describe a collaborative approach toward Brown, but

Klive Walker

reveal that she was still very much the supervisor of those recording sessions.
A very significant aspect of her role as producer was that she did not have
a reputation for financially exploiting recording artists in an environment
where alleged unfair financial treatment of singers appeared to be an integral
element of Jamaica's music industry. Brent Dowe, lead singer of the Melodi-
ans, explains why he went to record with Pottinger:

[W]e were at Duke Reid's, we hear that another producer was paying bigger money.
So we check it out, and it was Mrs Pottinger . she say she do business with us
.. word spread that there is money down there, and everybody started going down
to Tip Top, leaving Coxsone. Coxsone must have heard about that because he
started to raise his money.49

Dowe's comment also demonstrates that Pottinger's financial fairness
forced other producers to provide better monetary reward to artists for their
Pottinger was clearly a producer with a 'hands-on' style tempered by a sense
of collaboration. This meant that she discussed recording 'takes' with the ses-
sion band leader and the engineer; she assisted in fine-tuning song lyrics; she
provided backing vocals on particular recordings; and she worked closely with
the engineer, imparting her thoughts about what could strengthen the pro-
duction of a particular recording. In the final analysis Pottinger's supervisory
skills in the studio involved several areas of the recording process in addition
to pre- and post-production.

Pottinger's legacy

Once the history of women's exploits in reggae, or, more correctly, Jamaican
popular music, is comprehensively documented, women's contribution will
be seen as having been critical. In each and every phase of the music, there
have been important if not iconic women. In ska there was Millie Small and
Anita "Margarita" Mahfood.50 Rocksteady gave us Phyllis Dillon.5' Early reg-
gae and the subsequent roots era offered Marcia Griffiths, Judy Mowatt and
Rita Marley.52 The digital dancehall period brought us Shelley Thunder, Patra,
Lady Saw53 and Tanya Stephens.54 These women were either singers or dee-


jays, some of whom produced some of their own work (notably Judy Mowatt's
production of her classic Black Woman album).
Women have also been involved in the business side of the industry since
its beginnings. Many of these women made important contributions to the
studios, pressing plants and distribution networks of businesses established
and run by their husbands. Byron Lee's wife Sheila is an executive at Dynamic
Sounds. Norma Dodd, Coxsone's spouse, now operates Studio One since the
2004 death of her husband. Pat Chin, wife of the late Vincent Chin, has been
an integral aspect of their music industry ventures in Jamaica with Randy's
Record store and Studio 17 and later with their New York-based independ-
ent label VP Records.55 In many ways VP is to dancehall what Chris Black-
well's Island Records was to roots reggae during the 19705 and 1980s.
Pottinger successfully straddled both the artistic and business aspects of the
industry. What is significant about how she achieved this is that her husband
died before she entered the business in any meaningful way. In other words
she was neither a junior partner nor co-owner/co-director. As producer and
record label owner, Pottinger was responsible for the successes of her business
and for the artistic quality of her recordings. That placed Pottinger in a unique
category as the first female record producer and business woman in Jamaica's
popular music industry to have succeeded on her own terms. This is very
important because in an industry dominated by men, Pottinger still remains
the only woman producer to have sustained consistent success through three
eras of the music. After more than twenty-five years since Pottinger was active
in the industry, it is reasonable to wonder why other women have not emerged
as successful producers. The partial answer to that may be that an entire gen-
eration of young women who might have considered a career as a record pro-
ducer may never have heard about Pottinger and consider it to be purely a
man's domain.
Pottinger is not just crucial simply because she is a woman. This essay has
demonstrated that her skills as a producer with a variety of huge talents in
rocksteady and reggae are beyond reproach. It seems, however, that her being
a woman producer has meant that even the more progressive analysts with
commendable expertise have discounted the quality of her work and denied
her a prominent place in the music's history. Reggae historian Garth White,
an otherwise exemplary analyst, does not even place her in the same ballpark
as Dodd and Reid, instead opting to situate her in a category of what he

Klive Walker

describes as "secondary" producers.56 Barrow and Dalton in their Reggae: The
Rough Guide are much bolder in suggesting that she could have been included
in the Dodd and Reid arena had she been more prolific.57 If the barrier of
quantity is removed from the criteria for measuring Pottinger's stature in reg-
gae history, then she should be discussed, at the very least, in the same context
as Dodd and Reid.
What clearly separates Pottinger from any of the producers in the various
eras in which she was successful is that she created a nurturing environment
for women in an industry which, in many ways, remains unkind to female
artists. It seemed as if she was a magnet for many outstanding female talents
that included Patsy Todd, Carlene Davis and Sheila Hylton in addition to
iconic singers Judy Mowatt and Marcia Griffiths.
There is no question that rocksteady and roots reggae would be very dif-
ferent without the crucial contributions of Sonia Pottinger. Her legacy will
have greater meaning if gifted women with an aptitude for record production
continue the rich work that she began. 0,


1. There is one biography on Perry: David Katz, People Funny Boy: The Genius of Lee
"Scratch" Perry (Edinburgh: Payback Press, 2000). The research on Drummond is
gathering steam, but no book-length treatment has appeared yet. The work on
Count Ossie is still very thin.
2. See Klive Walker, "Reggae Sistas' Stories: The Women of Roots Reggae", in Dub-
wise: Reasoning from the Reggae Underground (Toronto: Insomniac Press, 2005).
3. See Garth White, "Rudie, Oh Rudie", Caribbean Quarterly 13, no. 3 (September
1967): 39-44.
4. Gordon Rohlehr, "Some Problems of Assessment: A Look at New Expressions
in the Arts of the Contemporary Caribbean", Caribbean Quarterly 17, nos. 3-4
(September-December 1971): 92-113.
5. See Bongo Jerry (Robin Small), tribute to Don Drummond appearing in Abeng i,
no. 16 (17 May 1969), quoted in Rohlehr, "Some Problems of Assessment", ioo.
6. Anthony McNeill, "For the D", in Wheel and Come Again: An Anthology of Reggae
Poetry, ed. Kwame Dawes (Fredericton: Goose Lane, 1998), 136.
7. See, for example, Pamela O'Gorman, "An Approach to the Study of Jamaican Pop
Music", Jamaica Journal 6, no. 4 (December 1972): 50-54.


8. Verena Reckord, "Rastafarian Music: An Introductory Study", Jamaica Journal iI,
no. I (August 1977): 2-13.
9. Anita "Margarita" Mahfood was a dancer, singer-songwriter and recording artist.
She was also the lover, artist colleague and muse of Don Drummond.
10o. Books about Bob Marley published during that period included: Adrian Boot and
Vivien Goldman, Bob Marley: Soul Rebel, Natural Mystic (London: EelPie/Hutchin-
son, I981); Stephen Davis, Bob Marley (London: Panther Books/Granada, 1983);
Timothy White, Catch a Fire: The Life of Bob Marley (New York: Henry Holt, 1983);
Malika Lee Whitney and Dermot Hussey, Bob Marley: Reggae King of the World
(Kingston: Kingston Publishers, 1984).
II. Sebastian Clarke,Jah Music (London: Heinemann, 1980).
12. Other books that did not have a complete focus on Bob Marley included: Stephen
Davis, Reggae Bloodlines (New York: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1977); Stephen Davis,
and Peter Simon, Reggae International (New York: Rogner and Bernhard/ Random
House, 1982).
13. See website: http://carolcooper.org/
14. See the following Bob Marley books: Bruce W. Talamon (photographs), with Roger
Steffens (text) and Timothy White (foreword), Bob Marley: Spirit Dancer (New
York: W.W. Norton, 1994); Barry Lazell, Marley: The Illustrated Legend (London:
Hamlyn, 1994) (Lazell's book features a variety of interesting still images by major
music photographers including Jill Furmanovsky, Barrie Plummer and Annie Lei-
bovitz); Adrian Boot (photographs), and Chris Salewicz (text), Bob Marley: Songs of
Freedom (London: Bloomsbury, 1995).
15. For more in-depth analysis of Bob Marley's art, see the following books: Kwame
Dawes, Bob Marley: Lyrical Genius (London: Sanctuary, 2002); Jason Toynbee, Bob
Marley: Herald of a Post-Colonial World? (Cambridge: Polity, 2007).
16. Dawes presents a rigorous assessment of Bob Marley's lyrics that provides intellectual
substance to the claim that Marley is a poet of the highest order. Toynbee traces the
development of Marley's superstardom, then asks the tough questions about his
iconography, while acknowledging the social importance of his art. Garnette Cado-
gan's essay "Remembering Bob Marley: Messiah or Musician" (Caribbean Review
of Books, February 2007), though not in book form, must be mentioned here because
its groundbreaking criticism of the writing about Bob Marley rescues Marley from
the cult of the personality perspective that, in effect, has obscured his true stature.
17. Carolyn Cooper, Noises in the Blood: Orality, Culture and the 'Vulgar' Body of
Jamaican Popular Culture (London: MacMillan, 1993).
18. Carolyn Cooper, "Culture an Tradition an Birthright: Proverb as Metaphor in the
Poetry of Louise Bennett", in Noises in the Blood, 37-46.
19. Carolyn Cooper, "Words Unbroken By the Beat: The Performance Poetry of Jean
Binta Breeze and Mikey Smith", in Noises in the Blood, 68-86.

Klive Walker

20. Carolyn Cooper, "Slackness Hiding from Culture: Erotic Play in the Dancehall",
in Noises in the Blood, 136-173.
21. Carolyn Cooper, "Lady Saw Cuts Loose: Female Fertility Rituals in the Dancehall",
in Sound Clash: Jamaican Dancehall Culture at Large (New York: Palgrave, 2004),
99-124; Carolyn Cooper, "'Mama Is that You?': Erotic Disguise in the Films Dance-
hall Queen and Babymother", in Sound Clash, 125-144.
22. See Steve Barrow and Peter Dalton, Reggae: The Rough Guide (London: Rough
Guides, 1997); Kevin Chang and Wayne Chen, Reggae Routes (Kingston: Ian Randle,
1998); Lloyd Bradley, Bass Culture (London: Viking, 2000); Walker, Dubwise.
23. Walker, Dubwise; Barrow and Dalton, Reggae: The Rough Guide.
24. Garth White, "Behind the Scenes: From Sonia Pottinger to Trish Farrell", The News,
13-26 August 1995, 18.
25. Barrow and Dalton, Reggae: The Rough Guide, 77-79.
26. Klive Walker, "Reggae Sistas' Stories: The Women of Roots Reggae", in Dubwise,
27. Barrow and Dalton, Reggae: The Rough Guide, 47; Bradley, Bass Culture, 93.
28. White, "Behind the Scenes", 18.
29. Sonia Pottinger, unpublished interview by Jim Dooley, 4 April 1996.
30. Barrow and Dalton, Reggae: The Rough Guide, 78.
31. Ibid.
32. Margarita Mahfood and Millie Small are exceptions. See Klive Walker, "Eastern
Standard Time", in Dubwise, 123-154; and Walker, "Reggae Sistas' Stories".
33. Barrow and Dalton, Reggae: The Rough Guide, 78.
34. Ibid.
35. Walker, "Reggae Sistas' Stories", 89.
36. Barrow and Dalton, Reggae: The Rough Guide, 78.
37. Ibid.
38. Walker, "Reggae Sistas' Stories", 82-85.
39. Walker, "Reggae Sistas' Stories", 95-99.
40. See Heartbeat CD, Reggae Songbirds: 17 Great Tracks from the High Note Label This
album features seventeen recordings of vocal performances by various women, all
produced by Pottinger.
41. Graeme Goodall, sound engineer, interview by Peter I, "Mr Goody", http://www.
42. Michael Veal, Dub: Soundscapes and Shattered Songs in Jamaican Reggae (Middle-
town, CT: Wesleyan, 2007), 50.
43. Veal, Dub: Soundscapes and Shattered Songs, 50-51.
44. Graeme Goodall, interview.
45. Joseph Hill, of Culture, interview by Jim Dooley, z21 April 1996, http://incolor.inet-


46. Sonia Pottinger, interview.
47. Ibid.
48. Ibid.
49. Barrow and Dalton, Reggae: The Rough Guide, 78.
50. See Barrow and Dalton, Reggae. The Rough Guide; Walker, "Reggae Sistas' Stories";
Herbie Miller, "Brown Girl in the Ring: Margarita and Malungu", in "Pioneering
Icons of Jamaican Popular Music, Part i", ed. Clinton Hutton, special issue,
Caribbean Quarterly 53, no. 4 (December 2007): 47-74.
51. See Barrow and Dalton, Reggae: The Rough Guide; Walker, "Reggae Sistas' Stories".
52. See Walker, "Reggae Sistas' Stories".
53. See Cooper, Sound Clash; Donna P. Hope, Inna di Dancehall (Kingston: University
of the West Indies Press, 2006).
54. See Tanya Batson-Savage, "Gangsta Poetics: Femininity in Tanya Stephens's
Gangsta Blues", Jamaica Journal 29, nos. 1-2 (June-October 2oo5): 6-11.
55. See Miller, "Brown Girl in the Ring".
56. White, "Behind the Scenes", 18.
57. Barrow and Dalton, Reggae: The Rough Guide, 78; see also Walker, "Reggae Sistas'
Stories", 87-88.

Don Drummond and the
Philosphy of Music


IT IS OFTEN SAID THAT music is the most difficult art form to write about. Doing
so, someone said, is like trying to dance to architecture. This has never stopped
critics, poets, philosophers and others from trying to put into words what
many regard as ineffable. I therefore undertake this essay with an awareness
that we may have to be silent about some aspects of our responses to music,
as Wittgenstein would probably say.
When I consider the music of Don Drummond, the celebrated Jamaican
trombonist, three main questions come to my mind. First, has any progress
been made towards a phenomenology of his music? Second, what, if anything,
does his music mean? Third, is his music good? These questions do not exist
in water-tight compartments; they obviously merge into each other. They are
separated because each emphasises a different aspect of his music. I am also
aware that they are not the only questions of a philosophical nature which
may be asked about his music. I shall not ask any questions about its formal
structures or moral dimensions, even if some of these may be touched on in
passing. The three questions which interest me will be examined in turn. My
main aim is to try to show that there are aspects of the philosophy of music
which are relevant to a discussion of Drummond's work.
There are many activities carried on in the name of phenomenology. I am
using the word in what is perhaps its most elemental sense: the description of
phenomena as they appear to consciousness. I have already hinted at the
difficulty of applying this to musical phenomena. I believe that along with
philosophers, the persons who are most likely to do this well are literary writ-
ers, especially poets, and in some cases critics. So my main focus will be on
what some of our poets and critics have to say about the appearance of Drum-


mond's music to their consciousness.
There is another reason for this link
between philosophy and literature. It
has to do with the links between exis-
tentialism, phenomenology and litera-
ture. Mary Warnock writes: "The
Existentialist philosopher, then, must
above all describe the world in such a
way that its meanings emerge."' This,
she argues, is also what poets, novelists
and filmmakers do. My interest, then,
is in the question of what meanings
emerge from poetic descriptions of
Drummond's music. Many philoso-
phers who work in this area describe
themselves as existential-phenomenol- Danny Ricketts, Don Drummond
ogists, for these two philosophical
movements can be fruitfully combined in this kind of undertaking. In the
absence of any major investigations of this kind in the Caribbean at least
that I know about I am regarding our poets and other literary writers as pio-
neering existential-phenomenologists.
Some of the poems I have seen tend to focus on the man rather than on
his music. Irish prose writer, dramatist and poet William Butler Yeats has
suggested that you cannot separate the dancer from the dance,' and Drum-
mond the man is no doubt inseparable from Drummond the musician. But
the relation between an artist and his work is a complex matter, and I will not
speculate on that here. Suffice it to say that a fascination with Drummond
the man is understandable, for his extraordinary biography included poverty,
a troubled childhood, insanity, murder, incarceration, allegations of suicide,
and rumours of a mysterious burial in the night. The life-story of a public
figure can be one of his or her biggest assets, and when one as dramatic as
Drummond's is combined with his widely acclaimed musical genius, it is easy
to see why he has attained the status of folk hero and aesthetic icon. So the
significance of his persona has to be taken into account, and I will therefore
begin by looking at some images of the man that appear in both the poems
and the critical pieces examined.

Earl McKenzie

Bongo Jerry, in his poem "Roll On Sweet Don",3 puts Drummond in the
tradition of mythological-artistic characters like the Pied Piper and Peter Pan,
and sees parallels between them and Drummond's role in Jamaican society.
His piece raises questions about literary characters, and projections on real
people as Jungian archetypes, and as expressions of social dynamics.
For Mervyn Morris, Drummond is something of a romantic hero. In the
poem "Valley Prince"4 Drummond is portrayed as a lonely and misunderstood
artist who is isolated from his society, and who uses his music as a way of deal-
ing with his alienation. The poem therefore raises important questions about
the role of the artist in underdeveloped, postcolonial societies like those in the
Caribbean, and we are left to ask if Drummond's loneliness is in any way typ-
ical or inescapable.
In his poem "For the D", Anthony McNeill sees Drummond as a guardian
angel to whom he makes an invocation: "Spirit/in heavens remember we now/
& show we a way to praise . .". He also asks this Spirit for sustenance "in the
evil season".5 As we shall see, McNeill is not the only poet with a religious
attitude to Drummond.
Lorna Goodson in her poem "For Don Drummond"6 is also interested in
Drummond's inner life, especially the tragic love affair and madness which
drove him to murder his girlfriend, and in the role which music played in his
ways of coping with his personal tragedy. But most of all she sees him as a
naturally chosen ("born with a caul") spokesman for his people ("notes like
petals rise covering all a we"). She envisions him buried, not clandestinely in
the night, but under an angel trumpet tree, a natural object that grows from
the soil of the land. For her, Drummond's natural selection if I may deviate
from Darwin's idea suggests a divine origin for both the artist and his art.
Goodison's Drummond is a seer.
Kwame Dawes, writing as a poet, sees Drummond as something of an epic
symbol and tragic hero. In "It Is the Cause (Belleview Ska)",7 Drummond is
a character in a larger narrative which deals with a clash of values for the soul
of Jamaica. He is a musician who sees Africa in the dancing of partygoers; he
is the murderer of an unfaithful rumba dancer; he is a patient in a mental hos-
pital; above all, he is a character in a drama about Jamaican spirituality, and
characters from the Bible (David, Bathsheba, Joseph and Elijah) make appeals
to him in vain.
Literary critic Nadi Edwards sees Drummond as a muse who inspires


poets.8 The muses were nine daughters of Zeus who inspired literature, the
sciences and the arts. From ancient times, the inspiration of the muses has
been likened to madness, and this is perhaps the source of the stereotype of
the mad genius. Geniuses who suffered from mental illness include Isaac New-
ton the scientist, Ludwig van Beethoven the composer, Vincent van Gogh the
artist, and Georg Cantor the mathematician. So it is tempting to see Drum-
mond as part of this tradition.
Kwame Dawes, writing as a literary critic, reggae aesthetician and anthol-
ogist, sees Drummond as "the archetype of the prophetic reggae artist".9
Drummond was a ska musician, and Dawes sees him as a forerunner of reggae,
and an important pioneer of the genre. Indeed, Dawes maintains that Drum-
mond's spirit continues to live in reggae.
In the tradition of McNeill and Goodison, Raymond Mair turns to religion
in his "Tribute to Don Drummond".I0 He echoes the spiritual loneliness
which Morris attributes to the musician. But he also locates Drummond in
the context of black interpretations of biblical characters: God, Son, Solomon
and the symbolism of seven keys; and he relates these to the Rastafarian con-
cept of God. Some of Drummond's pieces indicate that he had a sympathetic
interest in this religion.
In my own poem "Metaphysics and Trombone"," I see Drummond as a
musical philosopher who philosophises with his trombone about a range of
themes. While there is no question about the possibility of philosophising
about music, some may wonder if music itself, especially instrumental music,
can be a way of philosophising. This is one of the questions raised by this
I turn now, more directly, to the question of the phenomenology of Drum-
mond's music. As I indicated earlier, the poems tend to focus on the man and
his persona, but there is enough about the music in some of them to suggest
the directions which a phenomenological study might take. It is with these
that I shall be primarily concerned.
In his "Valley Prince" Morris describes Drummond's music as anti-linear:
"plenty people / want me blow it straight. / But straight is not the way; my
world / don' go so; that is lie."'2 This does not seem to be a reference to the
structure of the music, but to its unconventionality and deviance from
accepted norms, which also reflects the life and outlook of the musician. I
have written elsewhere about an anti-linear tendency which I perceive in