Sometimes it takes a while to find a photo or photos that interpret the theme chosen for WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge. Does this really capture the one word description? Will another reader get it? These are some of the questions that play at the back of my mind as I sift through my collection of photos.
One of the first things that came to mind as I saw this week’s challenge word, arranged, was flowers. I was pretty sure I’d find some arranged photo flowers but I didn’t. These are what I found instead.
I took this late last year on the last day of the Taste of Jamaica, a food festival that was held at the Montego Bay Convention Center. Except for the scallions, everything looks pretty fresh.
This is from a lunch I had a few months ago with fellow blogger and new friend, Elizabeth who blogs at Mirth and Motivation.
I’ve seen Third World perform so many times, I’ve lost count. They are the only act I can say that about. The first time in Washington, DC, my friends and I went to see them and during the intermission, two of us decided to move closer to the stage. Isn’t that where all the cool people hang out?
Well, we were so close that the next day, I could still hear the constant bzzzzz from the speakers. It took a few days for my hearing to get back to normal and I swore I’d never get that close to speakers again – and I haven’t.
The reggae band Third World was formed in 1973 by Michael “Ibo” Cooper (keyboardist) and Stephen “Cat” Coore (guitarist and cellist). With their mix of Rhythm & Blues, classical music and reggae, they still are unlike any other reggae band. They’ve worked and collaborated with The Jackson Five, Bob Marley and the Wailers and Stevie Wonder.
Despite several changes in their lineup – Cat Coore was later joined by “Bunny Rugs” Clarke, Richard “Ritchie” Daley (bass), Lenworth “Ruption” Williams (drums), Maurice Gregory and Norris Webb (vocals) and a decline in their popularity around the 1980s, the band continues to perform including at this year’s Cape Town International Jazz Festival.
Their most recent album, Patriots, features collaborations with Toots Hibbert, Marcia Griffiths, the late Gregory Isaacs, Tarrus Riley, and Stephen and Damian Marley among many others.
The 10 time Grammy nominated reggae band has received numerous awards including the United Nations Peace Medal (1986), the Jamaica Music Industry Award for Best Show Band (1992 and 1996).
I listen to music a lot, I wouldn’t say all the time but pretty regularly. As I cleaning up around the house yesterday, I let iTunes DJ set the mood.
At first, the music was jazzy and breezy, then it took a sharp turn into old school reggae with a Ken Boothe song, Everything I Own that took me back, way back. I stopped what I was doing and listened.
You sheltered me from harm Kept me warm, kept me warm You gave my life to me Set me free, set me free The finest years I ever knew Was all the years I had with you
And I would give anything I own Give up my life, my heart, my home And I would give anything I own Just to have you back again
If there’s someone you know That won’t let you go And taking it all for granted You may lose them one day Someone takes them away And you don’t hear a word they say
And I would give anything I own Give up my life, my heart, my home And I would give anything I own Just to have you back again Just to talk to you, words again
If there’s someone you know That won’t let you go And taking it all for granted You may lose them one day Someone take them away And you don’t hear a word they say
And I would give anything I own Give up my life, my heart, my home I would give anything I own Just to have you back again Just to talk to you, words again Just to hold you, once again
I thought of the lyrics which are so simple and yet so profound. Everything I Own, was written by an American, David Gates. It was a hit in Jamaica and reached Number One on the UK Singles chart in 1974. An interesting fact about the song – instead of singing it as written, Boothe sang Anything I Own.
Boothe, who has been performing since the 1950s, has recorded more than 25 albums and compilations. Another of Boothe’s hits which he also wrote, The Train is Coming was featured in the movie, Money Train.
Ken Boothe was born in Kingston in 1948. In 2003, the government of Jamaica awarded him an Order of Distinction (OD) for his contribution to Jamaican music.
I was out walking one morning and heard this song as a car cruised by. Right away, it took me back to a time of simplicity and innocence. It was planted in my head and I hummed it all day.
I wasn’t old enough to dance to it but I’m sure the adults around me did. The song is a Prince Buster number called Wash, Wash. I’m including two versions: the live one, which looks to be from a night club performance and it shows how Jamaicans were dancing at the time. On the recorded version, you hear the pops and hisses in the music, something I miss when I play CDs.
Anyway, a little about Wash, Wash. Although we had radio in Jamaica from the 1930s, it was controlled by foreign interests and much of the music we heard came from overseas. Music of the 50s and 60s, still relied heavily on R&B and other music coming from the US and musicians covered and borrowed freely from what they heard. Wash, Wash was one such song. Written by Beasley Smith, it was covered by Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles and several others, including today’s featured performer, Prince Buster.
Prince Buster was born Cecil Bustamante Campbell in Jamaica in May, 1938. He took the name he was called as an amateur boxer, “The Prince” and combined it with his nickname, Buster (from Bustamante) for his stage name. Prince Buster began singing in night clubs around Kingston in 1956 and was hired eventually by well known Jamaican record producer, Clement “Coxsone” Dodd as security for his sound system. Prince Buster, the amateur boxer, was the perfect person Dodd needed for crowd control at his sound system parties, which sometimes got a little rowdy.
What’s a sound system, you ask? Well, it’s truck that would carry giant speakers and a turntable and stop in a particular community and play music. The music drew people who came out and danced in the streets but sound system owners knew they had to keep them entertained so they hired “toasters,” usually men who could “toast” or rev up the crowd by reinterpreting the lyrics of a song to fit a situation he’d toast about, calling out to dancers, etc. The more skillful the toaster, the bigger the crowd, the bigger the party, the bigger the following the sound system would eventually develop. Different sound systems had their own “sound” and following. Think of it as today’s social media – MySpace for offline contact. Every so often, I still see giant speakers piled one atop the other in communities across Jamaica.
Prince Buster produced Oh Carolina by The Folkes Brothers in 1960 which featured Rasta drummer, Count Ossie. It was a landmark in Jamaican music history as it was the first time anyone had included African elements in the music. Oh Carolina was a hit in Jamaica and the UK and put Prince Buster on the musical map. Throughout the 1960s he wrote and produced hundreds of songs for the UK label, Blue Beat, that produced Jamaican rhythm and blues and ska.
Prince Buster recorded more than 20 albums and was awarded an Order of Distinction for his contribution to music. He now makes his home in Florida.
Byron Lee, founder of the group Byron Lee and the Dragonaires passed away in 2008 but his band, originally Byron Lee and the Dragonaires, renamed Byron Lee’s Dragonaires, continues to entertain. The band has more than 30 albums to their credit.
“From my mother, who was of African descent, I received the soul, rhythm and love of music and from my father, who was Chinese, I received my shrewd business sense.” Byron Lee
In the 1950s, Lee started playing music with Carl Brady, Ronnie Nasralla, Alty East and Ronald Peralto. They used a door, box for drums, spoons, grater (the kitchen implement, used in mento, traditional Jamaican music) for percussion and Lee’s antique guitar. Their first gig was at St. George’s College from which they had graduated. They continued playing parties, weddings and school dances until 1957 when they turned professional.
Lee was a both a musician and a businessman, and from the start presented a band that was well dressed, took minimum breaks, played good music and gave its audiences their money’s worth.
Byron Lee and the Dragonaires became one of the best ska bands of the 1960. In 1961, they were cast as a hotel band in James Bond’s Dr. No that was filmed in Jamaica and in 1964, Byron Lee and the Dragonaires represented Jamaica at the New York World’s Fair.
In 1965, Lee who was also known as the Dragon, began incorporating calypso in the band’s repertoire and touring Trinidad & Tobago and other islands. They performed for the first time in Trinidad’s annual carnival in 1974. In the 1970s, Byron Lee and the Dragonaires were better known in the rest of the Caribbean, which played largely calypso music, than they were in Jamaica, where reggae dominated the airwaves.
Freddie McGregor, aka Big Ship, is one of those reggae musicians who, although he’s been in the business since the 1960s, has remained relevant. Whether its ska, lovers rock, reggae, Roots reggae, dancehall or dub, Freddie’s done it. This versatility and his solid showmanship have earned him a loyal following both in Jamaica and internationally.
Freddie McGregor was born in Clarendon in June, 1956. In 1963, he and two other musicians formed the group known as The Clarendonians and recorded for Studio One, one of Jamaica’s best known labels. His popularity soared in the 1980 when he released a string of hits. He also started his own label, Big Ship, and later Big Ship Recording Studio, where he produced several reggae artists.
Freddie McGregor has over thirty albums to his credit and was nominated for a Grammy in 2003 for All For You.
Take a listen to I Was Born a Winner, one of my favorites, and Big Ship. Trying to find out who did keyboards on I Was Born a Winner. If you know, please tell me.
I’ve seen Freddie in concert a handful of times in Jamaica and the U.S. The last time, I found myself near the entrance to the stage and when he finished his performance, I did something I never would have done even ten years ago — I went over, greeted him and asked to take my photo with him. He was very gracious and agreed. I got my photo and felt like a teenager and a groupie. But it was fun! Since then, I’ve not felt the least bit shy about introducing myself to musicians or getting them to sign my CDs when I see them at performances. Other than that, I leave them alone — it’s their private time.
Anyway, hope you enjoy these selections from Freddie as much as I do.
Jamaican tenor saxophonist, Rolando Alphonso, was born on January 12, 1931 in Havana, Cuba. He was brought to Jamaica by his mother when he was two years old.
In Jamaica, Alphonso learned to play the saxophone and worked as a studio musician, backing performers such as Jimmy Cliff, the Wailers, the Maytals and most of the other leading performers of the 1960s. Alphonso also worked for two of the most influential music producers in Jamaica – Duke Reid and Clement “Coxsone” Dodd. It was while working Dodd’s Studio One that he and fellow musicians, Don Drummond, Tommy McCook, Jackie Mittoo, and Jerome Hinds, among others, formed the ska band, The Skatalites. Ska was the new music at the time in Jamaica. The Skatalites disbanded a little more than a year after they formed and was re-formed in 1983. They continue to play.
Alphonso was awarded the Order of Distinction by the Jamaican government in 1977.
He moved to the U.S. in 1980 and lived in Brooklyn. He died from an aneurysm in Los Angeles in 1998.
I’ve been a fan of Burning Spear (the Spear) since high school. It was the height of the Black Power Movement in the U.S., a movement that had spread to the Caribbean and expressed itself in a growing consciousness and pride in our Africanness. The Spear’s third album, Marcus Garvey, became an anthem, an indictment of the times. Marcus Garvey words come to pass, Burning Spear sang and we cheered.
It was one of the first albums I bought; it almost never left my room or my sight. I played it every chance I got. There were many favorites.
Burning Spear, who took the name of the former president of Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta, was born Winston Rodney in 1945 in the parish of St. Ann. Marcus Garvey and Bob Marley have been credited as his major influences. The Spear has been connected with several legendary Jamaican producers and studios of the 1960s and 70s. He was with Island Records until 1980 when he formed his own label. Burning Spear Music Production company and Burning Spear Records handle his bookings and music.
Now living in New York, the Spear tours extensively. Nominated 12 times, he won Grammy Awards for Best Reggae Album for Calling Rastafari (2000) and Jah is Real (2009). In 2007, he was honored by the Government of Jamaica with an Order of Distinction (OD).
I saw Burning Spear in concert in New York a few years ago. The show was memorable for several reasons. First, it was theSpear. Second, it was the only time I remember going to a show on a Sunday night, getting home after 3 a.m., and going to work the next morning. (It was after this show, I think, that I discovered Red Bull.)
When we arrived, there were only a few people in the audience. However, by the time the opening acts had warmed us up sufficiently and the Spear took the stage, the crowd had swelled considerably. There was no place to stand in this standing room only show. I could hardly see him — and my friends and I had been standing only a few yards from the stage.
Last night, I heard the shocking news: Whitney Houston had died. I sat in total disbelief, glued to the television set, watching as the news scrolled across the ticker. Even after I saw the word was, as in Whitney Houston was….it didn’t feel real. No, Whitney Houston can’t be dead. But she was.
In the footage that played over and over, she looked vibrant, alive. Nothing in these images predicted this end. I thought she’d gotten it together. She looked so good the last time I saw a photo of her, much better than in that other photo – you know the one, when she looked emaciated and fragile.
We’ll never know what hurt she tried so unsuccessfully, so tragically to salve — not that we really need to know. Her loss will, no doubt, leave a gaping hole in many hearts, especially that of her mother, Grammy Award winning gospel singer, Cissy Houston, her cousin, Dionne Warwick, and her daughter, Bobbi Kristina, who also reportedly has her own substance abuse issues.
Whitney Houston, a mezzo-soprano, was born in Newark, NJ on August 9, 1963. She was a model, singer, actor and producer. With 415 awards, Whitney has been recognized more times than any other female artist. Her awards include two Emmys, six Grammys, 30 Billboard Music, and 22 American Music Awards. She has sold more than 200 million albums and singles.
Whitney holds an honorary doctorate from Grambling State University in Louisiana. She has seven albums and four movies to her credit including the hugely successful, The Bodyguard, that was the second highest-grossing film worldwide in 1992, Waiting to Exhale and The Preacher’s Wife. Her fourth and final film, Sparkle, now in post production, is scheduled to be released in August. Whitney has also appeared in television shows and in several commercials.
Singers like Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera, Toni Braxton, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Hudson and many others acknowledge Whitney as an influence.
I saw Etana in concert a few years ago in Jamaica. About a year or so before I did, I had heard about a young singer who had given up a recording contract in the States to return to Jamaica to devote herself to the music she wanted to sing and to do it her own way. I was impressed and when I heard she was to perform at the 2009 literary festival in St. Elizabeth, I knew where I had to be.
Born Shauna McKenzie in 1983 in Kingston, Etana migrated to Florida in 1992. She intended to become a nurse but the musical talent that had been discovered when she was six took hold. She left Broward Community College in 2000.
She joined Grit, a female girl group. In 2005, Etana became a backup singer for another reggae musician, Ritchie Spice, and performed with him in Europe and North America.
Etana’s single, Wrong Address, hit the number one spot in Jamaica in 2006. She recorded her first album, The Strong One, in 2008.