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Jamaica trip, 2017-8 Chinna Smith's yard

These 10 BLOG posts are from my amazing trip to Jamaica where I was conducting research for the Newbury Comics Faculty Fellowship grant I received (from Berklee College of Music, where I am associate professor of piano and teach a class on Bob Marley) to produce a reggae education video.

Chinna Smith’s yard. Friday night I headed to Chinna’s yard in Halfway Tree. As I mentioned in an earlier post, Chinna was one of Marley’s guitarists and guitarist for many other top acts. His yard is legendary, always something going on and you never know who you may run into of international repute in the music world at any time. It’s a special place where the music, ideas, philosophical discussions and ganja flow quite freely, and always on a high level. This night was a fairly mellow night and there was a selector (in the US they are called a DJ, one who selects tunes to play on a sound system). I did not catch the name of the selecta, but clearly he was a deep deep roots man and probably famous. He was playing HEAVY dub plates (tunes without the vocals more or less) of all the classic riddims, including “Swell Headed”, one of my favorite old Burning Spear jams. The groove and vibe is pure FIYA, uniquely Jamaican….something you can get no where else on the planet, and to experience it in Chinna’s yard is about as authentic as you can get if you ask me!

Burning Spear tune, "Swell Headed" riddim.

...not sure which riddim this is

There’s an upright piano sitting next to his fish tank and I figured it was a barely functioning heap, but NO! He had just had work done on it the day before and had it tuned. So I sat there for a couple of hours playing along to the tracks with Chinna sitting by my side in conversation with people showing up and then barking out chords to me on the tunes with weird progressions: “I, VI, II, bVII, bII”….etc…


Also I became friends with a dread radio DJ named Ras Isha Char. A few days earlier I gave him the Rebel Tumbao CD and my Dragonfly Taxi CD and my phone number and he called me a few days later ecstatic about the Rebel Tumbao album and had played it on his show and received many big ups from his listenership. I was honored. (Hope he likes the Dragonfly Taxi CD yet.) We had a great time reasoning about music, Trump, and my mashed up car. RUN RUN RUUUUUN, I WILL NEVER RUN AWAY....

...with Ras Isha Char

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