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.
Bongo Herman performance at the Bob Marley birthday celebration at the Marley Museum, 2/6/17
GREETINGS from Kingston, JA. I've had tuff internet connection so no postings till now. Here comes my stream of consciousness rant about how 'tings a gwan dung here: Staying in Harbor View area of the city with my good friend/percussion master Maroghini who happens to live in JACKIE MITTOO's house...C'mon! And today I was at the University of West Indies Global Reggae Conference and one of the presenters did a PhD thesis on Mittoo...c'mon! (Dr. Karen Cyrus - Here's her dissertation abstract.)
It's black history month and Marley's Bday month so there are an INSANE amount of things going on. Started with an awesome presentation on the JA folk music style MENTO at the JA Music Museum sponsored by JAria.
Met Herbie Miller. Live performance by the Jolly Boys, kinda like the Buena Vista Social Club of JA. The called the event a "grounation," that's right, with out the 'd'. Here's a pic of the 'rumba box' player. It's the same thing as the Mirimbula in Changui music from Cuba!
Then headed over to the Half Way Tree bus terminal where JAria posted a massive concert: Saw some local bands, and the greats, including Capleton (not my favorite to be frank, but NUFF big raspekt for the massive FIYA that he and the killer band bring to the stage), Beenie Man, Ky'Mani Marly and then the brothers showed up (Damien, Julian, Rohan, Stephen), and my favorite (an up and coming female singer), JAH 9 - she and her band amazing - very roots, fantastic vocals and righteous grounded vibe.
Here's Capleton bringing the fiya to the crowd:
Capleton at massive show at Halfway Tree bus station
Next day was Bob's b day and at his house (56 Hope road and now the Marley Museum), ALL day free event (concert the night before was free too) with many many many local, up and coming bands, including (my fav) Jah 9 and Feluke amongst others. GREAT to see the Bob Marley Foundation really giving full sets on killer stage to up and coming talented players and singers. I was there from 1pm till about 11:30pm and conked out...and just missed the Marley brothers' set. Let me tell you the Jamaican's know how to mix a live reggae band - everything is clear and your sternum shakes! Hanging around that night put me in touch with Bongo Herman, I had a brief talk with Skill Cole (whom I met, and gave a ride home on a previous trip), Richie Spice, Ras Isa Char, Grub Cooper (MD of the massive Jamaican band FAB 5)....just a massive hang.
Jah9 dubbing it down at the Marley bday celebration at Bob's house, 56 Hope Road, the Marley Museum
MJ, Bongo Herman, Marohini
Next day I accompanied Maroghini to the Charlie Smith High School in Trenchtown where he teaches....and a JAM SESSION erupted. FIYA! He's teaching the students some African drum rhythms (not just nayabinghi) and many students joined in, including dancers and singers...AND one of their very inspired teachers took to the dance circle with full moves and a serious dub poetry chant that all the students knew that was, well, INTENSE and transcendent. I love the rapport that this teacher has with these you'ts; you can feel the respect and admiration that these kids have for this inspiring teacher! A few of the kids had to come and touch my hair, having never felt that of a white guy!
Jam session at Charlie Smith High School:
The number I had for Ernest Ranglin was wrong and I sent an email to his wife saying that, and then he called me apologizing, ha! I hope to meet him next week.
Last night there was a massive concert scheduled for Mandela Park and Maroghini hooked me up to be part of the percussion group to open the show and for some reason the show was canceled. When I found out, as I was hustling to make it to the stage (driving...which is INSANE inna Kingston), I happened to be right on top of Chinna Smith's house, so dropped in and literally within 5 minutes of walking into his yard he puts a melodica in front of me, headphones and I'm recording a track to a tune he was working on. Stayed there for another 4 hours and, well, the hang at Chinna's is quite special. All kinds of top notch musicians, engineers from Kingston and from parts of the world could be passing through at any moment. I was honored and humbled to be so warmly welcomed (I have jammed with him on nearly every trip I take there. He was one of Marley's guitarists and has toured and recorded with umpteen hundreds of the best artistes in JA and beyond.) The scene is an open free flowing vibe. One moment you're in a huge reasoning about politics, and 'tings erupted when Trump entered the convo, then you're jamming a binghi drum to an Afro Beat groove coming from the speakers in the livingroom/recording studio and next talking to a guy from Slovenia about the Polish reggae scene. Chinna was showcasing some of his recent recordings - ABSOLUTELY killer instrumental remakes of old R&B tunes with sweet nylon string guitar lead lines. Chinna's yard is the REAL THING, nuff said.
I'll be going back.
With Chinna Smith
The following day I traveled over to the Edna Manley College for the Visual and Performing Arts to coordinate for the Afro Cuban music master class I'm conducting on Friday and to discuss our performance that night with guitarist Maurice Gordon and other musicians...doing some of my Mix Up Mix Up rep and some of Maurice's stuff. Great to connect with Prof. Orville Hammond and Berklee Valencia recent grad Michael Sean Harris (Assistant Director at Edna Manley College) who's heading up a school in Gabon that Berklee's very involved with.
Following those meetings, Maroghini called me to join him and some other percussionists who were accompanying a modern dance class with a Cuban instructor. They loved having some montuno's a'gwan.
Accompanying a dance class at Edna Manley College
Next: interviewing Grub Cooper tomorrow then heading to the hills for a Nayabinghi grounDation, then going to Montego Bay to partake in a massive event honoring Jimmy Cliff - in fact I'm going to be in the binghi ensemble led by Bongo Herman to play Bongo Man a Come (at least) for the ceremony. THINGS ARE REVVING UP. Nuff said. Bless!