In 1984 Tero Kaski and Pekka Vuorinen first published their book “Reggae Inna Dancehall Style”, a musical journey to Jamaica in 1983 which documented the rise of the dancehall music as told by the grass roots artists of the day. They met up with the then ruling Volcano sound system and talked to all the main players including the boss Henry “Junjo” Lawes, Little John, Barrington Levy, Toyan, Buro Banton, Josey Wales and many more. The original 98 page book was nigh on impossible to find in recent years so this revised and expanded edition should more than satisfy demand.
Quite simply this new edition, now 208 pages long, comes highly recommended. All the original interviews are here, together with never before published interviews of other recording artists of the day. Most photographs are now in colour with revamped graphics, even owners of the first edition should investigate.
We are very proud that Pekka included the reviews from our Volcano special from last year. You can still download all of the dances featured and listen to the sound in session while immersing yourself in this fantastic read HERE
“Volcano Revisited” stands as one of the finest documentations of the Jamaican dancehall scene.
The book, written in English, is available by mail-order from http://www.dubjazzsalsa.com/
The publisher and distributor Pekka Eronen can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is a short interview we did with Pekka last year
WCTD: First of all, Pekka, can you tell us about how and when were you introduced to Jamaican music?
PEKKA: It all started in late sixties with the blues: urban blues, pre-war blues, gospel, doo wop, r&b…. When Bob Marley & The Wailers hit the market in 1973 I was curious. And got hooked on Jamaican music and started ordering records from U.K. I visited London every now and then: saw Gregory Isaacs when he first toured in London, was the only white man in Fred Locks concert when seven miles of Black Star Liners appeared in the horizon.
Black Music magazine started selling in local stores from September 1974 – I still have the magazine - and Carl Gayle’s reports from Jamaica gave the first hand information what was really happening.
In 1975 the first reggae records were for sale in local stores – U Roy’s Dread In A Babylon was the first. Maybe Finland is a civilized country after all, I thought.
WCTD: When did you meet up with Tero Kaski?
PEKKA: One day in 1975-76 a Rank Xerox salesman – blue jacket, white shirt, clean face – appeared on my door. He was not selling copy machines though. He had started the first reggae radio program in Finland and had heard that I have reggae records.
He was Tero Kaski, and there started our friendship.
We ordered records together and also travelled to concerts abroad together. Tero played the latest reggae records on his radio show, and after a while started a mail order service to supply the records the listeners were asking for.
After a while Tero quitt his day job, threw away his Xerox jacket, and started a reggae shop and let his beard grow!
WCTD: Can you tell us about the Reggae scene in Finland and publishing of the Cool Runnings magazine?
PEKKA: The reggae record selling business was slow. The few customers were always asking the same old Jimmy Cliff and Toots & The Maytals records. For some reason the Finnish audience didn’t understand what was happening in Jamaica in the late seventies! What should be done? Well, at least we could try to educate the interested. So we started the magazine.
Cool Runnings was an appropriate name, were we not cool guys from a cold part of the globe! Soon we had a very talented staff of writers – like Studio One specialists Juha Vaahtera and Tapani Piirainen – and a loyal circuit of readers, usually around 300 subscribers!
I thought Tero – and maybe myself too – were born in a wrong country. Then the Finnish Broadcasting corporation said to Tero that he is too commercial! He must either stop his record selling ‘business’ or quit the weekly show in the radio. They – at the time – could not see the extraordinary opportunity they had when the Finnish audience every week heard the latest Jamaican stuff at home.
Many of today’s reggae aficionados started listening Tero’s programs.
WCTD: When you planned your trip to Jamaica in 1983 did you specifically go with the intention of compiling a book or just to discover the dancehall culture?
Did you have a guide during your time there; and where did you get to visit (places, studios, venues etc)?
PEKKA: Finnish radio bureaucrats didn’t bother us for long, we started to plan our first trip to Jamaica. The music was in a very interesting phase, the dancehall style had started with Barrington Levy and others, and we wanted to check what really was happening at the moment.
When we arrived there we had some kind of cultural shock. First of all the dancehalls were unbelievable: the sound systems, the atmosphere, the artist, the massive… We had listened to the music in a very different environment, and now we heard and saw the genuine stuff. It was amazing, a revelation! And at the same time it was quite depressing: so many talents and so few real opportunities.
But we were very lucky. We got acquainted with the leading sound system Volcano, and Burro Banton’s kid brother Lickle Burro was our guide in the ghettoes.
Producer Roy Cousins – very nice and civilized person – took us under his wings: to the artists, to the studios, to his cottage. We had interviewed many artists in London and elsewhere – Yabby You, Prince Lincoln, Sly & Robbie, Michael Rose and many others – so we were used to it.
Usually Tero interviewed and I took photos and suggested new topics to discuss. Sometimes Tero took the photos if I wasn’t around, and sometimes I made the interviews. Real combination style.
We interviewed and took photos of ‘everybody’. Soon we noticed the ‘new’ dancehall interviews could make a nice book of a new phenomenon, while the other stuff was more suited to the magazine. And so it was done after we came back.
WCTD: What are your enduring memories of that trip?
PEKKA: I had always wondered about the driving forces behind Jamaican music. There I understood the central role of the dancehalls. Every night you can test and develop your music and musical ideas before a very experienced and critical audience who ruthlessly would tell you what they like and what they don’t like, it’s really ingenious!
When you first visit Channel One where the riddims are laid, then travel to Harry J to voice it, then to King Tubby’s where the dubs and dubplates are made, and then hear it in a dancehall where deejays and singers use it as a platform for their songs and chants – and then the audience decides if it’s any good – then it maybe gets pressed and to the shops worldwide.
WCTD: It was an exciting time for dancehall music at this time. I presume you got to go to some dances in Kingston. Which sounds did you get to see?
PEKKA: We were at Spanish Town Prison Oval when Barrington Levy was improvising his “Prison Oval Rock”. ‘Here I am singing, the crowd is dancing, and the prisoners are listening… and now the prisoners are trying to escape, and the wardens are trying to stop them…’ And the prisoners were really listening, banging the bars and shouting loudly.
Once in a Killamanjaro night at 82 Chisholm Avenue I tried to take photographs. Usually it was very dark when a sound was playing, but Killamanjaro – a bad man sound – played in complete darkness, the small light was always turned off when the record started to play. After a few flashlight shot I was surrounded by very big and mean looking blokes who asked what I thought I was doing, was I a policeman or something? Well I was just a pale tourist trying to take snapshots as souvenirs.
You better stop it. Yes, it was better. So no snapshots from Killamanjaro, but some were taken at Gemini Club where Metromedia was playing and Robert Ffrench singing.
WCTD: It must have been great mixing with all these grass roots artist. Can you recall any memorable encounters?
PEKKA: I was very lucky to meet King Tubby at his studio, and hear his ambitious plans, such a nice and gentle person as he was. Jackie Mittoo was very enthusiastic too, he had hit with Musical Youth and was starting anew with the Skatalites – and chatted with us of many things past and planned.
The murder of Prince Far I was very tragic, especially for Reggae George whom we met the next morning, he was very upset because Prince Far I was both his friend and employer.
All people we met were most friendly and co-operative. Pure niceness! Now – after over quarter of a century – the difference between ‘old stuff’ and ‘new dancehall thing’ seems not to be so big as we thought. Like Brent Dowe put it, Jamaican music has always been dancehall music.
It was also amazing to watch when Sassa drew a dancehall poster. No sketches, no mistakes. Starting from the left upper corner and ending at the bottom right corner with ‘security nuff’ it was always a perfect artwork. Amazing talent!
What struck me maybe the most was the imbalance between the vast amount of talents and the very limited opportunities to make a career or living in music business. Many artists were almost starving, trying to sell their 45’s to everybody in sight. It was really depressing.
WCTD: A lot has happened since your book, the classic “Reggae Inna Dancehall Style” appeared in 1984. Can you fill in what has gone on for you in the ensuing years?
PEKKA: After the trip we published the book on Volcano, and the other interviews in Finnish in Cool – And Deadly - Runnings magazine, as it now was called after a then popular dancing style. The deadly also referred to our feelings, it wasn’t just fun, it was also a real struggle for the artists back there. So the magazine faded after the interviews were published. Tero had a new radio program ‘Roots and Culture’ on the local radio station and later back to nationwide when the atmosphere in Finnish Broadcasting Company had become more modern.
Tero’s Black Star company was still alive selling records, but eventually the shop was closed down, but the post order business was alive and well. Tero visited Jamaica a couple of times, but I was busy elsewhere. Cool Runnings International was started anew in 1996 with old and new writers.
It was published a couple of years after Tero’s untimely death of heart attack in 2001, only 50 years old
WCTD: With the original book being long out of print, its great to see this updated and expanded edition coming out in 2011. Can you to tell us what is new about the book?
PEKKA: We published the old Cool Runnings magazines as a nearly 500 page book in 2008. Our graphic designer Petri Aarnio suggested that we should also give a facelift to the old Dancehall book. Good idea, but why not enlarge the book with the other interviews, which complete the picture of the situation in Jamaican music scene at the time. So I scanned all the nearly thousand photos – not all masterpieces though – and scanned the articles of the old book, translated the Finnish articles into English with the addition of some not yet published interviews.
Volcano Revisited is of the same size but twice the pages of Reggae Inna Dancehall Style, has totally different outlook and illustration, and as a special appendix a nice list of Volcano sound system tapes courtesy of Who Cork The Dance!
Sound system tapes are the best way to understand what was happening in the dancehalls at the time.
To celebrate the reissue of this great book we have put together a massive 4 hour selection of Music that was played by Volcano, artists that appeared on the sound & in the book plus some choice slices of the sound playing live....
This selection is dedicated to Tero Kaski R.I.P
WCTD VOLCANO REVISITED SELECTION PART 1
01 Mash it already – Al Campbell (dubplate cut, live in session)
02 Be like a soldier – Barrington Levy
03 Mash it already – Al Campbell & Little John
04 Jah made them that way – Cocoa Tea
05 Fraid of you – Charlie Chaplin
06 Top form – Yellowman
07 Creamy corner – Toyan
08 Prison Oval rock – Barrington Levy
09 Bobo dread – Josey Wales
10 Society party – Yellowman
11 Pass the ball – Tony Tuff
12 Nobody like you – Tony Tuff
13 Calypso – Toyan
14 Woola woop – Josey Wales
15 What are you feeling – Tony Tuff
16 Come home – Josey Wales
17 Want to go home – Winston Hussey
18 Come fi mash it – Tony Tuff
19 Slim thing – Little John
20 Who can make the dance Ram – Yellowman
21 Dancehall Style – Little John
22 Stumbling block – Burro
23 Jamaica 21 – Shadowman
24 Dances are changing – Barrington Levy (live & direct)
25 Woman no use me – Shadowman (live & direct)
26 Children, children – Billy Boyo
27 100 weight of collie weed – Carlton Livingston
28 Pain a back – Scion ‘Sashay’ Success
29 Can’t leave Jah - Scion ‘Sashay’ Success
30 Have fi get you – Josey Wales
31 Strictly Bubbling – Yellowman
32 We hot – Charlie Chaplin
33 It a go done – Sammy Levi
34 Burro go America/ Volcano take over – Burro (live & direct)
35 Leggo me queen – Burro (live & direct)
36 Spin your roll/ Form a line – Little John (live & direct)
37 Sonia – Cocoa Tea
38 Gateman – Josey Wales
39 Stylee – Toyan
40 Zungguzungguguzungguzeng – Yellowman
Plays as a continuous mix with FX etc.... 320kbs
Single file download HERE
I have also split it into 3 smaller parts for those that do not have megaupload accounts... You need all 3 parts to unpack the rar file...
WCTD VOLCANO MIX PART 2
01 Chalice Nuh Fi Ramp With – Cocoa Tea
02 Bubbling Chalice – Charlie Chaplin
03 It a fi bun – Josey Wales
04 All who gone – Little John
05 Ganga pipe – Lee Van Cleef
06 Evenning time – Cocoa Tea
07 Belly move – Barry Brown
08 International Robbery – Charlie Chaplin
09 Wreck a pum pum – Yellowman
10 Different fashion – Lee Van Cleef
11 Thank you Mamma – Barry Brown
12 Some a holla – Linval Thompson
13 Weh dem a go do – Josey Wales
14 Why the world stay so – Charlie Chaplin
15 It no right – Yellowman
16 The world is like a mirror – Josey Wales
17 Jamaica me country – Lui Lepke
18 Billy Boyo in the area – Billy Boyo
19 Little Harry on the go – Little Harry
20 Sweetie come brush me – John Holt
21 Bank clerk – Lui Lepke
22 Love I can feel – John Holt
23 Love I want – Josey Wales
24 Rub and go down – Yellowman
25 Form a line – Little John
26 I am the Don – Leroy Smart
27 Music diseases – Josey Wales
28 Pass the tu sheng peng - Frankie Paul
29 Face to face – Charlie Chaplin
30 War is in the dance – Frankie Paul
31 Getting Married/ Divorced – Yellowman
32 Them a talk ‘bout – Frankie Paul
33 Informer – Cocoa Tea
34 Positive Conversation – Lui Lepke
35 Water gone – Lee Van Cleef
36 Modulla – Burro
37 Asking for love – Josey Wales
38 Crying for love – Yellowman
39 Pon me bike back – Toyan
40 Black roses – Barrington Levy
41 On the telephone – Barrington Levy (Live gun salute style)
42 Java – Prince Psalms (live & direct)
43 Look a gal fe mind me – Billy Boyo (live & direct)
44 Under me sensi – Barrington Levy
Plays as a continuous mix with FX etc.... 320kbs
Single file download HERE
I have also split it into 3 smaller parts for those that do not have megaupload accounts... You need all 3 parts to unpack the rar file...
The Legend Of Sugar Minott & Youth Promotion
By Beth Kingston
Price£8.50 including P&P
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This new book provides not only a biography of the legendary vocalist who helped so many of reggae's top artists, but gives the history of The Youth Promotion sound system. Featured are many never before published photos of Sugar, his family and the crew. It's the story of one of reggae's greatest singers, and how he built an non independent organization to support the youth struggling in the ghetto, and thus launched some of dancehall's most influential talents.
WCTD Meets BETH LESSER
Many thanks to Ray Hurford
Ray: When did you first become interested in Reggae?
Beth: Oooh, some time in the 70s. I think the first people who introduced me to reggae were a band called Limbo Springs in Toronto and they were a bunch of pretty hard core socialists, and they actually used to play a lot of reggae, along with their rock stuff. But what was interesting was, and this is where the Reggae part came in, Ernie Smith had just come to Toronto with, Babsy Grange. She was managing him at the time I guess, because of the socialist government that was in power. They came to Toronto and when they first came up they didn’t know people, they had no one to play with and I guess they heard this band was playing some reggae and they used to show up and Ernie used to jam with them sometimes, so that was where I first saw and heard a real reggae performer live.
Ray: And what year was that Beth?
Beth: Good question...it was probably 1977ish, that’s my best guess and from there when Ernie Smith had his own band and stuff, I would go and see them and that was kind of my introduction to it.
Ray: Can you give us an insight into the reggae scene in Toronto in the early 1980s.
Beth: It was very big in the early 80s, a lot bigger than it is now. You know it’s such a short flight between Kingston and Toronto, it’s not even 4 hours and there were cheap flights then, people were back and forth all the time. I can’t tell you how many people we even talked to (like) Bunny Lee for example, “Oh, I’ve got a wife up in Canada with a couple of kids”, Merlene Webber of the Webber sisters was his wife in Canada and he had a couple of kids up there. People were just back and forth all the time so it was quite a big scene.
Ray: On the dancehall side of things it was like New York in that sense, you had the Sunshine label, Jerry Brown didn’t you? You also had Oswald Creary with the Half Moon label, but I didn’t know it as Half Moon then.
Beth: Half moon, I can’t remember either, but I remember Jerry Brown quite well
Ray: Then you had King Culture didn’t you?
Beth: Yes, there were quite a few producers doing music as it got on later, there was Bunny Gemini and then there was that guy Preacher who did some Earl 16 productions. There were tons of people
Ray: Who put out the releases from George Phang
Beth: Darcell and some people, there was a store called Jam Can, Jam Can Label that was Darcell (Darcell Grant), I don’t remember what their connection was to Phang, but they were the connection and that’s why Phang started putting out his stuff up here, like right away, some of his early stuff.
Ray: There’s some Echo Minott stuff that came out quite early on
Beth: Yeah, and Thriller and other people who I can’t remember now, but yeah some of that early stuff they put out here right away and that’s why he was up here before he travelled to other places because there was such a back and forth.
Ray: You also had people like Willie (Williams), Johnny Osbourne and Jackie Mittoo?
Beth: A huge number of people. I mean Stranger Cole and Ronny Bop had been here for so long. There was an unbelievable amount of people here. I mean even for the really old days like old Pluggy Satchmo and all those people, there was a huge scene here, Owen Gray, there’s quite a history here.
Ray: In 1982, you launched the highly acclaimed Reggae Quarterly magazine, how did this come about? Well (before that) you’ve got to first talk about Live Good Today, haven’t you.
Beth: Yeah, yeah, you already know that, yes,
Ray: That was a Pablo thing
Beth: We were in touch with (Augustus) Pablo. We got to know him because we knew a gentleman by the name of Daniel Calderon. It was Cheer magazine, a tip sheet like a DJ pool. He was a bit like a go between, he would push the records a bit. He would get the local records when they came out, and he would give a copy to each person in his DJ pool and they would come pick them up every week. He was the one who actually got us in touch with Micko McKenzie, who was one of Pablo’s best friends and worked with him.
Micko’s wife was in Toronto and he would go back and forth, so when he was in Toronto we met him, that was how we got connected so when we went to Jamaica we could meet Pablo and start doing Live Good Today. The title of course we got from the song by Prince Jazzbo, I think it’s on the Ital Corner album, “Live Good Today”
Ray: It’s a good title
Beth: Jazzbo was always a big influence for us
Ray: But that Live Good Today was exclusively Pablo, didn’t you tell me once that Pablo encouraged you to expand it out
Beth: Yes exactly. When we went down there and we met him he said, don’t just do me and my artists do a magazine with everyone and put us in. On the one hand that was a humble thing to say but on the other hand very practical because it would probably reach more people if it had a wider circulation...so we did that, then the first issue of Reggae Quarterly had a lot of Pablo’s people in it, but with other people too.
Ray: A classic edition and remains so to this day
Beth: But what was interesting was that we had gone down to Jamaica looking for Pablo, and when we got there we found out that what was happening was Dancehall. It was just so obvious, we just didn’t hear about it in Toronto, but the minute you got out of the airplane and you were in Kingston, it was all dancehall, it was just dance cassettes, Jack Ruby and Bobby Culture, Jah Love and Briggy, that’s all people talked about, I mean Pablo was respected and popular, but not dancehall
Ray: It’s one of those sort of shifts that you get
Beth: You just didn’t know in Toronto as a white person. There was a huge dancehall scene in Toronto, but it’s not like Britain, there was no crossover whatsoever
Ray: Can you tell us about the Reggae Quarterly, Reggae showcase radio show?
Beth: Well Reggae Showcase started in 1981/82 and went for 10 years and that was Dave (Kingston). It was shifted around in a timeslot, but the longest period of time was between 9-12 on Fridays, so whenever a promoter had a show coming up, they would always have the artist come down to the show to prove they were in town because there were so many rip offs. The artists would come to the show between 9 and 12 and go to their dance afterwards and the crowd would come because they knew they were in town.
I was looking through some of the old tapes of the Reggae showcase shows and they’re all fun because he would have people doing things live
Ray: That’s where I heard Screecha Nice before I even heard him on a sound system
Beth: A really good one was the Youth Promotion one where Dave didn’t even talk. Basically he just let them go straight through for 90 minutes DJing with Sugar and all those guys
Ray: The Jack Ruby one is a good one as well if I remember rightly, when he had Jack on the show
Beth: Yeah, there were some classics
Ray: When did you first visit Jamaica?
Beth: 1981? Yeah, must have been 1981 cos then the magazine was out in 1982
Ray: Can you relate some of your experiences there?
Beth: Hanging around Youth Promotion was always fun, cos they were just like a bunch of kids and they just wanted to play. Yami Bolo was a little kid then and he’d be climbing trees and there’d be all of Sugar’s kids around, and there‘d be these guys like Blacka T and Daddy Ants and everyone and they weren’t much older than kids themselves, well maybe Daddy Ants was a bit older, but Blacka T was probably still a teenager and they had nothing to do but hang around and have fun and talk and joke.
Such bizarre things would happen, the police coming looking for ganja and taking people away and, you just remember these things, I think Blacka T was walking with this guy once, and he looked really sad and we said to Blacka T “Where are you going” and he said “This is my friend and he’s just killed his sister and I’m taking him down to the police station to confess.”
You know, things would just happen out of nowhere, I can tell you that one time we were going up to King Jammy’s in a cab and the taxi driver, when we were just turning off of Bay Farm Road or something, got into an argument with another cab driver, or somebody in another car, you know just one of those driving arguments, and then our cab driver just reached down next to him and pulled out a gun and pointed it at the other guy and eventually, luckily, they settled the argument but he just put the gun back under this cloth under the seat and turned to us and said “Oh don’t worry, I’m an off duty police officer! It’s legal. Don’t worry.”
Ray: That’s one way to do a bit of moonlighting...
Beth: Yeah, OK, I won’t worry at all, I’m driving round with a crazy guy with a gun, I’m not going to worry.
Ray: What was the most memorable occasion...what sticks in your mind
Beth: I guess getting married
Ray: Can you tell us about the special day, Junior (Byles) was there, that must have made it pretty special, with his big branch, I remember you said to him, you can’t chop people’s gardens up or something like that
Beth: (note from Beth: We ran into Junior Byles when we went looking for Sugar’s mother’s pastor, “Bishop” Reid to marry us. He was taking flowers and plants out of someone’s yard- someone neither he nor us knew) Yeah, I said you can’t just go and tear up people’s gardens, and he said “I’m not tearing up people’s gardens, I’m chopping them up!”
Ray: Of all the dancehall sessions you attended, which one stood out for you?
Beth: Other than our wedding...? Each one was memorable in its own way and there were some amazing ones, you know it was really interesting on the one hand to be in something like.
There was a dance with Sturmars that Skeng put on. Very intense, very cool, a real different atmosphere, and then there would be where Barry G playing with Wah Dat, you know, uptown and there were a million hordes of people swarming the street and him up on this thing in the middle of the swarm of people, so there would be so many different kinds of dances and atmospheres and then there’d be the normal cosy kind of Youth Promotion dance at Sugar’s house, and it was just friendly and relaxed.
Ray: Tubby wasn’t operating when you was down there was he?
Beth: No, but we had the extreme good fortune to see Augustus Pablo working in Tubby’s studio with Tubby mixing when we first went down to Jamaica. Pablo just stuffed us all in a cab and said we’re going up to Tubby’s
Ray: Did you ever see Rockers Hi Fi play when you were in Jamaica
Beth: No, we saw Gemini, Youth Promotion, Wah Dat, Sturmars, Sturgav etc.. I can’t remember who else
Ray: Tippatone, did you ever see them
Ray: Your first book was a great insight into the everyday running of the King Jammy sound system, how did the book come about. I could answer that one...
Beth: You do that one...you know more about that than I do, it just happened
Ray: You wanted to make a contribution to the next Small Axe book, and you said, I’ve got something I can send on to you, the next thing I’m looking at a stack of photos about one inch high, god knows how many, and your original manuscript that was about half inch thick, and I thought how could I include that? the only way would be to cut it down and I wouldn’t dare cut it down!
Then I called Colin Moore and said this has got to be a book, he agreed...and I started typing it all in.
Tero (Kaski) just loved the idea of it cos it matched perfectly with the Junjo/Volcano book. You couldn’t get two more insightful books, I could never thank you enough for sending that on. I know Tero and anyone who ever saw it was impressed.
Ray: Can you tell us about some of the artists/characters who were around at the time, do you remember when you were telling me about Lloyd Hemmings, he was a bit like a teacher there wasn’t he?
Beth: Yeah, he was quite amazing cos sometimes he was more lucid than other times but he was just amazingly creative and he was an artist and educated in music and to see him with some of the younger ones at Youth Promotion and he would just be using the wall and writing out with chalk like music notes and scales and trying to teach people, absolutely phenomenal
Ray: I remember you said that cos you said he was like the next Junior Byles in a way, in the sense that kids would follow him around
Beth: Yes, when he didn’t look like he was in the best shape, but he had such paranoia about him
Another character was Tiger, he would run around with his video camera videotaping everybody and everything cos he was so fascinated with gadgets and electronic stuff
Ray: I remember that picture you’ve got, if it wasn’t cameras, it was keyboards and all sorts of weird looking things
Beth: Oh yes, whenever he went on tour he would pick up all these weird electronic gadgets and in his house he had all videos of cartoons and comics and from his style you can just picture him watching cartoons, he was almost a cartoon character himself, it said so much about him that you would go to his house and see these racks and racks of cartoon videos.
Ray: Do you think he picked up on Screecha Nice’s style or was it something of his own?
Beth: It’s possible, cos that style was just there cos Screecha spent so much time at Jammy’s
Ray: I’d never heard it till Screecha popped up
Beth: Yes that style was unique. Although there was this song by this man called Wild Man Jackson (could be Carey “Wildman” Johnson - WCTD) (Beth’s note : the song is Keep On Knocking) like a 70s DJ who I know nothing about, who really has a tone of voice a lot like Screecha
Ray: How did the people around Kingston take to someone coming in and photographing them and documenting their everyday life, did you ever feel intimidated?
Beth: Not really, most of the time, when you go around places like Youth Promotion or Jammy’s, artists are hanging around waiting for their turn to voice, they’ve got nothing to do and somebody comes round with a camera, what could possibly be more fun than posing for pictures? There’s nothing else to do when you’re bored, sitting around in the hot sun waiting.
It was like, take a picture of me with this car, or this person, it was fun and I always brought the pictures back. As soon as I took the negatives back to Toronto I had the photo place make doubles of everything, then I would separate them into little packages and when I went back to Jamaica I’d hand them out to people. If they knew me they knew they’d get a copy
It was fun, cos you got to see their reaction when they saw the photos and they would just be laughing, it was so much fun to watch their reactions.
Ray: That makes sense, Pablo said that Dave and Beth are loved in Jamaica, and I said that makes sense...
Do you still remain in contact with any of the sound systems to this day?
Beth: Some, yes, a few...it’s just too complicated to be in touch with everybody, but I’ve been in touch with Stitch lately cos as you know he needed some money for some medical tests.
I was talking to WCTD about raising some money for the tests. We got a great response from people and a lot of them donated money. He has one more test according to him, he’s facing possible colon cancer, that’s why he needs one more colonoscopy, they’ll then know whether they need to operate or not.
It got mixed up, I thought it was a heart problem at first because he needed iron tablets because he was short of breath and having problems and that confused me with the blood question, it turned out he’s deficient with iron because he’s bleeding internally and that’s why they’re looking for colon cancer, so I’ve been in touch with him.
I’m also still in touch with Jazzbo, cos he’s a friend of ours, we’ve been in touch with U-Brown
Beth: No, not much, but it’s interesting though I’ve spoken to him now and then. When I’ve spoken to him, he has always been very sweet and responsive and very open, and I think we have a good relationship with him but it’s just not close like it is with Jazzbo.
Ray: A final question, your most recent book...Dancehall, the Rise of Jamaican Dancehall Culture comes highly recommended.
Beth: I find when I go on the internet there are inaccuracies and I think if they are left to develop over time, people get a really false idea of what went on, like Trevor Castell was always called Trevor Junior and he’s not Trevor Junior. Confusions like that
Ray: Is that Lacksley’s brother
Beth: Yes, hence his idea I was referring him to you for, he wants you to write a book about him and his brother, he’s a nice guy...I also noticed with the internet there’s a skewing of history because you get more focus on people who have internet capacity or internet friendly. So you find that the people who are going to be remembered are the people who have Myspace or something where somebody else was more important, but they’re sitting in Jamaica and don’t have any royalties and don’t have a computer...
Ray: Or they’re dead
Beth: Or they’re dead, yes, or like I was talking to Barnabas the other day, now Barnabas did everything, he had a huge impact on the music, he was a deejay, engineer, a drummer, and god knows what else, He did producing in all these groups and he’s not on the internet, nobody is going to remember anything about him
Ray: I don’t think we ever tracked down his album, Ranking Barnabas, and that’s a perfect example of what you’re talking about
Beth: Meanwhile, some guy you know that was nobody and had no impact on anything, has his big beautiful webspace and Myspace and everything, and people think he must be a rich and famous artist, so I was really trying to get more balance in things by writing the book, hopefully.
The book wasn’t about facts as much as it was about balance, like who really was important at the time, for example artists like Bobby Culture. In 1982 Bobby Culture was huge, almost bigger than Briggy. Nowadays you’d never know.
The book is about Trying to show people how it really was at the time.
Audio conversation with Beth Lesser conducted by Ray Hurford for WCTD in 2009. Our thanks to Ray and Beth for their support.
Here is a further short interview we conducted with Beth recently
WCTD: A lot has happened since your book “Dancehall, The Rise of Jamaican Dancehall Culture” was released in 2008. It stands as a fantastic overview of Jamaica’s dancehall scene in the eighties. Were you pleased with the reaction to the edition?
Beth: Very pleased, and I was impressed with the range of publicity and cover age Soul Jazz was able to get. They had people calling for interviews from Australia, all over- a radio show in Ireland...
WCTD: Last year was a sad year for reggae with the deaths of Gregory Isaacs and Sugar Minott, amongst others. I know Sugar was very close to your heart. It must have come as such a shock.
Beth: It was a huge shock. He was so young and lived so much to help others. I feel so sad, not just for his family but for all the artists in his extended musical family who cared so much about him. He was so greatly loved by so many people. Everyone loved Sugar.
WCTD: On a more positive note, can you give us an update on the health of Major Stitch
Beth: He seems to be hanging in there. The problems he was having were made worse by his diabetes which, of course, isn't going to get better, so he still struggles to get the money to pay for his medications. Everyone down there is struggling, same as always.
WCTD: Do you have any news about the Youth Promotion set up as it stands now?
Beth: It's kind of in limbo with the shock of Sugar's passing away. It's going to take some time to reorganize and I just don't know who will emerge as the leader. I don't know who down there right now can fill Sugar's shoes. And they can't get things running again without someone in charge.
WCTD: You’ve been inspired to do a book focussing on Sugar Minott and his Youth Promotion collective. Can you tell us a little of what we can expect?
Beth: The book is both a biography of Sugar- personal and his career, and a look at Youth Promotion, the organization and the artists, so it gives a little background on some of the lesser known artists who were close to Sugar. It also explains what happened to them and where they are now.
In honour of Beth & Dave and as a tribute to Sugar we now present to you part of the wedding dance featuring Sugar Minott & the Youth Promotion sound system.....
Youth Promotion @ HQ, 1 Robert Crescent, Kingston 5, 24th February 1986
Featuring: Sugar Minott, Mikey General, Little Rohan, Daddy Shark, Daddy Ants, Sadoo, Lyrical, Billy The Kid, Thriller, Dona P, Yellow Bird, Yami Bolo
Selector – Major Stitch
Mixer – Talouse
“Where better to have your wedding than at the headquarters of one of Jamaica’s leading sounds. With the help of their friends at Youth Promotion that’s exactly what Dave and Beth decided to do, and here is one part of their wedding dance which Jah Stitch recorded and presented to them as a reminder of their special day. Fittingly it starts with Stitch dropping the needle on Michael Prophet’s “Here Comes The Bride” and a succession of YP artists, including Sugar Minott himself singing and deejaying his own take on the wedding song, step up to wish them well. Twenty five years on and their treasured memories live on here.”
By Ray Hurford & Joakim Kalcidis
The follow up to the critically acclaimed first part of the Small Axe Reggae Album Guide has finally been released after 13 years in production! As the first part focused on reviewing albums by myriads of vocalists the second part of the series focuses on albums by the deejays, MC’s, chatters and rappers.
The book was printed in a limited run of 100 copies of which only 60 are available for sale.
The book includes:
149 pages with 433 reviews of albums by 207 deejays plus loads of Photo’s and record scans!
Cost is £7 including P&P for the UK & Europe(£9 for the rest of the world).
How to order:
To order the book you send the money to email@example.com
Through PayPal. Please write the full address and postcode where you would like it sent.
If you don’t have PayPal please mail Ray at the same email address and he will work something out.
The initial press sold out very quickly but the second press is has been done now so mail Ray with your order early so as not to miss out!!
We have done a nice long mix to accompany the book which you can find Here