Global Reggae

25 02 2008

Got back yesterday from spending a week in Kingston, Jamaica at the aptly named “Global Reggae Conference” held at the University of the West Indies, Mona. There, I presented a paper about mento music’s role in the 1968 Festival Song Competition on a panel that included Ken Bilby (from the Center for Black Music Research) and L’Antoinette Stines (of L’ACADCO). It went great, and a great honor for me to share a panel with two really important thinkers. I also met with a publisher about getting my dissertation published and picked up a couple copies of the new issue of Caribbean Quarterly in which I have an article about the earliest days of Jamaica’s recording industry (“Calling All Speechmakers” about mento and the aesthetics of the early recording industry – pick it up if you can!).

The panels were really outstanding and brought together a BUNCH of people doing really interesting work on all facets of Jamaica’s music (folks like Herbie Miller, Lara Elizabeth Putnam, Louis Chude-Sokei, Marvin Sterling, Klive Walker, Amon Saba Saakana [aka Sebastian Clarke to reggae fans], Dennis Howard, Michael Veal, Carter Van Pelt and Clinton Hutton among many, many more). Roger Steffens did a few really interesting presentations about his work, as well. Complementing the academic work was a series of concerts. Lunchtime events included performances by the Alpha Boys Band, the Mystic Revelation of Rastafari, the Blue Glaze Mento Band (it’s leader and banjoist Nelson Chambers is shown below, left) and a kumina group led by the fantastic young drummer and singer, Bongo Shem (below, right):

Nelson Chambers from Blue GlazeBongo Shem Kumina
There were two nighttime concerts as well. The first included Lovindeer (below, left), Big Youth (below, right) and Sugar Minott:

LovindeerJah Youth

I’m sure I don’t have to say how great they were. Interestingly, the Lunar Eclipse happened as just as Lovindeer performed Bob Marley’s Concrete Jungle (No sun will shine in my day today / The high yellow moon won’t come out to play / Darkness has covered my light / And has changed my day into night), but no word on whether it was the inspiration behind him singing it.
The second concert, “A Tribute to Mikey Smith,” featured Cherry Natural, Oku Onuora, Mutabaruka and Mervyn Morris among many others. I didn’t get any pictures of that one (unfortunately, I missed most of it) but that which I did catch was awesome.
Although the papers and concerts were great, some of my favorite moments took place outside the panels, including this one here where (left to right), Clinton Hutton, Garth White, Colby Graham and I talked about some early photos Colby (who seems to know where to find ALL the pictures) had put his hands on:

Clinton Hutton, Colby Graham and Garth White
Later on, I sat with a bunch of really interesting folks from University arguing the finer points of Leonard Howell and the Rasta enclave Pinnacle. All in all, a really rewarding trip.
NEELY
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