Wednesday, March 9th 2016
After all the excitement of the last days, today we take it easy. Apart from a quick shopping trip to the local mall, we stay at our host’s place most of the day, enjoying her beautiful garden. In preparation for her weekend-session, Tchiya offers a sound-healing treatment (called KemeTones) to anyone who wants, and I’m able to see up close how she works her magic. As mentioned in part two, she uses dozens of pitch-forks tuned in to the different frequencies of the planets, as she explains to me, a bit like acupuncture but with sound waves instead of needles. After her “patients” lay down, she determines which planetary type he or she is, chooses the according pitch-forks and begins by tapping them slightly to a wooden board so that they start vibrating. She then places them onto certain points of the body (mostly on the bones of shoulders, hips, ankles and hands), thus transmitting the vibration through the whole body. It’s simply amazing! Asked how they feel after the treatment, people say “charged”, “energized” or “in tune with the universe”, and one lady even got rid of her chronic back-pains. When it would have been my turn, I realize how exhausted Tchiya is and decline – from watching alone I feel completely relaxed and at ease! (click here for more information about Tchiya Amet, her music and KemeTones)
Thursday, March 10th 2016
We wake up to a brilliant sunny day, and I make some phone calls to arrange a few interviews. The first one is today, with none less than veteran Prince Alla, whom we pick up at the bustling Half Way Tree station. While we settle down at the Nanook to talk (read it here in German or here in English), more people arrive and greet in passing. Two among them are well-known faces: Pete and Ellen, editors of the German Riddim magazine, are in Kingston for the next three weeks to collect material for their up and coming issues. Joan is here as well, and by the time Prince Alla and I finish our interview, she is in deep conversation with a group of youngsters. They are introduced as Blvk H3ro, Dennis “Greatest” Hamilton, Gamel Reid aka The Grei Show, Vanessa Bongo and others, all of them singers, performers, producers or film-makers about to launch a documentary about “da herb”. Their enormous talent becomes obvious in a little jam-session they kick off there and then, and it’s a good thing I still have my camera close to record this niceness (click here to see the video).
Thus the day trickles by with interesting encounters and memorable experiences, one of which is me playing Ludi for the first time. I have admired the colourful boards during my last trip, but it looked so complicated (I saw but grown-ups playing it) that, awe-struck, I didn’t really bother getting involved. Today, though, there is no excuse when Ashtan decides it’s time I learn this Jamaican national sport. He starts to explain, but before I wrap my mind around the rules, Pete leans over to me and says “It’s played like Mensch-ärger-dich-nicht!”, which is a game we have in Germany. Thus I know what to do (only the barrel-rule is new to me, where you can stack two or more stones on top of each other and block the way for the other players), and I end up almost, just almost, winning.
As darkness has fallen already, we gather our stuff together, touch base shortly and then head toward Regal Plaza – Vinyl Thursday time! The session is in full swing already when we reach, Exile Di Brave, Kazam Davis, TJ aka Likkle Briggie and others taking turns chatting and singing over the rhythms thrown on the turntables by guest-DJ John Farrugia (Big Toes Hifi). But first things first: before we let the music carry us away, we nourish our body with the tasty food from Veggie Meals On Wheels and some Roots Wine. Every new arrival is greeted with a big hello and a shout-out from the MCs, making people feel at home and appreciated at once. I am especially thrilled to spot a group of friends from Germany, including Jonas Schaul who, along with Oliver Becker who’ll arrive next week, is here to present their movie Kingston Crossroads to its birth place. Together we chat and dance the night away, a night which is over much too fast again.
Friday, March 11th 2016
The day starts promising: I’m going to meet Bay-C, member of my teenage-heroes T.O.K., and I urge everyone involved to get ready so we won’t be late for the interview. But hey, we are in Jamaica and a little delay won’t do no harm, so instead of stressing out, I take a deep breath and adapt to the flow around me. That’s one of the huge pro’s in this country: hectic is almost absent from everyday runnings, and people live by the unshakable conviction that everything will happen in its time. And it works! I promise myself to take this back to Germany, as it reduces stress levels considerably, and indeed I managed to relax with a lot of things.
Of course, we reach the Nanook in time, and a few minutes later a car pulls over from which Bay-C emerges. It turns out he is no stranger to the place, as he is working in a studio right on its premises. We retreat to the upper storey loft and he tells me about his solo-projects (click here for the full interview).
I then have the whole afternoon to stroll through Kingston city, and I even manage the challenge to find my way back to our quarters on my own. There, I get some writing done and wait for Peter, who is supposed to pick me up for another highly interesting event: a reading session at the Bookophilia bookstore (92 Hope Road), where I am to meet author Gladstone Taylor once more. He reads from his book along with other authors and poets, such as Mbala, Omar Francis, Ann-Margaret Lim and others. Live music is presented as well, some that turned out more like a poetry slam, some truly acoustic masterpieces… all in all an exciting experience that enlightened me immensely on the vibrant creative intelligentsia in Kingston. We even run into Runkus, who has blown me away earlier that year with his millennial album Move In (read the review here), and it’s then that I think this evening can’t possibly get any better. Oh, how wrong I am!!!
From the book store, we proceed to Vineyard Town aka Kingston 10 ½ aka Jah Ova Evil Yard. It’s here that, every Friday, another form of talent-showcasing takes place: the Dub School! Astonishingly, Peter has never been there before, so we first have some trouble finding it, but taking a detour in this lively city is rather pleasant, so we don’t mind much (and find an epic Akae Beka poster on the way). An experienced taxi driver finally brings us to the right place. As when first entering the Nanook, I am completely overwhelmed by the serene beauty of the place, a peaceful, vibrant energy that seems to permeate every corner. There is the backyard proper, with artfully painted walls and an impressive DJ-set built up. Next to it, a door leads to a large room where – I suspect – the event takes place when it’s raining or whatever. A staircase brings us to a kind of terrace where a few benches invite to sit down and relax. There is a food stand selling vegan patties and, of course, a fire offering coals for steamers. We settle down, greet Adam and Renique who are already present, and anticipate what’s coming. First, more friends add to the family vibes. Toké, Steffen “Da Sandwichmaker” and Ras Muhamad enter the premises, and after we exchanged greetings, the live-part of the evening starts. Up first is Tuff Like Iron, who performs a few songs, some of which I recognize from her Ganja Fest performance. She is filmed by Kevin Salmon aka Supa Nova, who is Kabaka’s brother, as I am told, and both a prolific DJ and filmmaker. Next on the mic is Ras Attitude, passing through from St. Croix (by the way, you can get an impression of the epicness on a little live-recording I did by clicking here).
I am deeply impressed by the lady who comes up after him, by the name of Aza Lineage. Both her choice of tracks to sing to (classic!) and her delivery are really remarkable, and she’s definitely up to something good at the moment, so watch out fi dis! Ras Muhamad takes over, followed by an equally stunning I-Maali, both painter and diamond-in-the-rough MC & singer. Last on this impressive live-set is a youngster called Vybrant, who again blows me away. Skillz! A few of the artists mentioned here we will meet again in the next edition of this report, so bear with us. For now, the night ends after a few hours of subsequent dancing and reasoning with these creative minds, and a ride home with none less than Dexta Malawi, who does taxi driving when not doing music. Kingston, I love you!!!
Text & Photos: Gardy Stein-Kanjora