|There's lots and lots of hidden treasures in Jamaican music, singers who made the occasional single and appearance on the odd album, but never seemed to make it big despite showing a great amount of talent, having a prosperous future ahead and the critics behind them, such as the subject of this article, Kiddus I. His name may be familiar to some from the inclusion in the 'Rockers' movie soundtrack. Apart from 'Graduation In Zion', a track that largely contributed to the cult surrounding this singer, Kiddus I was also one of the leading 'characters' in that movie which saw release back in 1979 on Island Records; an equally mythical epic of a picture since, with several legendary names appearing mainly as themselves, like the singing car mechanic Gregory 'Jah Tooth' Isaacs; the late Theophilius Beckford also known as Snappin' and a highly regarded R&B/ska pianist from the foundational days of Jamaican popular music; mechanic and ace bass player Robbie Shakespeare; Trevor 'Leggo Beast' Douglas the man behind the Leggo Sounds label as producer and the Cash & Carry distribution outlet; John Dread later producer for the Hands & Heart imprint; welders the Mighty Diamonds; Jacob 'Jakes' Miller the late Inner Circle frontman; Big Youth; young brothers Ruffy & Tuffy; Up-Sweet the 'mythical' herbsman known for delivering the sweetest herb in town; Leroy Smart; deejays Dillinger, Prince Hammer and Dr. Alimantado; producers Joe Gibbs and the late Jack Ruby; painter and Tippatone Hi-Fi soundman Jah Wise (brother of Cornell Campbell); as well as the leading 'actors' in the late saxman Dirty Harry (Richard Hall); and drummer extraordinaire Leroy 'Horsemouth' Wallace, lead character in the film. A classic line-up to say the least and a movie you ought to own, one for each and every reggae household. Kiddus' recorded output was pretty scarce at the time, a few singles came out in limited edition only such as 'Time (Harder)', 'Crying Wolf' and the classic Black Ark-produced 'Security In the Streets', while other obscurities like 'Give I Strength' may have been lost forever. Kiddus' career is - in many ways - a story of lost opportunity and what could have been. Kiddus is making a lot of his past work available later this year through a Japanese label. Read on for more information on this long lost talent in Jamaican music. My thanks to Kiddus, Muta, Nicolas & Romain (Makasound), Greg Lawson, Brian Jahn, Russ Bell-Brown, Donovan Phillips, David Corio, and Steve Barrow.|
Q: Where are you born in Jamaica, Kiddus?
A: I was born in Port Maria, St. Mary.
Q: How did you grow up, you had a substantially large family, the Dowdings?
A: No, I have a brother and sister, father, mother.
Q: Where music played a big role?
A: Always, yes. That's songs my mother sings.
Q: What was played at home?
A: Whatever music was there, popular or sound of the time. My father listen to all type of music, opera to classical music. The opera, classics, blues, jazz, rock'n'roll. Coming up we started listening to funk, but mostly it was now ska, you have merengue, you have cha-cha, Cuban rhythms, the Afro rhythms. Yes, so a wide... I mean, music - we never put any barriers of music, if music was good we was playing it.
Q: You started off singin' as a choir-boy?
A: Yeah, I did that. In high-school, I did that in high-school for four years.
Q: What church was it?
A: It was a Quaker, friendly school... Quaker? It's an American army institution, I went to an American school in Jamaica. Funded by the Quakers, which they call them friends. Yeah, that was that.
Q: When did you take the music more seriously? You have mentioned being a part of various groups in the mid sixties.
A: Oh, well, there's in high school we had like a little band, we had a t'ing them time. We were involved in singin' for shows, before shows at school, for May Queens, for different festivals and stuff. That is before I left school.
Kiddus I (Photos: David Corio | www.davidcorio.com)
Q: What were you called at that time? This was harmony stuff, vocal groups?
A: Yeah, vocals, but we had instruments, we played little instrumental songs. Like how maybe it was a start in playing a little guitar, but we made music out of our own instruments, really. We improvised the music out of different type of... bamboo, pumpkin (chuckles) - sticks, drums, whatever. I mean, bamboo saxophone - bamboo, you know (chuckles). Them type a t'ing.
Q: You went to contests like the 'Opportunity Hour'?
A: No, I never did. Never did, right. I did festivals, festivals at school, natural competition in high school, in different schools and stuff. Yeah, we competed at that level. But I didn't go to Vere Johns, 'Opportunity Hour', or 'Opportunity Knocks', no. It was just school bands, these were guys that... we all went to school together, so we just made music at the time, yunno.
Q: No one continued with music from those bands apart from yourself?
A: I don't think they really went on to do any other t'ing in the music industry, no. I am the only one who continued in that vein.
Q: What part of Kingston did you live in?
A: At that time my father was on a property up until I was about thirteen, thereabouts. So I lived on an estate, which was like a farm, a huge farm. It was after high school when I went to Kingston, fully, and start being an apprentice to a major - was the largest, possibly - heavy equipment company in Jamaica, Caterpillar Service, sold caterpillar tractors and bulldozers and all kinds. Yeah, I went into that after school. And was involved in the music from that period now coming up with different... Some of the bands, Terry & The Hurricanes was one of the main ones at the time. A band called Terry & The Hurricanes, a band called Sheiks.
Q: At least the Sheiks seems familiar. Sheiks, is that with some of the Zap Pow members, who became Zap Pow later on?
A: No, not Zap Pow. These were - Terry & The Hurricanes were a band with about three Trinidadians who lived in Jamaica, and some other Jamaicans, and we all were close friends. So we just jammed and work together. Sheiks was a Jamaican band which then now went to Canada.
Q: What were the members of the Sheiks?
A: All of the big ones, Deadly Hedley, Ken Lazarus - was one of the main guitarists in Jamaica, Dobby Jones - one of the Jones from the electrical company's sons played drums. But Deadly Hedley, Lester Sterling, and even Roland Alphonso played in the Sheiks as one section there.
Q: How come you didn't give the music business a try in the sixties, this didn't come about until the early part of the seventies?
A: Well, music was going on, but at the time...
Q: Something put you off there, obviously.
A: Yeah, at the time I had other interests and I was still working with it, but my money wasn't making too tough in them time what was in the music industry, so... You know, it was until afterwards, more in the seventies coming up that the industry took off. Sixties was sort of misuse and abuse of a lot of the artists, y'know, so I wasn't interested in being misused by any promoter or anyone. So I just get myself to myself and continued until I was able to start producing myself.
Q: So what leads up to your first recording, which came about circa 1972, with 'Careful How You Jump'?
A: Well, I had been writing songs for a while and I figured then it was about the time to start, because I was more ready. Yeah. So we recorded that, although we had start to record a little bit before that too. But I started recording seriously in '72, didn't release anything immediately. But I did my first release in 1970, I think.
Q: What was the title?
A: 'Security (In the Streets)' I think was the first release, with 'Too Fat'.
Q: But that was later, up to '77 or thereabouts.
A: Yeah, that was coming down, right. But I had been recording before but just never release it.
Q: How come? You didn't have the finances to put it out or you weren't satisfied with the result at the time?
A: No, I wasn't totally satisfied one hundred percent at the time, so I kept them, kept the music.
Q: But 'Careful How You Jump' was the first one anyhow.
A: Yes, it was my first recordings, the first recording, but it was never released. It hasn't been released (chuckles). Yeah.
Q: Where did you record it?
A: We record at first at Joe Gibbs, we recorded first on a two-track tape at 56 Hope Road with Family Man from the Wailers, Carly Barrett from the Wailers, and Sangie Davis and Bunny Wailer. Yeah. And then eventually I re-recorded it in '72 at Harry J. No - at Joe Gibbs. I didn't release it, then I re-record it in '78 I think it was, at Tuff Gong.
Q: So there was a good time-gap between the first sessions at Joe Gibbs and the recordings you did in '76 with 'Security', and so on, there was nothing recorded in-between there?
A: Yes, I did a number of tracks with Lee Perry in '76, I did about seven or eight tracks. But only three of them were released, was 'Crying Wolf', 'Security', and 'Too Fat'. These were the only three releases I think offa that. But I was abroad and something happened and when I came back my tapes were mixed up, man. Yeah, I couldn't find some a them tracks still, not even today.
Q: What tracks are you speaking of - all the songs for Perry?
A: All the four-tracks that I did with Lee Perry I think, yeah, that weren't released.
Sons of Negus (1976)
with Ras Michael to the left, the late Geoffrey Chung with a big hat,
Kiddus I bare chested, and Robbie Shakespeare in an orange shirt.
(Photo: Pete Simon)
Q: Around this time you joined the Sons of Negus as percussionist, right? When was this?
A: Yeah. Well, from about '71, '72, '73, to about '77 or thereabouts.
Q: Did you play with other groups at the same time before you decided to...
A: To do my own? No, no. I mainly just played with Ras Michael and the Sons of Negus, we just really concentrated on Sons of Negus. We had many jams with different, different people. Because at 1c Oxford Road you see now the mass jams, we used to be there from - let's see, '71 until about '77 when they tore down the buildings and made it into a... you know? Yeah, they tore down everything that was there. But at that period of time it was like the center of music in Kingston with Zap Pow being stationed there, Ras Michael being stationed there, those people. Tommy Cowan had his...
Q: Talent Corporation?
A: Yeah, Talent Corporation which was based in there. So all the musicians would be... you know? Yeah, that was the seventies where there would be every day Gregory Isaacs coming in, Dennis Brown or John Holt or Bunny Rugs from Third World, Jacob Miller from Inner Circle, even Bob Marley, Peter Tosh or Bunny (Wailer).
Q: Now you're talking about this restaurant, the Ital kitchen or café or cultural center you created?
A: There was a café there we ran, we cooked Ital food and it was the center, we had music... There's a music room where we had instruments and worked there. We all had interchange and, y'know, sometimes worked together creatively and... yeah. But nothing I'd say I would be particularly involved with one of the man, but there's so many groups at the time that we all interchange and maybe at times a jam-session or vibes with ones, yunno.
Q: This center was called Café D'artique I think.
A: Café D'artique, that was the place. But it was at 1c Oxford Road, this is where in Kingston now there turned out to be a musical center, because they had it tore down.
Q: Jacob Miller used to have a rehearsal studio there.
A: Jacob Miller used to be, yes.
Q: And the Zap Pow band too?
A: Zap Pow, Inner Circle. Third World was also there most times. All of the musicians per se at the time would be gravitating in and around 1c Oxford Road, from early seventies up until maybe '78, thereabouts.
Q: I suppose this is where you were looked upon as some sort of 'community leader' at the time?
A: Oh, well, that is where I would say that we had an artist commune.
Q: That's where it originates from.
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