Winston "Rightious Flames" Jarrett has been a cornerstone of Jamaican music for over fifty years. From Rocksteady to Roots Reggae; his output has been extraordinarily dynamic and original. Winston has been showcased before at ReggaeVibes. Recently, Robert "Higherman" Heilman caught up with the living legend by phone from Winston's home in Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.

Q: So, Winston. It's been about two years since your album "Bushwhackers And Gangbangers" was released. You have a brand new release. Can you tell us about it?

A: Yeah man. It's called "Family Affair". These tracks are from Jamaica. Treasure Isle (Duke Reid) and Studio One riddims. The title track is from Sly & Robbie.
Q: Did you go back a yard to voice over these vintage riddims?

A: No, I voiced them at Front Burner Studio here in Seattle, engineered by the man Blake Daley.

Q: Is this your 22 or 23rd album so far?

A: Yes, this is my 23rd album!

Q: What label is "Family Affair" released on? Your own?

A: CD release on Big More Productions; my own production.


Q: Alongside your new album, I hear you have a new documentary. Can you tell us about this inside look about you?

A: "True Born African". It's a song I did way back; song is "True Born African". We as black people are Africans. That is a good symbol for the documentary. One part of it is in Seattle, one part in Jamaica. We go to a place called Shootah's Hill. Part of it is in the studio in Jamaica. Mixing Lab with DJ Trinity.

Q: Wow, that's crucial! In your career, do you have a favorite studio?

A: Well, Small World, Studio One, Treasure Isle, Black Ark and Mixing Lab.

Q: From what I overstand, you've been living in Seattle for quite a while?

A: Well, I came to America off and on from 2001-04. I go back to Jamaica, back and forth.

Q: So, it was Andrew Cydell who helped to bring you here (to America)?

A: Him a the first one to help me here. He was working with The Itals and we had a two week mini tour. Him was the one who really helped me out. He lives in Africa now with his wife, who is a school teacher.


Winston Jarrett signing "True Born African" poster

Q: How about the Reggae scene in the Pacific Northwest. Is it rising?

A: Not really big. People know about the music. West Coast is much bigger! There's a good nightclub here called Nectar.

Q: Do you link up with Clinton Fearon? (Formerly of The Gladiators and now living in the area as leader of Boogie Brown Band).

A: Yeah man! We have been bredrin since Clinton and I performed in Europe in 2005. Me and him and The Mighty Diamonds. Really nice.

Q: You've been a cornerstone for over fifty years now. Who do you see carrying on Jah flame?

A: Luciano is a good artist; promising out deh. And the little youth, um, Tarrus Riley. Lots of changes in the Reggae industry. Our music still stands in Europe. People still love it! Internationally, it stand predominant. Take more than man to move, nothing in the world. Only the best is good enough. These young people grow up with it. They are Jamaica, the Roots are from Jamaica. Can't sweep it under the rug. Some people try to play copy cat. The works we old artists laid down; Studio One, Dynamic Sounds, Lee Perry. Whole heap of small producers doing good songs. Augustus Pablo, Rupie Edwards, Randy's. Now, they are doing computerized sound. Just one musician lay down drum and bass and ting. Just a gimmick ting. Cannot fool people who play authentic music. Bandwagonists, exploitationists and infringement! Christopher Columbus come inna the business and pirate music and rape it. The work of the Devil and Anti-Christ. Good music is the Staff Of Life. Heartbeat of the Drum. The first drum song with the Kette. Authentic music is the best. What I haffe say to the youth to fly the Jamaican flag. Go forward; lay down real track. Write good songs with good lyrics. Good arrangement and quality -- good fe the artist and everybody. Go back to MPRS-copyright and royalities.


Winston Jarrett

Q: In 2012, you're as busy as ever.

A: I eat good food. Jah inna my brain, my elbow, my heart, my ankle, all around.

Q: Sounds like you've got a case of "Reggaemylitis" (name of Peter Tosh song).

A: (Laughter) Yes, yes I do!

Q: Winston. "Selassie Is The Chapel" (off "Too Many Boundaries" album) is a beautiful song. Can you tell us a little about it?

A: Me a record that at Dynamic Sounds. My version stands out and I did it inna chant. Mortimer Planno used to produce Bob (Marley). Him produce "Selassie Is The Chapel"; the one that Bob sing-a Christian song. They press 100 copies. I was there (late 1960's); Morimer claim seh that he wrote it, he just change up the words.

Q: To get back to your new album. You seem very relaxed about it?

A: Well, I looked forward 10-15 years ahead -- higher ites to reach the music. Produce my own music. Reaching inna higher ites and show the world up; I man can still do it. Continue to do what people love, especially in Europe. Just came from there, celebrate Ethiopian Christmas (Feb 7). In Paris, I played at The New Morning; used the Moon Band; good backing band. I know what people love. Old authentic music; 60's, 70's and 80's. No dibbi, dibbi sound, not working.


Winston Jarrett on stage

Q: Seems like Reggae festivals in Europe really love to book the older artists?

A: In Amsterdam, Germany, Austria, Sweden and France. Old artists them want.

Q: In Jamaica, Tony Rebel has been keeping his "Rebel Salute" festival for years. (Annual featival that promotes cultural artists; not slackness).

A: Yes, Bunny Wailer has the same thing. I spend six weeks a year in JA. Reasoning with my bredrin and sistren. Some great people deh. Judy Mowatt, Ken Boothe, Bunny Wailer, Ken Bob and Sly & Robbie. Check Chinna Smith and Toots.

Q: Winston, give thanx and praise for your time today. It was fantastic!

A: Give thanx! Glorify The Father in Zion. Good over Evil.
Interview by Robert "Higherman" Heilman (October 2012)
(Please do not reproduce without permission)