Friday, February 24, 2006

Pure Ghetto Story

One of the most fun interviews I've ever done, Baby Cham impressed me with his on point commentary. Smart man, this fellow. No wonder "Ghetto Story" is running the place right now. I've apparently lost the unedited version on the abyss that is my computer, so here's what appeared in the Mirror.

Baby Cham’s recent single, “Ghetto Story”, is a hit. It’s the kind of tune that gets licked back four or five times. But this isn’t a surprise—the baby-faced man with the gruff voice has been responsible for tunes that having been running the dancehall for quite some time. Touring in support of his new record, a double-album collection of hits and new tracks—some experimenting with hip hop and R&B—Baby Cham challenged the Mirror’s credibility, discussed getting a break in the cut-throat reggae industry, and commented on Jamaican politics, all from his hotel room in Poughkeepsie, New York.

M: I’ve heard that one of your big influences is Major Worries.

BC: (laughs) How has a girl like you heard of Major Worries?

M: I’m a pretty big fan of King Jammy’s.

BC: Oh, I see, okay.

M: You must be into the 80s sound as well.

BC: That’s where I got my love for dancehall music. My uncle had a soundsystem back in the 80s: Studio Mix. They were King Jammy’s competitors in Waterhouse. Supercat used to deejay on the sound, John Wayne. Just by being there on a day to day basis, watching them do their thing, that alone influenced me over the years.

M: To me, you’re really a pure deejay. How would you describe your style?

BC; I would say that I’m a lyricist, someone that speaks of what’s going on around them. I write about real stuff that happen, not just fiction. In terms of deejay technique, it’s like old school because I listened to so much of that Major Worries and back then, but it’s with a new school flavour, a 2020 flavour.

M: You got started on this pretty young—scrounging up cash to take the bus down to the studios and tagging along behind Spragga Benz.

BC: (laughs) Definitely [being at the studio] was the most important part of trying to get a break. Now it’s different because so much kids have Protools sessions just by having a lap top or a computer at home. So you find that every house have a computer, every house have a studio. Back then you had to be going in to the Jammy’s, the Penthouse. I used to get up at 6am and catch the bus with my mom when she was going to work. I’d reach Penthouse by about 7:30 and I’d be just there until 10 in the night. Just waiting, waiting, waiting. Because you never know when you’re gonna see Dave Kelly in a good mood.

M: And you had to wait a while for Dave Kelly?

BC: Yeah. Back then I didn’t understand. I was like, if you know that I have talent, why wouldn’t you record me? But he wouldn’t record me until I finished school. Now I give him all the credit because I know he understand the importance of finishing school.

M: When you write about your experiences, you have been known to talk about politics, more specifically politics in Kingston—which is something a lot of people don’t like to talk about.

BC: I hate politics. For Kingston in the main, but Jamaica as a whole. If you live where I grow up, you can’t vote for the next team. I grow up in a JLP (Jamaican Labour Party) area which is Sherlock crescent. That’s green, and a PNP (People’s National Party) would be red. So, if you thought that JLP wasn’t doing the country right, you couldn’t vote for the opposite. Your parents, you, would have to move. That’s why I grew up hating politics. Most of my friends lost their lives, over nothing, politics. When you begin to understand the whole purpose of voting, what it means, for a party, what effect that has on your life, you realize that how it is running in Jamaica couldn’t be right. Politics in Jamaica is not just voting and that, it is a total different thing, people don’t get that, don’t live in Jamaica. It’s one of the main reasons for the violence and the crime rate.

M: Do you think that it is something that, as a deejay, you can do something by speaking out about it?

BC: If I wasn’t an artist, I know I wouldn’t be supporting politics anyway, but I wouldn’t have a medium to speak about it. You have so many kids out there that don’t want to be a part of it, but it seems like it’s cool, they will just ride with it. But if they hear a Baby Cham saying “Jamaica get screwed threw greed an glutten, politics manipulate an press yutes button”, they might think “I’m not going to get involved, that bad mind ting.”

Friday, February 17, 2006

Who caan stop wi?

Yesterday I hosted a special one-off episode of Venus on CKUT 90.3fm here in Mtl. It was a special on women in reggae featuring studio one tunes, a nice dose of sugary lovers rock, some hardcore dancehall, and much more nice stuff including interviews with Marcia Griffiths and Tanya Stephens.

The show was on from 12-2pm yesterday (Feb 16) but you can still listen online for the next few weeks or so by downloading the program from the CKUT website here:

Click on "Venus" -- 12-2pm, Thursdays.

I'd like to thank Anna of Venus for inviting me on, Jah Mikes for helping with the mixes, and everyone who called in with kudos. That was very nice.

I'd be interested in hearing what you internet folk think (the 4 people who read this blog, that is) about the show.


Wednesday, February 01, 2006


I am back from Ethiopia where I was leading some folks in that house buildin' volunteer stuff I like to do. It was, not surprisingly, amazing, enriching, and life affirming. My Amharic has improved (tenayostalin, btw, simply means "hello") and I was able to give a speech in the language to the lovely people in Debre Birhan--a town about 130km due north of Addis Ababa. This was apparently quite impressive (or, probably, hilarious) because they taped the speech and sent it around the country for people to hear.

Anyhow, the above picture was taken at the Rasta school located in Shashamene, Ethiopia (notice the red, green and gold epaulletes on the khaki uniforms--looks like Luciano might have designed it). The Jamaican Rastafarian Development Committee (JRDC) is doing an amazing job. Ethiopians in general are a bit wary of the whole Haile-Selassie-being-God thang, but the school doesn't overtly preach the faith and offers fully-sponsored, high quality education to children from not just the Rasta community, but the community of Shashamene as a whole. Presently they have 451 students enrolled in grades K-10. I can't over blow how terrific their fascilities are. Not only is the school new, clean, and bright, but the classes are not of the gigantic size you normally see in Ethiopia's government-run public schools (which require user fees, incidentally). They have a nice library and computers available for the students--not to mention the brand-new teaching aids available for teachers to use. Young Ethiopian teachers are given a chance at the school, so it makes for a dynamic environment. As a teacher myself, I was so pleased to see this school (which I had initially visited during its construction last year) up and running, full of smiling, engaged (and engaging) students.

Of course, as anyone who knows me realizes, I'm more than a little interested in the clash/connection between Rasta and Ethiopian cultures that happens in Shashamene, and in the rest of Ethiopia (among other intersections between Rastafari and other cultural groups such as, say, my own). I hope to return this summer and attend the birthday celebration of His Imperial Majesty--a festival that is open to the public...I hear there just may be a soundsystem and some ackee and saltfish served. Fun.

On my way to Ethiopia I read the following article in the NYT. I'd read Maya Angelou's All God's Children Need Travelling Shoes recently and it was interesting to read a present day take on the return of the African diaspora to Ghana. It's quite different than the return of the Rastas to the promised land, but I wonder about some of the comparisons that could be made...(sorry that it requires that whole registration fiasco)
Ghana's Uneasy Embrace of Slavery's Diaspora