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Studio One Black Man's Pride (SJRCD 398 - 2017)

Alton Ellis - Black Man's Pride
Horace Andy - Child Of The Ghetto
Dennis Brown - Created By The Father
The Gladiators - Roots Natty
The Classics - Got To Be Cool
The Nightingales - Rasta Is Calling
Glen Miller - Love & Understanding
Sugar Minott - Woman Shadow
Lloyd Jones & The Super Natural Six - Red In A Babylon
Dudley Sibley & The Soul Gang - Love In Our Nation
The Heptones - Equal Rights
Glen Miller - You Must Be Love
Winston Jarrett - Up Park No Mans Land
Cedric Im Brooks - Why Can't I
Larry Marshall - Let's Make It Up
Freddie McGregor - Children Listen To Wise Words
John Holt - Build Our Dreams
Johnny Osbourne - Forgive Them
In order to understand the centrality of black pride in the music created at Studio One, we need look no further than the life of Clement 'Sir Coxsone' Dodd, a man who with singular purpose created the first and most important black-owned record company in Jamaica. From cabinet maker to migrant farm-worker, sound-system operator to producer to businessman, Clement Dodd was a unique, fiercely determined, pioneering spirit.

And when Alton Ellis sang of the 'Black Man's Pride' while 'born a loser' it is as a migrating nightingale soaring upwards into the skies, lifting listeners to new vistas, to a point high above his birthplace of Trench Town, one of the poorest ghettoes in Jamaica. Trench Town, or Trench Pen as it was originally known, and the surrounding areas of Western Kingston became the central location for both the emergence of reggae music and the establishment of the Rastafarian movement in the 1960s. It also became a battleground during the explosion of political and gang violence in the 1970s.

Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, Joe Higgs, Rita Marley, Alton Ellis, Ken Boothe, Delroy Wilson and Ernest Ranglin: an impressive list of musical legends, all from Trench Town, Clement Dodd established Studio One at 13 Brentford Road, just north of Trench Town. A mile east of Trench Town is Orange Street, or 'Beat Street', which housed a wealth of record stores owned by the pantheon of Jamaican reggae producers who emerged in the 1960s and 1970s including Dodd, Vincent 'Randy' Chin, Prince Buster, Lee 'Scratch' Perry, Joe Gibbs, Augustus Pablo and Winston Riley. In the 1970s Channel One set up on Maxfield Avenue in the district's western border.

Trench Town was built by the colonial government as a housing project in 1945. It took its name from Daniel Power Trench, an Irish immigrant who had used the land to graze livestock in the 18th century. It was an ambitious social engineering programme, an area of one- and two-storey concrete buildings built around common courtyards with communal cooking and washing facilities and a standpipe for water. Known as 'government yards', it was intended that they would serve as a model for low-income housing development in the newly independent Jamaica. But this proved to be a vain hope. A lack of state funding meant the building work was poor, and initially there was no sewage system. The yards were an effort to provide low-cost housing to Kingston's rapidly expanding urban population. there were increasing numbers of squatter settlements as rural inhabitants migrated into Western Kingston, a popular destination due to its close proximity to downtown Kingston.

By the 1960s the urban dream had become a nightmare. Trench Town had become a ramshackle failed social model, surrounded by the even more squalid shanty town squatter communities of Back-O-Wall and Dungle - the latter named so because it was also used for dumping rubbish.

The large majority of the music featured here dates from the early 1970s, when solo vocalists Alton Ellis, Horace Andy, John Holt, Dennis Brown and Freddie McGregor became the mainstay of Studio One's repertoire. This was in contrast to the vocal and instrumental groups of the ska and rocksteady eras, which had been the pre-eminent styles in the previous decade. The house bands that had worked each day at 13 Brentford Road throughout the 1960s - the Skatalites, the Soul Brothers, Soul Vendors and Sound Dimension - gave way at the start of the 1970s to new groups the Soul Defenders and the New Establishment, who became the fresh musical forces backing these powerful vocalists.

A quick glance at the song titles indicates the themes of the new decade. They tell of hope to build upon the dreams and aspirations of the newly independent Jamaica of the 1960s that had not yet come to fruition: 'Build Our Dreams', 'Forgive Them', 'Freedom Fighter', 'Love And Understanding', 'Equal Rights', 'Love In Our Nation', 'Child Of The Ghetto' and 'Black Man's Pride'.

Roots reggae was set to become the dominant style in reggae music in the 1970s. But while the righteousness of Rastafarianism is central to all roots reggae music, it is not the only influence to be found in the music featured here. The forces that helped define such striking self-awareness and self-respect in black identity represented herein - and indeed in so much Jamaican music - are manifold and have a much longer history. These influences include the rise of the independence movement in Africa, the American and Caribbean civil rights and Black Power movements, anti-colonialism and independence in Jamaica, Negritude, island politricks and inter-island politics. All played their part in the creation of reggae and black identity in Jamaica.

But the Jamaican people are grounded in a 400-year history of defiance and rebellion that unifies and strengthens. There were the numerous slave rebellions, starting with the First Maroon War in 1730, led by Cudjoe, and ending in the Baptist War of 1831, led by Samuel Sharpe. There was the establishment of the self-sufficient escaped-slave Maroon communities of Accompang, Moore Town, Scotts Hall, Trelawny Town and Charles Town (all located in the dense mountainous region of Cockpit Country in the parishes of Trelawny and Saint Elizabeth), and Nanny Town and Moore Town (in the parish of north-eastern Portland). These struggles help to define Jamaican national identity and lie behind the power of the music contained here.

This rebel spirit of righteous defiance, self-respect and self-determination, in this face of systematic and structural oppression was tapped into by the Rastafarian movement, which began in the 1930s and reached its apex in the 1970s.

Black Power
These same values are also to be found at the heart of the Black Power movement in the United States, which began around 1965 and soon spread through the Caribbean. Black Power and the emergence of the Black Panther party (for Self-Defence) emerged out of the radicalisation of the civil rights movement in the United States that began a decade earlier and reached its peak in the first half of the 1960s under the leadership of Martin Luther King.

Even though the successes of the civil rights movement were manifest - including ending segregation and discrimination through the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 - members of the emergent Black Panther party felt that the progress of freedom for African Americans was too slow and came at too high a price. Some rejected the idea of integration, embracing the words of the former Nation of Islam spokesman Malcolm X, who emphasised Pan-Africanism, black self-determination and black self-defence.

There was a sense of urgency after the assassination of Malcolm X in 1965 and of Martin Luther King in 1968. The escalation of tensions led to a further radicalisation of the movement as Angela Davis, Huey P Newton, Eldridge Cleaver, Bobby Seale and other leaders were one by one hunted down as enemies of the state. They began to advocate the use of violence as the only response to violence unto themselves.

Marcus Garvey
The radical ideas of the Black Panther party echoed the words of an earlier black activist, Marcus Garvey, who ran the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) and published the Negro World newspaper from his headquarters in Harlem, New York, from 1916. By 1920 Garvey's UNIA had an estimated 4 million members across America. Garvey preached black humanity: black nationalism, black pride and self-sufficiency through economic empowerment. He also called for the voluntary repatriation of African-Americans to their African homeland, which almost became a reality through the setting up of his Black Star Line shipping company.

In fact, Garvey was Jamaican, and had founded the UNIA in Kingston two years earlier. He arose at the start of a tumultuous period in Jamaican history. Notions of independence and an end to British rule and colonisation were beginning to ferment on the island, which prompted the formation of the first trade unions and political parties: the People's National party, formed by Norman Manley in 1938, and the Jamaican Labour party, set up in 1943 by Manley's cousin Alexander Bustamente. The era also produced a long list of radicals, preachers and visionaries in Jamaica including Garvey and his contemporary Leonard Howell, who founded the Rastafari religion in the early 1930s.

The rebel stance of Garvey and Howell had its roots in the slave trade. The maroon leaders Cudjoe and Nanny the Baptist preachers Samuel Sharpe and Paul Bogle fought and died for liberation from their British slave masters and colonial rulers. They - alongside Garvey, Manley, Bustamente and George William Gordon - are today honoured as the seven National Heroes of Jamaica.

Rastafari Roots
The Rastafarian faith, with its core belief in the righteousness of blackness, became the spiritual choice for many reggae musicians in the 1970s. They were attracted to the reads' outsider rebel stance, self-respect and poetic magic realism. Studio One's output during this era stands proud and includes classic Rastafarian groups The Gladiators, Wailing Souls and Burning Spear. However, some of the key figures at Brentford Road in the 1960s also had a long-established connection with the faith. They include The Skatalites, who pretty much defined the music created during Studio One's first two years in operation at Brentford Road (1963-1964) both with their own stunning ska music and in creating the backing to all the singers and vocal groups who entered the studio, including Alton Ellis, Ken Boothe, Toots & The Maytals and The Wailers.

Most of The Skatalites, including Don Drummond, Lloyd Knibbs, Jah Jerry and Johnny Moore were Rastafarian. Seeking spiritual communion and musical exploration they (and sometimes Clement Dodd) would attend the regular Rastafarian grounation drumming and reasoning sessions held at master drummer Count Ossie's encampment in Wareika Hills, East Kingston in the 1960s. Ossie's drummers in turn would on occasion come down to perform live at many of Sir Coxsone's Downbeat Soundsystem dancehall sessions.

For many years Rastafarians were thought of as outcasts and criminals, living in an almost perpetual state of siege warfare with the police. Their self-determination, non-conformist beliefs, righteous spirit and wild, dreadlocks appearance were citied as evidence that they represented a threat to mainstream society. In 1940 Leonard Howell, the spiritual leader and founder of the Rastafarian movement, set up a 400-acre Pinnacle encampment for a community of his followers deep in the hills of Sligoville, in the south-eastern district of St. Catherine, 10 miles north of Spanish Town. For almost 20 years up to 5000 dreads live an agrarian and communal existence autonomous from the rest of Jamaican society. However, repeated police raids took their toll on the camp, which was decimated after a particularly vitriolic attack in 1954, and finally abandoned in the early 1960s. The dreads dispersed from the countryside to urban West Kingston, specifically to the poorest squatter settlements of the Dungle and Back-O-Wall, creating makeshift homes from zinc, board and the city's detritus.

Since the 1970s, West Kingston and Trench Town have been unstable and dangerous. The roots of the districts' problems date from the early 1960s. After Jamaica's independence in 1962, Boston-born Harvard-educated Edward Seaga became the elected political representative for the Jamaican Labour party (JLP) for Western Kingston. Seaga's early career had been in the music industry - he had formed the West Indies Record Label (WIRL) in 1959 and soon had a hit with the Trench Town singing duo (Joe) Higgs and (Roy) Wilson's 'Oh Manny Oh!' After his election, Seaga was appointed Minister of Development and Welfare by Alexander Bustamente, the first Prime Minister of Jamaica. Seaga, as the minister responsible for planning, social development and culture, shaped both the social environment from which reggae emerged and the music's impact overseas.

One of Seaga and the JLP's first major social engineering enterprises was redeveloping the notorious slum Back-O-Wall, which was pulled down and replaced with new housing, schools and local amenities. The area was renamed Tivoli Gardens and heralded by some as a model of community development. But it had a detrimental impact on the Rastafarian community, who, having migrated from the decimated Pinnacle settlement, were again made homeless. Another consequence was the gerrymandering by which the ghetto poor, who were often militant PNP voters, were moved out and replaced by a relatively better-off new housing tenants. Grateful for their new homes, they repaid the JLP by faithfully voting for the political party in subsequent elections. Seaga was also rewarded for his efforts - he held the Western Kingston seat for 43 years, (and was Jamaica's Prime Minister from 1980 to 1989).

The gerrymandering process evolved violently and exponentially and became known as 'garrisonisation' in the 1970s, when politicians of both major parties (the JLP and PNP) enlisted the help of local thugs to intimidate non-partisan voting residents out of an area, thus ensuring the election of particular party leaders. Rewarded for their services with money and weapons, these rude boys became thugs, and then gangsters and gang members as their leaders became 'dons' - 'community figures' who now ruled the area (alongside the elected politician) through violence and intimidation. Dons eventually were able to jettison their links with politicians after the power and money they received enabled them to establish themselves as drug lords.

Seaga's role as head of Social Welfare and Economic Development also led to him to organise a government-sponsored showcase of Jamaican music at the 1964 New York World's Fair to promote island tourism. By all accounts, The Skatalites were the hottest ska band on the island at the time, but they were not invited. The artists who went included Jimmy Cliff, Prince Buster, Millie Small and Eric 'Monty' Morris, backed by the group Byron Lee & The Dragonaires. Seaga had earlier sold his record company WIRL to Byron Lee (who renamed it Federal Records). Jimmy Cliff commented: 'The singer were good, but Byron Lee's backing didn't work. Seaga wanted uptown guys who looked good, but he should have had people from the roots. It was probably a big factor that the Byron Lee band didn't smoke ganja like all the other musicians'.

Cliff's reference to the rejection of The Skatalites' owing to their Rastafarian practices was believed by the group themselves to be the case, and this disappointment was a significant factor in the break-up of the group shortly afterwards.

Mortimer Planno and the rise of the Rastafarian movement
Trench Town resident Mortimer Planno, a prominent Rastafari teacher in Kingston since the 1950s, was among the first to realise the political and social significance of the Rastafarian religion. Planno helped found the Rastafari Movement Association and instigated the first 'Universal Grounation of the Rastafari', a drumming and chanting ceremony held in Back-O-Wall in March 1958.

Planno realised that a more peaceful existence for the sect, free from political interference and police harassment, would only come through a better understanding and acceptance of Rastafari by mainstream society. Planno convinced a group of anthropologists from the West Indies University to commission an academic study of the Rastafari. The report, the first of its kind, was published in 1960. It noted in its introduction: 'The aim of this study is to present a brief account of growth, doctrines, organisation, aspirations, needs and conditions of the Ras Tafari movement in Jamaica, especially in Kingston, the capital.' It concluded that the community of Rastafari was honest, spiritual and not to be feared.

A year later Planno became part of a state-sponsored research group who travelled to Africa. Here he met Haile Selassie, crowned king of Ethiopia in 1930 and proclaimed by Howell and his followers to be the living god for Rastafarians. this meeting with Rastafarian elders eventually led to the visit of Selassie to Kingston in 1966. Daunted by the site of thousands of Rastafarians at Palisadoes airport, only Planno could coax His Majesty out of the airplane to greet the dreadlocked faithful.

In the 1960s Planno's yard 35, on Fifth Street in Trench Town, was situated near that of the Wailers: Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer. It became a meeting point for spiritually interested musicians to discuss Rastafari and study from Planno's extensive library of books on Black Power and Ethiopian history. Regular visitors included Alton Ellis, Ken Boothe and The Wailers. Planno became the spiritual advisor to a number of reggae musicians, at one point even managing The Wailers and recording a single by them: the Rastafarian 'Selassie is in the Chapel'. Planno released the record, on which they were backed by the nyabinghi drumming of Ras Michael and the Sons of Negus, on his own label in 1968.

Walter Rodney and Black Power in the Caribbean
Black identity became central to the political landscape of Jamaica in the late 1960s and early 1970. As the earlier Worlds' Fair tour had shown, class, religion and race were powerful forces on the island. Political activist Walter Rodney was born in British Guiana (now Guyana) in 1942. He came to Jamaica in 1963 as a student at the University College of West Indies, studying history. After studying in London and Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, he returned to Jamaica in 1968 as a professor again at the University of West Indies.

Rodney had become a vocal advocate of socialism and had visited Cuba and Russia. His radicalisation led him to attempt to bring together various disenfranchised groups on the island - not only students and workers but also the Rastafarians and even criminal gangs such as the Vikings. Many of his speeches were published in a book, Grounding with my Brothers, which became central to the Caribbean Black Power Movement. Rodney's revolutionary ideas came under the scrutiny of the Jamaican government and following a trip to the 1968 Black Writer's Conference in Montreal, Canada, he was declared persona non grata and denied re-entry to Jamaica, leading to widespread unrest in Kingston which became known as the Rodney Riots.

In this period of intense social and political unrest, even the university at which Rodney studied and worked (and the origin of the earlier Rastafari report) was contested. In the eyes of the JLP, the University of the West Indies was an outdated relic. It was a reminder of the West Indies Federation, which was a failed political alliance of the Caribbean islands, an attempt to create a 'Europe' of island states. Manley and the PNP had been in favour of the confederation, but Bustamente and the JLP had been against, forcing a referendum which led to Jamaica leaving the Federation in 1961. After Jamaica achieved Independence a year later, Bustamente became the first prime minister, beating Manley. The Confederation was dissolved after Eric Williams, a prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, declared that 10 (island member countries of the Confederation) minus one (ie Jamaica) equals zero.

Joshua and the Rod of Correction
In 1969, a young and charismatic Michael Manley was elected leader of the opposition People's National party, following the retirement of his father Norman Manley. He had seen a political opening in the government's rejection of black power, which had alienated many voters. That year he travelled to Ethiopia and returned with a walking stick that he said had been given to him by Haile Selassie.

By the 1972 general election, this stick had become 'the Rod of Correction', used by Manley as a prop at his public speeches. He likened himself to Joshua, the one who would lead the people into the Promised Land. Manley appealed to the 'sufferahs', the unemployed, the outcasts of Jamaican society. He peppered his speeches with Rastafarian language and imagery. He cultivated support from reggae artists such as Bob Marley, while Delroy Wilson's 'Better Must Come' became the slogan and soundtrack to his campaign. Manley won the general election with a massive landslide.

Trench Town in the 1970s
Trench Town became dangerous in the early 1970s as both the JLP and PNP violently enforced a code that ensured only their party's supporters had access to jobs and services. The southern part of Trench Town became JLP territory, while the northern part, known as Arnette Gardens ('Jungle'), was a PNP stronghold. The road connecting the two, Seventh Street, became the frontline in an all-out war.

The violence in West Kingston, Trench Town, Wilton Gardens, Arnette Gardens and Denham Town continued into the 1990s. Tivoli Gardens was the scene of repeated clashes between gunmen and security forces in the 21st Century. In one of these battles in 2010, JLP strongman and 'Don' drug lord Christopher 'Dudus' Coke, head of the Shower Posse gang who had ruled over Tivoli Gardens since the 1980s was finally captured, and extradited to the United States on drug charges.

Black Pride
This collection illustrates how black pride remained a central theme, perhaps the defining essence, of the music created at 13 Brentford Road. So while this album includes a number of clearly defined Rastafarian groups (The Gladiators, Wailing Souls), black consciousness runs throughout, whether in praise of the Lion of Judah or not.

Reggae music and the Rastafari movement were born from the same harsh socio-economic and political realities associated with everyday life in the ghettos of West Kingston. They are inseparable from each other. This partly explains the appeal of Rastafari to many reggae artists during the decades of the 1970s and 1980s. Many of the songs featured here come from the transitory phase in reggae at the start of the 1970s, after the exhilaration of ska and the cooling down of rock steady. While roots reggae was about to dominate Jamaican music and spread throughout the world, Studio One's vocalists were already producing some of the moodiest and most righteous music imaginable.

S. Baker
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