Saturday, November 17, 2018

SOUND CLASH CULTURE // Chris Dubbs Discusses the Future of Sound Clash with Chin (Irish and Chin)

Toronto dancehall fans have been fortunate: for the past two years, the World Clash sound clash competition has been hosted right here in the city. Two years ago, Caribbean entertainment specialists Irish and Chin adjusted the process of their international event so that the winning sound would receive the honour of bringing the World Clash to their hometown to defend their title.

With the 20th anniversary of World Clash taking place tonight in Toronto at the Tibetan Cultural Centre, reggae music lovers from Canada and international supporters who have travelled into the city to witness the show, will be treated to an evening of competition between the two-time champion King Turbo sound, and the Rumble Series champion sounds representing their own home towns, hoping to bring the event to their city next year in celebration.

Tonight, clash fans will get to hear the best of the best from Rumble Series winners from across the globe: Jah Works (Japan Rumble), Empire Sound and Mour Dan (UK Rumble), 3 Sevens (Caribbean Rumble), Deebuzz (European Rumble), Dynamq (U.S. Rumble), and Mystic Sound, the winner of the Canadian Rumble.

It is a process now well executed. From promotions, to music, regulations, and participants, the international brand that is World Clash has been 20 years in the making, and now a staple in the reggae and dancehall community. Based out of New York City, Irish and Chin have crafted this event to represent sound system lovers and practitioners, noting that this event is frequently regarded as the "pinnacle of their career" for participating sounds.

Yesterday evening, November 16, during an interview on The Vibe Drive with Chris Dubbs on Toronto's VIBE 105.5fm, Garfield "Chin" Bourne reiterated the importance of including international sounds, and sustaining the energy of the culture he has always loved. In town for the big event, he noted that there were other sound clash fanatics who contacted him, letting him know that they, too, were flying into Toronto to take part in the 20th year celebration of the event.

Each city and country has its own vibe and their own way of appreciating the music. "The energy is mixed," Chin told Chris Dubbs. "In Japan, there is a great acceptance for the culture, and the fans come out in the hundreds. The UK also has a strong sound clash culture," he said. "The Caribbean has a strong culture, but it needs to be developed." Mentioning that the focus in the Caribbean tends to be on Jamaica, the original home of the sound clash, Chin also believes that the enjoyment should span across the greater Caribbean. "We want to give the Bajans and the Trinis a chance as well," he said. "Every place has a different energy, and a different dynamic."

Chin, who started out in music as a selector in U.S., was always a fan of hardcore dancehall. Growing up in the vibrant New York dancehall scene, patronizing locations like the Biltmore Ballroom, and Amazura, he knew from early that this was a culture that he would be committed to. Just like music has changed over the decades, however, so has technology, the industry, and the cultural ambassadors that communicate and share the sounds.

"We need to modernize the sound clash tradition," said Chin, internationally regarded as a leader in the culture. "We need to work to make it more attractive." He recommended a change to the emphasis on dubplates, and instead focusing on talent, hype, energy, and crowd enjoyment during sound clashes. Chin would like to see the sound clash evolve into more of a musical competition, awarding those who have the most vibes, instead of those who have the most expensive vibes (via dubplate). "We should bring back 45's, and encourage sounds to be creative with their music. Find people who can be themselves."

Both Chris Dubbs and Chin agreed that the youth are an important factor in the culture's relevance and longevity. Thankful to have Chin on The Vibe Drive reggae radio program to discuss sound clash culture and the related processes, Dubbs believes that everyone has to play their respective parts in supporting and sustaining the evolution.

"We are extremely proud that World Clash has stood the test of time," said Chin in a World Clash news release. "Our goal is to have the World Clash brand and the phenomenal art of sound clash continue to wow international audiences for years to come." He added: "I am equally interested for new sound system stars to achieve notoriety and success, while new fans are introduced to the allure and thrill of sound clash."

Congratulations to Irish and Chin for their contributions and professional conscientiousness!





Written by Stacey Marie Robinson for Kya Publishing's "Urban Toronto Tales" blog.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Jamaica Music Conference 2018 // Constructive Conversations: Dialogue. Decisions. Development.

This weekend, Kingston, Jamaica will be bustling with artistic activity and progressive energy focused on the future of Jamaican music, as the Jamaica Music Conference (JMC) hosts their 6th annual edition of this education and networking event. The JMC's theme this year is "Constructive Conversations: Dialogue. Decisions. Development." with the goal of continuing to "provide a platform for independent music professionals to discuss challenges, opportunities, and solutions in the music industry."

The JMC will take place from Thursday, November 15 through Sunday, November 18 at a range of venues across Kingston. Hosted mainly in the Edna Manley College and at the University of the West Indies Mona Campus, locations around the town from beaches to restaurants are also on board as community partners for this important celebration.

The population of Jamaica is currently around the same mark as the population of Toronto: just short of 3 million people. Nearly twice the size of Canada's largest city, at 10,000 square kilometers, the power and international impact that Jamaican music has had on the world over the past few decades is undeniable. Not only has Jamaican music shaped the identity of the island, but it has also been the unofficial ambassador of the country's values, vibes, and visions.

While the island has changed considerably from the days of Bob Marley travelling the globe sharing lyrics and rhythms of hope and prosperity, the culture and impact of reggae music has also changed--naturally. The sounds have evolved, the industry has new players, and the musical landscape has become digital...and instant. With this evolution, and the emergence of social media and global communication, the essence of Jamaica is easily transferred and the sounds of the island becoming more universal as well.

On the evening of Monday, November 12, Coleen Douglas, the Media Coordinator of the JMC was featured on the weekly radio program "The Vibe Drive with Chris Dubbs" on Toronto's VIBE 105.5fm, to speak about the upcoming conference, and
motivate those who are interested in the music industry to be aware of the event, and the ways in which attending will be beneficial to aficionados of all backgrounds. Douglas noted the universal appeal of reggae music, and stressed that it was a common topic of discussion that would be explored at the JMC.

With recent mainstream chart-topping songs from pop artists like Justin Bieber and Ed Sheeran, rappers like Drake, and obvious influence on a number of rhythms and movements, the topic of "cultural appropriation" was mentioned as an element of concern to the Jamaican music industry, as well as something that potentially has an effect on the music's prosperity.

Douglas mentioned that the passion for reggae music oversees is evident, and as a result, the various panels and meetings taking place during the conference would specifically address how to market and communicate music internationally, and also how to utilize the influence of the sounds and style of Jamaica to the benefit of the industry at home.

"We want to encourage others in the diaspora to come home," said Douglas, speaking of the conference's impact on Jamaican ex-pats who are always welcome to attend and lend their perspectives on the ever-growing music industry. "We want them to visit Jamaica not just for a holiday, but to take part in the development."

Chris Dubbs, who has been an on-air radio host in Toronto for over ten years, has consistently been committed to promoting the genre of reggae music in Canada, as well as the surrounding culture. Canadian born to Jamaican parents, Dubbs realizes the role of the reggae music practitioners in helping to not only share the music of Jamaica, but also to provide access to resources and opportunities for growth.

"I'm hoping to continue to use my platform to promote the development of the reggae music industry here in Toronto, but also back in Jamaica," said Dubbs. "As radio professionals, we have a responsibility to play the music and give it air-time and exposure, but also to strengthen the industry itself by spreading positive messages and making sure that the artists and the listeners have access to the music and the supporting industries that will help our culture grow."

During their interview, live-to-air on the Vibe Drive on Monday evening, Coleen encouraged brainstorming, and asked that listeners and reggae music lovers utilize the Jamaica Music Conference online platforms to communicate with one another, comment on initiatives, and also share their thoughts on the industry and what is required to make it successful for everyone.

"The Jamaica Music Conference lends to tourism opportunities," said Douglas, declaring that the town of Kingston (aka Music City), was not only a hub for artists during the JMC weekend, but also other industries that contribute to the growth of Jamaica's cultural infrastructure. She stressed that music "connects" individuals, from merchandising to the tourism industry, and that the JMC, the music industry, and related events have a "ripple effect on the full economy" of Jamaica.

Reggae, an important element to the culture of the Caribbean island, is being used as a point of interest to this discussion and others. During the 4-day JMC weekend, the panel discussions and educational sessions will be complemented with community service opportunities, nightlife events, as well as "fun in the sun across Kingston." This will all occur to a backdrop of the "information exchange between the who's who of reggae and mainstream music entertainment, and up and coming talent," according to the JMC.

The conference expects just under 1,000 attendees this year, of all ages, including a range of artists, writers, musicians, producers, event promoters, DJs and sound systems, journalists, managers, and other industry practitioners from here in Canada, as well as across the U.S., Europe, and Caribbean.

Topics for panel discussions and presentations will include women in music, making money from digital content, and music publishing basics. to name a few. Special guest participants and performers include Marcia Griffiths, Freddie McGreggor, and Tifa, amongst other experts from music and academia. On schedule for entertainment this weekend: a celebrity football match, a "clean" sound clash, an open mic showcase, and morning meditation and yoga sessions on the beach with well known facilitators like Kamilah McDonald and Jason Worton. A full agenda of the activities and sessions is listed on the JMC website.

"Reggae is Jamaica's gift to the world," said Douglas. "The Jamaica Music Conference gives us the opportunity to improve life, offer practical ideals, and move forward."

Registration for the event is open at www.jamaicamusicconference.com, and additional information can be obtained by connecting with their social media outlets on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.





Written by Stacey Marie Robinson for Kya Publishing's "Urban Toronto Tales" blog.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Book Review: "Shook One: Anxiety Playing Tricks on Me" by Charlamagne Tha God

Charlamagne has transitioned nicely from a radio host into the role of a best-selling author. With television and online messaging also a part of his professional equation, he has become the consummate communicator! Now also one of my favourite folks to read, I was quite pleased when I saw news about his latest book on Instagram back in August, and found myself counting down the days until the release of "Shook One." I was so impressed by his first book "Black Privilege" released last year--he is a voice of reason and expertise in many areas that I love and enjoy: media, Black culture, music, and now publishing as well! He is also a voice of honesty, with a story of determination and a really awesome perspective on social issues and cultural personalities.

Released by Simon and Schuster on October 23, "Shook One: Anxiety Playing Tricks on Me" is a reflection on Charlamagne's experiences with anxiety, and how he has met, survived, and persevered through these challenges throughout the course of his life. Already the co-host of the top hip hop radio program in the U.S. (and most popular hip hop radio program worldwide, I believe: The Breakfast Club on New York City's Power 105.1fm), Charlamagne has definitely earned his rank at the top of his game.

Not only is he now an author, he's also a social media influencer (as evidenced by his fabulously entertaining and informative Twitter and Instagram accounts), executive producer of his production company CThaGod World LLC, in addition to hosting his podcast The Brilliant Idiots. Over the years, he's become a familiar face on all media platforms, and seems to be on his way to becoming a multi-platform media mogul like Ryan Seacrest or Steve Harvey--listed as two of his role models in the industry.

To the rest of us, consuming media, social media, music, and all other forms of entertainment on a daily basis, Charlamagne is someone we can expect to keep it 100, with an objective-yet-informed perspective. He used to be someone easily heated, always controversial, and often provocative. We've all witnessed the dramatic celebrity interviews and even the hilarious conversations that have brought him to journalistic excellence as of late, and now he's taking his voice of leadership to another level. His voice continues to be informative, and now also very personal.

The book "Shook One" begins quite fittingly with some words of wisdom from Brad "Scarface" Jordan and the Geto Boys' song "Mind Playing Tricks on Me." Speaking about paranoia and anxiety through lyrics was an acceptable form of communication in the early 90s, used as a way to "open up the conversation" about issues of anxiety and related mental ailments. Charlamagne reflected on this track in his introduction, as one of the most important methods of talking about an otherwise taboo issue in the hip hop community. Also mentioned as effective: "Streets is Watching" from Jay-Z and "Feel it in the Air" from Beanie Sigel.

To continue the narrative of addressing paranoia, Charlamagne crafted this book as a tool to face and overcome fears and occurrences of anxiety "rather than being handcuffed by them." He wanted to be innovative in preaching the "masculinity" of taking care of your body, as well as your mind. He wanted to remove the restrictions, and let the subject be openly acknowledged. Even with Black men. Especially with Black men.

Perhaps a book like this could have been helpful in the days of the Geto Boys and throughout the development and growth of hip hop. Needless to say, rappers have always represented the collective voice of internal thoughts and shared experiences. Individuals find solace and comfort in the words of familiarity from rappers and their counterparts, using music to express passions and realities, as well as communicate fears.

"Anxiety and blackness seems to go hand in hand. It's like African-Americans have permanent PTSD that dates back to slavery," Charlamagne summarized. He calls this being "Blackanoid," and explained this "epigenetic inheritance" as passing trauma to a child and subsequent generations (i.e. the damages of slavery). He says that "over time the effects of racism have a corrosive effect on us" causing lasting and chronic damage in some cases.

You'd think that with all this "Blackanoia" and other effects of social trauma, that therapy would be a commonality amongst Black folk. Unfortunately, this is not the case. According to Charlamagne, "not a lot of black folks want to run to a white person with their problems. Especially when the majority of those problems stem from a system organized and run by white people." Fair enough. Of course not all therapists are white, but the majority in that field in the U.S. are, and the best therapy tends to happen between a client and professional with a shared understanding of cultural cues.

This discussion of anxiety and therapy, throughout the book, happens in the context of Charlamagne's life. From talking about his parenting, his daughters and wife, finding a work-life balance, and dealing with other common issues of adulthood, professionalism, and living in this disturbing social media laden Trump era, he also offers recommendations, clarifications, and plenty of justification for his readers to seek their own answers via a psychologist or mental health professional. Overall, he advocates for therapy and in-depth communication, suggesting that once personal issues are confronted that "the pain that used to feel so heavy suddenly begins to lift."

Where does a lot of that pain come from, aside from the past? Social media, of course! A good portion of this book is dedicated to analyzing something we all realize to be true: consuming the amount of deliberately manipulative information we do on a daily basis can lead to nothing good. While it serves its promotional and informational benefits, there is also a layer of deception and addiction that is plaguing us all.

We know this, every time we pick up the phone to passively view Instagram or pree Twitter. We know this, yet many of us are hooked. Including Charlamagne. He says: "I don't think social media represents our intellectual achievement. If anything, it's collectively making us dumber." He believes the evil forces of visual IG illusion to be a main contributor to anxiety that many suffer from in this day and age.

"Shook One" is a good read, full of gems and interesting anecdotes. The best part to me is how personal Charlamagne gets by telling intimate stories of his own fears and apprehensions, yet putting them in the greater context of his fabulous life and what he has learned along the way to becoming one of the top radio personalities of our time.

His hopes for this book are pure. He'd like to see more authenticity and folks being constructive. He'd like us to continue to seek information, to seek awareness of our roots, and to master the art of finding personal equilibrium. He also would like us to have clinical assessments, and has a psychiatrist named Dr. Ish provide summaries at the end of each chapter to put a medical and scientific conclusion to his own thoughts. Very informative!

The biggest lesson to be obtained from "Shook One" is that evolution is a beautiful thing. I admittedly wasn't a huge fan of Charlamagne initially: he made me uncomfortable. He knew this because I wasn't the only one. He noted that: "For a long time, that's how the world saw me. Cocky. Aggressive. Fearless." But despite occasionally getting a bad rap early out in his career, he acknowledged that we all need healing, and we all need help on some level. This is something that is constant: growth, and evolution over time. Just as important as it is for us to see images of people succeeding, living out their dreams, and following their goals, it is also important for us to witness growth and development. The tools to get us there are priceless, and necessary. This book can be classified as a very timely and relevant tool for self-improvement.

It has been inspirational to see, hear, and read the evolution of Charlamagne, and needless to say, I look forward to reading his next best-seller!






Written by Stacey Marie Robinson for Kya Publishing's "Urban Toronto Tales" blog.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Kareative Interlude Celebrates their Nu Narratives Literacy Empowerment Program

Proud New Authors
It was an inspiration-filled afternoon when Toronto-based community literacy program, Nu Narratives, awarded a group of emerging young authors on Saturday, October 20, 2018 at the Stephen Leacock Community Centre in Scarborough. The event was dedicated to showcasing the final published works of children from the Glendower and Empringham communities, participants in this summer's program in association with Cultural Hotspot, and presented by Kareative Interlude.

Kareative Interlude is an arts organization, committed to "accessing art as a medium to inspire, empower and heal participants, clients, and audiences. Through art exhibits, performances, artscapes and readings, they serve as a celebration of new narratives and displaying engaging works of art.

The Nu Narratives Literacy Empowerment Program helped young participants to reach their potential over the summer by: exposing them to the publishing process and methods of writing and illustrating a book, and allowing the artists to share their knowledge of story in its elements, composition and themes.

Karea Shee
Children's author, artist, and co-creator of Kareative Interlude Karee Shee, opened the afternoon by stating that we have a "responsibility to have the right intention and meaning behind our stories." She went on to say that "culture helps readers feel confident, and understand who they are."

Attendees were treated to a range of performances at the celebration, with drumming, a live DJ, spoken word performances, motivational speaking, readings, and a panel discussion with community artists. Hosted by Kareative Interlude's Business Manager, Osagyefo McGregor, the theme of the afternoon was connecting the experiences of the youth through writing, and encouraging self-empowerment and leadership through story and community.

Published Author, Michael
The event began with the children participating in a drumming circle, as well as a dance and motivational activity where they introduced themselves and showcased their skills. Each newly published child author had the opportunity to read their story to the audience, as well as take part in a question and answer period with Osagyefo, discussing the strategies they found most helpful before, during, and after writing their books.

Spoken word artist Randell Adjei of R.I.S.E. Edutainmemt was powerful, as he spoke directly to the youth, encouraging them to be proud of their abilities and reminding them to not let anyone else define who they are. "Words are powerful," he said. "If you know who you are, no one can tell you who you are." He encouraged them to etch their names into the pages of history.

The Final Product: A Published Book!
Poet Eddie the Original One was also motivating, stressing the importance of family and fighting for your dreams with a chant: "Family! That's the word!" Cecil, of the African Canadian Heritage Network was passionate in reminding children to "never let them dim your light" and encouraged the youth to learn about Africa, highlighting his message with inspirational music. Robert Small was encouraged by the printing process, and was happy to share access to his annual Black History Month poster (The Legacy Poster) with the group. His nationally celebrated poster is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

Camesha Cox, a representative from The Reading Partnership (a literary initiative in Kingston/Galloway/Orton Park area that works exclusively with parents of young children in the area, providing tips and recommendations in teaching kids from ages 4 to 6 how to read) informed the audience about her programming objectives.

Felicia Joly, the author of "ABC's of Wealth: Big Ideas for Little Children" discussed the importance of having books accessible for the next generation, and noted that she was inspired to see how life can be better, through reading. Her Power@Play series uses the alphabet as the cornerstone to sharing engaging rhymes for young minds to learn the core concepts of wealth, success, and power.

The importance of this program is essential to the development of a positive and progressive literary culture for this generation of young artists. Nu Narratives was successful in demonstrating the steps needed for them to take their ideas from concept to publication, as well as instructing them on the "steps they can take to improve as writers, readers, publishers, and leaders."

It was a wonderfully motivating, informative, and heart-warming event, and it was a pleasure to see the young authors present their words. I am looking forward to move events and initiatives from Nu Narratives and Kareative Interlude!






Written by Stacey Marie Robinson for Kya Publishing's "Urban Toronto Tales" blog.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

"Legalize It" and 10 Other Great Ganja Songs

So, marijuana is really legal in Canada now, eh?

I can't say I trust this entire process and change of reality, and for that reason I'll keep my personal and political views to myself. Buuuut I must say, marijuana and music have always fit comfortably together in the most intimate of ways for artists and musicians and creative folks everywhere.

Rolling Stone magazine released a great list of ganja-friendly songs earlier this year, including classic rock artists like The Beatles, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, and Tom Petty. I thought it was a good time to reflect on my own personal favourite weed-appreciation tracks. Here they are, to enjoy on this special day in Canadian history: October 17, 2018.

Legalize It
Peter Tosh







Mary Jane
Rick James












Kaya
Bob Marley












One Draw
Rita Marley






Missy Elliott 











Smoke the Herb
Bounty Killer








Gimme The Weed
Jigsy King












Ganja Farmer
Marlon Asher









Sensimilia
Buju Banton












Marijuana Pon De Corner
Richie Spice









Herbman Hustling
Sugar Minott












Oh, wait. There are way more than ten! What was I thinking?! As a matter of fact, the more I listen to them, the more I remember just how many fabulous, vibsey cannabis tracks exist in the world of music. In the world of reggae alone, the list is practically endless. Here are some more honourable mentions:










Under Me Sensei // Barrington Levy

Police in Helicopter // John Holt

The Herb // Tony Rebel

We Be Burning // Sean Paul

100 Pounds of Collie // Cornell Campbell

Sensimilla // Barrington Levy

Stalk of Sensimilla // Michael Rose

Smoke Marijuana // Sizzla

Cannabis // Bushman

HAPPY 10/17, CANADA!

Be careful out there. This might take some getting used to. Here are the official regulations, from the Government Of Canada: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-medication/cannabis/laws-regulations.html.







Written by Stacey Marie Robinson for Kya Publishing's "Urban Toronto Tales" blog.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Caribana 1976 (Toronto's Caribbean Carnival)

Photo by John Mahler, Toronto
Saturday, July 31. The day started with torrential downpour, while masqueraders and calypso bands gathered in preparation for the 10th annual Caribbean parade: the largest celebration of its kind in Canada. It was the summer of 1976, and many of the young West Indian revellers had only been living in Canada for a few years. This was a highlight in the community. A time of honouring their roots and performing their cultural traditions proudly on the streets of their new home: Toronto.

Photo by Jack Dobson
Caribana was, and remains, a special time for Toronto's Caribbean community because of the force with which the parade's participants declare their space. Originally intended as a gift to the city of Toronto on behalf of the West Indian community, the festivities have undergone numerous changes in management, in name, in route, in relevance, and in generational trend. But one thing that has yet to be altered is the spirit of the event.

Calypsonian Lord Kitchener
It is in great contrast to the modern day Toronto Caribbean Carnival in many ways, however, the essence of the parade remains the same: the smiles, the dancing, the use of costumes, and the importance of presentation. The film of Caribana 1976 posted at the bottom of this article was recently converted without audio, but has been edited to contain the year's Road March, declared at Trinidad's Carnival celebration earlier in 1976: "Flag Woman" by Lord Kitchener, in what would be his final Road March title. Following Lord Kitchener, are the sounds of Shadow, with "Bass Man," the Road March from 1974's Carnival. The voices of the calypsonians remind us of the true spirit of calypso and carnival, and shall serve as a reminder of the beautiful tradition of carnival and the Caribbean islands of its origin.

P. Mills McGibbon with D. Crombie
It was a significant year in Toronto, 1976. the beloved Pierre Trudeau was Prime Minister, the Governor General was Jules Leger. Bill Davis was the Premier of Ontario, and the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario was Pauline Mills McGibbon. David Crombie was the Mayor of Toronto, and the city had proudly opened the CN Tower to the public: then the world's tallest freestanding structure at 1815 feet tall. This was the year the Toronto Blue Jays were created, and the first time the CRTC were given powers to regulate television and radio in Canada.

Parliament had voted to abolish the death penalty that year, Canada was hosting their inaugural Olympic games that summer in Montreal, and everyone's favourite morning snack--The Timbit--was first introduced to the world.

Richard Pryor
In the theatres, Rocky, Carrie, King Kong, Car Wash, and Freaky Friday were hits during 1976, and the popular game show Family Feud debuted for the first time on television, as well as The Muppet Show. Good Times and The Jeffersons were already hits, and cars like the Chevy Laguna, Pontiac Firebird, and Ford Mustang were popular on the roads.

The Manhattans
Playing on the radio, you could hear "Kiss and Say Goodbye" by The Manhattans during the summer of 1976, the #1 song on the Billboard charts in July, following a two month run from Diana Ross with "Love Hangover." Also a happening track that year: "Shake Your Booty" by KC and the Sunshine Band.

P. Trudeau with F. Castro
Just south of Canada, Jimmy Carter was elected President of the United States of America in 1976, and Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak formed the Apple Computer Company that year. Nasa unveiled their first space shuttle, the Enterprise, and the Concorde aircraft entered service. In entertainment, the Seattle Seahawks played their first football game, and the NBA and the American Basketball Associated decided to merge as one. In Cuba, Fidel Castro came into power.

In Jamaica, the native land of the Caribana 1976 filmographer Earl W.L. Robinson, things were not so celebratory. In 1976 there was a National State of Emergency declared by Prime Minister Michael Manley, in the midst of great political turmoil, violence, and unrest. The Prime Minister feared the government would be overthrown, and thus the State of Emergency lasted for a full year. Tourism on the island was impacted, as many suspected that Jamaica was being "destabilized by foreign and domestic conspirators." It was arguably the worst crisis on the island in their 14 years of independence, and a matter of deep concern for those, like Robinson, who had recently emigrated to Canada, the U.S., and the U.K.

"Smile Jamaica" concert 1976
As 1976 concluded, reggae artist Bob Marley was shot outside of his home on Hope Road in Kingston, Jamaica, which only intensified unsettled feelings amongst Jamaicans and reggae music lovers around the globe. In an effort to ease the tension of the country, Michael Manley curated the "Smile Jamaica" concert at the National Heroes Park where Marley performed, just days after the shooting. This is when the infamous handshake between People's National Party (PNP) and Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) leaders took place on stage.

Trinidad 1976
Across the Caribbean, other islands were going through times of transition, establishing independence and building culture and enterprise in 1976. Those who remained in the West Indies were diligent and dedicated: those who ventured abroad to establish life in a foreign country were determined and tenacious. Away from home, the sunshine, and familial ties, the West Indians in Canada did all they could to feel at home. For the summer of 1976, this was perhaps the most nostalgic moment for all of them, parading down Lakeshore to the sounds of calypso and reggae, running into old classmates, and rejoicing with new comrades.

This footage, from the 1976 Caribana parade on University Avenue, was captured by Earl W.L. Robinson on 8mm film. In the ten minute clip, you can see the exuberance, the joy, the rhythm, and the inclusiveness of the Caribana parade as young West Indian immigrants and their friends party alongside their new Canadian peers and neighbours.

Here is a brief glimpse of that joyous moment in time, and a window into the Caribbean Canadian heritage, that remains an influential part of Toronto's annual summer celebrations:



(direct link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c5QqvzfYFdM&feature=youtu.be)



Written by Stacey Marie Robinson for Kya Publishing's "Urban Toronto Tales" blog.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

In Awe of the Legendary Quincy Jones

We all knew who Quincy Jones was, primarily because of Michael Jackson. That was all we needed to know to determine that the man was an amazing musical mind. He produced not only the historic "Thriller" album in 1982, but also the "Off The Wall" album in 1979, and the "Bad" album in 1987. As far as anyone was concerned in the 80s: Quincy Jones was a mastermind. Those accomplishments alone are more than enough to have him cemented into music's elite echelons.

Since then, I can't say that I've ever questioned Q's excellence. I knew that he was the producer of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. I knew that he had produced and performed with many (if not all) of the greatest musicians of our time and beyond. I can recently recall him being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (2013), and also receiving the Kennedy Center Honors in 2001. Everyone knows, he's a vault of talent. It's no secret, although all of the details may not have been widely known.

What I didn't realize--and now am painfully aware of, thanks to the Netflix documentary Quincy that was released on September 21--is that Quincy Jones is unbelievably extraordinary. Like, ridiculously phenomenal on so many levels. After watching the movie, I was near speechless. Many times during the film, I had to shake my head in awe. At his orchestration. The way he composed scores. The instruments he played. The projects he was behind. Simply amazing.

I consider myself to be a music lover, and someone who studies, appreciates, and respects all genres for various reasons. I admire vocalists, and appreciate instrumentalists regularly. I revel at songwriters, and celebrate performers. But what Mr. Jones has is something special, that transcends genre, generation, and trend. He is a bonafide genius, and I'm thankful for the production "Quincy" that his daughter Rashida Jones and Alan Hicks created in his honour.

Released at this year's Toronto International Film Festival, "Quincy" is a two-hour journey through decades, relationships, sounds, and emotion, as the young (and handsome!!) Mr. Jones is enters the world of live bands and composition from a young age. It is his love for music that guides his entire life, and continues to bring him to special spaces and keep him in the highest of high regards amongst musicians and civilians everywhere.

The most beautiful thing about this man is his humility. Despite the talent, the awards, despite the endless list of credentials, and having worked with the greats from Lena Horne and Frank Sinatra, to Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, and today's contemporary stars. Despite travelling the world, and being an expected and comfortable presence amongst leaders like Barack Obama and Colin Powell, as well as the Civil Rights leaders of the 60s and 70s. Despite having his name attached to some of the most powerful Black films of our time (Roots (1997), The Wiz (1978), and The Color Purple in 1985) by scoring the musical soundtracks...despite this all, he still remains humble and grateful.

I was unaware of the brain aneurysm he suffered in 1974, and the multiple surgeries he endured to overcome this setback. This, and many other details about his life described in the movie, only made my respect and appreciation for him multiply. Easily.

Again, he had me at Thriller. That was enough of a contribution to music, to culture, and to my own personal memories to keep Mr. Jones on a pedestal. This film was important because it put Quincy in a spotlight, and really aligned his accomplishments and contributes to contemporary culture in a way that makes you realize that individuals like him are rare. He is truly a legend, that few can compare to.

It reminds me of the power of not only music, but also legacy and persona. It demonstrates how important the arts is in creating culture and complementing history. There's something about the musical scores, and the artistic contributions he has made over the span of his 85 years that made me feel happy to be alive, and aware of every minute that we are given to create, to compose, and to enjoy life...through music.

There is power in a legacy like Quincy's, because his talents bring so much joy. For decades, he has delivered happiness in various forms, and contributions like that can't be taken for granted. The arts are a magical force, and when used correctly, they have the great power to move, inspire, and uplift.

It was an amazing documentary, and a powerful story to say the least. I'm happy to be alive in a time when his living legacy is tangible and available as a blueprint for other artists. I hope that this movie served as an inspiration to those who have been blessed with talents, and that they recognize the importance of using them wisely, and creating a valuable example for those to follow.

God bless him, and his amazing life. I will continue to be inspired by Quincy's journey.




Written by Stacey Marie Robinson for Kya Publishing's "Urban Toronto Tales" blog.