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The Ambassador of Trench Town Part 1: Sing a Simple Song, by Davin Michael Stedman

I have so much to tell you about Trench Town.

Let me just start by telling you I showed the kids of 3rd street my songs and they were singing along to the hooks and improvising guitar solos I challenges them to take one out for a rip. And it was actually a really nice hook based I want to hear a guitar player emulate.

“If we use that riff kid, we’ll credit you.”

I got to be honest, I was fighting back tears at a couple moments as these kids were singing straight off my lyric cheat sheets on songs like ‘Rum Kings’ and ‘Spanish Guns’ that I wrote about Jamaica right when I got back. One kid even laughed as he sang the line,

“Brains laughed at me like an old Pompe, a little African blood seems Sephardic in a way”

About how an engineer at Chinna’s fondly called me a magical left handed Jew, or a Pompe.

“Brains but I am not Jewish”

“You are but you just don’t know you are.” Said Brains.

I took a double take that the kiddo laughed at a punchline that I was just hoping a Jamaican somewhere would get.

These kids are so bright. F_ck racism. These kids are from one of the most famous and traditionally poor neighborhoods, in a poor Caribbean country. But they are also from a neighborhood that turned out murals full of genius that expressed their intellect through recording arts and sciences.

My host and champion Ricardo Brown laughed out loud when I said how countless Ghetto Dons could have been Doctors, but few Doctors could have been Dons.

He shot back what skill it took to keep everyone so happy and constantly triangulate, in a Patois I can still only have understand while being completely understood.

That’s Ricardo’s youngest daughter. His eldest daughter is 17. He is trying to figure out how to put her through college, which is daunting for my friends making over 100 k a year. The people of Trench Town are struggling to make minimum the wage of $50 US a week.

But this neighborhood has generated over a billion dollars in the time the old timers have grown up as boys and survived the shooting gallery. Imagine all those tickets and drinks Nectar Lounge sells at reggae shows, and imagine every venue in the entire world doing the same. Hawaiians and Africans and White American dudes only make a living off of reggae because of the unique DNA and cultural traditions of these 7 tiny streets and its maze of back alleys lined of zinc and scraps of ‘tings’ that were thrown away.

Now I am not going to be mall minded and bray ironically about Cultural appropriation. Cultural appropriation is a major issue, but it’s what made Jamaica a world leader in music and brought me here.

There were once kids who appropriated whatever they could get their hands on, and with the help of a grown up that taught them harmony and self discipline, became one of the greatest bands of all time. They became The Wailers. Rita, Peter Tosh, Bunny, Marley, all these larger than life characters and super heroes played futbol on the streets as kids did this afternoon as some sang along and sat down to listen.

In another world, they would all go to Harvard.

One of Ricardo’s best friends that painted the murals I admired was gunned down there a couple weeks ago.

Should you go to Trench Town? Yes. With Ricardo and his friends during daylight hours, you will be warmly welcomed. Though they may shout at Ricardo with something along the lines asking if you are a CIA agent.

“No mi bredren Davin a real link!”

But if you read the Booker Award Winning, A History of Seven Killings, you will understand why people genuinely wonder if I am an American spy and hope I am not, because gosh darn it they really like me.

These folks could use a little help. Like some more work. They are trying. Ricardo mentioned they could use two more soccer balls as we watched the kids race up and down the streets using both curbs as their field.

One year ago, Ricardo saw me sing at Chinna’s and asked me if I would sing in Trench Town for his friends when I came back. We stayed in touch and he drove across town and up into the Red Hills and picked me up at noon.

– Musician and writer Davin Michael Stedman has many musical ventures and is one of the driving forces behind the Staxx Brothers. He is partying and working in Kingston, Jamaica right now.

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