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Jamaica Day 12: The Cowboy Rides, Hope Gardens, 41 Fleet Street Kids, by Davin Michael Stedman

Tonight I entered the Lair of The Cowboy. I promised folks like Lee Gillette that I would find the heart of Country music in Jamaica. As fate would have it, a new friend of mine wanted me to meet The Cowboy, Kingston’s very own Country singer. It’s pronounced Coe Boy, like Seattle guitarist Andy Coe.

The Cowboy was said to be a retired police officer. When I entered his yard it was a giant garage and altar to his uncontested crown as the lone Country-Western singer standing in the arteries of Kingston.

I entered and his guitar player was standing in the doorway and took note of me, and my guitar case. He stood outside the gate strumming a beautiful resonator he’s described as property of The Cowboy.

My new friend Mikey spoke in heavy Patois to explain why we were here. I said,

“I’m from Seattle, I’m a writer and a Country singer and I’ve come to meet The Cowboy.”

Those two qualifiers opened the gates and we entered. There was a bar inside. I ordered a few cold beers, which a woman unlocked from a refrigerator. Cecil sat down with me and with resonator in hand was eager to know about me. He was a wonderful pure-hearted soul, and the heart of Cowboy’s backing band.

There are assorted people in the compound and a serious argument soon breaks out which doesn’t phase The Cowboy, as he sits beyond the vintage sports cars that are the centerpiece of the yard. He’s on the opposite side at his giant desk full of car parts and memorabilia. He shouts something in the thickest Patois I have heard yet but carries on.

The argument only feet away from me escalates. I don’t want to leave, so I use an old trick to stop the argument that was half Martin Luther King half Gypsy hypnotism.

Just as I describe in the song “Spanish Guns” that all these men will later sing along to, I pull out my acoustic guitar and I started to play. I started improvising a song about a Country Boy who has come thousands of miles to meet the Cowboy. The fight dissipates out of wonder and unrelenting positive energy as it becomes especially clear I am improvising.

Cecil joins in playing what turns out to be his favorite go-to lick and we lock in. Soon the fight is over and before long The Cowboy comes over and he begins singing an old Mento song with with Cecil, call and response style, a hallmark of the genre that was the Country music of his childhood.

The tune is familiar, but like all of The Cowboy’s songs, he has changed the words and often the story to suit his role at the center of everything. He stars in every nearly every song he sings. He’s tall at least 6’5, built like a man that used to be built like an ox.

PS. I have video to prove it. The secret:

Rule #1 don’t be a racist D-bag, because you’ll never be the cool American if you are a bigot. Your country wrote The Declaration of Independence. Act like it.

Rule #2, you have to walk like the British say we Americans walk. Like you belong there. You don’t own the place. But you own your own two feet.

This could have gone sideways, but ever since I met Mikey, I trusted the guy. I pretended I didn’t, which he said was probably wise, when he offered me a ride down the Red Hills road when I really needed one.

But the girls at the fruit stand that I have been frequenting, told me he was a solid guy. He is like a one man Uber service, driving up and down this hill with his own personal car. He’s the one who brought me to The Cowboy and he said what I did to break up the argument was magic.

I said it’s the only Magic I know.

Cecil told me, “I like your style.” I liked his. He was just so happy to play some guitar with a new friend and so was I. Kingston can be a lonely place for a Country picker.

One of the few things I understood The Cowboy say when he wasn’t singing was that Cecil auditioned for his band. Cecil nodded his head with immense pride. This was his gig.

He was always ready for The Cowboy. Even a half step ahead. Cecil unlocked each song because he could figure out the chords.

The vision of the Cuban director. “Free Your Mind.”

This is Hope Gardens, Kingston, Jamaica, Earth.

 

Check out some photos from the ‘Free Your Mind’ shoot in Kingston, Jamaica. Sometimes you forget in the hustle and bustle of Kingston, with its Seattle maze of heart attack traffic, that this is also THE CITY.

This crew Roy Roy ce (the Cubano) put together was terrific. Anthony Cameron is up next!

All the kids on 41 Fleet Street where we shot our ‘Free Your Mind’ video today, thought I was Jack Black. They didn’t know Jack Black’s name, but they kept tugging on my shirt asking if I am Jumanji.

“We heard you are famous American actor mister.”

Well Jack Black is going to have to bring his A Game to this amazing Kingston neighborhood, because we spent the whole afternoon playing guitar, writing a theme song neighborhood farm (The Life Yard), and just having fun anf often profound time just feet from the cameras.

I have much more to tell and video to share once I get to Wi-Fi, but man, I tell you this is a poor neighborhood rich with culture and leaders.

They have a community farm where they raise their own food, and the young men in the neighborhood keep a constant eye on the youth, keeping books in their hands and good food in their bellies.

I have never been so happy to help. I made a donation to the farm, and the young man handed it right to one of the kids and told him to go take the money and to get something to eat and share.

String minds require good food and good mentors. I keep saying to the young men in the neighborhood as we talked Geopolitics that you don’t know what you have until it’s gone.

How many culturally rich but economically disadvantaged urban neighborhoods and for that matter small towns have disintegrated in our lifetimes?

This is a good neighborhood you can visit in Kingston. If you’re a farmer they said,

“Come farm with us.”

After they all learned the Life Yard song I wrote on the spot, full of endless inspiration that was bouncing off the walls, a young man said to me,

“We thank you for writing our first theme song, I promise it won’t the last.”

Now top that Jack Black. No really. Go see these kids. They are your biggest fans.

But I am a fan boy of 41 Fleet Street. I rest easier knowing this is a real place, and that Tenacious D has had a positive impact on these kids.

So I just got sent this video from a young Rasta named Worthe from 41 Fleet Street. This is this that little incredible neighborhood that turned YARD into a community farm.

At first the young men were understandably wondering what we were up to and what we were about shooting a video in their neighborhood. But I just spontaneously started writing this song for them instead of explaining myself, and now I got a whole new crew in Kingston. Moments after this I was touring the farm and they were asking how we could produce this song for the neighborhood.

I told them we absolutely could but they just have to write the verses, find us somebody local to create the Riddim for me to track guitar and vocals to back home and it’s on. All the kids are singing the hook up an down the street as we pulled away hours later.

I said they can have the song. It’s their own. I hope a song today can still feed some kids. Spotify ain’t feeding many children of independent artists. But music wasn’t always about a bottom line. It has always been a way to communicate and build bridges.

Music is still useful for moments like this. Just 3 to 4 chords and the truth. If you are about it, sing about it.

Music is effin’ magic.

Davin’s new song has been released. Listen here on Reggaeville: DAVIN MICHAEL STEDMAN & ANTHONY RED ROSE – FREE YOUR MIND FEAT. SLY & ROBBIE WITH LENKY MARSDEN

РMusician and writer Davin Michael Stedman has many musical ventures and is one of the driving forces behind the Staxx Brothers. He is networking and reporting from Kingston, Jamaica right now.

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