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Jamaica Day 14: Drones of Jamaica, by Davin Michael Stedman

Drones of Jamaica: This is my first music video with drones. We actually had to move down the road from our ideal location because the drone’s wifi was disabled being closer to an airport than we realized.

Mario, pictured on the left mentioned that they once didn’t realize they were flying too close to the US Embassy, and the iPhone that operates the drone was sent a warning.

Drones! What a game changer. In warfare, it has turned precision air military strikes, that once required gutsy maneuvers to evade death or capture and relentless torture as a pilot calls behind enemy lines, into a simulation. Ender’s Game. Sega.

Now those lines are more political than geographical than ever before American combat, and with drones, it is an office job. It will probably be outsourced.

For many kids in the World blue skies are a warning that drones can down freely. Not a fun fact of Empire.

But for independent filmmakers, we now have better arial footage than outrageously expensive airplanes, helicopters, and cameras could have offered.

When filmmakers get targeted by military drones, the trade off will be even less equitable.

Our biggest concern was if the drone dissapeared into the Atlantic, the practical challenge of trying to fly our Chinese robot in a straight line, in the invisible currents and crashing waves of the ocean breeze.

If you want an epic, this will be a chapter in my book, West Indian Rock.

Yesterday was the final day of our video shoot for ‘Free Your Mind’ and I nearly drove a sports car off an iconic cliff at a national heritage site in Jamaica’s Blue Mountains. This is a verifiable fact. But I didn’t, so in the words of Mark Twain:

“The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

But I did nearly give our Cuban director a heart attack as he sat to my left riding shot gun.

But that’s not what this post is about. This post is about how the end of the ‘Free Your Mind’ became a surreal metaphysical experience as I sat on a mountain top with sipping fake champagne with the Cuban’s extremely beautiful girlfriend. If she were any more beautiful I would be wondering if I was trapped inside photo shop.

There I was in my own music video, living out the Cuban’s dream of a perfect afternoon, as his Jamaican Director of Photography did his best not to shake the camera as he shivered in the mountain air that I swear could not be south of 68 Fahrenheit. The DP apologized, assuring me we could stabilize the shot. His name is Delroy and he a wonderful man that always puts me at ease.

A warm summertime breeze in the United Kingdom might freeze him like carbonite, Cannon 5D in hand.

The Cuban dreams of making movies, and music videos are truly a great step in that direction. He made a full length movie before he left Cuba with the barest of tools. This video could be a chance for him to show potentially millions of people what kind of story is within him in 5 minutes or less. For me as the head of a television station told me from control room as we explained who was directing, (paraphrasing here)

“The Cubans can be such excellent filmmakers. They had to learn make great things with very little.” He nodded with approval.

Staxx Brothers music videos were always started out as my idea, my story, my locations. Then they evolved as directors and friends chimed in. But I had to be the FIRESTARTER. I had to be Pan.

But today working with great producers like Anthony Red Rose, I am taking that next step towards surrendering my songs to people that actually know how to make hits. They know how to get them into the chart. Here in Kingston I have a shot at a career outside of the regional patch of Northwestern soil I have been tilling for 15 years. To the point I fear a dust bowl. It’s time to rotate the crops. I have run through so many doors in the Seattle music scene. Some are going to be closed for me, because I am just never going to fit the image of what ‘Seattle’ is trying to sell. I am not White enough, not Black enough, My name is not as Latino as I appear. I am too pop, but not Pop enough. I look like a bouncer. The elevator for me stopped on the 13th floor.

But I am not complaining. For Jimi Hendrix there wasn’t even a 2nd floor for him in Seattle.

I asked Seattle guitarist Jimmy James what would have become of Jimi if he stayed in Seattle in the 1960’s. He said,

“A Janitor.”

Still a living Janitor.

He left for Nashville, New York, London. He got out of town jumping out of airplanes in the US Army. But he broke his ankle either fatefully or purposefully and landed with his parachute in London, with Keith Richard’s white Strat in hand. In great moments in Side Dude history, the guitar was given to him by Keith’s favorite girl. Keith called her parents in tears, but Jimi had his short date with destiny and the guitar was fine with it. Keith’s girl had a vision too.

When I first met The Cuban he had a specific vision of what ‘Free Your Mind’ meant to him. He wrote the story with his girlfriend and translated it into an English script. This adorable Cuban nurse I described that can barely understand a word I say wrote herself into this story as well. I felt guilty even gazing in her eyes during the final scene as The Cuban shouted at the drone but she didn’t see me.

The folks in Trench Town had a vision as they shouted the chorus the first time I blasted the song in the streets. People have listened to this song Red Rose crafted with the best tools Jamaica had to offer, and they all had a vision. But Red Rose is a clockmaker. In this his three minute masterpiece, they had three things in common, over the 180 second spell.

First they sang along to the chorus, by the second chorus at the latest. Second they said the song was a hit. Third, they told me why this song was so important to them right now, as political pressures rise and Montego Bay swallows young men. An election is always coming. Imagine if your arguments on social media was an actual battle field.

It’s a quite a trip for me. Lyrically this is maybe the most simple song I have ever written. It’s got a clever chord sequences. More clever than absolutely necessary but never in such a way that it doesn’t lift you up further as the simple melody flies on it’s updrafts.

But between what Red Rose wrote and my few words, it’s almost like a meditation. Ultimately I am waiting for the pressure to drop, but I also confess that I am afraid what happens what becomes of us when all the pressure disappears. I have been fascinated by the relationship between the necessity of pressure, the poison of too much pressure, and how each of us are able to cope with it as members of the animal kingdom blessed and cursed by the ability to comprehend ourselves.

I learned recently at work that an oil change in an old car can actually lead to a car on its last legs breaking down. All that oil is all that holds the car’s worn parts in place. Sometimes I wonder if our Modern world is that old car. What is Enlightenment is the end, because society cannot cope, realizing these are problems that ‘Maybe It’s Too Late’ to fix. It’s a terrible thought. We should have gotten that oil change in 1956. But America shot its own mechanics. MLK died with his head under the American hood.

In the hands of Anthony Red Rose, ‘Free Your Mind, is also banger that you may indeed dagger the night away to in the half moonlight. All thanks to Sly & Robbie’s driving Dance Hall drum and bass they indeed invented from African Tradition that hung in the late 70’s Jamaican air that was a mix of Natural Mystic and burning coal. But even as you are finding yourself in 2018 riding on the back of your significant other like a cowboy strapped to a buffalo, you can still meditate on this song. It’s almost a prayer.

But it wasn’t until I sat on that mountain top sipping fake champagne with somebody else’s beautiful girlfriend, as the rain and fog ‘miraculously’ dissapated (as satellites connected to smart phones predicted) did I fully understand what the it meant to Free my own damn Mind.

Most of yesterday I was vexed by a tricky situation I had to resolve with a gentleman who is a colleague and a friend. I am not going to get into it specifically, but it is a difficult situation on a musical level that just wasn’t working out for either of us at this moment, because of money more than anything else. But not a lack of effort. Caring too much is dangerous, and it hard to show the promise of loyalty with words as we all hustle as a means of survival, borrowing from Peter with interest to pay Paul.

It was explosive because we both really wanted to make it work. But the risks I have run here is a time bomb of limited credit and time. Ingenuity and charisma can only get you so far before you cross the line from a charming song and dance man to an American that has asked too much of his Jamaican friends. I have too many balls in the air, but like that old car engine, I only got to this Mountain top with Anthony Red Rose because I had so many balls in the air. But each one of these dreams I juggle are precious things my world and even my life depend on.

Here I was worried about this situation when I should have been focused on the task at hand. But then again, maybe that was the best time to come to a forgone conclusion and accept the situation. It may make that scene. It may break that scene. But I went there. Will you see it on my face? Will this song take to a figurative mountain top, and what will be the cost? Am I that old car?

It may sound silly but that song, in that moment suddenly meant more to me that it had before. Even more than it did when the idea came to me in Scott Rowe’s little English Garden, in America we call a patio. But that moment was also the product of so much sage advice Anthony Red Rose gave me as he should have been nursing his horse voice as we raced up that comically winding and narrow two lane road with signs that told you to honk at each corner.

As if by reading my mind or the tea leaves of this moment in Jamaican history he spoke to me about the real implication of freeing one’s own mind. How to Free Your Mind you must find solutions. Not all solutions are temporary. Maybe the good ones are temporary and the bad ones are those with crushing finality that are made from the Effect of the Butterfly’s wing flexing in the halls of power and changing circumstances all way up to the moment when a young man’s finger pulls the trigger of an automatic weapon in a rage of envy and jealousy, because the world is a crab and the universe is a bucket. And when we fall, we all fall. It’s a thought heavier than the earth itself.

In her Cuban eyes I didn’t see her. I saw you. I saw everything.


“All of these lines across my face
Tell you the story of who I am
So many stories of where I’ve been
And how I got to where I am
But these stories don’t mean anything
When you’ve got no one to tell them to”

– The Story, Brandi Carlile

Inside the Legendary LIFE YARD. An inner city farm the people of Fleet St cultivated from an old hidden Yard. Have a look.

That sugar cane game. Jamaica days.

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

– Musician 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 fromĀ Kingston, Jamaica right now.

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