International Reggae: Current and Future Trends in Jamaican Popular Music

by Donna Hope

Kingston, Jamaica

Rhythm, Rhyme and Remixing: David Katz in Conversation with Sly Dunbar

Jimmy Cliff came into town, looking for musicians to play on his album Follow My Mind, and then I went with him on tour, but after that, I was fired, because Joe Higgs wanted us to do a performance somewhere, and Ranchie and myself decided not to go, so Jimmy fired us. Later, he came back and asked me if I wanted to go play with him when the Channel One stuff started happening, and he asked me to go with him to Africa, so I went back with him to tour.

Around that same era, in Jamaican popular music there was a new style that developed, which I believe initially comes from the Soul Syndicate band, known as the ‘flying cymbal’ style, or ‘flyers.’

The flying cymbal style wasn’t created by the Soul Syndicate band. I first heard that flying cymbal in a song called ‘Moonlight Lover’; 20 I don’t know who was playing that drum, but if you listen to the Skatelites stuff, Lloyd [Knibb] is playing something like that. And when I heard ‘Moonlight Lover,’ the first time I tried to play it, I played it in ‘Double Barrel’, and it was a hit. Then, after a while, we didn’t play it [any more], so I played it on ‘Here I Am Baby’ with Al Brown, and it was a big hit.

Then Bunny Lee21 realized that the style was working, and he took it and started calling it the flying cymbal, so that’s it for flying cymbal.

The way Mikey Boo described it, he was trying to emulate ‘The Sound of Philadelphia,’ aka ‘TSOP,’ the theme song from Soul Train, recorded by a studio band from Philadelphia [called MFSB].

Well, ‘TSOP’ got it from us, personally. Our songs came out before ‘TSOP’; ‘Moonlight Lover’ was out before, and ‘Double Barrel’ was out before.

The time when the ‘flying cymbal’ style really took off is around the same period when you and Robbie Shakespeare started to play together. Can you tell us how you first became aware of each other as musicians, and what happenedfrom there?

I used to play at the Tit for Tat club, Robbie use to play at the club called Evil People, that was next door to Tit for Tat…in North Parade, where Randy’s record store is, we used to call it Idler’s Rest, and all musicians would meet there in the daytime, like we punch the clock and everybody come work, but because there is no work, we looking work. So I remember Robbie was giving me a lift in his green Escort to Channel One, so I tell him to come check me tomorrow, because sometimes a whole heap a sessions run. But prior to that, he used to come over to the club where I was playing at and watch us play, and I used to go over to his club, and he called a session with Bunny Lee, and I think the first song we played together [on] was a song for John Holt named ‘I Forgot to Say I Love You Till I’m Gone’—a Chi-Lites song. We did that first song, and Bunny say, ‘Wow, this is wicked,’ and Robbie asked me to join him with Peter Tosh, because I had just did a tour with Dennis Brown, and I did one also with the Mighty Diamonds for Virgin, so I said, ‘No problem,’ and this is where the whole development starts, we trying to put a show together with Peter Tosh. Robbie and myself, we used to share rooms, so we start to come up with ideas; we start playing the dub live with Peter, because after Peter sings, we didn’t know how to end the songs, so we play a long dub, and the people would love it. We start developing all these things, night after night, and we took the idea to the recording studio, and try and capture everything…