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Sunday, November 6, 2016

SONGS of the SHEPHERD: tribute to KIDDUS I


tribute to KIDDUS I

If you should ask me what is my favourite album released in the last few years, I would answer without hesitation: Topsy Turvy World, by Kiddus I. It's my first choice album by him. Roots Reggae in this moment in time, doesn't come sweeter than this.

He’s always written great songs; such as Security in the Streets, from Graduation to Zion, a compilation of some of his late seventies/early eighties recordings; No Salvation Until, from the acoustic recordings titled Inna De Yard; When We Get Together, on the 2009 release Green Fa Life – and Looking for a Friend, from Take A Trip, released last year. But its the album of three years ago, that I keep going back to

Now seventy-two years old, its the album of a wise man, sharing something of  what’s he’s learnt along the way. In the song called Changes, he sings of the uncertainty  of life and the certainty of change: the need to face things favourably.

Changes will be possible,

For I and you.

Changes will be positive,

For you and I.

He’s seen the changes. Such as the persecution of rasta, to rasta receiving national decorations. Where once they shaved and beat them, now they are being honoured by the Jamaican government. The personal changes too. From Sons of Negus to solo performer; from rasta celebrity – after the Rockers appearance – to roots obscurity, after the repeated disappearance of tapes.

But the loss to the music world, was the gain of the general society. For these  were the first years of community activism  and farming: the setting up of local initiatives, such as Cafe D'Artique, an arts centre and cafe. These endeavours resulted in him being called the‘’Shepherd’’, which became the name of his recording label. He was the community educator, taking his fellow learners, on a course towards cohesion.

Let's  salute those who are still with us,

Who when we see them perform,

Take us to the heights:

Those still able to fly.

When eulogising Bob Marley,

Give thanks for Kiddus I.

I imagine him as a respected figure of the past, in a Shona village in Zimbabwe. I see him walking, entrusted to make the barefoot journey to Matonjeni shrine, in the Matabo Hills, to kneel and  plead for rain: so all can have corn and cucumber.

Talking of the produce of the land, brings me to the Moringa. This is a tree indigenous to parts of Africa and Asia. I mention it here because this plant has been brought into partnership with Kiddus I. Like a new testament for agriculture, he has evangalised it to the farmers of his homeland.

He teaches of its medicinal and nutritional blessings: the revelation of the Moringa gospel. From this plant, his project called Green Fa Life, has produced teabags, wine, jam, cakes – and a powder, which can be used for soups, drinks and porridge. They may  go on to produce Moringa pasta, lasagna, curry, pizza, sweets and so on  In a 2013 interview, talking of the project, he said ''Its a spiritual network, a divine purpose that I an I seek to fulfil.

To be good shepherds for mankind and terra firma, because its the shepherds who control and lead.'' In this endeavour, he mirrors the vision of the Kenyan activist, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Wangari Maathai and her Green Belt Movement. He comes like John the Baptist, wrapped in a green loincloth: laying the pathway, for those that shall continue the work.

Accepting his tutoring role and looking to learn from others, he reminds us of the importance of the good teacher, on 'Teach Me Right'..
Don't send me off  course, I'm listening to you,
Teach me right.

Don't send me off course, cause I'm listening to you,

And I hear what you say, so.

Listening to you  every day,

Teach me right.

Last week, I drummed at a children's party, around a fire. It would be great to listen to the teacher in that scenario, blessing us with an acoustic workshop . From Inna De Yard to Roun' De Fire!

Like a roll call of the Roots Reggae Pantheon, he continues to attract golden musicianship. Virtuosos that he jammed and recorded with in the seventies, he continues to create with, thirty years later: such as Horsemouth, Chinna and Family Man. Men of a thousand albums and jam sessions – undiminished and omnipresent. The monumental ones, accompaniment to the first gifts of roots reggae – from Burning Spear, Little Roy, Abyssinians – for which we've been truly thankful ever since.

Kiddus I, the trusted shepherd: the pointer in the right direction. Always aware of those responsibilities, which he expressed in a 2010 interview.
''Don't mislead, misguide mankind – a child or anyone. As as an artist, I feel an obligation to that truth - and expressing it the only way it can be done as best I know, in accordance with the higher authorities. So, my lyrics then, would be inspiration that I see, in the things of the world and that I can maybe  offer a little light on.''

Let's salute those are still with us,

Who when we see them perform,

Take us to the heights:

Those still able to fly.

When eulogising Yabby You,

Give thanks for Kiddus I.

When you see him interviewed, he is as you imagine - humble, warm: giving what his good heart has to offer . Nothing boastful or or self-praising about him. He seems relaxed in all his roles; as singer, farmer and environmentalist. Kiddus remains the communtiy  activist, happy to be spreading some positivity around the place.

The people have responded to all his initiatives over the years, whether they be musicians, farmers, artists, activists, chefs, or whoever walks through the door. If Ras means 'Head' and Tafari means 'He who shall be respected', then Kiddus I is a true carrier of the term Ras Tafari. Its that positivity  that pulsates through the song called ''Its Not Over''...

I'm a living spirit on life's  road.

I mean to carry my own weight and measure.

To carry, to carry, to carry, to carry.

But I'm not alone , no, no.

It's not over, till its over,

I and I ain't  going to just, roll over.

Its not over till its over,

So I and I ain't  going to just, roll over.

And that's another thing about this album: as well as the words, there's the music. One Drop Heaven! From when you start listening, you get an express ticket, taking you straight there.  As he himself calls it, ''classic music''. What else would it be, when powered by Family Man and Horsemouth! There is the playful bounce of ''Tell Me What You Know'' – my favourite - to the majestic step  of ''Trying''. Massive respect to the producer Martin Pauen and the other musicians, who accompanied the icons.

To often we salute the elders, only when they have left us physically; so I take this opportunity to salute Kiddus I, before his first embrace with the ancestors. Let the youth gather round him, as much as possible; let the activists watch and learn; let him run workshops on a weekly basis; let the goodness of his heart emanate.

For the last few days, I've been listening again, to the songs of the shepherd. Blessed is the flock, watched over by Kiddus I.

Let's salute those are still with us,

Who when we seem them perform,

Take us to the heights:

Those still able to fly.

When eulogising Bim Sherman,

Give thanks for Kiddus I.

                                                                                      (c) Natty Mark Samuels, 2016, The Dub.

Natty Mark Samuels
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Check out: 
Celebrating the early Black journalists and roots reggae songwriters
written by Natty Mark on Reggaediscography

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