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Kiddus I Inna de Yard - Philharmonie de Paris

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Kiddus I - PROFILE

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2009.11.13 Kiddus I  & Omar Perry - Massy

Kiddus I - Biography
by JYM "Living drum"
by JYM "Living Drum"

Kiddus I was born Frank Dowding Jr in Saint Mary Parish, Jamaica, December 1944. He came from a middle class background. His mother, Maria Cathcart Dowding, was a home maker, also doing pottery, and his father, Frank Dowding, a bookkeeper.

He grew up in an environment of expression and could listen to a large variety of music: operatic singers, crooners, big bands and 50s/60s music from America (blues, jazz, soul, funk, rock’nroll, pop music). His father had a wide collection of records, and both his mum and dad sang, but it was not professional. His dad would sing at parties and receptions. In an interview, Kiddus recalled : «he had big voice, a type of voice like any of the top singers at the time that were on the radio. My mum had a beautiful sweet voice, she was a wonderful singer. They sang everything : blues, jazz… she was more Spanish because she had come out from Cuba when she was about eight. She was a great dancer of the rhumba, the cha cha, the bossa nova, merengue, various types of Spanish, Cuban, Latin American music ».

Kiddus grew up with all these various genres, so that whenever a style of music became popular, it would become the root of his foundation. He started singing at a very young age, around the age of four. People paid him to sing for them and he enjoyed getting bribes from them. From a little boy his family moved between Kingston and the country. He also joined a choir at school and at a very young age he was also a promoter of music. In fact he has always been deeply rooted in Jamaican music. Singing was like second nature to him. He also used to be a collector of music and when he was about 15, he had a party and one man thieved all his collection, so he stopped collecting music.

 (Photo credit unknown)  

In 1959-60, Kiddus got a scholarship for a Quaker School ‘Happy Grove High’ located in the parish of Portland (The Quaker belief of the “Inner Light” or that of God in each of us creates an atmosphere of tolerance and openness: students are led by example not only to respect the perspectives and talents of others in the community, but so to learn from them). It was one of the only Quaker schools in Jamaica at the time. It was not much different to other schools but he did get to do the history of the ancient Sumerians – not many schools at the time had that text.

Kiddus also did art in school and he was quite good at drawing. He did have skills at arts, but never took it commercially. He did the arts and crafts like tie dye, batik and leatherwork and a variety of other stuff. He did painting for a while and made a whole collection of paintings. After some years, he wanted to do an exhibition, it was about 1975-76, but when he came back to his house in Mas Camp, he didn’t see one painting left! From then, he stopped painting.

In High School, he would make bamboo fifes and some of his own instruments (things that weren’t available). He tried out to play the trumpet but he never liked the hardness on his lip. He played a little of piano and guitar but he finally mainly played drums.

Kiddus I plays Darbouka in Spain © Lone Ark Myspace

Kiddus initially adopted a hippie lifestyle before converting to Rastafari. When he left high school he came and lived in Kingston full time, learning diesel mechanics or diesel engineering as an apprentice. There he met a Rastafarian called Gibbons who would smoke his chalice at lunch times. From then started the introduction to praises and faith in Jah Rastafari.

After a while he went into surveying for real estate. Since 1969, when he left the bauxite industry where he was doing surveying, he has been self-employed and the music has been one of his main sources. But at the same time he did arts and crafts – silk screen printing of t-shirts – and a variety of other things, he did some farming at times too.

At the start of the 70s, Kiddus operated a Rasta commune, ‘Mas Camp’, and crafts centre ‘Café d’Artique’ located at 1C Oxford Road, Kingston. Its situation at the juncture of Uptown and Downtown meant persons of all social strata could meet in a harmonious atmosphere that attracted a number of musicians who were recording in and around Kingston, including Jacob Miller, Zap Pow, Third World and Gregory Isaacs. It was Isaacs who encouraged Kiddus I to pursue a career in music, although the singer had already recorded a session with Joel Gibson in the early 70s. Ras Michael was there constantly, with Sidney Wolfe, Geoffrey Chung, Robbie Shakespeare, Santa Davis, Haile Maskel, Tommy Cowan…. Mas Camp was like a cultural centre for Kingston, where Kiddus was considered the main or the prime mover for this artisan community. So stationed there, he supplied the best herbs, the ital food and at the same time there was the music that they were doing.

Kiddus has had different surnames along the years. At school, children used to call him ‘Frankie’ or ‘Kid’ and additional variants like ‘Kiddy’, ‘Kid Reketek’ or ‘Kid Bangarang’. Later on, he also as been named ‘Sheppard’ (he was a ‘shepherd’ in music industry). Kiddus was always surrounded with all the legends of reggae as he was like a visionary. Many greats including some that are no longer with us like Bob Marley, Jacob Miller and Peter Tosh, to name a few, spent much time reasoning with Kiddus. All his legendary friends were always happy to sit in and play on anything Kiddus was doing, as he has always been progressive. For that reason Kiddus depth in recording is very special as he brings the brotherhood to the Music.

It is Ras Michael who named him ‘Kiddus I’, meaning the ‘blessed one’ in the Amharic language. Bob Marley named him ‘Doctor Feel Good’ because of his excellent quality herb (‘Dr Feel Good’ is quoted in Bob’s song ‘Punky Reggae Party’: “Wailers will be there, the Damned, the Jam, the Clash, Wailers will be there. Dr Feel Good too, oooooooohh”).

Kiddus I with Ras Michael and the Sons of Negus

In 1971, Kiddus was recruited as a vocalist and drum player in Ras Michael and the Sons of Negus. With the group he performed on the Jamaican hit ‘Non A Jah Jah Children’, that featured on 1975’s Rastafari album produced by Tommy Cowan. He played with Ras Michael and the Sons of Negus until 1978, when Ras Michael left and went over to the United States of America.

Rastafari album
Concert flyer UK 1976

Kiddus I is a strong singer with clear enunciation and a tenor that trembles with emotion. He has a special voice with heavy and deep accents. In 1972, he recorded his first titles.

He met Aston ‘Familyman’ Barrett circa 1971 at 56 Hope Road. Aston played bass & keyboards on one of Kiddus’ first recordings. Carlton ‘Carlie’ Barrett, his brother, played drums, Sangie Davis played guitar and Bunny Wailer came in afterwards: ‘Careful How You Jump’ was recorded in ’72 at 56 Hope Road, Kingston (Tuff Gong headquarters and Bob Marley’s home).

Kiddus also recorded in 1974/1976 at the Harry J studio along with some members of the Sons of Negus and some others including Ralph Holding, Benbow, Earl ‘Chinna’ Smith. Kiddus has known Chinna when he started playing on Ras Michael and the Sons of Negus records.

(The young Earl ‘Chinna’ Smith, down left).

Since then, Chinna has always been an important part of Kiddus’ music and recordings as he was already playing on his songs in the 70s.
Kiddus also played with other excellent guitarists, like Cat Coore (Third World) or Jimmy Haynes (Steel Pulse), Winston "Bo Pee" Bowen, Sweeney or Ernest Ranglin on some pieces, but Chinna was always the best for him. Kiddus considers Chinna as his little brother. He remembers his debut, when he started to get involved with the Soul Syndicate, while playing also with Ras Michael, Chinna was 18 years old. Then he started doing sessions with just about everyone, including Bob Marley, on ‘Rastaman Vibration’.
California tour flyer, January 2008

Back in the early 70s, Kiddus and Jah Lloyd were at Nyabinghi House (Judah Coptic House of Rastafari) which they started up together in the early ages of their forming as young Rastafarians. They met Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry when he came back from Canada in about 1971, when they were just turning dread. They became close and Scratch eventually became one of the main spokesmen for the ‘peace movement’. So they were affiliated when Bob Marley came back from the UK.

Kiddus was at 56 Hope Road as a member of the peace treaty committee with the ‘Rastafarian house’ and Bob and a couple of others. Around that period the UNIA (Marcus Garvey’s movement) was doing a joint thing with the ‘Nyabinghi house’.

They took over the Heroes Circle in Kingston, a huge park, and every evening from 6 until 9 they had live music, That is where live dub poetry really took off: Oku Onuora, Michael ‘Mikey’ Smith and a number of other artists came and performed. Then afterwards they went into the Nyabinghi groundation and in the morning it was the meeting of the UNIA.

When Kiddus wanted to do some recordings, he went down by Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry’s Black Ark studio and did some. He and Scratch got on very well and were close for many years. He recorded quite a lot of stuff and somehow or another those tapes got mixed up or got lost, some works that he had done with Scratch from ’75 to ’76 period disappeared.
In 1976, Kiddus had been recruited to arrange interviews with a number of Jamaican key performers for Reggae Bloodlines, an early publication that helped introduce their music to the American mainstream.

'Reggae Bloodlines', published in 1977 and Updated edition 1992

Reggae Bloodlines: In Search Of The Music And Culture Of JamaicaPaperback August 21, 1992 by Stephen Davis & Peter Simon: “updated with a new afterword, was the first book to tell the story of the music of the Jamaican people and their spiritual nationality, the Brotherhood of

Rastafari. It includes interviews with reggae’s master musicians—Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Toots Hibbert, Big Youth, Peter Tosh, Agustus Pablo, Max Romeo—and Prime Minister Michael Manley; reportage on Jamaican politics; and it sorties into the nation’s lush interior in search of the ganja fields of Kali Mountain and the legendary Maroon enclaves, still inhabited by the descendants of slave warriors. Reggae Bloodlines is not an encyclopedia of Jamaican style, nor a critical appraisal of its music—it is a definitive portrait of a struggling nation and its musical heritage at the crucial turning point of decolonization.

Packed with hundreds of astonishing photographs, Reggae Bloodlines captures the restless rhythm of reggae culture like no book before or since.In March 2013, Peter Simon revisited Reggae Bloodlines with a month-long exhibition inspired by the original book, that happened at Pulse 8 New Kingston, Jamaica”. Later on, Kiddus became a prominent member of the peace movement to stop political violence.

“Security in the Streets” was one of the first of several songs recorded in appreciation of the Peace Treaty of 1978 between rival political gang-leaders Claudie Massop & Bucky Marshall.
It was a historic moment in Jamaican history where these two brothers from opposite sides of the political divide had decided enough was enough with this foolishness of shooting and killing their people.

The peace treaty came and it was such a wonderful feeling in Jamaica because it resonated with a harmonious vibration.
Kiddus launched his own ‘Shepherd’ label, re-recorded some music that had been lost, and released some single records as ‘Crying Wolf’, ‘Mr Too Fat’ and… ‘Security in the Streets’...

Advertising for the Kiddus I disco 45, issued in Jamaican zine ‘Jah Uglyman’ N°1’, October 1978 
(the album has never been issued)
Security’ 12” record

‘Security in the Streets’ was recorded with Lee Scratch Perry to celebrate the truce in the political troubles in Kingston at that time.

Kiddus also played percussions backing Bob Marley & the Wailers at the ‘One Love Peace Concert’ held at Kingston’s national stadium, April 22nd 1978, as Ras Michael and the Sons of Negus performed just before Bob.

This concert remains famous forever for the strongest moments and images of the happening: Bob Marley holding the hands of the two political rivals Michael Manley (PNP) and Edward Seaga (JLP), during the song ‘Jammin’. It was a show of strength against the overpowering forces that brought out the worst of human nature and teared the country apart.

Unfortunately, the event did little to quell the political violence. Sadly, the peace did not last. The event's two organizers, Massop and Marshall were both killed within two years after this concert.

The following general election year in 1980 saw 889 reported murders in Jamaica. It has been a bitter fight, influenced by ideology that led people back into this ‘tribal political war’.
After 1978, Kiddus I became a legend through the most famous cult movie of Reggae: ‘Rockers’.

             © Blue Sun Film Co

Rockers is a 1978 Jamaican film by Theodoros Bafaloukos (died on September 10th, 2016, RIP).

Several popular Reggae artists and musicians star in the movie, including, amongst others: Leroy "Horsemouth" Wallace, Burning Spear, Gregory Isaacs, Big Youth, Jacob Miller, saxophonist Richard 'Dirty Harry' Hall, bass player Robbie Shakespeare and producer Lawrence 'Jack Ruby' Lindo.…

Rockers was originally intended to be a documentary but blossomed into a full-length feature showing the Reggae culture at its peak. With a budget of JA $500,000, the film was completed in two months. Horsemouth and Dirty Harry met Bafaloukos while touring Germany in 1976 with Burning Spear.

Bafoloukos met them again when he visited Jamaica in 1977 to discuss his project. In early 1978, he returned in Jamaica. They hastily assembled a cast and commenced filming in Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Kingston.
Kiddus got his role in the film after an on-spot 'audition' at Harry J recording studio in east Kingston where he was doing a Jack Ruby session. Ted wanted the scene for the movie.

It’s a scene you’ve probably watched a hundred times: Horsemouth, drummer, interrupts Jack Ruby’s recording session and is asked to leave. In the voicing booth is a light-complexioned Rastaman with a face of almost indecipherable calm: Kiddus I. Guitarist Earl ‘Chinna’ Smith and bassist Robbie Shakespeare strike up the rhythm, and out of the man’s mouth comes a voice as cool as any jazz crooner’s.

The track, ‘Graduation in Zion’, is the one for which he is remembered and renowned worldwide, thanks to the movie. But Kiddus had a lack of compensation for Rockers in terms of economical financial. He wrote and produced his track and paid for his studio time, he also paid his musicians for working when they came and filmed that. He didn’t get any real royalties… but he finally “won much more than cash”.

Kiddus I & Jack Ruby © Blue Sun Film Co
Kiddus I performing ‘Graduation In Zion’ © Blue Sun Film Co

In this film’, the culture, characters and mannerisms are authentic. The main rocker, Leroy "Horsemouth" Wallace, for example, is shown living with his actual wife and kids and in his own home. The recording studios shown are the famous Harry J Studios where many roots reggae artists recorded during the 1970s, including Bob Marley. Kiddus also played his own role.

Kiddus was always surrounded with all the legends of reggae as he was a visionary and many greats including some that are no longer with us for years, like Bob Marley, Jacob Miller and Peter Tosh, to name only a few, spent much time reasoning with Kiddus.

All his legendary friends were always happy to sit in and play on anything Kiddus was doing, as he has always been progressive. For that reason Kiddus depth in recording is very special, as he brings the brotherhood to the Music.

Kiddus I, Ras Michael & the Abyssinians © Blue Sun Film Co

While artists such as Burning Spear, Inner Circle or Gregory Isaacs could use the film as a springboard for an international career, you should not hear any Kiddus release for long time…

In the early 80s, he has had to stop his Shepherd label, mainly because of problems related to the distribution and therefore to the distributors. Only a handful of singles had been released.

Before the 2000s, only one of his songs has been officially released, in 1998, by the Rhino Records label. It is part of a Christmas compilation by various artists: ‘Natty And Nice: A Reggae Christmas’ (Rhino Entertainement Company – Cd ref. R2 75338)

Because so many tapes of his recordings got lost along the way, along the years, Kiddus had to called himself: “the most recorded but never released artist”.

Aside his regular activity in Jamaica, as a farmer, Kiddus travelled many times abroad. He never stopped laying tracks either in JA, in the US or in the UK: he did recordings in London in 1988 with some members of Matumbi’s band. He did works in Los Angeles, at the Ground Control studios in Santa Monica. He also recorded with Haile Maskel (member of the Rastafarians’ band) in another studio. He came back in 1989 and went back to the US again. Then he was back again to Jamaica in January 1992. But he could feel that it was not the right time for his roots Reggae music to be released yet. In Jamaica, ‘digital’ recordings and ‘slackness’ ragga songs took over !

Somehow many results were lost or failed to see release: Kiddus did experienced several real misfortunes with his recordings, that is almost incredible ! about ten of his 2 inch 24 tracks tapes disappeared after he left them in a big studio in Malibu (LA, USA), what which would have been at least another LP was gone !
Another couple of tapes that had been recorded at Inner Circle’s Studio in Florida, got lost when they moved, while Kiddus was on his way back to Jamaica: the airport had his original track for the Rockers movie and a tape with about five tracks on it also went missing at the airport there in Kingston. Sadly, some of his 1988 work with members of Matumbi got mixed up too !

Finally, Kiddus might have about 6 LPs recordings or so that have been lost along the years !!! On a much more ‘positive vibrations’ side, we are proud to let you know that Kiddus did his best, after many years, so as we now all may listen to and enjoy most of his original songs, sometimes being re-found, or re-issued, or re-recorded, but here it is, still alive & well, and forever !!! (see our Kiddus I discography below ! )

There are some remarkable happenings to point out in Kiddus’ biography:

In August 1983, he was one of the last people to see the equally under-recorded Jamaican dub poet Michael ‘Mikey’ Smith alive. They were close friends for years. They spent a part of this evening (August 17,1983) together. Kiddus dropped him in Stony Hill, that night, then Mikey went by a political meeting, althought he was ‘stoned to death’. Kiddus called him back: “Hey, Mikey, I did poetry too !”. Then he recited an original poem to Smith over the phone. A phoneline recording ofit on that fateful day exists.

In 1995 or 1996, Kiddus got a car accident. He was driving and felt asleep one morning looking into the sun, while coming across the mountain. He crashed and got hurt on his neck. He never had on his seatbelt and his head went into the windscreen, so his neck is still compromised and he can’t turn it any further since then.

It is around 1996 that Kiddus really invested himself and his energies back into the music.

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One Love by
JYM "Living drum"

In this Page...

Kiddus I - PROFILE

See also ...


 Kiddus I Inna de Yard 1 - Vaureal Forum credit Henri  S+®guin 

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