I was at this party a few summers back and in (stereo)typical Jamaican style the food was spicy, the rum flowed freely and the music was loud and bottom heavy. A man I’ve known since I was nine years old was playing host. I consider him my brother and as such the party had a familial feel.
Many of the guests were people I had known as long as I could remember and some quite a bit longer than that. We became involved in a conversation about how the times had changed. We drank, laughed and filled our bellies as the offspring of people we’d grown up with ran around and made fools of themselves. We talked about the fact that we used to be the children running around and eating food like day old chickens and now we were the adults admonishing the children to sit their a**** down.
That particular conversation brought a smile to my heart if not my face. Because I could remember attending those parties as a child, watching the adults engage in conversations that seemed like magic to my young ears. Or eating so much food that my stomach hurt. Or playing tag or some strange and random made up game with so and so’s cute daughter in the baby blue jumper and pigtails.
But what I remember most and remember best was the music; the reggae, the classic soul, the music that seems most alive for me today was the soundtrack to parties that put smiles on the faces of the adults that I loved the most, my mother in particular.
The thing is my mother has never been a music aficionado by any means and aside from listening to gospel or spiritual stuff, she doesn’t listen to much music these days. But whether they were for parties she hosted or were gifts she had received, my mom had lots of interesting stuff on vinyl that was just waiting around for some prince charming to rescue them from their slumber. And rescue them I did. As a result, large swaths of my music collection used to belong to her, many of my most prized 45’s are immigrants like me, for they migrated along with us, packed away in barrels, tethered to the past, reminders of hopes and dreams.
Long ago I watched some random television program that was running a feature on Ken Boothe. My mother, who was otherwise engaged doing laundry or some other drudgery, couldn’t help but become animated when she caught a glimpse of what I was watching. I could only describe the expression on her face as wistful and excited combined, the program seemed to capture her imagination and activate or reactivate a piece of her that perhaps was left in Jamaica years before.
So, it is with my mother in mind that I present to you the very first music mix I’ve prepared for this blog (listen here). For it was from her mouth that I first heard terms like ‘Rent-A-Tile’. Some of the records in this mix are as old as I am. Or older. As you can imagine, they hold great sentimental value. And if these tunes don’t put a smile on your face, a bounce in your step or make you want to rock to the rhythm then I think you may lack a soul. And just like everything else I do around here, I think this mix is warm…and easy. Peace.