Worell King, creator of King of Kings Promotions, is best known for his annual stage show Western Consciousness held in Llandilo, Jamaica every April. Western Consciousness is coming up April 24th, 2004, and will feature a strong line-up of artists including headliners, Luciano, Beres Hammond, Marcia Griffiths and Buju Banton. King of Kings Promotions produces the annual Peter Tosh Tribute Show and Symposium in Jamaica, a memorable and scholastic event that was started ten years ago and held annually. For the first time last year, the Peter Tosh Symposium was also held in Miami. Worell King has a long respectable history in the reggae music industry. He is deeply committed to representing 'consciousness' through music. In this article, Worell discusses his dissatisfaction with the current state of the industry and how he is unique integrating his stance of accountability and responsibility into the promotion of reggae music. The interview took place at The Love Nest in Negril, January, 2004. ~Blessings, Sista Irie (Conscious Party, KAZI, 88.7 FM)

         "Promoters need to stop demoting and start promoting. Producers need to stop reducing and start producing, and managers need to manage, not damage." Worell King.

         True knowledge of reggae music is a lifetime ambition. For most reggae lovers, the message is the music and the music is the message. There is no separation when experiencing the lifeline of reggae's divine inspiration. Reggae music is received as spiritual deliverance, a musical intoxication of righteous depth. Fully experienced, the revelation and brilliance of reggae's guiding light becomes the heart and soul of consciousness. Infinite consciousness implies personal responsibility for the creation and destruction of life in both the physical and spiritual sense. The early stalwarts of reggae music ingrained this concept of personal accountability into a world riff of chaos, establishing a foundation of hope and encouragement. The responsibility to live humanely, a place where the lion and the lamb come together is to embrace consciousness as lifetime work. Each individual must strive for awareness, a consciousness of the devil's work, if we are truly confident in the ability to achieve the victory of good over evil. The international baptism of reggae music came through the political and social revelations of Bob Marley and the Wailers thirty years ago. The movement of JAH people paved a road to righteous living and sparked worldwide consciousness through musical responsibility. There is no doubt that the deep reaching impact of reggae is universally recognized. Time Magazine proclaimed 'Exodus' Album of the 20th Century, and the BBC designated 'One Love' as song of the Century. These accolades are massive achievements. Yet, today, reggae is still struggling for recognition. The question perplexes those who promote and believe in the power and the glory of reggae music. They recognize reggae is a way of life, a revival of spirituality, and yet the fragmentation and evolution of the music erodes the foundation roots principles that brought the music to nations across the world. The answer lies in the unspoken, unacknowledged, counterproductive movements behind the music that loosens the spiritual glue and prevents the evolution of consciousness from achieving a natural conclusion. Few people know this better than Worell King, a Jamaican promoter who has spent his life livicated to conscious music. He is best known as the creator and promoter of Western Consciousness in Llandilo, Jamaica.

Worell King.
(photo : Gail Zucker)

Poster Western Consciousness 2003.

         One January night, a few days after Rebel Salute, Worell came to my house in Negril to talk about the challenges facing reggae. His reasonings targeted the disparities of the industry and the ultimate responsibility for the current state of the music. Worrel's career began when attending Mico Teacher's College in Kingston. Worell met Mikey Watts from the JBC where they formed an association lasting five to six years. They were the first promoters to take King Yellowman out of country. While working with Mikey, Worell continued developing skills managing and producing artists. His growing interest lead to a strong desire to promote a high quality event. The first experience came from producing sound system dances with Barry G. This success encouraged further interest into the big arena of stage shows leading to his first effort which began in Port Antonio starring Admiral Bailey and Lieutenant Stitchie. While tens of thousands gathered for a night of fine reggae music, Worell discovered the back up band was not even in Jamaica. Unfortunately, the weekend was also a holiday and there was no hope for a quick or adequate substitution. After taking a major financial loss and public flogging, instead of walking away defeated, Worell was even more committed to achieving a greater destiny. He soon left for the hills of St Thomas in search of Bunny Wailer. Many people warned that getting Bunny to perform was next to impossible. They were proven wrong. Bunny loved the concept of a high quality conscious reggae show and agreed to headline "Bunny Wailer Live in Concert" held in April, 1988. Along with Bunny Wailer, reggae performers Brigadier Jerry, Marcia Griffiths, Mutabaruka, and Edi Fitzroy filled the bill. To date, that was the largest attendance of a reggae show ever held in Llandilo. King of King Promotions was legally given birth, and Worell, now energized by the success of his positive concept, went back to Portland to organize and promote 'Eastern Consciousness.' Another huge success led to Western Consciousness now held annually in Llandilo. The positive outcome of these events was significant, all occurring in the year 1988, a time when dancehall music and slackness took a turn for the worse. King of Kings Promotions was the light shining in the wilderness of darkness. Even after a year of promoting successful conscious reggae events, Worell remembers "...if you were not glorifying drugs, the gun, and having many women, you were considered a crazy person. As a madman, I came through and showed the difference."

         Promoting strictly the positive side of reggae has not been easy. Worell soulfully contemplates "I was threatened when I opposed backing any artist whose lyrics were foul mouthed and destructive. I was called at my home with threats to be killed. I had police at my gate periodically. I went through all of this because of my stance." When asked if he was afraid, Worell says proudly "No, I have walked through the valley of the shadow of death and I fear no evil because the Almighty is my God and protector. If they could have done it, they would have done it already." In addition to personal threats, Worell dealt with financial and legal assaults. Two years ago, the police slapped fines on Western Consciousness in the amount of $65,000 (Jamaican) for violating the noise abatement act. When asked how that made him feel, Worell responded, "It is not the law that concerns me the most. It is the indiscriminate manner in which the law is enforced. My problem comes when you impose restrictions on me and yet you allow others to break all the rules. Breaking the rules includes presenting garbage on stage, promoting foul mouth dj's glorifying guns and drugs. I have been presenting consciousness in the truest form for the last fifteen to sixteen years. Why would you want to do that to me?"

         Worell speaks bluntly about the varied aspects of the business and shared responsibility for the state of the industry. "My feeling is the whole reggae business is still in a hypocritical vein. I think the players, and I don't mean the players of instruments or the musicians, but other players in the industry are hypocrites. I think they say "consciousness, fine" and then they go around the corner and glorify the nastiness and the garbage. "I am specifically speaking of people who have the power to make a change. I am talking about the journalists and radio personalities. The radio dj's pick up a record with quality, one with a positive message and the true essence of reggae and they throw it down tomorrow. They will not play the music because they have not been paid. Yet, they still continue to pick up the garbage glorifying the opposite of what is good in this society." When asked if he was talking specifically about radio dj's versus sound systems, Worell went on to say "I am talking about every one of them who has the authority to present the music in its rightful position. And so, we talk about the disc jockeys on the radio station, we talk about the writers in newspapers, the journalists who are on television interviewing key players. We even go as far as talking about the audience who gravitate towards such negativity. This is why sometimes I get so negative about the business because sometimes you give your all to receive your little or nothing. I find that progressiveness is not what somebody else can do as well as I can."

Lehbanchuleh & Worell King.
(photo : Sista Irie)

Denise Miller [publicist] & Worell King.
(photo : Sista Irie)

         Respect and commercial acceptance for reggae has always been a challenge. However, as a cultural music representing the social and political changes within the framework of a small black Caribbean island, reggae is surprisingly well known throughout the world. However, reggae artists are still not financially rewarded as those performing other musical genres. Commercial radio in America plays the pop variations of reggae and promoters and managers still struggle with filling up venues in order to sustain tours. The fragmentation of reggae music, starting with the disparity of opposing messages of foundation roots consciousness to sex, drugs, and violence in the modern dancehall has caused an even greater schism in the forward movement of the music. Why, I ask Worell, are the youth gravitating towards the negative? Which comes first, the artist creating the negative music or the youth demanding to listen to it? Worell responds it has to be the artist who is in the most responsible position. "The audience is innocent but they move towards what is given to them. Sometimes you do something wrong. After you do it for so long, over and over, sooner or later it looks good. The youth move towards the negative because when they wake up in the morning that is what they hear. When they go to bed at night, they are still listening to it. So, they begin to think "yeah, I am a part of this and it has to be good because I am hearing it everywhere. I am sleeping with it, eating it, and doing everything according to this message so it must be good. And to reinforce the situation, they go to the stage show and get it raw. When you are a true representation of what reggae is building, my God, you need to be a positive leader."

         This statement made me think about Rebel Salute. It was just a few days after the show and overall the night was a great success. The only admonishment was the storming of the stage late in the night by Sizzla and his followers, Judgement Yard, and Capleton and his followers, David House. The experience came across as a form of gang mentality. Worell replies, "Precisely, and that is what we are teaching the youth. These actions say you can do anything you want because you have reached a position in life where you are financially viable and you are in control. The monster comes out. The audience responds to what they are given. At Rebel Salute, when Junior Byles came out and kneeled and began singing softly and humbly, the audience reacted strongly to that moment. If you give them positivity, they react positive. If you give them trash, trash is what you get back. Even the name of an event can have strong connotations. If you promote an event and call it STING, you should expect to get stung. The conscious artists who have tried to perform there are at fault for agreeing to be on a stage called STING. They will not be appreciated, and should expect to be stung and so people like Bunny Wailer are bottled off the stage. The promoters need to stop demoting and start promoting. The producers need to start producing and stop reducing and the managers need to manage, and not damage. The promoters need to examine what they are presenting and look carefully at the artists who become part of the show. If an artist has shown to be a risk, eliminate them. You will never see both a Capleton and a Sizzla at a Western Consciousness."

Jabulani, Worell King , members of the Tosh family, Robbie Roots.
(photo : Gail Zucker)

         Revolutionary messages are well established in reggae history. Foundation roots messages are the concrete foundation, slackness is a house built on sand. Each artist has a unique style and responsibility for content and delivery. Worell King's deep-seated respect for artists who demonstrate commitment to crucial and intellectual messages is well documented by his involvement with the annual Peter Tosh Symposium. When asked what the primary difference is between artists such as Sizzla and Peter Tosh, Worell responds "When you talk about Peter Tosh, you must also talk about Bob Marley. Revolutionaries, hear? In today's world you want to create that same revolutionary stand even in a Sizzla. The difference is Peter Tosh will give you the message fully cooked. You can eat it. Even when he cursed on stage, it was within a specific context. Peter was more of a poet, a linguist. Today the message is delivered as a form of incitement, and it comes to you raw. My idea to pay respect to Peter Tosh began three years after his death. His music was not being played on the radio station. Even though they did not shoot him, they killed him by not playing his music. I came up with the idea of a concert in honor of Peter Tosh. I was the first promoter to conceive the idea and the only person keeping an annual tribute to Peter Tosh. I plan to take this event to the world. It is a movement not just a concert. The whole event is a series of events exposing the true intellectual side of Peter Tosh. We wish to undermine the misunderstandings of this great artist." The Symposium brings forth the real Peter Tosh in a scholarly setting. This year the Minister of Finance, Dr. Omar Davis, was one of the main presenters. The event is scheduled again this year in Jamaica and Miami, Florida.

         Discussing the current state of dancehall and the critical need for conscious leadership brought to mind Damian Marley as a musical leader especially to young African Americans. As a big fan of Grammy award winning, "Half Way Tree", I suggested this might be a strong turning point in dancehall, opening doors to consciousness in the dancehall. Worell agrees but goes on to say the doors were already open. "Bob opened all the doors. None of my seeds shall sit in the gutter and beg right then he opened the door. Damian is really a singer. He is a great singer but it is all in the marketing. So it was in the beginning, so it shall be in the end because the dancehall will always be there. Real dancehall, come let me show you how to ram up the dancehall. Man hug up and walk wit im ooman and feel so nice. Now, inna de dancehall, im over der so, and ooman over der so an pure screw face. You see a man face and when you check im ave big dutty gun to shoot. When you check di ooman and bag and ting, she ave her acid to trow pon yuh. Now that is not real dancehall. So what is happening in Damian's case is pure marketing. We give thanks to Damian for the work he has done. Even if it is not manifested now, in time to come, you will see he has done something. Bob used to go overseas and perform for 100, 200 and 300 people in a club. Then one day, he is performing for thousands of people in a single show. And when that happens, I am hoping Damian will keep the headspace of consciousness."

         Worell thoughtfully continues "When Bob was making music, my sister, he was hungry, he was not counting how much money he was making. If you want to make some money, leave the music alone. If you want to make music, stick to it, and then, the money, oh my God, you cannot stop count. Even today, they cannot stop counting Bob Marley riches. Why? Bob was making music not money. So the people need to stop glorifying the little punk making a little money. I have no problem with making money, but don't fool the people and lead them astray. Sometimes mi vex. I get emotional when I see what these guys are doing with the music created to instilled in man by the Almighty. This is not man music. The Almighty God made music and give it to us to spread across the land. Obeah to you who lead the people astray."

Worell King & Ricky Shaw at the Love Nest, Negril JA.
(photo : Sista Irie)

         As the evening faded into the coolness of night, I could hear the frogs trumpeting loudly outside the lace-covered windows. A gentle Jamaican breeze scented with jasmine contented my soul with the knowledge of the night's reasonings. After a few moments of silence I ask Worell if there is anything else he wants to say right now. He replies "So many things. I speak pure inspiration. It is time for the people to recognize good over evil and live accordingly. Many of the tribulations we go through in life, we do not have to go through. The music comes through the Almighty. He is our guide. We need to understand those who come here to corrupt it. We must not gravitate to them because they are temporary and shall fade away. We need to truly think and live positive. We are not living for ourselves but for generations to come. The leaders need to lead. We need to identify our own responsibility. There are many Western Consciousnesses out there, even you. What we need to do is chose the right way to live and that will carry the generation to come."

Article : Sista Irie (April 2004)
(Please do not reproduce without permission).

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