Without even being widely rated in their home country of Jamaica, the Trench Town quintet Knowledge achieved something that most reggae vocal groups only dreamed about in the late seventies period and very few ever got: a major contract. But through the aid of Tapper Zukie - their producer and mentor - they got it. A&M in America made sure that the hype was there and the group got its fair share of decent promotion. But as is the case when a reggae act gets the major signing the label usually causes the album to be dumped in mainstream wasteland and this was not different for Knowledge at the height of Bob Marley's popularity in 1978. A group led by Anthony Doyley (now resident in the UK), Knowledge was heavily lyrical messengers and the fruit of its time, roots music in its most raw and potent form that lost momentum in the early eighties. Their story is that of a musical rollercoaster, and a violent one it is too. This extensive interview reveals even the beginning of Doyley's career when, as a youth, he recorded a track for producer Lee Perry that was thought to be lost, never released. It turned out to be the opposite. More than thirty years passed before he got to realise that Perry had this particular debut recording pressed in England, and as we get a smaller world by each day the "realization" happened during this conversation. Thanks to Anthony Doyley, Romain Germa, Nic Maslowski, Penny Reel, Olli, Teacher & Mr. T, Lee Jaffe, Julian Schmidt, Dave Hendley, Steve Barrow, Michael Turner, Bob Schoenfeld, and Michael De Koningh.



Q: How did you grow up, and what was Trench Town like at that time in the fifties and sixties?

A: Well, the first thing is that Trench Town is what is called - or described by Bunny Wailer to some journalists years ago, as "Hollywood". Because...

Q: Not just in terms of entertainment?

A: Not just entertainment alone - the lifestyle. Because there were so many different talents that was amalgamated in Trench Town. In other words some of the best cricketers came from Trench Town. Some of the best boxers - Jamaica's best boxers, came from Trench Town. Cyclists as well. We had good footballers, we had people that was like senators in the House of Parliament. We had people who were... became mayors, and we had like people who had the first, youngest degree of Ph. D that ever came out of Jamaica, with a person from Trench Town. So Trench Town had all that. Then on the other side... on the negative side you had the crooks, you had the bankrobbers, the hole in the wall, the hole in the roof, the pickpockets... You understand me?

Q: Yes.

A: So it was that kind of self ingredients, yeah. But what really stood out most of all was rasta. Because Trench Town was really home for what you'd call... the early rastas.

Q: The Nyabinghi?

A: Yeah, before them too, you know wha' I mean? Because you had people who were like... Have you heard of Leonard Howell?

Q: Sure. Foundational, in the 1930's.

A: Yeah, 1930's, forties. And then you had people like Hibbert who was his close aid, and all of those people like Sam Brown, Mortimer Planno, all those people were people who lived in Trench Town. So you had that strong rasta community when I was growing up. And then there was the Christian side of it now where... I've never seen so much churches anywhere in Jamaica like in Trench Town, y'know what I mean (laughs)!

Q: OK (laughs).

A: It's like in every other corner, every other junction, there is a church. So it's that kind of mix-up.

Q: So did this "mix-up" lead into any sort of theocratic conflict between the two religious camps?

A: No, there was respect. Because the thing was that the bible - the same bible - that the Christian churches were using is the same bible that we found Haile Selassie in - the King of Kings, you understand me? As rastas. So there wasn't a conflict. It's just that there were interpretations that were what you'd call now publicly known due to the fact that when someone is searching they go through when someone is reflecting over a different thing so most of the time I would say the Christian society they would read the bible but the rastas were searching the bible. So they found things that when they put it to the Christian and they would be in awe, or astonished. Some of them would say, "Oh, I'd never have known that, I never known a t'ing like that", you know. So Trench Town had that. Then you had the educationalists now, they would be people who were part of society, well educated, but then they would realise that, you know, it doesn't really pay to the part of society so they would become what you'd call "street people", who would educate people on the street who never get a chance to go to school. And they would come and sit down at corners with you and try to let you have something that would elevate your mind. Out of just being a material street person, but be a wholesome person. So you had educationalists as well. And these are people who were elders, they were people who was part of the whole independence of Jamaica, they were part of that community, or committee. And, you know, they were furthermost journalists who choose not to be a part of the system, and they just become educationalists. Yeah, it's something that you ought to choice. When you was in Trench Town, you had a choice. You can be who you want to be. It depends on how you see yourself as a person. So these are the things that happen. And that's what moulded the music to the heights that it is today. Because Bob (Marley) had all these influences around him, Bunny (Wailer) had all these influences around, Joe Higgs had all these influences. Even the brothers that sung 'Oh Carolina'...?


Joe Higgs.

Count Ossie.

Q: The Folkes Brothers?

A: Yeah, Folkes Brothers. Those are people from Trench Town that we grew up with as well. Count Ossie, the Mystic Revelations, all a dem people they used to come to Trench Town daily to see Morty Planno, Sam Brown and other well-known rastas. So, it was like a melting pot, really. But it was the strength of one's mind that allowed you to elevate out of Trench Town to whatever, you know, it depends on what you want. Say for instance then - I'm gonna give you an example: Say Bob was walking down the road with his guitar, and them boys would just finish rob somebody, or pull off a robbery, and they have some money and they're having a drink an' a chat and Bob would be walking down the road with his guitar and they would be saying things like, "Hoy deh! Say, you a musician, play us some song then, mek we hear you!" And if it's not good enough them would be start criticising it. So in Trench Town if you gonna choose a career or a profession, you got to be very good at it. Because then the sticks would start coming from your own peers, yu understan'? So it was really a competitive place to live. At the same time, it moulded character. It made you the person that you ought to be. If you want to be, yeah? And that's one of the things I admired and really, really cherished about Trench Town. Until the politics came in. When the politics came in now in the sixties everything now took a turn for violence an' money, and just material things that would stray the mind, and it did. Beca' a lot of people went astray. Like how Bob said in the song "Good friends we have lost..."?

Q: Right.

A: Yes (laughs)! So we lost a lot of friends, you understand me (chuckles)!

Q: Still every ghetto area have it's periods of increased amount of conflicts and violence for whatever reason. I remember talking to members from the SANE Band several years ago, and they said that Trench Town is not that violent anymore. Would you agree with that, and how come - what is behind all this?

A: Well, yes. Well, what happen is that when the sixties came in and the guns start to filtrate, the guns... it was really a infestation of guns, that just came into Trench Town. And there was no regulator or anyone, because Bob wasn't there any more, so you know it's not much the youths could look up to, Peter (Tosh) wasn't there. They were around, but most of the time they were touring. So when they stop touring they would come and spend some time in Trench Town but by then the politicians were already... rooted into Trench Town already. Because they were there like every day, making sure that them support who supports them, and all these things. So it was very violent, in the sense that if you come into a certain area and you come in Trench Town an' no-one knows you, then you could have a problem. It might not be fatal, but then it's something that can scar you for life as well. So these things happen. Then we grew up, and we realised for ourselves that you know there's a hollow here so we started trying to find what was the problem. And when we found it, we realise that the politicians were taking the youths for a ride, because we were living in Trench Town as rastas not being part of politics because we were saying that we don't wanna be part of politics. So they thought that we were what is called "opponing elements". Or it's possible that we could've been influenced by the other party. So we were under a lot of strain as rastas. You know, they would come and just want rastas to do things that we don't wanna do. And sometimes it would cause conflict. Because people would come telling you as rastas that you have to vote, and we are saying that the only person we vote for is Rastafari. And the people would say t'ings like, "Well bwoy, yu better try know seh the next time I see yu gwan have... I'd better see you deh pon that side or that side".

Q: Choose side...

A: Yeah (laughs)! You gotta choose! You understan' me... But we already chose 'cos we chose rasta so it cause all a big conflic' that people got hurt.

Q: It must've been pretty annoying in the eyes of the establishment. And, naturally they want your votes...

A: Oh yeah, yes it was... Of course (laughs)! You know! But the but is that we didn't know how far they would take it because we were just thinking that OK, here we are, you know, we are a independent... mind, and we are just living in a democratic society that allows you to be independent of mind. So when we look now there were like people that we grew up with, that you even go to school with, would come to you an' say things that was really like "Wow!" "Man, what yu doing? Which side yu deh pon?" And like, "Me a rasta, yu know me a rasta, yu see me a rasta so! Wha', why yu a aks me dat?" But we get to later find out that these people were being paid to ask these questions, and stir up this kind of conflict. You know, because politics is a dirty game. And that is shown internationally. So, with all a that... Then now we came together as rastas, and seh, "Bwoy, this can't work!" Because we had visitors coming from different parts of the world and when they come there sometimes people would start, like... you had people who would trying to rob them, people would try... And so we start took a stand and seh, "No, this can't happen". So we call some of the guys them and say "Listen, this is wha' 'appen, we can't live like this". We might be different, but at the same time we can be like a hand, with five different fingers, but we can come together to make a face. So we're pushing these ideas across, which actually some of them is like went well rooted in good ground, and some went in stony ground. So some didn't grow... And then we start see a lot of friends, man. A lot of things just start happening. But then now, like some blessing... you know somehow everybody came together one day and seh, "No more a this". And that's why Trench Town is the way it is today. You can go there. We even tried to bring a tourist... part of the Tourist Association to Trench Town due to the fact that Bob was there.


Bob Marley.

Bunny Wailer & Peter Tosh.

Q: Which would bring some money into the community.

A: Yes, so it look like they have all the tourist you see in the city attraction, which is the Bob Marley residence, and so ninety per cent said yes. So we got that. Yet, the politics is still there trying to stir up all kinda t'ing to get to the youths them. So is just really... I think what is happening is this: I think that someone is trying to control Trench Town. Politically speaking. And it won't happen because when Bob was alive he said to me, I remember him saying to me one day: "Whatever Ily, with you boys, don't give it away cheaply". Which was... he was talking (about) the legacy, that he would leave to us, which we still enjoy today. So I think that there is someone who is trying to say "OK, this is Trench Town and I control Trench Town", but then Trench Town is not like that. The people of Trench Town is too educated in every way. Because for instance when I was growing up if you lived in Trench Town and say you're going to get a job, it doesn't matter how qualified you are, once you get into Trench Town you're just not gettin' the job. So you had to be outside of Trench Town. So all those things forced us into little corners. That them say "When your back is against the wall...", is a dangerous person. Is the same thing if you corner an animal, he is gonna come at you. So, that's what happened. We were pushed in corners. And all these things just started make some people have deep, deep hatreds an' deep... you know? It was something else, man. But Trench Town today, it's not exactly the Utopia that we would like, but at least it's coming closer to that state. So, we're gettin' there but I think some more time...

Q: What must've lifted Trench Town from a lot of past trouble is major contributions from volunteers, community workers. From the community citicens themselves, along with some key people to structure all that is needed in this work...

A: OK, when you say that two things come to mind: One is opportunity. But opportunity in a sense cannot be measured by material wealth, you understand me? Because I think that's a big mistake that the international community is making, when they put material on the helm of everything. It's like the more material you have is the bigger person you are or the more man you are, or woman you are. You understand me? And that's a mistake. 'Cause we were males and females before material things, you get me? So is not material things that make us male, or female. So, these are the priorities that we need to get across to humanity so we can be better persons. Because material is not all. You know, I was having a conversation with a friend of mine who went to school, and I said to him, "You know, you remember the lady...?" Because there was a lady that used to sell sweets and fruits at the school gate, and she was there when I was a kid... I was about seven. And when I was twentytwo, and visited the school again, she was still there selling fruits, sweets, and t'ings like that. So I struck up a conversation with her and I said to her, "Bwoy, imagine, you still deh ya". And she said to me seh, "You know somet'ing? I a buy me house a'ready yunno, but me haffe serve the pickney dem, y'know? Me like when me a serve the pickney dem". And that jus'... that just brought joy to me that here is someone who is patriotic, or dedicated. You know wha' I mean? To know that she already bought her house, she could've just relaxed now and say "okay". But she chose to serve the kids and she served so many generations. So these are the things that open my head to a lot of things knowing that material is not all. It's a purpose, you know, and here we are. Outside help would be brilliant, for opportunity. Yet what we need is that moral state of mind where one can value eachother. As a person, rather than just as a... well, you can be as a tool, because people use people as tools. Wherein, nothing is wrong with that. But at the end of the day, there must be some joy to it. So we need to know that we recognise each other as persons. And as part of our dream, and what is called "all link in the same chain". And the chain can only break at its weakest point. So we need to get everybody strong morally that we all have characters, and we all know that we're brothers. You know, at the end of the day. Bob say it "One love, one heart, lets come together and feel OK". So if we get outside help, it would be nice. Because of two things: One is that it would allow the kids them to know that "OK, we nah fe go rob", y'know wha' I mean? "We nah fe go out deh go do anyt'ing that will be on society dem, to achieve somet'ing. I've got opportunity, I've got capability", and things like that. Still on that level because you see, I tell you something, a'right? I was saying to myself that... I think it was about last year ('02), "Bwoy, it would be nice to bring in some money to the area", an' t'ings like that. But then now when you look at it what the money is gonna do, without morality, is make us into beasts.

Q: You gotta start deal with the morality issue first before the money thing comes in...

A: ... before we bring in the money, exactly. Because when I'm looking at it, and I'm weighing it all up, and I've seen my friend who just want to live fast, and die fast. There's no between for them. There's no saying "OK, let me see if I can be me, by being me". But no, they see themselves as being themselves with that amount like whatever them want, millions or whatever, and that is what is gonna make them. But what everyone is forgetting, is that it is harder for a rich man to go through the eye of a needle... it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than a rich man to enter the kingdom. And that simply means when you break it down in layer mans language, it just means that there's more temptations when you have money. There's so much temptation that you can do that, you can do that, you understand me? Because you have the money. So if you're not the person you are before the money, when you get it it's chaos. It's chaos, man. It's chaos... Because I remember nuff a dem Chinese parents lost their children when the cause of the Lotus - you heard about this cause? There was a craze about the Ford Cortina Lotus, it was in the seventies. And all dem Chinese kids were dying. Because of these false cars. They had the money to buy the kids them their cars, but... They had the money, they just bought them to get the kids the best cars. You know "OK, it's my kid and she is supposed to have the best car". But the "best", bwoi... It really took them, y'know wha' I mean? So it's all the t'ings dem that opened my eyes - to a lot of things. At the end of the day, you gotta find yourself first. And when you find yourself you will find that you respect others more. As one man said to me years ago, he said, "You know, if all dads should be present of a child's birth", or their child's birth, "they wouldn't have so much kids".

Q: Mmm, it's possible...

A: Possible (laughs)... Because then, when you see the agony and the pain that the female had to go through, you'd think twice before doing that tour again. You understand me? So (laughs)...

Q: What do the government in question have for support of these different ghetto regions, in terms of programs?

A: Well, I think the only program they have is to... gettin' the votes. That's what I think, y'know (laughs)!

Q: Getting the votes. First and foremost to stay in power - naturally.

A: Yes, I think their mainstay and aim is to get the votes. And whatever that cost, whether someone has to die or shoot some spy, or intimidation, fear - whatever, have to be the tool and the use. Then they're gonna go through doing that. Now, the thing is that we tried to bring the Tourist Board in Trench Town, which they agreed. The government agreed - the Minister of Finance agreed, but then now the guns were just still barking. Guns were still barking because there was people who felt that they were left out. Who was like, say "OK, I'm the Don, I am the Don of this area", right? "Who are you fe bring some things into this area and you don't know what we need here!", y'know. So all a these things happened. Trench Town on a whole can stand on its own. In case we didn't get international help Trench Town can stand on its own, because we've got a legacy. We have something that the whole entire universe or, should I say... human race... would like to experience. We've got the place where Bob Marley made 'No Woman No Cry'. We've got the place where he practised... you know that sound where Bob practises... that sound he made on '(Chase Them) Crazy Baldheads'? That sound at the beginning that...

Q: Yea, like the Indian sound, shouting like some North American Indian?

A: Yes! That blurt. While he was practising those things, I was standing there. You know, each morning he would come and go into park an' he would make the sound and I would like... you know, I would be standing there listening to him make these sounds until one day he put it on record.

Q: Did he ever say where he got that sound from?

A: No. I think that just came naturally. I think that just came naturally because Bob sings like eighteen hours a day. When Peter and Bunny would be gone like to their respective homes Bob would be sitting there until four o'clock in the morning playing his guitar, and tuning the voice. So I think that that thing came... It's like OK, you know... like if you put water, sugar and lime together, you get a blend. Right? Or anything chemically you put together, you get a blend, yes? Now... or reaction, I should say. Now, I think that is the reaction of practising - that's where he got that from. Because it took me five years, practising of my own, to get that sound. And then I realise that it came natural after a period of practicising, practicising, it just came natural. I think it's a spin-off from practising to tune the voice he got that from. It is possible though that he could've heard it from some African record. That he might have a record... Bob used to listen to a lot of other artists, a lot of other artists Bob used to listen to.


Curtis Mayfield.

Marvin Gaye.

Q: Anyone in particular you can recall?

A: Well, for instance Bob loved Curtis Mayfield. I remember one day one of my friends said to Bob, "You know seh yu better than Curtis Mayfield". And Bob get vex nuh! Because Curtis Mayfield was his idol! And he got mad an' seh, "Weh yu a talk ' bout better than Curtis!?" And the man seh, "Yeah man, yu better than Curtis Mayfield!" (laughs). And, it happened to me and then I realise what Bob went through because Peter Tosh is my idol. And someone said to me one day, "You know that you sing better than Peter Tosh". And I got mad! I say, "Yu crazy!" And him said, "Yes you do, yunno!" And I said, "Naw, man!" (laughs). I could understand what Bob went through there. But there were people like... Bob used to listen to a lot of Al Green as well. And Johnny Nash, yeah. For lyrical contents though, Bob Dylan and the same John Lennon...

Q: OK, Lennon and the Beatles and all that.

A: Yeah, these were radical writers. So, I think... you know? Marvin Gaye was another, because he brought these people... I met them all - through Bob.

Q: I heard something like Marvin went down to JA on vacation, to visit Bob and, like, get the Jamaican spirit...

A: In Trench Town, yeah. I was there. I was there the day when he came. Yeah, I was there when he came.

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