Some classic On-U Sound portraits, places and scenes from past decades, rambling thoughts before and after.
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Kandahar 1977 – Kandahar in 1977 was a little town where turbaned men, young and old, bombed around on motorbikes. They stopped frequently and fraternized in cafes and shops, just hanging, posing, chatting, and sneering at hapless Western overlanders. They did not show curiosity much. We had been told the Afghans were a proud race and they lived up to that reputation. Women in town were all in burkas but there was plenty of music around, spontaneous and lively. Musicians gathered in squares and courtyards, sat down and played. Afghanistan in 1977 was undoubtedly the most beautiful and fascinating place I had ever been. It was starkly different from Iran before it and from Pakistan after it.
Bim Sherman 1981 - ‘Love Forever’, Bim Sherman’s first album released in 1978 is one of my all-time favourites. Like all other LPs made in Jamaica in those days it came in a sleeve printed on the reverse side of a cornflakes packet. Bim never played an instrument but on the jacket he holds a guitar with a youthful smile. The record is a great collection of soul-searching songs with melodies that are lively, silky and melancholic. It has a spontaneous, one-take feel all the way through but with brilliantly arranged classic horn sections. Bim spoke very quietly with that distinctive voice. He was opposite of flamboyant and did not want any photos taken on that day. Over the 20 odd years I saw a lot of him as he never returned to Kingston and ended up living in north London. He had a brain tumor and passed away in November 2000 three days after I saw him in hospital.
Prince Far I 1981 - If I remember correctly I met Far I in 1981 when he came to London with his wife, Carolla. He was a tall and very skinny man. His appearance did not match his gigantic raspy voice. Mrs Far I was a big lady, must have weighed twice as much as her husband. He was totally besotted with her. Apparently, to Far I Carolla was his Jamaican Raquel Welch. This photo was taken around the same time as he recorded ‘Virgin” (the record label) and ‘Bedwood the Flying Preacher’ at Berry Street Studios in Clerkenwell. Barely two years later in September 1983, he was shot in his house in Kingston in an alleged robbery incident and died shortly after in hospital. We never found out the exact circumstance.
Ari Up 1981 - I did not intend to make this page my photo obituary but sadly Ari also died from cancer at the age of 48 in October 2010. This photo was taken when she was pregnant with her twin boys, Pablo and Pedro. She was a unique singing talent but her talent was not just about singing, dancing and performing. She defied every conventional norm one can think of and refused to conform or compromise. She was extremely determined and head-strong. She looked absolutely amazing all her adult life. But here, at the age of 18, although she had already built up a reputation as a rebel with the Slits, she seems reticent, unsure of what awaits her, but sweetly contented.