FEATURED STORY

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Rasta Love (part one)

(Excerpt)

 © 2001 Norman Samuda-Smith

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Errol see her every week, rocking in her regular place, near to de light opposite Ital Nyah control tower. As usual, she stand up wid her two older sista dem, laughing, dancing and joking, her sista dem smoking.  In Errol’s eyes, she outclass dem in every way. She was a natural beauty. Nuff man love her off. Like most girls, she was going through a transition from being a regular churchgoer, to accepting de roots and culture. Her name was Lorraine.

Errol step closer to de control tower, tek de microphone off his bredrin Pedro and start chat…

          “Yes crowd a people, as dat musical disc steps away, is lover’s rock time! I tell yuh say, come in selecta Beres!”

De lover’s rock start to play and all de bredrin dem find a girl to dance wid. It seem like nobody ah talk, jus de music inna de air. Errol continued, “As we stop to start again, tell her not to go away, cah here come de dub side wid my original lyrics as I would say . . .

            You’re my days, you’re my nights

           I hope your kisses will make me feel so bright

           I can see your natural beauty girl

           My heart skip a beat

           You turn my world

           Pour your love over my heart

           Make me live a likkle longer

           Pour your love over my heart

           You make me feel stronger . . .”

          “WHOY!” was de deafening cry dat come from de dance-hall crowd, as de bredrin dem leggo dem dance partner.  Errol could see Lorraine and de crowd now, punching de air wid delight, drowning his voice wid dem chanting.

          “GO INNA IT ERROL!”

“GWAAN SOOPA!”

“AH WHO SEH?” Errol ask.

“GO DEH!” de crowd reply.

          “Operator, I beg yuh jus get dere and stay dere!” Errol seh, as he watch Pedro mix and blend dem back inna easy skanking and more of him honey-sweet lyrics.

          “AH LOVE ME AH DEAL WID!” Errol wailed over de microphone as de forty-five come to an end.

Likkle did Lorraine know how special she did grow in Errol eyes.  Pedro bus’ out laughing. “Is where dem deh lyrics come from yout’ man? If yuh like de girl, grab her fe a dance and lyrics her while yuh dancing man! She nuh know seh yuh like her.”

Errol pass de microphone back to Pedro, keeping his eyes on Lorraine de whole time. He start to mek him way through de crowd of lovers wrapped around each other, locked tight together on de dance floor.  Lorraine smile at him, her pretty eyes beckoning.

Fe a yout’ of seventeen, Errol was regarded as de best yout’ toaster inna Birmingham, de baby of de Ital Nyah sound.  When he was fourteen, he used to loaf around outside all ah de dance dat Ital Nyah did play. As Pedro, Beres and Robbo carried in de big speaker box, Errol would offer to carry de small tweeter box dem.  It come a habit dat dem never refuse him help, so soon him start get inna Ital Nyah dance free. Den dem start call Errol dem likkle box bwoy, till him learn to master de art of microphone chanting. At school, him mek sure him educate himself well, him mommy and daddy see to dat. He leave school wid four O-Level and den him start search fe a job.

As him popularity grow even more, Errol get de opportunity fe mek guest appearance wid some ah de big man sound, like Studio City at de Chequers Night Club inna Small Heath pon a Wednesday night. Quaker City at de Rainbow Suite deh ah de city centre every Thursday, and Duke Alloy at de Tyburn House pub over inna Erdington every Sunday. He was like a magnet, wid de talent fe turning an ailing dance into a success.

Dese big man sound try fe coax him away from Ital Nyah fe join dem, giving him de chance to travel nationwide to London, Manchester and Leeds; and to appear at nuff bank holiday dance in and outta town and ting. But Errol remain loyal to him bredrins Pedro, Robbo and Beres, who nurture him rise to success.

Wid dis popularity come de admirers of de feminine gender. Ital Nyah, mainly coz of Errol, have a strong female following.  Him soon change him name to Pa-Pa Errol to fit de romantic side of him lyrics.  Pedro, de oldest sound member, warn him bout de possible jealous man who fah woman might fancy him coz him ah mic chanter. Dese was de times when a man fear de knife as oppose to de gun.  More time still, Errol being shy, despite all dat front him never mek him head swell.

Dat Friday night, when Errol leave de dance, dere was a full moon shining a silver light dat bright up de clear night sky and Jah stars. Him feel nice, like how him did get a dance wid Lorraine. De dance did sweet him. It was winter, 1974, minus six degrees and still dropping rapid, while de heavy frost dat sekkle pon de pavement was glistening. De dustman dem deh pon strike fe well over a week now. Nobody believe how much rubbish can accumulate in nine days. Every street yuh walk down, all yuh see is jus pile ah rubbish everywhere. De miner dem a seh dem want to guh pon strike too, dat gwine lead to power cuts again; and we all know wha dat mean – no dance!

Nuff bredrin and sistren file out the dance hall on St Oswald’s Road.  De bredrin dem sporting dem ites, gold and green crowns scarves and belts as dem bop wid pride along de icy pavement inna dem Clarke’s boots and ting. De sistren dem majestically wearing dem head-wraps in various shape, size and colour, wid dem long skirt, full-length sheepskin coat and fe dem Clarke’s boots, glide ’longside de bredrin dem. Every Friday night nuff ah dem would get off de number 8 bus at de Golden Hillock Road, Coventry Road junction inna Small Heath around eight. Dem destination: St Oswald’s Road dance hall to hear de musical bible of Rastafari featuring Small Heath’s baddess yout’ sound, Ital Nyah.  Dere was pure vibes every week.

De following Friday, St Oswald’s was ram.  Members of other yout’ sounds gather to learn how fe entertain de people wid pure dub-wise and pre-release roots music.  While dem listen and learn, de treble section ring inna dem ears, de bass shake dem trouziz and rattle dem ches’; de lyrics educate and mek dem meditate. Pure peace and love inna de dance as de congregation rock cool and easy to every rhythm dat touch down. De Ital Nyah followers stand up surrounding dem amp-case as Pedro, de operator at de control tower, mix and blend de music, teasing de crowd wid pure treble.  Halfway through a tune, him give dem a full dose ah bass and it shake everyting in its path. De selector dem, Beres and Robbo, dig deep inna de record box to find a nex’ hypnotizing tune, and Errol, cool and easy, chat him owna lyrics inna style and fashion dat taste like milk and honey to de dance-hall crowd…

          “Yes crowd ah people, yuh tune into de baddess yout’ sound, Ital Nyah sound and we nuh wear no frown! Don’t f’get, tomorrow night all roads lead to St Agatha’s church hall, right down dere inna Sparkbrook way! In tune to de mighty Jah Shaka from London town versus Mafia Tone Hi-Fi from Lozells! Is one fifty pon de door, security, tight! So mek it a date and don’t be late cah Shaka gwine trow down dub plate dat no other sound can imitate, seen? So nuh worry bout de energy crisis, nuh worry bout unemployment and redundancy.  Don’t yuh know, Jah will work it out seen?  JAH!”

          “RASTAFARI!” de crowd reply.

          “Selassie I, ever sure, ever pure. Right about now, hol’ on to de one yuh love de bes’ wid out any contes’. Dis yah tune is one cut pon forty-five, stric’ly dub-wise, Gregory Isaacs, Your Smilin Face, trow it down, Robbo!”

De intensity calm down fe a likkle while as de bredrin dem search fe a sistren to hold a dance in de dim light.

          “OOPS, excuse me selecta Robbo! Tek it slow as de love grow inna de dance hall yuh know!  As we stop to start again, yuh got to grab a skirt and see what it’s wort’. Got to get inna de mood, but don’t be rude, jus get down and scrub . . . rub-a-dub!”

A couple of weeks go by, Errol try fe get to grips wid Lorraine.  Since de night weh him did hol’ her fe a dance, nutt’n nah gwaan. She was always talking to a bredda or two, cah she did know quite a few bredrins and she never find it hard fe chat wid any a dem. As a result, him get beat to de post when one bredrin decide seh him like her and want to go out wid her. Errol look pon de rocking crowd and he see her dancing wid her man. He decide seh him nuh done wid Lorraine yet…

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RASTA LOVE (Part two) – click here…

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*All rights reserved.  No part of this story may be reproduced in any form or by any means without prior written permission of the writer Norman Samuda-Smith.*

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