Ev­ery A story be­hind note

Jamaica Gleaner - - ENTERTAINMENT - Mel Cooke Gleaner Writer

JA MU­SIC MU­SEUM GROWS, SPACE NEEDED TO DIS­PLAY ARTE­FACTS

AS HE walks into the build­ing at the In­sti­tute of Ja­maica on East Street, Kingston, where the cur­rent Ja­maica Mu­sic Mu­seum ex­hi­bi­tion is housed, a line creases the brow of the mu­seum’s di­rec­tor/cu­ra­tor, Her­bie Miller. It is not caused by the change of light­ing from early af­ter­noon sun to shadow, but the out-of-po­si­tion pa­per with in­for­ma­tion at the base of the drum which takes front and cen­tre place in­side the en­trance.

Miller aligns the white card with black writ­ing just right, ru­ing “signs of in­ter­fer­ence” as he makes sim­i­lar minute move­ments to the cards below other items on dis­play in the first of the two rooms. Here kente cloth, a talk­ing drum and a strum strum, among other instruments, re­flect a mu­si­cal her­itage pre­ced­ing the ar­rival of the peo­ple who came to com­pose Ja­maica as we know it.

Go­ing into the se­cond room re­quires pass­ing un­der the name of the ex­hi­bi­tion on a wall – Cu­rat­ing Mu­sic: To­wards Build­ing a Na­tional Col­lec­tion. It is in

A talk­ing drum. his se­cond room where instruments which have made much of Ja­maica’s much-sto­ried mu­sic are on dis­play.

Miller points out that when he took charge of the Ja­maica Mu­sic Mu­seum eight years ago, there was one in­stru­ment spe­cific to the mu­seum – a solid body gui­tar from mu­si­cian and in­ven­tor Hed­ley Jones (who re­ceived a Gold Mus­grave Medal from the In­sti­tute of Ja­maica in 2011). Other items were ac­quired in the on­go­ing process of build­ing a na­tional col­lec­tion, and Miller read­ily con­nects the in­flow to not only per­sons be­ing in­ter­ested in de­vel­op­ing the Ja­maica Mu­sic Mu­seum, but also his long­stand­ing per­sonal con­nec­tions within the Ja­maican mu­sic in­dus­try.

STO­RIES OF AC­QUI­SI­TION

It is not sur­pris­ing, then, that he has a story of ac­qui­si­tion for many of the pieces, tales which delve into a his­tory and gen­eros­ity beyond in­for­ma­tion on the brief notes which he had ad­justed ear­lier. The last tale on the tour of the ex­hi­bi­tion is the most touch­ing.

Hav­ing heard from drum­mer Sly Dun­bar (whose Akai drum ma­chine, one of sev­eral do­na­tions to the Ja­maica Mu­sic Mu­seum, is in­cluded in Cu­rat­ing Mu­sic) that Skatal­ites drum­mer Lloyd Knibb was very ill, Miller made con­tact with Knibb, who said he was on his way to Kingston.

He said: “Her­bie, I am go­ing to die in two days’ time, but I am com­ing to Ja­maica.”

Knibb wanted to do­nate the drum set and in­structed Miller: “Go to Har­bour View. My fam­ily is ex­pect­ing you. They know the drums are go­ing to the Ja­maica Mu­sic Mu­seum.”

Miller did as was re­quested and the drum set was handed over.

“A few days later, I got a call that he was in Har­bour View and I must come.”

Miller went to Knibb’s house with Skatal­ites bassist Lloyd Brevett. Knibb told them he would die the next day and at 6:56 p.m., Miller re­ceived a call to re­turn to Har­bour View.

“I went there, and he passed just as I was go­ing through the gate,” Miller said.

Other ac­qui­si­tion tales are not as emo­tive but are no less in­volved as they demon­strate the con­nec­tions which have fa­cil­i­tated the mu­seum’s bur­geon­ing col­lec­tion. Miller re­lates how some­one came to the In­sti­tute of Ja­maica and was taken on a tour of the then mini­dis­play, which cov­ered from plan­ta­tion life to dance­hall in what The Sun­day Gleaner summed up as 22 yards of Ja­maica’s his­tory. Af­ter the tour, he said his fa­ther was sax­o­phon­ist Sammy Is­may and later at­tended an event in the Ja­maica Mu­sic Mu­seum’s Grouna­tion se­ries, which is held each Fe­bru­ary. He car­ried an onion bag which con­tained his fa­ther’s sax­o­phone, sheet mu­sic, po­etry and more.

And even as he rat­tles off the names of per­sons in­stru­men­tal in the do­na­tion of instruments, whose names may not be on cards like those he painstak­ingly ad­justed (Jimmy Moss-Solomon helped get Ver­non ‘Mullo’ Moller’s trom­bone into the mu­seum’s col­lec­tion), Miller em­pha­sises that the instruments are im­por­tant – true mu­seum pieces – be­cause of their his­tory. So there is a story about a bass gui­tar ac­quired by pro­ducer Bunny ‘Striker’ Lee for As­ton ‘Fam­i­ly­man’ Bar­rett, which was then passed on to Rob­bie Shake­speare, who Miller The notes on the Hofner vi­o­lin bass gui­tar, do­nated to the Ja­maica Mu­sic Mu­seum by Rob­bie Shake­speare. de­scribed as “no or­di­nary Ja­maican”.

They are all ex­tra­or­di­nary Ja­maicans rep­re­sented in Cu­rat­ing Mu­sic: To­wards Build­ing a Na­tional Col­lec­tion, among them Ernie Ran­glin, Clin­ton Hut­ton, Larry McDon­ald, Dizzy Moore, Ever­ald Brown, Chinna Smith and Ad­ina Ed­wards. There are other names con­nected with the instruments on dis­play – Tommy Cowan and Buddy Pouy­att in­cluded.

Miller said with the ex­hi­bi­tion, the in­ten­tion is to en­cour­age vis­i­tors and let the pub­lic know “we are in the process of build­ing our in­sti­tu­tion, the Ja­maica Mu­sic Mu­seum. We can only build that if we have bene­fac­tors, con­trib­u­tors to the process”.

“Ev­ery­thing helps,” Miller said.

How­ever, even as the Ja­maica Mu­sic Mu­seum builds its col­lec­tion, the phys­i­cal space that it is af­forded is pain­fully in­ad­e­quate. Among the many items not on dis­play are Der­mott Hussey’s col­lec­tion and an am­pli­fier from Jah Love sound sys­tem. As Miller puts it suc­cinctly, “space is lim­ited”.

He said that if we are to leave a last­ing im­pres­sion of who we are and show our re­spect for what we have cre­ated, we have to leave the fu­ture on solid ground.

Still, ahead of a suit­able build­ing is ob­tained for the Ja­maica Mu­sic Mu­seum, Miller said: “We will utilise ev­ery space un­til then.”

The in­for­ma­tion for Hed­ley Jones’ Solid Body Gui­tar, the only in­stru­ment which had been col­lected specif­i­cally for the Ja­maica Mu­sic Mu­seum eight years ago when Her­bie Miller be­came its di­rec­tor/ cu­ra­tor.

A drum ma­chine (right) do­nated by Sly Dun­bar.

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