Arts, Culture & Media

Hurricane makes trouble for Jamaican musician

With Hurricanes Ike and Hanna barreling through, you may actually have forgotten about Gustav. Well, the people of Jamaica haven't. Of all the storms this summer, Gustav hit them the hardest. And as The World's Marco Werman tells us, Gustav couldn't have come at a worse time for one Jamaican musician trying to stage a comeback.

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Here's how a student in Kingston described what she saw after Gustav.

“When I went out and I looked around Kingston, I saw an entire hillside, it was just collapsed, and I took photos of houses that were half on land and half in the middle of the air. And the bridge that connects Harborview to Kingston, that bridge is gone.”

That missing bridge from Harbour View to Kingston connected people in the capital with a little bit of country. It's a convenient metaphor for the current career of Claudius Linton.

Linton, who goes by the stagename Kingman, is a musician who had brought a little country consciousness into Jamaica's rude boy urban reggae in the 70s. Some say he invented roots-reggae, though that's hard to pin down.

Still, Kingman's number one 1976 hit "Crying Time" surely established a template for the roots-reggae style. Kingman's produced hits for about ten years in Jamaica. And then he slipped off the radar.

Recently, Kingman's career took off again, thanks to a new album produced here in the States. Kingman recorded the new album "Sign Time" with Ian "Jonah" Jones.  Jonah is a rock guitarist and producer based in Baltimore. He brings a new perspective to Kingman's music. And yet, even on the one composition that isn't Kingman's, the reggae-rootsiness is still there.

A few years ago, Jonah was vacationing in Negril, Jamaica. He met Kingman on a beach there. And they became friends.

Jonah offered to produce what would become Kingman's first album in 20 years. Now he's offering another kind of help. When Gustav hit earlier late last month, it literally blew the roof off Kingman's house.
Ian "Jonah" Jones has begun raising funds to help Kingman rebuild his home.

Helping his new partner out is Jonah's latest way of drawing attention to an artist he believes deserves more props. Most big-selling Jamaican artists these days make their mark with short-lived pounding dancehall hits about girls and greed.

So it is surprising to find a veteran of the business coming back, and singing songs about the troubles he sees in the world.

PRI's "The World" is a one-hour, weekday radio news magazine offering a mix of news, features, interviews, and music from around the globe. "The World" is a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI and WGBH Boston. More "The World."