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A Kingston Reasoning with Legendary Guitarist Earl “Chinna” Smith (The Interview: Part 2)

Interview and multi-media
by Stephen Cooper

In part one of my March interview with legendary guitarist Earl “Chinna” Smith – conducted at Chinna’s house in Kingston, Jamaica – many topics were covered including: Chinna’s disappointment and dissatisfaction with the Jamaican government and Marley family over what he perceives as their disrespect, even financial mistreatment, of treasured Wailers’s musicians like Aston “Family Man” Barrett, Carlton (“Carly”) Barrett, Alvin “Secco” Patterson, and Tyrone Downie (and their families).

Part two picks up and ends in this same vein, but, also, throughout this second half of the interview, Chinna and I talk about plenty of other diverse subjects of interest to reggae fans. What follows is a transcript, modified only slightly for clarity and space considerations.

Q: One of the things I heard you say [in a] televised interview for “I Never Knew TV” [is], “Everything is centered around sports in Jamaica, but not music.”
Chinna: Oh gosh, big time.

Q: Even now –
Chinna: Even now!

Q: Even with all the attention given recently to young stars like Original Koffee, is there still more of a focus on sports in Jamaica to the detriment of [rising] music [talents]?
Chinna: Okay, like for example, everybody boosts up this blood clot [Usain] Bolt guy – until him just bolt out of the sh*t. You understand what me a-deal with? And I’m saying to them: [Does] Bolt have a song like “One Love?” “No Woman, No Cry?” [Those songs will live on] [a]s long as life blood clot lasts. [We] have a stupid government. How can you focus pon a thing that don’t have no lasting [impact].

Q: Timeless things?
Chinna: And you know music is that. Because you have[, for example,] ska. Ska is the greatest music Jamaica’s ever produced.

Q: In that same interview [for “I Never Knew TV”] you said if Bob Marley were alive today, he would be investing money in reggae music – into production. Now I think you started to answer this [in Part 1 of our interview] but I’m gonna ask it anyway: Are you satisfied with the level of investment in reggae music by the Marley family and Marley estate? Or do you think they could or should be doing more to support the growth of reggae music in Jamaica?
Chinna: All I’m saying [is] the Marleys [are] supposed to take care of the Wailers. ‘Cause it was Bob Marley and the Wailers, and the I-Threes. Are they doing that?

Q: Sounds like no. (See the end of Part 1 of my interview with Chinna for more details.)
Chinna: Alright, good!

Q: Well, wait, hold on –
Chinna: Sorry.

Q: Don’t they have a greater responsibility also, because of their father –
Chinna: No. That money there – [that’s to] take care of [their] pickney, you know? You give the spoils to your blood clot offspring.

Q: True.
Chinna: So [the Marleys] have the money, [but where is] [Aston] Family Man [Barrett]’s money, and Carly [Barrett’s] money, and Tyrone [Downie]’s money, and my blood clot money, too! Because mi play and give it away.

Q: But I guess what I mean to say is – I’ve heard you talk before in [prior] interviews about how there’s not a proper place to press music [in Jamaica]. So should the Marely estate – is it on them? Because I guess I just wonder: Would their father – would Bob – would he be involved in that? Making a pressing plant?
Chinna: You see before Bob leave here, the place him a-buy [was like] a JBC [the Jamaican Broadcasting Corporation], you know? You understand? Because him leave an industry. Pressing plant, mastering, printing, a studio [and] every fuc*ing thing!

Q: Why is it not in operation though?
Chinna: Ask Cedella Marley, Ziggy Marley, Stephen Marley – interview them and ask them what happened to the thing dem father leave. Before you leave [Jamaica], go down to Tuff Gong [Studios].

Q: If they’ll talk to me to, I’d love to –
Chinna: Yeah man, just go down there and ask for Chow [Tuff Gong Studio’s main engineer]. Alright, you know who’s that you’re looking at? (Pointing at man who moments before arrived in Chinna’s yard and nonchalantly sat down.)

Q: No –
Chinna: The great Tappa Zukie!

Q: Oh wow! Nice to meet you. I was just talking to the Mighty Diamonds about you in Los Angeles.
Tappa Zukie: Yeah?

Q: I was asking them about the song “Leaders of Black Country” [(a Tappa Zukie production)].
Chinna: (To Tappa) See you’re current, you know? (Laughing)

Continued on Page Two–>>