*** Nouvelle collection - nouvel ouvrage ***

Le Moine marin
Une nouvelle collection de livres pour semer l'étrange 
dans l'esprit de nos contemporains !  
Thibault Ehrengardt, invité de l'émission  Révolution Rock (de Simon Rico) sur France Cutlure : ICI

Michael "Joshua" Manley, élu Premier Ministre de la Jamaïque en 1972, a fait campagne en reggae et s'est approprié les codes rastas (le langage oules revendications). Trop proche des communistes, il éveille la colère de son plus grand rival, Edward Seaga. De 1972 à 1980, la politique jamaïcaine se répand comme un cancer sur le pays, corrompant, assassinant et manipulant à des seules fins électorales. Une sorte de guerre froide en milieu tropical. Pris au milieu de ces guerres politiciennes absurdes, les artistes commentent entre rage et désespoir. L'île ne donnera jamais un reggae aussi brut, aussi inquiet et sauvage - la quintessence du roots, tapie derrière la terreur politicienne !

JAMAICA INSULA célèbre les 50 ans d'indépendance de la Jamaïque dans l'émission LA TERRASSE DU MOUV', de Giulia Fois, lundi 6 août (date anniversaire). Thibault Ehrengardt parle de son ouvrage Les Hommes illustres de la Jamaïque : ICI
Le 6 août 1962, la Jamaïque accède à l'indépendance complète sous le regard attendri de la Grande-Bretagne. L'avenir semble sourire à cette petite île sous le soleil, située au sud de Cuba et à l'ouest d'Haïti. 50 ans plus tard, la Jamaïque est devenue le troisième pays le plus dangereux au monde et agonise sous un soleil de plomb. Une économie morose, des institutions corrompues... Cet anniversaire est le moment idéal pour faire le point sur un demi-siècle de tribulations, d'espoirs et d'inquiétudes.


Tsetsi Davis, ready to fight, in front of his ring, in Dam Head.       
        In the community of Dam Head, the professional boxer Tsetsi Davis has built his own ring and launched a fight club where the youths come to settle their feuds with gloves rather than with guns. 
Dam Head is a small community close to Spanish Town. When you leave the main road, it seems you’ve reached the countryside of Jamaica. Nobody goes there unless necessary. The roads are muddy, full of pot holes, flooded when it rains. There is no store, no jobs neither, and goats freely roam the place. A lot of illiterate youths live here, looking for something to do. It is said to be a very volatile community, and so it is. The two main gangs from Spanish Town, One Order and Clansman, have spread their tentacles up there, dividing the youths. Over the past few years, Dam Head had been nothing but a dead end, a no man’s land where people used to live in fear under the yoke of organized crime. But things have changed. Every Sunday night, the youths from the nearby communities come to Dam Head. Wearing their nicest clothes to impress girls, they cross the community in small laughing groups, up to the bubbling spot. Music, lights, laughters, cars driving all around, it looks like Kingston down here ! Life, after all, has come back to Dam Head. Thanks to boxing, thanks to Tsetsi Davis.

The wooden square of Dam Head.
Incredible Jamaica ! Rigth here, lost in the middle of nowhere, stands the most beautiful boxing ring I’ve ever seen. It is a wooden ring, a hand-made one. Standing in front of it, the 39 year-old professional boxer Tsetsi Davis explains : I went into the woods to cut the trees. Then we built it up with my brother. It all started early last year, at his brother’s birthday party. I had no money to buy him a present, so I said : come outside, me give you a free round. His brother, Eric “ Club Rat ” Davis, is a keen boxer, but also a keen drinker and smoker. Not a professional boxer at all, but he’s never refused a fight. The two men went down the stairs of Club Rat’s house and started to fight in the middle of the yard. People passing by took a stop to have a look. Fifteen minutes later, several dozens of them were shouting and laughing at Club Rat who was knocked down by his brother. But he got up and they resumed the fight. At the end, we gave our gloves to the people-them, we put a light above them and they faught till the middle of the night. The youths challenged one another, sometimes bare-handed, in the middle of the muddy yard. The next week, people came early and we organized everything. A fight club was born, with neither rules nor gloves. Tsetsi Davis got a few pairs of worn gloves, finally, some boxing headgears, and started to teach a few things to the youths about boxing. There were so many people, says Tsetsi, those in the back said they could see nothing. So I had the idea to build the ring.

           Today is a rainy day. Club Rat sweeps the water from the plastic covers laid on the ring, looking at a threatening sky with confidence. It ah-go good tonight, man, he smiles, exhibiting his golden tooth. Club Rat takes the fight club very seriously. Every Sunday evening, he sets up a little table at the back of the yard, to sell some white rum. At the end of the show, when people go back home, he desperately tries to sell some DVDs shot during the former evenings. Support the fight club ! he shouts. But the youths don’t have enough money to buy beers, they ain’t gonna buy a DVD. Ah so it go, shruggs Rat. We keep the vibes alive, anyhow - that’s the most important thing. Club Rat and Tsetsi never got any support in life. The boxer trains at the GC Foster Gymnasium where the material is in poor condition. The ring dates from the 70’s, it was given to Jamaica by the Cubans – Jamaica was then run by a socialist. One old scratched bag only, no shower, no gloves, nothing. The floor of the ring has been covered up with torn blankets, the fighters just stumble down every minute. The worn ropes of the ring have been repaired so many times, they regularly break in the middle of a round. During a fight, a young boxer  leaned against them and suddenly fell backwards as the rope broke, landing 5 feet lower on his neck. He recovered quickly but this fall might have been a dramatic one.
Fly like a bee, sting like butterfly, Tsetsi Davis in action !
 That’s where Tsetsi Davis comes from. He knows it hardcore. Boxing is my revenge on life, he says while driving his old car which is falling apart. As a youth, my step-father used to beat me every day. I was just a child growing wild. Thus bred in the midst of pain and fear, Tsetsi became an outraged boy who faught every other boy from the community. Until he met a boxing coach. He put me on a ring for the first time of my life, in front of one of his pupils. I was scared, I knew nothing ‘bout boxing. The youth started to beat me down. Tsetsi knew nothing about the art of boxing, but he already had that fighting spirit. All of a sudden, he punched back his opponent with all his strength. No lie, the boy hit the ground 4 feet further, and never got up. The coach yelled at me : Wooh, what have you done ?! I got scared and ran away. When I came back, the coach told me : My youth, if you train properly, you’ll be a great boxer one day. He did. Boxing in Jamaica, though, has not been very popular during his days. He went boxing in different countries and has quite a serious record (more than 60 amateur fights and 10 professional ones). But the island not being recognized on the international scene, no money was invested in boxing  and Tsetsi’s career suffered from it. Four years ago, laughs a coach at GC Foster, there were only 25 professional boxers in Jamaica ! Thus, although he trains professionaly several hours a day, Tsetsi does not make a living out of boxing, he works as a blacksmith, shoeing horses at Caymanas Park - where the races take place. But the work is few, he complains. It’s hard sometimes to feed my family. Tsetsi lives in a two rooms house, outside Dam Head, with his little boy and a new-born child. His trophies are all over the place. He shows us a picture of his mentor. He was my coach – I wan everything for him, to fullfill his dreams. He died, a few years ago.”  

Dr Bird, produced and sang the Fight Club's anthem.
It’s 8 PM, a few dozens of people are in Club Rat’s yard, waiting for show time. The rain has almost stopped but the place is muddy and the cars block the way. Earlier in the afternoon, Rat and a friend climbed a nearby tree to fix a ligth above the ring - it dangerously swings in the wind. The younger youths have already sat in the first row, listening to the hit song of the fight club. It’s been recorded by Doctor Bird, says Rat. He is a young artist living nearby. The tune quotes Tsetsi Davis, Club Rat and describes a - “bif”, “baf”, “bouf” - fight on the ring, over a dynamic dance hall riddim. Boxing and music have always got along very well, it’s all about determination and decisive instants. Rat dances in the middle of the ring in front of a delighted crowd – he is a real showman. In the back, a gambler has laid his board on a table and attracted all the kids from the community. The game is simple : you chose a square on the board and throw the dices. If you end up on the right square, you win. Else, you lose. Kids gravely bet their candies they quickly retrieve anytime they lose, half-amused, half-scared.

A teenager girl gets on the ring, acting rough. She looks around in the crowd and suddenly points her finger at another girl : “ You me want fight ! Come up here.” Tsetsi acts as a referee and some friends from the boxing club act as coaches in each corner, advising the fighters. The two girls put on their gloves and headgears and meet in the middle of the ring : “ Fight !” As soon as the first blows land, the crowd gets ecstatic ! The youths shouts in patois, laugh and scorn. Jamaicans have an inborn sense of spectacle. They love it bad, as they say. Life to the fullest, noisy, dirty if it has to, joyful no matter what. As a matter of fact, Jamaicans hate those who “spoil the joy ” of any event. Life is a stage and every one’s got to play their part with as much enthousiasm as possible, it is a matter of dignity.
On the ring, the first girl eventually drives her opponent to her knees under a general “Hooray !” Triumphant, she speaks up : “ You nah see, me told you me would ah-revenge pon you, girl ! You shouldn’t stole the man of me sister !” The defeated girl mumbles and walks away. Tsetsi later comments : We never knew there was a feud between the two girls. They setlled it through boxing rather than to start a war. That’s what most of the youths do here, they use gloves rather than bullets. That’s one way for Tsetsi to fight against crime. But he also fights against the morbid mood of the community. “Respect due to Tsetsi Davis ! shouts a man in a little bar of Dam Head where we’ve sought refuge from the rain. Before, we used to live like rats in our community. Everybody fraid fi go out at night, fear of socializing. Looking at each other like animals, man. Now, we can come out in the evening, enjoy a one-two beers, smoke a little spliff and enjoy the show, man. And live as human beings again.” Club Rat moves around him giving fake punches : So whey you ah-say ? You come fight tonight 
- With you ? No problem, man. Me ah-go beat you down, you know.”

A Dam Head resident.
Our friend never showed up for the fight – but he was already quite drunk when we met him in the early afternoon. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is his vibes, how everybody in the bar had fun when he was boasting of being the best boxer “inna di world !” Fun is all the people from Dam Head are longing for. Far from the writing on the wall of the very same bar that reads “One Order”. This is the mark of the beast, the name of one of the two most powerful gangs of Spanish Town. It rules a part of the community, selling drugs and racketting people. Another part is ruled by the other gang, Clansman. When they fight each other, they don’t really wear gloves nor headgears, and stray bullets have killed many innocent citizens. That’s why the people from Dam Head stay home at night, the killing time. Of course, the fight club did not put and end to the gang wars. In 2010, the police and the army raided Tivoli Gardens, in Kingston, the former stronghold of the main criminal organization in Jamaica. The Don, or godfather, of the gang, Christopher “Dudus” Coke, was arrested and extraded to America. Crime is a political issue in Jamaica. Dudus was supported by the Prime Minister of the time, whose guilty complaisance was thus publicly established. He had to resign soon after. With the downfall of Dudus and his organization, crime stepped back in a Jamaica – at least for a while -, and the new government intends to benefit from it. A lot of policemen are sent daily into the worst communities of the island, maintaining a fragile peace. In the middle of the process, Tsetsi has launched his fight club, helping to sort things out in his own community.

End of part 2

Text & pictures (c) Natty Dread 2013

Jah Kingdom Gone to Waste

By Thibault Ehrengardt
Text & pictures © - do not reproduce without permission

Jamaica is a third-world country, struggling day after day for survival. In the perpetual movement resides its only hope. Peter Tosh used to say, regarding his monocycle, that when he was riding it, he had no choice but to concentrate fully on what he was doing : “if me think bout something else for a second, I’ll fall.” Jamaica can not afford the luxury of a short rest. Forward lies salvation. Thus the glory of yesterday is of little interest to most Jamaicans. Outsiders fear this “livity” but can not help looking at it with some kind of admiration... This is naked life, fearful yes, but so exciting. In Jamaica, anything can happen, anytime, anywhere – scary, or promising ? Welcome to the true american frontier of the 19th century, where gunmen roam the streets, where every move is good, as long as it pays – and where madness can hardly be distinguished from genious. Can’t say you haven’t been told : you’re on your own down there, do your thing, my friend, without any apology - play your best card at the best time, everyone to himself and God for all... woe to the loosers, no second chance. Fearful, overstimulating. Jamaica. 

Maxfield Avenue, in the 70’s, used to carry the swing. There the youth of Kingston would go to get the latest fashionable haircut, to find the most suitable clothes. Violence has always been a part of this volatile area, mostly the bottom part of the avenue that is. But the best would go along the worst and Maxfield was the home of the most sought after recording studio of the country, the legendary Channel 1, opened by the Hookim brothers around 1975. Their sound ruled dance hall for the rest of the decade, dictated its beat to reggae music worldwide and almost swallowed up the whole industry, as 80% of what was then recorded was recorded between these walls. Channel 1 was an expensive place and most producers would cut the voice parts of their tunes in Waterhouse, at the more affordable King Tubby’s. But when it would come to riddim, sound quality and modernity, they had no choice but to hire Channel 1. Everyone was hanging out there. The best musicians of the time, the most successful artists... Some ran into trouble while leaving the area, others usually slept in the yard, surrounded by gunshots all night long. The front wall, roughly 12 feet high, with its glorious sign Channel 1 and its iron gates featuring the labels of the Hookim Brothers (Channel One, Well Charge...) have become iconic over the years. Almost 40 years later, the painting remains – magnificient as ever, breathtaking for any reggae lover. All of a sudden, it bursts out at one corner, in the midst of squalor and desperation... Channel 1. I went there more than once in my life. But I still get this exciting feeling, whenever I come out of my car. Over the years, the place - that was closed long ago - has evolved : people used to live here for a while. I remember taking the picture of a woman, washing her clothes in front of the iron gates. Nowadays, only duppies roam the premices of Channel 1. The place, more miserable than ever, is simply falling apart. No one lives here anymore, how could they ? The roof is gone, the walls are falling down, the windows do not exist anymore. No doubt, after all these years, misery has had the better out of Channel 1. This is the end of the road.

I came closer to the gates, to decipher the readings of the almost erased labels of the Hookim Brothers. They are still here, nevertheless. Like this great dark wall... The yard is in a terrible condition but the two bands painted on the back wall are from way back in the 70’s. The worried mind can easily find its way back to the past, though. The excitement of the musicians, the busy store, the music, fierce, aggressive, in the back... Some Dillinger putting up a show in front of the studio, Coxsone pointing his gun at Jo Jo who, he said, was stealing his riddims... The Roots Radics can not be far from this vision, nor Sly Dunbar, the master mind behind the sound of Channel 1 – the famous double-drumming, reproducing the gunshots of a M16. I took some pictures of the place, in a mixed up mood. Glad to be here again, to follow the footsteps of all these great artists, saddened at the sight of such a waste. 

It did not take long for two Jamaicans to join me. In their 50’s, they had known the place in its glory – and they were mesmerized at my enthusiasm. One of them said to his friend : “you nah see how the place powerful ? After all these years, dem still ah come fe it...” Dem, the white guys. These weird creatures, interested in ruins and in a music, dead to Jamaica – who have the opportunity to stop, to reflect on the past. There is so much to be done with these ruins... Even though the place remains desolate, couldn’t we open here some sort of living museum ? A venue for roots lovers – who would come to hear some groups from the 70’s ? In a preserved environement, they would come to snap a picture in front of the wall. If not harrassed too much, they might even eat a food in a nearby restaurant (or ras-taurant, according to their diet), enjoy a domino game outside, buy one Red Stripe (or two, depending on how thirsty they are), inject some money in this long forgotten area. Crime remains a rampant problem in Jamaica. But the efforts of the newly appointed Ministre of Security look promising – the downfall of Dudus might bring a new era in Jamaica. No more racketting, no more blind shootings... Tourism could sprout again – downtown Kingston, even in its worst state, has something of a “grande dame”, ready to jump back to its days of glory. Personal initiatives might spring from everywhere, Jamaicans are so inventive. The dream is beautiful, but it is just a dream. Jamaica is fighting very hard, but the monster is powerful – economic crisis, unemployment, no natural resources, crime and corruption. Back to reality – Channel 1 days are gone and will never come back. The Hookim Brothers intended to re-open it a few years ago, they had chosen a new location, in a safer part of uptown Kingston. Channel... 2 ?! No, there will always be one Channel 1, but reggae lovers must learn to mourn it. The walls, slowly, scramble down, the painting vanishes away... When the original wall hits the ground, this will be the end. Kingdoms rise and kingdoms fall, used to sing The Wailing Souls. And if I remember correctly, this prophecy was recorded inside these very walls. Jamaica was once the mighty kingdom of reggae music, indeed. The power and the glory remain, just below the dirt. But these are the mere ruins of a golden age... Soon lost forever. Channel 1 is more than a sad story, it is the almost unbearable symbol of the downfall of a royal dynasty, the dynasty of reggae music.

Extraits des Hommes illustres de la Jamaïque.

Paru dans Les Hommes illustres de la Jamaïque, de T. Ehrengardt.
(Extracts from the book Les Hommes illustres de la Jamaïque)

Bob Marley, le portrait
Vincent Ryghin Martin, le portrait

Jamaica Insula 04.

11 PORTRAITS JAMAICAINS - qui dressent à leur tour celui d'une île aux humeurs bouillonnantes où les aveugles ont des pistolets, les tueurs deux pistolets et où les religieux ont des allures de scélérat. Beaucoup de ces destins sont musicaux, comme celui de BOB MARLEY, celui de YABBY YOU. Mais on croise aussi quelques criminels, comme le premier tueur en série du 18e siècle, le fameux Ryghin' des années 40 qui inspira le film The Harder They Come (dans lequel il est campé par Jimmy Cliff) ou encore Trevor Wilson. Ce dernier, frère de Delroy, a inspiré l'un des plus grands tubes reggae, Johnny Too Bad. Mieux encore, il en a écrit au moins une partie, juste avant de périr comme il avait vécu, dans un nuage de poudre. Parmi les politiciens les plus influents de l'histoire de l'île, on croise aussi le ténébreux EDWARD SEAGA que l'on accuse souvent d'avoir distillé la violence à des fins électorales. A l'heure où le politicien sort ses mémoires, retour sur une carrière impressionnante et parfois... inquiétante. Cet ouvrage, en tout modestie inspiré dans sa forme par les Hommes illustres de Plutarque, se lit comme autant de petits romans dont les personnages principaux concourent à esquisser les contours des époques qu'ils ont marquées.

This book compiles 11 portraits of some of the most famous Jamaicans : the notorious Lewis Hutchinson (the first serial killer of Jamaica, during the 18th century), the Johnny-too-bad of Trench Town, Trevor Wilson (who inspired the hit Johnny-Too-Bad to the Slcikers), Bob Marley, Yabby You or the politican Edward Seaga... 11 portraits to draw the portrait of a tropical island, beautiful and dangerous.

L'auteur : rédacteur en chef d'une revue consacrée à la musique jamaïcaine pendant dix ans, Thibault Ehrengardt, s'est rendu une vingtaine de fois sur place et déjà signé deux titres de la collection Jamaica Insula. Ce premier volume des Hommes illustres sera suivi d'un second.

The author : Thibault Ehrengardt ran the biggest European magazine about reggae music, Natty Dread, between 2000 and 2011. He went some 20 times to Jamaica and already published three books in the Jamaica Insula series.

Histoire de la Jamaïque.

Cliquez sur la couverture pour plus de détails.

où il est question de sa découverte pa Christophe Colomb,
du règne espagnol, de sa capture par les Anglais,
des Flibustiers de Port-Royal, de ses rapports avec
Saint-Domingue, des esclaves et de leurs révoltes, etc.

History of Jamaica from its discovery by Columbus in 1494, till
the abolition of slavery in 1838 - with the spanish reign, its capture by
the fleet of Cromwell, the buccaneers years, the wars against 
the French neighboors of St.Domingue, the slaves and their uprisings etc...

300 pages - Format 5 - 50 illustrations - Beau papier
ISBN : 978-2-9533982-0-5 / Prix : 24,90 euros / Référencé à la SFL.

(en cours de ré-impression / to be reprinted soon)