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A piano from the Coores - Jamaica Music Museum grateful for instrument donation

Published:Sunday | July 10, 2016 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
Shiah Coore playing the upright bass once played by Lloyd Brevett of The Skatalites.
Shiah Coore beside a picture of The Skatalites' Lloyd Brevett.
The Yamaha upright piano which the Coore family has donated to the Jamaica Music Museum at the Institute of Jamaica, East Street, Kingston.
Director/curator of the Jamaica Music Museum Herbie Miller (centre) with Stephen 'Cat' Coore (left) and Shiah Coore on a tour of the museum's current exhibition at the Institute of Jamaica, East Street, Kingston. The exhibition is named Curating Music: Towards Building a National Collection.
Steohen 'Cat' Coore of Thurd World band (left), director/curator of the Jamaica Music Museum Herbie Miller (second left), musician Shiah Coore (second right) and Anne Marie Bonner, executive directoir of the Institute of Jamaica (IOJ), at the IOJ's East Street, Kingston, building on Friday. The Coores were officially handing over the piano to the music museum.

The Jamaica Music Museum's growing collection of instruments expanded further on Friday with the donation of a Yamaha upright piano by the Coore family. Stephen 'Cat' Coore of Third World band and his son, Shiah, who plays bass guitar in Damian 'Jr Gong' Marley's band, visited the Institute of Jamaica (IOJ) to officially hand the instrument over.

It was owned by Stephen's mother, Rita, a renowned music teacher, wife of outstanding lawyer and politician David Coore.

Speaking with Herbie Miller, directorcurator of the museum, and Anne Marie Bonner, executive director of the IOJ, the older Coore said, "Mum had a grand piano later." She was unable to get parts for it and it was sold to the Harry J studio. There, it was used for recordings by Bob Marley and Burning Spear, among others.

Stephen described the Yamaha upright now at the IOJ building on East Street, Kingston, as among the best available at the time. His mother was a music teacher who he described as a "finisher - people would not start with her. They would come to her when they were at a particular level".

He also pointed out that the family's involvement in music continues, with not only Shiah, but another Coore - Stephen - in the Zinc Fence Redemption band for Chronixx. Miller expressed gratitude to the Coores for the donation, saying, "We thank you for thinking of us."

After the donation was officially made, Miller took Stephen and Shiah Coore on a tour of the Jamaica Music Museum's collection, including a number of artefacts not on display and the current exhibition, Curating Music: Building a National Collection. There, Shiah Coore took hold of an upright bass once plated by Lloyd Brevett of The Skatalites.

"Eight years ago when I got here we had one instrument and a small collection of records," Miller said. Building from an initial collection donated by Dermot Hussey, there has been considerable expansion from that point.

Miller told The Gleaner that the Coores had called to ask if the Jamaica Music Museum could use the piano. "Of course I said yes," he said. "We think it is a very important instrument, based not only on the pedigree of its owner, but also because it is from the Coore family." The initial contact was made two Fridays ago, and within a week, the piano was in place and being handed over officially.

So, a piano coming from that context "has a lot of provenance, a lot of history," said Miller. Added to that was stellar musicians visiting Jamaica who would go to the Coore home and "eventually gravitate to that piano and play a number or two."

Miller noted that donations like the piano stimulate other donations to the Jamaica Music Museum. "The additional importance is that it encourages others to do likewise. There are many instruments, papers, artefacts, additional instruments (for those musicians who keep up with instruments as they come out) around," Miller said. Many homes would have also had instruments or a gramophone player, music equipment that is now being kept in a room somewhere until it is discarded one day.

He said it is donations of items like these that will not only build the national collection, but also help memorialise - in a modest way - the persons to whom the artefact belonged. It also stirs memories of similar persons.

So for Miller, a donation like Rita Coore's piano brings to mind someone like late musician Ivy Graydon.

When the history of the artefacts and their owners is traced, Miller said "it helps us to better understand how we got to where we are, even in reggae and dancehall".