Cherine examines 'Kingston State of Mind'
Cherine Anderson sings Kingston State of Mind with a riveting intensity, whether she is giving a face to the murder toll ("Another man lose him life tonight/babymother she a bawl Jesus Christ") or, in a higher pitch, questioning the existence of the mayhem ("Jacques Road, Park Road, Flankers and Buckfield/What are we really fighting for?").
The areas which are named came from a combination of media reports, personal experience and a suggestion.
"At the time, those communities were constantly in the news. Among others, Flankers and Jacques Road were in the news often. I remember one of the engineers mentioned Buckfield. I was still living in East Kingston at the time so the Jacques Road reference was especially real to me," Anderson said.
The final track on her 2009 EP, The Introduction, Kingston State of Mind, repeats that the "system is a joke" and, at the end, turns to spirituality, invoking the presence of the sweet chariot to "carry me home".
That was a spontaneous moment which lasted, as Cherine said, "I remember at the end of the song, I didn't have a bridge written and I just started singing the negro spiritual. When I eventually wrote the bridge, Sly made the decision to keep the spiritual, because the vibe was right."
It makes specific reference to the "zinc fence and one bed" and Anderson tells The Sunday Gleaner, "When you grow up in the inner city, you see things every day that provide the underlying realities and experiences that enable you to write songs like Kingston State of Mind. Living in east Kingston was as inspirational as it was sometimes depressing. It's where some great friendships were made and some creative ideas were birthed, but it was also where my cousin was murdered. There were politically driven wars which caused fear among us growing as children."
So Anderson sings that guns do not walk and talk, bullets do not vote and the red and green are no saviours.
She adapts part of the melody from Willie Williams' Armagideon Time, at the start of Kingston State of Mind, the song done to music driven by Sly and Robbie.
Anderson got the riddim "... around that time I was just stepping into the industry as a singer. Songs like Coming Over Tonight and Good Love were getting a lot of love in the streets and on radio and I wanted to switch things up by writing on another topic. When I work with Sly and Robbie, there is a lot of freedom; they are like my big brothers, we are really good friends. They also trust my judgement, so they allow me to do my vocals and background arrangements, but they are always there to guide me through the process."
There was a part of the process that Anderson directed literally - the video.
"Kingston State of Mind was also the first video I directed, which is really my background, as an actress and as a student of film, that's what I have my degree in. Sly and Robbie both came out to support the video, my music teacher, Ann Grant and drama teacher Veronica Smith from Excelsior Primary, brought the choir for the studio scenes as well. I also remember going into Bowa Banks in East Kingston to shoot B-rolls and it was just mad love and support from the community, especially the children. The talented Nickieshia Barnes also came out to support. That video is still one of my best memories to date. It spent several weeks on the MTV Tempo charts until they eventually retired it," Anderson said.
Cherine does not include Kingston State of Mind on every show she does, and when she sings it, it is never her opening or closing song.
"That song is heavy," Anderson said. So she chooses the performances where it is presented, like this year's Reggae on the River in California, USA. It was her first time there in about 10 years, and Anderson said "it was good."
There is no escaping the personal impact of Kingston State of Mind, Anderson saying, "these songs, though they seem sentimental for some, they bring back memories both good and bad realities that some people lived through."