Wed | Jan 20, 2021

‘Sister Carol’ moves to the reggae beat

Published:Sunday | May 31, 2020 | 12:00 AMYasmine Peru - Senior Sunday Gleaner Writer
From left: Charles Wright, Carol Chapman, and Bill Poinsett at a presentation made to Carol by the Spanish Town Heritage Trust outside St Jago de la Vega Cathedral in Spanish Town on Thursday.
Sister Carol

Witty, full of spunk, and with a spirit of adventure that is 10 times her size – and which has no bearing on her age – is a description that pretty much sums up ‘Sister Carol’. A retired lecturer and 20-year volunteer at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), septuagenarian Carol Chapman took her maiden trip to Jamaica earlier this year before the world closed its doors. Surprisingly, her trip was not to soak up the sun, sand, and sea. She was on a solo mission to explore the arts and culture and connect with her spiritual reggae roots.

“I feel connected in a way that I don’t even understand,” the reggae music aficionado shared with The Gleaner. Chapman, who had never been to the Caribbean, said her journey was inspired by a Jamaican man whom she “was fortunate enough to meet”. She decided that she wanted to learn about his culture. So this “ordinary person, who reads a lot of literature,” started to read. On her reading list were Horace Campbell’s Rasta and Resistance, which explores the Rastafarian movement “from its evolution in the hills of Jamaica to its present manifestations in the streets of Birmingham in the UK”, and books by Jamaican author Marlon James. “Those really excited me,” Chapman gushed. “And then, there is Marley. When it comes to Bob Marley, it’s not just the rhythm. I love Bob the poet as well,” she shared.


With an interest in art, whether modern or renaissance, and having seen some photos of art from Jamaica, Carol was sold. “I became keen on discovery and realised that there was just one solution: go to Jamaica.” She added, “I also love dancing, and the rhythm of reggae is such that it makes one feel good to be alive.”

Actually, it was this love for dancing that earned her the nickname that she wears with pride. “In my neighbourhood, there is a place called the AOC East where I started going, and I would dance, and the band just sort of love me and started calling me ‘Sister Carol’. It’s quite a compliment,” she said. Sister Carol is a legendary Rastafarian reggae singer who is known for songs such as Black Cinderella and Reggae Gone International.

Laughing, she related that when people asked, “What are you going to do? Go to the beach?” her response was “a huge grin”. Whereas the beach and the tourist experience were the furthest things from her mind, the Dub Club was a must-visit. “That’s a whole story. The Dub Club is a holistic and a mystical experience,” she said of the acclaimed Kingston house party, which has evolved into its own brand. Guided by a list that was put together by a Jamaican friend living in New York, she did the art gallery circuit, the Spanish Town Heritage Trust, and the Kingston waterfront.

Chapman was welcomed at a dinner garden, meet-the-people party, and cultural experience hosted in St Andrew by Pauline Stone-Myrie and attended by Brian Heap, Nadine Sutherland, Clyde McKenzie, Dave Rodney, and Eloine Hall.