The soprano sax came later in Tafane Buchsaecab's playing life. - Andrew Smith/Photography Editor
Mel Cooke, Freelance Writer
A zinc fence was literally saxophonist Tafawee (much more widely known as Tafane) Buchsaecab's gateway to artistic freedom. Not just any zinc fence, mind you, and certainly not the kind that forms a flimsy, yet formidable barrier between the haves and have-nots.
It was the band formed around dynamo singer Rovletta Fraser on the cusp of the new millennium, the band in which Buchsaecab blew the roof off his inhibitions.
"I was hanging out with Denver Smith and Jon DaCosta, who became the manager for Zinc Fence," Buchsaecab said. "The idea was to build a band around Rovletta Fraser. We got to discussing who would be good members and we came up with some good ones. And that was how the band took off."
With Trevor Thompson on bass, Paul Chung on guitar, Smith on drums, Stephen Russell on keyboards, Fraser on lead vocals and Tafane on saxophone, Zinc Fence hit the road with a clang. "Through Zinc Fence, that is where my confidence as a saxophonist developed, to start going solo," Tafane said.
"Zinc Fence gave me the freedom to do what I wanted. That is how the growth started. They said get inside your head. Don't replicate. Express your emotions. When we did a cover version they would not want me to play it back exactly," he said. It was also the freedom to move around, Tafane moving among members of the audience at Jake's in Treasure Beach, St. Elizabeth, at the first Calabash International Literary Festival.
Of course, Tafane could play long before he went through that accommodating Zinc Fence to emerge as a soloist on the other side. His musical alpha was just that, the famedAlpha Boy's School on South Camp Road, Kingston. Still, his first love was the canvas, not the scoresheet.
"My thing was art. I remember a report card from primary school where the teacher said if you want Tafane to get 100 per cent, do it in art," he said.
And even then, the curved horn was not the first to hand. Initially came the trumpet, which he tried for seven months, then at 13 he began a life-long affair with th saxophone. "The saxophone was more melodic to me," Tafane said.
"At Alpha you have to love music. You have a choice of trade ... Music is what stole my love from art," Tafane said.
After starting with th sax in February, by summer Tafane was playing with the school's crack unit, the Alpha Boy's Band. "I never got an instrument instantly. It was two months just standing behind the senior guys so I could follow the score. It was like five saxophonists ... They show you stuff when you have the time," Tafane said.
He made the best use of that time and was soon heading through the gates on his first play out. To say he was caught up in the heat of the moment would be putting it mildly. "It was heaven sent. You going out with the big boys who go out and put Alpha on the map. It was downtown in the park. It was midday. We had on crimpiline, crazy suit. But you could have put me in an oven and turned it up, it would not have affected me at all," Tafane said.
Last day at Alpha
Still, on his last day at Alpha, Tafane Buchsaecab had no idea what the future held musically. He had started working about a month before graduation, with Kendell Trading, on Spanish Town Road.
As a graduate he was with the Alphasonics, a band of Alpha Boy's past students. However, with the work situation and band rehearsal every week-day evening, as well as on weekends, and shows thrown into the hectic mix, there was not much time for personal practice.
And as a member of the band, there was not much by way of stepping out.
"I was still in a shell. It was a personality thing. I was not as bold to take itand play, with regard to music," Tafane said. "There were so many persons playing I did not have to worry about anybody hearing me. Every now and then you put out a good solo."
Then came Zinc Fence and a band of musicians, who expected more and got more. "We were hitting all the major spots. We opened at Sumfest. UWI was a backyard spot for us. We could not do anything wrong at UWI. When we played there, we guarantee to mash up the place," Tafane said.
"People still say it is one of the best bands for a while in Jamaica," he said. Note the present tense, a Rovletta Fraser went on to work with Damian 'Jr. Gong' Marley, "Zinc Fence is still happening." Tafane noted that they had recently recorded two tracks at Tuff Gong studios. "When we started we were doing a lot of cover stuff. Our dream was to create music, that all the elements that made up the individuals would come together," he said.
By the time individual projects started happening for Zinc Fence, they had two original songs, River and I Guarantee with poet Dingo and singer Junior Burgher, getting good rotation on radio. Then he hooked up with Dingo and producer Rudy Valentino to do She Did Have a Blouse and Skirt Vibe. "That is when I started hearing myself on the radio constantly," Tafane said. "Is almost like we deserve a platinum plaque for how it play.
"Me no have words to describe it," he said of the feeling when he first heard his work on air.
Still, with studio work, he said, "Everybody would love to have a horn section on their recording, but it is the first thing they think of to cut."