Mel Cooke, Freelance Writer
Left: Pinkney ... one of Zap Pow's co-founders. Right: Beres Hammond - file photos
Chances are that, for many, 'Zap Pow' conjures up images of old comic books where the forces of good overcome the evil design of the villain with a few well-placed blows.
However, from just after Jamaica switched from the British to its own currency until on the brink of the landmark 1980 General Election, it meant something else. It meant music and, nearly 30 years after what Zap Pow band's co-founder guitarist Dwight Pinkney calls Jamaica's first show band broke up, they were honoured at the recent Prime Minister's Gala on Independence Day.
"I didn't expect it because the years have passed, but I must really compliment the Prime Minister and the powers that be for recognising the contribution Zap Pow band has made over the years, and we are very honoured for the privilege," Pinkney said.
The unit that played This is Reggae Music, Mystic Mood, Sweet Loving Love and Last War at Jamaica House on Monday, August 6, was a mixture of original Zap Pow members and guests. The originals were Pinkney, trumpeter David Madden, saxophonist Glen DaCosta and Richard 'T-Bird' Johnson, who played along with guests Keith Francis (bass), Earl Fitzsimmons (keyboards), DeLeon 'Jubba' White (drums) and Luke Dixon (keyboards). Oneil 'Shines' Lawrence was on lead vocals, supported by the harmony o 'Di Chick' Hewitt, Jasmine Black and Conroy Jarrett.
Of all those missing from the original unit, Pinkney missed the man who gave the band its name most.
"My one regret was that Michael 'Zap Pow' Williams, the co-founder with me, he is no longer with us, but I made sure his eldest son was in attendance," Pinkney said.
A story published in The Sunday Gleaner on September 4, 2005, recorded that (Michael) Williams came up with the name Zap Pow and, in 1969, another leaf turned in the history of Jamaican music. The core of the band was Pinkney, Williams, trumpeter David Madden and drummer Danny Mowatt, Madden adding saxophonist Glen DaCosta to the roster. Their first song, Mystic Mood, which many people did not believe was done by a Jamaican group at first, was a hit.
After recording the album Zap Pow Now for Island Records in the mid 1970s and playing in Cayman, Guyana, Suriname (for CARIFESTA), Mexico, Canada, Bermuda and all over the United States of America, Zap Pow broke up in 1979.
It continued: "Zap Pow grew until we were the highest-paid band in the land," Pinkney said. As such, they had their choice of vocalists and "we went through quite a few". Among them were Bunny Rugs, now lead singer for Third World, and the deceased Jacob Miller, former lead singer for Inner Circle. The one who stayed the longest was Beres Hammond, whom Pinkney credits with being "our best vocalist, too".
Jamaica's first show band
"We were the first show band in Jamaica. Before that, all the bands were dance bands. We originate the concept that you can have your own self-contained band that put on a show," he said in that story.
Now Pinkney points out that "Third World and those guys who got big used to come and take us in, right up front".
He adds that "there is a resurgence in the interest in Zap Pow's music" as VP Records has just put out a compilation and Trojan Records is set to put out a collection in October.
"As we speak one of our tracks, Last War, that is what made Collie Budz," he said, as the deejay's hit Come Around is on the rhythm for that song. In addition, deejay Albarosie has also done a song on the rhythm, which is soon to be released.
"It is so coincidental, everything seems to come 30-odd years later, but better late than never," Pinkney said.