Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
Winston Samuels was the only awardee at Stone Love's 38th anniversary celebration, held last Saturday at the Royal View Entertainment Centre, Portmore, St Catherine, who declined to speak. Samuels was recognised as the sound system's top engineer and, when the party ended at a few minutes to 5 a.m., he got busy taking care of the equipment.
Four days later, Samuels is in Bog Hole, Clarendon, again taking care of Stone Love's equipment. This time, he is setting up the sound system for a dance, making sure that it is put together properly and the sound is up to Stone Love's legendary quality. He describes his job as "string up the sound and make sure everything all right".
He says that Stone Love has two sets of equipment, the one he is responsible for is carried around the island in the "pretty truck" (branded with the name of the sound and the faces of the crew). The other is loaded on a Leyland truck and allows for the sound to be in more than one place at a time.
He has been with Stone Love from "way back when - when we used to play down Torrington Bridge, Adams Lane. When me come is jus' Wee Pow (Stone Love's owner Winston Powell) and [selector] Rory".
Samuels says he met Rory when Stone Love played on Water Street, behind the Denham Town Police Station. At the time, he was involved in furniture making at a woodwork shop and Rory said, "yes, you can come". He started out lifting speaker boxes and rolls of wire; then in the mid-1980s, Wee Pow said, "bredren, learn fe string up the sound, so you can turn on the sound". Samuels did and moved on to engineer. "Me jus' look an' learn," Samuels said.
Still, although he set up Stone Love to play, it was some time before Samuels was allowed to actually turn it on. Powell would actually leave work and come to the venue to do so, giving Samuels the go-ahead to flick the switches himself in "Gilbert time". However, he chuckles as he says even before getting the official go-ahead he would "tief an' turn on the sound", closing down quickly as Powell arrived.
In addition to making sure that the sound quality is 'clean', Samuels says he also ensures that the equipment is clean as well. "Same way a man woulda go wash him car, same way me keep it clean," Samuels said.
And even though The Gleaner presses for the process of setting up Stone Love to get the pristine sound quality, Samuels refuses to go into details. "Everybody wonder how we do it, but nobody will ever know. There is certain things we nuh really leak out," he said. "A jus' so we do it an' people try to wonder."
He says that in the busier periods, like Christmas, when the truck heads out of Kingston it often does not return to base for up to four days. "A jus' country to country," Samuels said. And sometimes faults crop up on the road, which he has to fix.
The Gleaner asks Samuels if he has ever made mistakes in his role as engineer on Stone Love and he says, "nobody nuh perfect". Still, it is a matter of learning from them and minimising future errors.
Samuels says he grew up listening to rub-a-dub sound systems such as Stereophonic, Stur-Gav, Disco 1 and Socialist Roots, and points out that even as child he was fascinated with the process of setting up these sound systems. Now that he is the engineer of Stone Love, he says, "Stone Love a good sound and Wee Pow a good boss. Him know how fe govern him thing".