New day planned for Garnet Silk
"Father, when I pray I say thy will be done
Guess you knew what you were doing when you took your son ...
I know you're in a place where there is peace so give God this message
Please brother please ...
Give God this message please
Wherever you are in heaven
Tell God I said you could be an angel
Wherever you are in heaven
Tell God I said you deserve a pair of wings"
- Pair of Wings, Nadine Sutherland, written for Alton 'Duggy' Thompson and Garnet Silk
Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
On April 2, 2011, Garnet Silk's 45th birthday passed with little fanfare, much as the 16th anniversary of his death on December 10, 2010, slipped by bereft of the accolades and regurgitated eulogies which are the standard soundtrack to a major music figure's death knell.
And there is no denying that Silk was a major figure, despite having only a few official albums (especially compared to the prodigious output of other major reggae singers), among them It's Growing and a posthumous anthology put out by VP Records. In addition Silk, who deejayed under the moniker 'Bimbo' before switching to singing), hit the big times for less than three years, this including some time off from music when there were rumours about his mental stability. One of his last major performances in Jamaica was Reggae Sunsplash's sole, ill-fated Portmore outing, when he performed Fight Back with Richie Stephens.
But from his remake of Psalm 23 as Splashing Dashing, the Rastafari ode Christ in His Kingly Character, a version of Seven Spanish Angels and romantic It's Growing, Silk has seared his striking voice memorably into Jamaican popular music.
Novlyn 'Lovey' Banton, mother of four of Silk's seven children - 21-year-old Fabian 'Deuce Califa' Smith, 19-year-old Arrayma Smith, 17-year-old Wayzero Smith and 16-year-old Garnet - knows this and seems to bank on lasting goodwill to rekindle Silk's flame.
Plans for Silk's catalogue
Banton told The Sunday Gleaner that Silk died intestate and the office of the Administrator-General is handling his estate in Jamaica. However, promoting Silk's catalogue is under his family's purview and Banton says "there are plans that we have to put his name back on stream".
Among those are a project in which Silk's songs are to be done over. Some of those songs, through the wonders of modern technology, are to be done with other artistes, one of whom would be Garnet Jr, much as the tribute album to former Inner Circle lead singer Jacob Miller, Chapter a Day: Jacob Miller Song Book. That project, Banton said, is in the initial stages.
In addition, she said, a website which has already been created but not put up for the public to view, is to be Silk's official Internet presence.
"It is finished, but we want to kick it off properly. You will be able to get a wide rage of information about him," Banton said.
Even without information 'bytes' about Silk online or large-scale observances of his birth and death days, Banton says "people always want to know about Garnet and the kids. There is a lot of interest. People call me every day".
And there are those who take concrete steps to recognise Silk, as Banton says "just the other day in England people got together and did something, with his music and all that". However, in Jamaica, she says "nothing has been going on for the past couple years. We have had quite a few Garnet Silk Earthday celebrations".
"I guess it just did not work out," Banton said, giving a vague reason for their cessation.
"You need support for something like that." Among those who have performed in honour of Silk are Bounty Killer, Cocoa Tea and Richie Stephens. She is hopeful that "when I decide to put one back on stream I guess most of these people will be a call away".
"I guess I can really say that. I am talking about the music fraternity," Banton said. "When it is back on stream I know they will support."
Garnet Silk was once a member of the Christian Souljahs group of entertainer friends, along with poet Yasus Afari and deejay Tony Rebel, an early staging of the popular Rebel Salute turning out to be a celebration of his life. Banton said she is still in contact with Afari and Rebel, as although "we are a little away from each other (in terms of physical distance) we still communicate".
However, Banton knows that getting a handle on Silk's catalogue will be, to couch it lightly, challenging. She says that some persons who produced music with Silk are difficult to find. "Most of these things are difficult; it is not like three or four producers. He has a lot of songs out there, even songs we do not know about," Banton said. Still, she is optimistic that "it can be done. It takes a lot of hard work".
A day of mourning
Banton says she remembers the day Silk died "like yesterday". And although there is no public mourning, she says at home "that's a day that is just very quiet around here. Extremely quiet. No one has much to say. It is a day of mourning. You may not see tears but they are crying inside ... . It is crazy".
"He was a good husband, father, brother," Banton said.
Away from the home front, Banton is prepared to unfetter the emotions of a public that she is sure has not forgotten a man who was once part of a cadre of entertainers who revitalised Rastafari in dancehall, after it took a muted role in the digital era heralded by the Sleng Teng rhythm of 1985.
"We are trying to get Garnet back on stream. He made a big contribution. People do not realise the contribution he made to the industry. He touched a lot of lives and we don't want that to fade away," she said.
Still, Banton makes it clear that she will not take inappropriate measures to shore up Silk's legacy. "We have to look about the best interests of him. We do not want to exploit him in any way. We want to do it in accordance with how he lived," she said.
"I am in for anything that is going to get Garnet Silk recognised or staying current, as long as we are not exploiting him in any way negatively," she said. And Banton adds: "As long as it goes through the right channel."
"We are working on putting everything through one channel. It is a bit tedious, but we are going to get it right."