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Kiddus I's new lease on life

Published:Tuesday | October 25, 2011 | 12:00 AM
Kiddus I
 Howard Campbell, Gleaner Writer

For lovers of roots-reggae, singer Kiddus I will forever be associated with Rockers, the 1978 low-budget movie that focused on Rasta and reggae on Jamaican culture.

Graduation In Zion, his song from the film, has become a cult classic.

The dreadlocked performer, now in his 60s, is enjoying a career renaissance in Europe where he has performed regularly in the last six years. He maintained that resurgence by travelling to Europe last week for recording sessions in France and Germany.

"To me, age, as they say, is jus' a number," Kiddus I (born Frank Dowding) told The Gleaner days before leaving for France.

"I still have that youth in me, and I still have something positive to say."

During his latest European sojourn, Kiddus I is expected to record songs for an album to be produced by the Homegrown band in Paris. He is also scheduled to perform in Germany.

Recently, he teamed with Michael Johnston of Micron Music to produce Thinking Of You, a cover of the 1970s hit by King Sporty.

Kiddus I'S revival

The Kiddus I revival began in 2007 with the release of veteran session guitarist Earl 'Chinna' Smith's well-received Inna De Yard series. He appeared on the acoustic albums which were distributed in France by the Makasounds record company.

Subsequent tours to Europe to promote those albums reacquainted Kiddus I with roots-reggae fans familiar with his appearance in Rockers, and Graduation In Zion, which is included on the Inna De Yard collection.

Green Fa Life, an album of original songs also produced by Smith, was released two years ago by Naya Records, a company comprised of seasoned musicians such as Smith's keyboardist Robbie Lyn and drummer Leroy 'Horsemouth' Wallace, the star of Rockers. He also appears on two songs on Tous Egaux, the 2010 album by singer Abdou Day of Madagascar. Each project hears Kiddus I staying true to the Rasta message that announced him during the 1970s when he was a member of seminal roots aggregation, Ras Michael and the Sons of Negus.

It was his appearance in Rockers, however, that earned him an underground following in Europe and North America. Graduation In Zion remains his signature piece.

"It's timeless, it's really an inspirational song that people can identify with. That's the kinda music I grew up on, and that's the kinda music I'll always make," he said.