Tue | Sep 19, 2017

Rastafari, reggae spritualist dies

Published:Monday | November 7, 2011 | 11:00 AM
Alvin 'Kojo' Brown - file

Howard Campbell, Gleaner Writer

Alvin 'Kojo' Brown, a respected figure in the Rastafarian community, died last Wednesday at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI). He was 69.

His son, Vivaldo Brown, told The Gleaner that Kojo died from complications of pneumonia. He had been admitted to the UHWI the previous day after his health suddenly deteriorated.

The Kingston-born Kojo accepted the Rastafarian faith while living in Britain during the 1960s. He returned home in 1971 and got involved in community activities, becoming a close associate of Rasta elder Mortimo Planno.

He was also influential in music circles, acting as mentor for several budding reggae musicians including a Waterhouse roots group named Black Uhuru. The trio paid tribute to him in its 1979 hit song, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.

Kojo can also be seen in Heartland Reggae, the 1978 film centred around the 1978 One Love Peace Concert in Kingston.

Lance Watson, a Jamaica-born, British-reared photojournalist, said he became acquainted with Kojo when he returned to Jamaica permanently six years ago.

Black politics

"He had been involved in black politics in Britain in the '60s and everyone who knew Kojo said he was a very interesting character," Watson said.

"When I came back to Jamaica, he took me under his wings and became my spiritual guide and mentor."

In a recent interview with The Gleaner, Kojo said he was born in central Kingston but left for England while in his late teens to join the army and 'see the world'.

He said he was stationed for a time in Berlin, West Germany. While there, one of his first assignments was at the Spandau prison where he guarded its most famous inmate, Rudolf Hess, for three months.

Hess was Nazi leader Adolf Hitler's former right-hand man, who was captured by British security in 1941 when his single-seater plane crashed in Scotland.

Contribution to Rastafari

Kojo's biggest contribution was to the Rastafarian movement. A member of the Nyabinghi Order and Ethiopian Orthodox Church, he accompanied Planno on fact-finding missions to Britain in the 1970s and was a member of reggae superstar Bob Marley's camp.

Last year, Kojo was part of the Rastafarian contingent for the August 17-20 Rastafari Studies Conference at the University of the West Indies' Mona campus.

Alvin 'Kojo' Brown is survived by eight children and four grandchildren.

A thanksgiving service for his life will be held on November 19 at a location to be announced.