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From finance to transport to music

Published:Sunday | September 9, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Dr Omar Davies

Dr Omar Davies into research on artistes

Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer

Dr Omar Davies was minister of finance in the P.J. Patterson-led government and is currently minister of transport, works and housing in the political administration headed by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller. His doctorate is in economics and, if the wishes he expressed at the Trench Town Multi-Purpose Building opening on Wednesday are fulfilled, at some point he will be delving deep into probably Jamaica's most lucrative product - music.

Speaking at the official opening of the Jamaica Music Institute Recording Studio and International Certification Lab on Fifth Street, Trench Town, Davies said that separate from his role as member of parliament he planned to embark on serious music research "one day soon. I hope to write the definitive work on the music of Trench Town".

He is in a good place to do it, as Trench Town is part of the South St Andrew constituency Davies represents. It includes what he called "a special place ... about a four-block area", which has had a tremendous impact on Jamaican music. In terms of its level of impact, Davies said "I cannot think of any other geographic space in not just reggae but popular music as this area of Trench Town".

Davies has already started doing interviews. He tackled the Bob Marley-centred historical viewpoint head-on.

"One of the issues I am seeking to correct, as a fan of the Wailers of which Bob is one. Every plaudit Bob receives he deserves. However, there is a danger that the history of reggae music and the celebration of Trench Town is restricted to Bob Marley," Davies said.

Therefore, he cautioned that we must, "while we give Bob his big up, document the contribution of other artistes".

Davies' article 'Cover Rules: A Bag of Tools, a Shapeless Mass and a Book of Rules' was published in volume 32 of the Jamaica Journal.

This year, 25 years after he was murdered, Peter Tosh has been awarded a posthumous Order of Merit. After delivering a lecture on Tosh in the annual Bob Marley Lecture Series held at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, Davies became well-known for his admiration of Tosh.

Explaining how it happened, Davies said "I was on campus one Sunday morning when Carolyn Cooper said to me I would like you to do the Bob Marley lecture".

Davies questioned Cooper's revolutionary mindset, which she confirmed, as he said "I am going to do the Bob Marley lecture on the contribution of Peter Tosh."

He did and Davies described it as "the first definitive lecture on Peter Tosh and his contribution. I have been known as the Peter Tosh man since then". Interviewing persons close to Tosh was key and Davies said "I spent a whole afternoon with Lascelles Perkins and he filled me in on his relationship with Tosh."

the need for accuracy

Davies emphasised the need for accuracy, even as he said "we have to tell our own story." With much of the music history written by foreigners, oftentimes "you get a healthy dose of mysticism and anecdotes."

"Talking is one thing, but we have to record the history in a structured way. Even though we glory in this spontaneous development (of Jamaican popular music), it is time we started to bring some order to it," Davies said.

And one objective of documenting "this remarkable achievement of ordinary Jamaicans doing extraordinary things" is to restore dignity to those who come from the area, "so the next generation can recognise that they grew up in an area that can stand on its own as one of the music capitals of the world."