Wed | May 31, 2023

Chinna Smith documentary draws big crowd

Published:Monday | April 9, 2012 | 12:00 AM
One of Jamaica's most accomplished musicians, Earl 'Chinna' Smith at his home in St Andrew Park, St Andrew. His credits appear on the sleeves of more than 500 albums and he has worked with some of the biggest names in music.- Photo by Robert Lalah
An Inna de Yard sticker on the mail box at the home of music icon Earl 'Chinna' Smith.- photo by Robert Lalah

Davina Henry, Staff Reporter

It was a feeling of anticipation that permeated the air last Thursday night at the Red Bones' Café in New Kingston.

Swedish director Markus Egloff was set to unveil his first documentary, Chinna's Yard: The Art of Making Music, A Way of Life.

The music-documentary opens with shots of life in Kingston, Jamaica: kids playing in the streets and music blaring from sound systems. The man of the moment, Earl 'Chinna' Smith, is the first to appear on camera. He chronicles his life and career in Kingston 13 and explained that he grew up hearing music being played all around him, influencing his decision to become a musician.

The documentary also gave us a look into the lives of members of the Inna De Yard band. One of the members, Kiddus I, explained that what they were doing now is to secure a future for the younger generation of musicians.

In the documentary he explains: "we are offering more to the younger ones. More than has ever been offered from any record company. It is an extension of service to mankind," he said.

A variety of cultures emerged to celebrate the life and culture of Chinna and what he has done for Jamaican music. Many participants in the film describe Chinna as someone who helped them discover a natural way of making music.

Chinna's Yard: The Art of Making Music, A Way of Life is dedicated to Johnny 'Dizzy' Moore of the Skatalites and includes one of the last known interviews Dizzy participated in.

Dizzy, a trumpeter, described himself as an "original conceptualiser". In the film, Dizzy differentiates between music then and now: "the love factor is too tough, it needs to be tenderised."

The director of the film, also spoke highly of Dizzy. He describes him as an important figure in the ska, rocksteady and reggae movement. Although Moore passed away in 2009, he was able to see the first draft of the documentary.

typical day

The film takes viewers through a typical day in the lives of the musicians who visit Chinna's yard. Many of the musicians started out by simply visiting the yard to see what was happening. Captivated by the sounds and the camaraderie that exists between the other musicians, many of them come back and join Chinna's band.

A sentiment shared by many of the musicians in the film was the issue of money. Many of them pointed out that some are doing music for monetary gain and not for the love of music. Legendary artiste Bob Andy explains it aptly when he says: "as Rastafarians and musicians our campaign is not just for music for profit, it's music for people."

The film's end was greeted with resounding applause from an audience too large for the seating arrangements.

Following the film was a live concert, featuring many of the artistes who had participated in the film.

The concert included Chinna, Kiddus I, Bob Andy, Winston 'Bopee' Bowen and Cederic 'Congo' Myton alongside Suzanne Couch and others. Industry heavyweights Marcia Griffiths and Lee 'Scratch' Perry were also on hand and gave impromptu performances to the delight of the audience.

In speaking with a patron she told us: "I think the documentary was very soulful. It is a reminder of how precious culture is. It was simply amazing."

first dub poetry CD

Mutabaruka, who was also in attendance, highlighted the important role that Chinna played in his career. "He produced my first CD in about 1980, it was the first dub poetry CD made in Jamaica. Every time I hear the sound I am reminded of our history from that time," he said.

Singer Junie Platinum also reminisced about her history with Chinna.

"I enjoyed the documentary. One of my songs was also featured in it and that song was produced by Chinna. Chinna is foundation. I have known him for years," she said.

Chinna, the man of the moment, was happy with the documentary and the turnout it received.

"I'm really glad that he [Egloff] was able to gather this information and put it together. It's good that someone came into the yard and could see that we are doing something that we like," Chinna said.

Smith also explained how he met the Swedish director.

"The Yard is just that way. It's not about money, it's for the fun of it. Foreigners always come with their camera so I'm glad he found something interesting. I'm happy to see so many people who turned out to have this experience."

In similar fashion, Bob Andy, described taking part in the film as fulfilling a purpose.

"It's almost like it couldn't have another name but 'De Yard', we gather yardstyle. We are an extended family. It is as unique as Champs is in a city where it can be a desert. De Yard is the oasis, that's what the allure is for musicians."

Although the film was not a high-budget one, Egloff still has high hopes for it.

"We are going to spread it in Europe at music and independent festivals." he said.

Egloff was also hopeful that there might be other documentaries to come.

"I have a lot of ideas, but we need to find funding first. To see the unity among Rastas and among musicians both local and abroad is awesome. Working with people from the early days of reggae is amazing," he said.

Chinna and the Inna de Yard band are now gearing up for a six-week acoustic tour of Europe.