Chinese Connection goes beyond record store counter
Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
From the village store to the huge wholesale, the image of the Chinese shopkeeper is fixed in Jamaican culture. Kingsley 'King Omar' Goodison, organiser of the annual Tribute to the Greats awards show and concert, reminds The Gleaner of a Chinese shop-counter connection which goes beyond food staples and household goods.
"They owned a lot of the record shops," Goodison said, among them Chin's Records, Beverly's, KG's, Aquarius and Randy's, the last having morphed into international distributor VP Records.
That obvious commercial involvement is part of a Chinese influence on Jamaican popular music which is often overlooked. This Saturday, Goodison will formally recognise this creative input at Tribute to the Greats 17: Celebrating the Chinese Connection. Appropriately, it will be held at the Chinese Benevolent Association on Hope Road, a departure from the event's accustomed Curphey Place, Swallowfield, venue.
This year's honorees are bass player Phil Chen; band leader Ingrid Chin, who worked with the nearly all-female Carnations; Mikey and Geoffrey Chung of the Now Generation Band; the Hoo Kim Brothers, who operated Channel One Studio on Maxfield Avenue; producers Leslie Kong and Justin Yap; musician Aston 'Family Man' Barrett; and Carl 'Little Sport' Brady, who was deeply involved in Byron Lee and the Dragonaires Band.
The last two are not Chinese, and Goodison indicates another aspect of the event's connection concept.
"The black people worked along with the Chinese and the Chinese with us," Goodison said.
The awards ceremony is slated for 9 p.m., and live performances begin at 11 p.m. On the stage will be Sonny Wong, Phil Chen, Derrick Harriott, Pam Hall and Ras Michael Jr, with Mikey Chung and the Rhythm Masters Band doing support duties. Merritone will provide the recorded music.
The Chinese Connection is the latest music linkage to Jamaica which Tribute to the Greats has recognised.
"We started with the Cuban Connection," Goodison said, naming Jackie Opel from Barbados and Lord Creator from Trinidad as two of those making that connection.
Then came the Cuban Connection (horn players Roland Alphanso and Tommy McCook numbered among them), the Australian Connection and the American Connection.
"We are on to the Chinese now because a lot of people do not know they played a pivotal role," Goodison said.
It is a fortuitous coincidence that the connection is being made in the year that the 160th anniversary of the Chinese presence in Jamaica is being celebrated.
Goodison categorises his organisation as a "historical group" which, without extensive support, could not carry out its mandate. Among those who contribute are the musicians (Goodison said "we still use horns"), with the CHASE Fund, Wray and Nephew, Lewin's Hardware, Wisynco, CVM TV, Kool FM, and Cuddy'z also among this year's supporters of Tribute to the Greats.
Goodison said he started Tribute to the Greats and keeps it going because many of those who are awarded "do not get much recognition".
"Their contribution is enormous. We want to show much respect to them," he said.