Sailing down Channel One


Sailing down Channel One

Observer senior writer

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

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It wasn't 29 Maxfield Avenue (original location of Channel One) but the Institute of Jamaica was a suitable venue for Sly Dunbar and The Mighty Diamonds, who helped make that studio ground zero for militant reggae during the 1970s.

Dunbar on drums led a band that revived memories of the famous recording complex operated by the Hoo Kim brothers. Bassist Lloyd Parks, an original member of the house band, The Revolutionaries, was also part of the line-up that backed The Diamonds on I Need A Roof and Right Time, two of the classic songs they did at Channel One.

The band — which included keyboardist Robbie Lyn, Vivian Scott on trumpet, Romeo Gray on trombone, guitarist Courtland “Gizmo” White, and percussionist Bongo Herman — also jammed to MPLA, the instrumental by The Revolutionaries that defined Channel One's unique sound. It had the audience (among which was Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn and dub poet Mutabaruka) rocking.

That performance was at the close of a forum moderated by Dr Dennis Howard on the history and legacy of Channel One as part of the Blackhead Chineyman: The Chinese Contribution To Jamaican Popular Music series.

The panellists included Dunbar, Lloyd “Judge” Ferguson and Donald “Tabby” Shaw of The Mighty Diamonds, and brothers Christopher and Franklyn Irving.

Christopher Irving managed Channel One studio from its official launch in 1973 to the late 1980s when the Hoo Kims ended their day-to-day involvement in the music business. His younger brother Franklyn, known as Ben Up, is the studio's unofficial historian.

“Forums like these are very important 'cause people need to know di truth about Channel One. Anytime yuh have these things they never have di original people an' dat always cause confusion,” he told the Jamaica Observer.

Joseph “Jo Jo” Hoo Kim was the eldest of four brothers who ran Channel One. The company released a rush of hit songs that started in 1973 with It's A Shame by Delroy Wilson, which was followed by Ballistic Affair (Leroy Smart), I Know Myself (Ernest Wilson), Africa (The Mighty Diamonds), Woman Is Like A Shadow (The Meditations) and In Time to Come (Earth and Stone).

Hoo Kim died in 2018 at age 75.

Franklyn Irving, who lived six houses from Channel One, remembers heading to the studio after classes at St Andrew Technical High School. Though it is now a dilapidated shell, he stressed the impact it had musically and socially.

“Dat likkle spot in Kingston 13 changed so many lives. It was good dat Judge spoke about how Jo Jo used to help out with things like grocery 'cause Channel One was more than just music,” he said.

The Channel One forum is part of the Institute of Jamaica's Reggae Month series.

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