Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Hurricane Gilbert... 20 Years Later

While we're in the midst of a very active and deadly hurricane season this year I figured we'd discuss one of the most destructive storms to ever hit the Caribbean. It was twenty years ago this month that Hurricane Gilbert took a direct hit on Jamaica...

Quoting from Wikipedia here…
“On September 3, 1988, a tropical wave emerged off the African coast. Over the next several days, low pressure areas slowly developed from this wave, going on to develop an organized circulation center on September 8. Early on September 9 the storm was designated Tropical Depression Twelve, near the Windward Island about 400 miles east of Barbados. It quickly strengthened into Tropical Storm Gilbert that afternoon, becoming the seventh named storm of the season while crossing the Lesser Antilles.

With no inhibiting factors to strengthening, Gilbert quickly became a hurricane late on September 10 and then a major (Category 3) hurricane on the 11th. It moved consistently west-northwest influenced by a strong high pressure system to its north. This movement led to the hurricane’s first landfall in Jamaica. The eye passed completely over Jamaica on September 12 with 125mph winds…”

Aside from the 4 billion dollars in damage, Gilbert also soaked the island with 27 inches of rain and claimed 45 lives. It was the most costly hurricane to directly hit Jamaica since Hurricane Charlie in 1951 – the same hurricane immortalized by Captain Sinbad and Little John in their 1979 hit “51 Storm.” Now some may think it would be wrong of me to try and make light of the serious and deadly circumstances of a hurricane by mentioning something as “trivial” as a reggae record but actually that’s the point of this post. Read on…

Aid organizations came to the island in an effort to provide assistance to the approximately half million people effected by the storm. An estimated 100,000 homes were damaged by Gilbert as it tore off roofs and flooded nearly every inch of the island. Many of Jamaica’s industries, including farming and tourism, were left in total disarray and the resulting damages to hospitals in particular made it difficult for those who were injured to be cared for properly. Simply put, Jamaica was suffering.

In 1988, reggae music was in the midst of the digital heyday, and assuming when the electricity was eventually restored to Kingston, the producers, singers and DJs got to work creating songs that told of the hardships and despair left behind by the storm; many hoping to call attention to Jamaica’s plight to the outside world and some to light-heartedly lift the spirits of those left in Gilbert’s wake. Just like reggae artists have always done, they latched on to the devastating and timely topic and made it into music. Even though I feel the output was a tad bit limited by the restraints required in making immediate timely music and the minimal digitized productions of the era, the music was as socially and culturally conscious as any in Jamaica’s history. In fact, the music industry had pulled together to fight this battle and whether they were successful in raising awareness or monetary support for relief and rebuilding efforts from elsewhere on the globe remains to be seen… there is no documentation or evidence to prove one way or another. But because these songs they recorded were able to raise smiles and their fellow countrymen’s spirits in a time of absolute despair, their hurried efforts were a complete success.

We start off the mix with a Version take from the B-side of the Juney Star 12" and segue into the lyrics with Mikey Melody's tune "Gilbert Make Yuh Bad So." We then slip into a bit of juggling with 5 songs lifted from the A-side of the King Jammy/Steelie & Clevie produced LP Gilbert Is A Disaster on the Live & Love label. The first tune is by Major Mackrel and Anthony Redrose and it's called "Rough & Tuff Jamaican Way" sung to the tune of Johnny Nash's "I Can See Clearly Now (Bright Sunshiny Day)." Woody Noble gives us "Disaster Gilbert" followed by Pad Anthony's "What A Thing." The DJ Bingy gives us his take on the hurricane's aftermath with the track called "Flood Out," and we wrap up the "riddim ride" with the Chuck Turner song called "Rough Neck Gilbert." Up next in the mix is the tune I've heard from various sources was the biggest selling single in Jamaican history by the man Lloyd Lovindeer and it's the hilarious tune called, "Wild Gilbert." This was originally released as a 7" on the TSOJ label and the version in our mix is lifted from the TSOJ CD The Best Of Lovindeer. Gregory Isaacs and Josey Wales, from the 1989 Carl "Fitzie Banton" Nelson engineered, King Tubby's various artist production entitled Gilbert released in the U.S. on the Rooney Records label, follow up Lovindeer with a pretty wicked track called "What A Disaster." A little side-note... I had the Gilbert album on cassette and ripped it to MP3 for this project so I hope it doesn't sound too bad. General Trees is then up with "Bad Bad Gilbert" taken from a 12" on Maurice Johnson's Black Scorpio label. We hop back to the Gilbert album for the next two songs; the first is Wickerman's "What A Agony" followed by Conroy Smith and DJ Ashman's "Come Down." Johnny Osbourne gives us "Gilbert Mash Dem Up" borrowed from a King Tubby's Taurus 7". John "Little John" McMorris, again from the Gilbert album, is up after that with a tune "Never Saw A Storm Like This." The King Yellowman steps up inna combination stylee with Derrick Harriott with the song called "Starting All Over Again" from his CD King Of The Dancehall on the Rohit label. Back to the Gilbert collection again... this time Nigga Mikey gives us a wicked tune named "Gilbert Come." Banana Man's "Gilbert Attack Us" is the fifteenth track and it's taken from another 7" Tubby's digital production also on the Taurus label. Grindsman is up next with the tune "Wicked Gilbert" lifted from the Gilbert album. We then switch back into juggling mode with the B-side to the Gilbert Is A Disaster LP and hear the tunes "Gilbert A Say One" by Pompidoo, "Who Can Tell The Tale" by Anthony Malvo, "What A Hurricane" by Super Shine, "Gilbert A Come" by Tullo T and last but not least Chaka Demus' wicked "The People A Bawl." Tippa Lee & Rappa Roberts follow up the 2nd juggle with "Bulletin One" also off the Gilbert compilation. We then hear the Principal Charlie Chaplin with a tune called "Gilbert Disaster Over" from a Juney Star 12". And finally, the last song in our Gilbert mix is by Lincoln "Sugar" Minott's "After The Storm" from the Gilbert album.

I want to dedicate this mix with utmost respect and sympathy to anyone affected by Mother Nature's fury, not only with Gilbert, but with any natural disaster that tragically takes away possessions, property and loved ones.

Get it here!

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

nice wright up john.
you should work on a newspaper !!!!

pace

copperlocks1 said...

How quickly time flies!!...i had forgotten about gilbert...and the devastation it caused...thanks for reminding us how resilient people are..and how music makes us remember...thank you

islandman said...

Man, time flies...but who can ever forget Gilbert..such strength and force, utter devastation

Hopefully the only storm I will ever experience in my lifetime..

The eye of the storm was something to behold...amazing...I will never ever forget Gilbert!!

WillyGuttz said...

Nice one.
I remember seeing the whole thing on TV...
but I remember by some blessing from Jah himself...
The Hurricane did less damage than expected or Jamaica was caught in the eye of the storm outside most the havoc??

Cant remember...
I just remember rejoicing as they reported here on TV that there were only like two deaths instead of the devistation everybody expected.

Anyways...
I just remember praying for JA to survive.

Another nice read..
Thanks

WillyGuttz said...

Tippa Lee...

I'm glad he's getting on wax now. I worked with him back in 03 or so.
He gave me a lot of DJ tips...
but I admit that their stageshow at the time was a bunch of Joe Gibbs ripp-offs...
A great Michigan & Smiley like act...
But I believe he had better talent than the shows they had them do. I seen them preform their whole act to an empty audience because the bar failed to promote the show.
They were trying to sell us dubplates for 150 USD...
with a catch...you gotta go through the monopoly like white dread Elliot Lieb who has a lock on the whole reggae scene down here.

Anyways...Glad to see Tippa Lee progress beyond the crappy local scence we have here in Southern California.

WillyGuttz said...

About my last post..

I believe I worded it wrong. Sorry.
Tippa Lee was working with another artist and staying in San Diego for a few months waiting for Febuary when the whole Bob Marly Festival and the Siera Nevada Festival.
I believe he was just playing local venues to stack some cash before the big events and trying to make his name known.
Too bad I was broke...He asked me if I wanted to buy a dubplate and when I asked if he knew madoo...
He busted out the best Madoo imression I've ever heard...he busted a two miniute frestyle of classic Foundation singers and Mc's. Dispite this skill..If I had the money to buy a DubPlate..I wanted for him to bust his original style.
He claims to be the "original Tippa"
Is this true?
Just Curious.

sir greg said...

Greetings

Actually stumbled on this site by accident reading about 'sleng teng', however, it was a nice surprise nevertheless. FYI Wayne Smith brought himself & his Casio keyboard to Jammy$ to create the monstrous hit 'Under mi Sleng Teng'. With respect to your Hurricane Gilbert piece, one of the main reasons for the low output of music was of course in part due to the high level of damage suffered by the recording studios. If you listen to the music that came out from Jammy$ immediately following Gilbert, you will hear that THE Jammy$' signature sound was/is forever lost and also Jammy$ was starting to incorporate the Firehouse Crew as his session musicians; replacing Steely & Clevie who went on to build their own studio after the departure of Bobby Digital.

Keep the history coming 'cause music is life. Praise Jah

bless,

Sir Greg