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Earl Chinna Smith Interview

TVJ:  I see you with your friend in your hand.  

Earl Chinna Smith:  Best Friend! Earl Chinna Smith

TVJ:  Best Friend? 

Earl Chinna Smith:   Yes! 

TVJ: How were you introduced to this friend and how did that relationship begin? 

Earl Chinna Smith:  Alright, years ago I grow up with my family owning a Sound System. So I remember one night one of the DJ’s came there with a guitar and that was it. It was just like love at first sight. You know, but as a youth you wanted to like touch it and figure it out, you know, but because of respect you just leave it.  

When he left that stayed.  So we tried to create something like that using sardine pans and add a piece of stick to it and some fishing line.  Just like if you notice the Nylon strings on the Classic guitar.  So we did that for a while and not getting the real sound.   

So am from Kingston 13 in the Greenwich Town area.  So we had our little singing group and a member was able to buy a guitar.  I messed around with it the same way not knowing you had to tune the guitar.  You know, faking it.  Luckily there was band in the area called Soul Syndicate.  So a man told me that you can go see them, there are some real musician up there doing their thing. 

So I remember going up there one night and seeing it and every night we were at the rehearsal, and every day we were at the rehearsal trying to figure out the shape based on how the guy held it. You know what a mean, different shape and formation. Then one of the guitarist came over to me and asked to check my guitar, and said but the guitar is not tuned, and I said wow there is a next thing in guitar, you have to tune it. 

So I learnt the tuning.  Well after that I learnt all the songs because I was there every night and luckily he had to leave for the States to do some studies so they wanted guitarist. 

TVJ:  Of course and guess who was right there. 

Earl Chinna Smith:  Right there. 

TVJ:  And the rest is history.  But you didn’t tell me about anybody teaching you anything.   You learnt it yourself? 

Earl Chinna Smith:  Well I remember Hux Brown, no before Hux Brown you had Bobby Aitkens who teach me the Fattie Fattie Riddim (rhythm).  So that was a great riff because you know it was a big song and thing.  Hux Brown, the great Hux Brown teach me my first proper fingering for a major scale. 

TVJ:  Scales and Octave and so on. 

Earl Chinna Smith: Yes. Then I started listening to a bunch of stuff and moved around with different guitarist. You had a youth named Morris, he never got any fame but he was a great musician. So you moved around with the instrument, you know, and learnt from different musicians.  

So I listened to a lot of foreign musician too and use my ears. 

TVJ:  When were you able to do your thing, when were you able to say am going to try a thing myself? 

Earl Chinna Smith: During the Soul Syndicate era, because we started the sessions now and could be creative. For example, doing the observer thing, Al green came with a guitar riff at the start of one his songs and so we started using the guitar to start all tunes as opposed to a drum roll. Tunes like Westbound Train, Cassandra and No More Will I Roam. You know what I mean? You started getting creative with the thing after you gain certain understanding. 

TVJ:  How did the Amy Winehouse and the Lauryn Hill came about? 

Earl Chinna Smith: Alright, that worked through the Marley project. Because they link up with the Marleys and we did smoking grove tour. This was like 1996, with all them Hip Hop and Fugees was like Happening. You know what a mean. I use to see her with guitar doing her thing. 

TVJ:  She’s awesome though isn’t she what a voice! 

Earl Chinna Smith:  She’s great, she’s great. 

TVJ:  And Amy? 

Earl Chinna Smith:  Another one too, you know what a mean, they all love the Reggae.  Hip Hop is like 25 per cent that and you know the rest is Reggae.  So they came in and they have this great idea to do this album, she came with some set of musician and her engineer and we started working. 

TVJ: The biggest song that you have played on? 

Earl Chinna Smith:  All the songs are big, but I would say One Love because of what it came out to be over the years. 

TVJ:  Biggest artist Bob Maley? 

Earl Chinna Smith:  Yes, have to be, have to be. 

TVJ:  You said you have never met anyone with such love, I was reading something you wrote, something about him was different from all other human beings. 

Earl Chinna Smith:  Yes, his love for the music, now you know, you would be around him and it’s like music, food, football and all the other spices yeh. 

TVJ:  He knew what he was about. 

Earl Chinna Smith: Yeh, you know what mean, so he's not like someone you would see like going out.  Every day is like a song and he is always with his guitar. 

TVJ: Every day is like a song I love that. Tell me now about your new project. You kind of over what’s going on in the music business now, too much of the same is happening, not enough breaking out, thinking outside of the box? 

Earl Chinna Smith:  The youth dem, you see what was hidden from the wise and prudent shall reveal to the babes on suckling.  So when I watch, I listen what is going on, yes it’s alright, but for example in our time like in the 70’s every two weeks a tune a mash up the British charts or America.  What is happening now when there are so many things everybody has a studio? 

You know what mean, I rate the youth, but Jamaica don’t have an act again.  You check Europe and all of these European a run the thing.  Check the Jazz and Blues thing, its Americans eating up all the food and take it away. 

TVJ:  You have obviously for many years been rated by your peers, how does this feel the Musgrave Medal? 

Earl Chinna Smith:  Well I never even know what it is, you know, because we just play music, you know what a mean, whatever the achievement it’s great.  But I really respect and love that, people is paying attention.  Because they say certain great one never get honour in his country.  So if the country kind of start doing that yeh man. 

TVJ:  Can you teach me anything on that?   

Earl Chinna Smith:  Yeh man! 

TVJ:  No we don’t have time! 

Earl Chinna Smith:  Yeh man right now definitely! 

TVJ:  Earl Chinna Smith, respect, respect, here is Melchezideck once again. 

Source: Television Jamaica 

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