first time i met junior kelly i didn't hear much more than a grumbled "yeah, do it!" after i asked him if i may take a picture in the backstage area of the splash-festival. the picture was the worst quality but i didn't dare to ask him again. i thought he is one of those serious type of rasta who don't chat to any and anybody. but this man was just disappointed and vex because he couldn't get the right food and we done know: "a hungry mob is an angry mob"! anyway, on stage he was performing professionally and pushed the fire as the headliner of the conscious artistes night. the crowd was impressed and so was i but junior kelly left the venue shortly after his show and there was no more time to get an appointment. today - back in berlin - he is supposed to perform together with anthony b. in the lobby of the hotel i talked shortly to his chef (i had to laugh and nod: this time junior kelly made sure that he gets some ital food and brought his own cook) and he promised me to tell him that i want to do an interview. i called him again in his room because the time was getting shorter and shorter. they were waiting for an iron-board! i remembered that cutty ranks had an iron-board in his room, too. jamaican man want look trash and ready! especially if they are artistes! *ping* the lift door opened! junior kelly came out with a broad smile and hugged me heartically like we are long time friends! he excused for the delay and took his seat. time was short, but he was ready to talk!
done could you please introduce yourself?
junior kelly yeah, greetings in de mighty name of emperor king selassie i! dis is yours truly i'm junior kelly, y'know, dat's a.k.a. junior kelly but everybody in my family know me as keith morgan, y'know. yeah! listen
done so you have nothing to do with the kellys, like dave kelly, the producer and so on?
junior kelly no, no! or probably, who knows, we're probably from de same plantation, yuh know! foreparents from de same plantation but... we are still friend because we ina de same line ah business. listen
done but how you mean plantation?
junior kelly yeah, back in de days when a white slavemaster control a group of slave, if his name is macdow or maccoffin, every slave dat is on dat plantation names after de owner. listen
done and you know about this kind of 'roots'?
junior kelly yes, yes i know 'bout dat. it not only in de caribbean it was also in de states, y'know, united states. if a slave... if de slave owner name is smith every slave dat is owned by... or on dat plantation their name is eventually smith. listen
done and do you know about your african roots, too?
junior kelly yeah, we ah trace it on so far it ah... because our last living relative in my family... or de oldest living relative... sorry... y'know, is hundred an' five, yeah so... done: still living?! strong man! junior kelly: yeah, so, i need to document some tings from him, yuh know! when i go back down, i need to go to manchester. ca dere is a place named manchester in jamaica. check him out an' reason with him an' get de whole background because he has everyting up here *points to his head* he's not, yuh know, he's not senile an' gone, like dat, yuh know, still strong! so i jus' need to see him when i go back an' get de fullness because he knows his great grandfather! so dat's way back. dat's a far lead behind, yuh know, yeah man! listen
done and now you archive this knowledge for your children.
junior kelly exac'ly, dat's why i'm tryin' to gather it before it's too late. listen
done where did you grow up?
junior kelly i grow up in... first an' foremos' i was born in kingston but i spent de mos' part of my live as a youth growin' up in spanish town, yes, st. catherine. listen
done spanish town! i heard something about your brother, jim kelly. do you want talk about it or you don't like that topic?
junior kelly it's a touching subjec' but, yuh know, sometimes it's easy to do an' to say in interviews or even by myself with other people. i try my bes', yuh know, jim kelly, everybody in my family is musically inclined, yuh know. but jim kelly is de one dat took it from out de house an' onto de streets, yuh know. so he is de first known artis' in de family. yuh know, back in de days in de late 70ies, early 80ies he used to be a deejay toasting de mic on a sound called killamanjaro back in de days, yuh know. an' he died... '83 but dat's beside de point. de point is it was interesting, yuh know, for him to come home from off de road travelling from parish to parish, town to town speaking about de intrigues on de road, yuh know, he used to be go on life??? from thursday an' never come home until monday mornin', yuh know, jus' travellin' on de soun', dat truck dat carry de soun' box from parish to parish an' town to town. so, when he left on thursdays, sometimes wednesdays an don't come home until monday. so yuh hear everyting wha' happen with him an' josey wales, charlie chaplin an', yuh know, super cat on de road, yuh know. so dat's part of my interes' in de business. an' otherwise from dat, yuh know, i love music, yuh know, seperately from him doin' it an' ting. an' actually me really miss him bad because, yuh know, he would be here on de road with me an' it would be even easier for me because him bein' an elder in de business, yuh know, de ride would probably be smoother an' less bumpy, yuh know, him givin' me advice an' so forth, yuh know. jah res' him soul! died '83 violently, yuh know, an' de family is still tryin' to recover tryin' to cope with, y'know, de loss! which was very tremendous. done: dat will take a life! junior kelly: yeah! listen
done i never heard no tunes from jim kelly. wasn't he recording?
junior kelly no, he was... at de time, which i don't know was de right ting to do, but him always quarrel about, yuh know, a lot ah producers back den... dem still deh now, but, yuh know, with de mass communication an' information at your finger tip yuh can catch up with ah colprate tryin' to rob yuh easy, dan back in de days. one of his problem, one of his hang-up was, de producers of de time was robbers, which is true, yuh know. he was jus' waitin' an' by??? him time to fin' de right person dat believes in him. de producers always try to voice him, him say 'no!', yuh know, because him know seh dem really no good. an' at dat time charlie chaplin an' josey wales jump at de opportunities to voice at de time but him was jus' cool an' waitin', yuh know, buildin' him lyrics, doin' him ting on de soundsystem an' so forth. dat's why yuh haven't heard much recording. yuh will get tapes an' so forth an' cds dat burned from tapes onto cds. done: from stage shows... junior kelly: yes, yes, from stage shows but no recording. listen
done so it's almost like brigardier jerry who have not too many records released.
junior kelly exac'ly, exac'ly! listen
done i heard... i don't know if it get too deep now... you've been eye-witness when he died violently and that changed your whole life...
junior kelly yeah... yeah, because, bein' de younges' one in de family i've always been protected an' sheltered by my family. i'm de las' one to know when dere is problems an' de las' one to know when dere isn't any food in de house, because my brothers always protect me. mother an' father always protect me an' if dere is one drop of sugar in de pan i'm de one who was gettin' it, bein' de las' one, yuh know. so... *sighs* when he died it was a rude awakenin' for me. i see life, i see death, i see struggle, i see pain of a level i never thought it existed at de time, yuh know. so everyting jus' came down on de family an' it ripple right down to me an', yuh know. so it's been traumatic an', yuh know, i'm scarred for life because of it. listen
done yeah, even the strongest mother can't take that and you will feel it even as a youth! junior kelly: exac'ly! done: that's really sad and... may he rest in peace then... ok, coming to you personal now: when did you start recording? or first, how old are you now, if you want tell me?
junior kelly *laughs* yeah man, no problem! nutten nuh wrong with dat! i'm thirty-two, yeah! start recording 'round '86... de las' part of '86 to de early part of '87, y'know! i was still in school, y'know. so, mos' producers dat got a chance to record me, yuh know, say i would go to an audition with other artistes outside, clamberin'??? an' crowdin' to get a chance to voice. i've never got a turn though to do a recording before, i never had de time - yuh know my brother jus' died not very long before i start recording - so, de point i'm making, i never used his name fi get recognition or to try to cut line, yuh know, to record or get a break. i've always tried to be me an' so forth! so i started recording as i say late '86 early '87 an' goin' to school. but de ting is with recording back den, a lot ah time as a young yute as a young artis' yuh get shelved for whatever reason. some other time de producers dat are tryin' to record you is young producers also, yuh know. because de big producers of de time have a lot ah choices, yuh know, dem have option because all de top artistes during dat time, yuh know, want to voice with dat top producers. so mos' of de producers dat voice me back den was young producers, young artistes, young producers an' their financially is not a hundred percent but their heart is a hundred percent. so dat's where it breaks down, where money run out an' de tune got shelved, y'know. we never really get fi push on further with that producer an me mean on de whole yuh haffi freelance. yuh link up with another producer, trying to get your name out dere an' try to, y'know, establish yourself. done: and of course no money to do things like a video or so... junior kelly: no, no, no! dat's whole ah de question back den because, yuh know, all de producers run a low budget, y'know, tight shit ting, y'know so! but persistance an' stickin' with it jus' like any good ting in life yuh live on eventually pay off, yuh know! an'... so it did! bless! *smiles* listen
done the first single was "go to hell" and it got banned straight away! what was it about?
junior kelly 'go to hell' was a thing dat was depicting politics in jamaica ah dat time, yuh know. an' de ting with politics back den an' even so now, yuh know, ah still naive in jamaica on a level where de politics an' de politicians ah dat time an' as i say now, dem ship guns to de yutes ina de communities which is our major problem, cause when politics out, when de election is over, de guns remain in de hands of de tuggs an' den turn on de community for lively hood??? an' is a whole new ball game dat, yuh know. terrorism all over. so i did a song about politics when i say 'go to hell'! we have been chew it from post-colonial... i mean colonial era till independence, post-colonial era an' no politician has never really made a change in jamaica, yuh know. an' yuh have politician dat is jumpin' from party to party an' jumpin' an' formin' their own party which really don't look good. yuh know, yuh gonna form your own party, yuh need to say: listen! my ideas are gettin' stuffed out or my ideas are gettin', yuh know, pushed to de side. so i mean to form my party cause i know i can mek a difference in de country. they don't form party to do dat, they form party to actually gain power to have more clout an' to be above de law. so i say: 'go to hell!' *laughs* yeah! listen
done so you still stick to the lyrics?
junior kelly of course! listen
done but the tune is not available really?
junior kelly no, de tune wasn't available because, y'know, my life got threatened an', y'know, producer life got threatened an' when it reach to dat level yuh got to... i mean, i don't back down but i took another route to get to dat! because we are all human beings, yuh know, an' i have to be smart! i want to survive an' in order to do dat i have to find new route an' den survive to mek a difference. because i have so much to loose an' so much to gain by survivin', y'know, so i an' i did haffi tek a different route. when your life's been threatened, y'know, yuh have to say: alright, still go dere an' fight but in a covered manner, y'know! still reach de people, de message reach de people dat need to know, y'know, what is happening an' openin' their eyes is very important. yuh know, so i took a different route. but de fire is still alive, yuh know! *laughs* *the manager get nervous* fatman deh ya? 'im fi go wait! done: you have to go already? junior kelly: eheh! continue still! five more minutes! listen
done 'love so nice' was the buss then internationally, i would say. junior kelly: yeah, dat's de ting. done: but you recorded it before already...
junior kelly no! what happened, yuh see as i say, fiends in de business an' scrupelous individuals, yuh know! well, at de time i guess i was a little bit naive because i recorded it as a dubplate, right! an' de person say: don't bother call no name ina it, nuh call no soun' name, yuh know, jus... an' now 'im go out now an' press it an' have it distributing like as if i, yuh know, agree for 'im to do dat. so we had some, y'know, real real real real problem with dat, because it kill de idea an' what 'love so nice' really stan' for an' me as an artist i don't do dat. when me record a song it have to be recorded once an' dat's it! prefer go back an' change someting in de song but i don't jump from producer to producer with de same song, yuh know, dat's stupidness, dat's not good, dat's unprofessional, yuh know, an' not business-like so. but wha' happen is i was tricked by a individually kadafi??? fi learn dat, y'know. 'is heart was clean an' what he said, yuh know, 'im really mean it but it wasn't like dat an' ting an' ting, so... we don't really talkin' anymore, yuh know. what's de use havin' friends like dat? is nuh good! listen
done did you choose the riddim "stir it up"?
junior kelly yes, yeah! actually at de time i never have de capter-line, de producer have de track but dere ist an executive producer who fund de money an' so forth, y'know, i choose de track an' choose de studio an', yuh know, engineer an' so forth. so, it's my brainchild an' give tanks to, yuh know, a good friend of mine who helped financially! yeah! listen
done there was an answer version from lisa danger. junior kelly: yeah! done: you in a good connection with her?
junior kelly yeah, lisa danger, she have a good heart! when it come on to music, relentless which is very important in de business in order to mek it. it really help her to send her children to school an', yuh know, put her name on de map, so to speak, an' i consider dat, yuh know, de greatest form of flattery somebody twist your song, yuh know, i have no problem with that. listen
done yeah, i mean that is always in jamaican culture. a tune become big and someone answer to it!
junior kelly nutten nuh wrong wi' dat, yuh know! a lot ah people woulda tek offence, but y'know, dat's neither your nor their to be??? listen
done on your tour bus there was a poster showing your new album. i haven't heard about it yet. tell me something about it!
junior kelly dis is... i put a lot of emphasis on dis album. dis is de album dat putting my energy behind, because dere is a lot ah tings dat's been happening, yuh know, people putting out albums. laws with dis an' laws with dat. people jus' want to rape an' ravage junior kelly for one reason or de other which is mainly money, y'know! but dis is de album, vp album, dat is entitled 'smile', is 18 tracks. dis album is a new roun' for me, a new avenue. wha' i mean, no change when it come on to lyrics. it only intensifies an' get better, yuh know, but productionwise, i'm doubling in production because, y'know, it's de nex' step for me. choosing de studio an' choosing, yuh know, de musicians, yuh know, orchestrating de ting from de groun' up. so, i've produced on dis album 8 tracks, yuh know, an' de title of de album is 'smile', yuh know. because bein' through so much, yuh know, at de same time yuh try to have a positive outlook, yuh know, so sometimes when yuh face with a lot ah obstacle yuh jus' smile! dat's de title of a song on it an' it's de title of de album, yuh know! listen
done it helps a lot! here you meet people in the gangway that don't smile but if they would smile everything would be better.
junior kelly yeah, exac'ly! so de title is... 18 tracks an' de title of de album from vp is 'smile'! listen
done is it already released?
junior kelly no, it's gonna be released nex' week! yeah, an' they have a distributor now in europe so same time it released in de states it released here simultanously, yuh know! listen
done who is the distributor?
junior kelly i don't know! but we have linked personally from a representative from dem. but it's hard to keep track of names of distribution. i'm so busy tryin' to meet de people an' bringin' de music to dem. done: we will find it! junior kelly: yeah, definetly! listen
done alright, i will make it short because i respect that you're here. nice that you came down and had some time for me. what about a short id for my personal website where i go feature this interview. it name sound everest!
junior kelly *pushing the fire* listen
done yeah man, respect! *pointing on the red-gold-green picture in that ordinary gangway of the hotel* and look upon the background here. you have red, gold and green!
junior kelly ...an' green! *laughs* i tink yuh choose it dat i choose... done: no man, me come up here and see it and think that's nice. red gold and green and like olympia... listen
done well, let's take a picture! *to the cook* hey, chef! come here shortly!
junior kelly
& the chef
pushin' de fire! keep it higher! yuh done know: everest, de best! bless, true true! selassie i! *laughing and leaving* listen
so junior kelly, the chef and the manager left the scene laughing and smiling. a quite short but very intensive interview with touching depths and uplifting niceness. i was looking forward for the show and i'm looking forward to reason with this positive man again. 20 minutes can change a lot. the image of this bad mooded, grumbling, too serious, too skeptic rasta was washed away by the open minded and heartical appearance of keith morgan a.k.a junior kelly! it's nice to be nice! smile!
additional information on the official website www.juniorkelly.com
all photos by kind courtesy of stella magloire www.stellamagloire.com
interview by done for sound-everest.com