Can you tell us about the song ‘One Light Four Wheel’ ? How did that collaboration with Jahnet Enright come about, and given its success, how come you didn’t pursue doing more music after that ?
Yellow Man was my hero at the time, I was also doing appearances at tourist events, promoting my sarongs by DJ’ing over a track while my models demonstrated 21 ways to wear a sarong. One of the girls commented on a dangerous car with one light which nearly crashed into us one night, as a “one light four wheel”. I was so taken with the phrase, that I went home and wrote a song about it. I then took the song to my friend Jahnet Enright, who had written and produced Michigan & Smiley, and she wrote the music, tidied up the song, engaged Sly & Robbie and off we went to Channel One studios and recorded the track.
It was an instant winner with it’s distinctive soundtrack, but I was soon on to the next thing. I am a firm believer that I want to take a shot at everything at least once, so the rest is history. I didn’t pursue a career as a singer as really I can’t sing, and simply did that song as I felt good about it, and in the manner of the dancehall, wanted to bring the dangers of cars with one light only to public attention. I remember being particularly overjoyed when I went to court about a traffic ticket some years later and heard the judge berating a man who had been charged with driving with one light only as having a “one light four wheel”.
There are rumours circulating around the web about some association to Island Records, and I just wanted to clarify here whether or not those were true ?
There is no association with Island Records, except that Chris Blackwell has been a friend for many years, and has always been supportive of my successes in any area.
Given the amount of interest in these signs and the recent publication of your book, do you see these relics becoming legitimized art forms soon enough ?
I certainly do, as many of them are in fact true intuitive art, and deserve to be recognized as such. Also I plan to tour them and take them into gallery spaces. What is art? I remember seeing an A-frame ladder with a hammer on the third step, given pride of place at the Tate Modern in London. Well these signs took a lot more effort than that.
As of now, the National Gallery of Jamaica has invited me to exhibit, the Cité de la Musique in Paris is showing the signs in an exhibition opening April 4, and I have been invited to exhibit in a gallery in Berlin in the fall. I am also considering enquiries from Japan.
What do you hope the signs communicate to people who know nothing about dancehall or Jamaica ?
That here is yet another unique way of looking at the creativity, music and culture of our amazing island, Jamaica. That they will recognize that even the seemingly simple efforts of our uncelebrated people can actually make it and become loved and accepted in the wider world, and make a great story in the New Yorker as my book of signs ‘Serious Things a Go Happen‘ did a few weeks ago.