Monday, March 3, 2014

Before Radio Ruled the Airways - A Short History

Can you imagine a world without radio? In these technologically saturated times, envisage yourself if you will, living in the 18th and 19th Centuries. There were no newspapers and whatever broadsheets that were available, couldn't be read by most of the population. Only the clergy or those from a privileged background were afforded an education and able to read.

The very idea that sound could be carried via electric or electromagnetic waves was probably unthinkable, until various inventors and scientists working in the fields of sound transmittal paved the way for Guglieirno Marconi, an Italian inventor, who demonstrated the possibility of radio communication. He transmitted and received his first radio signal in Italy in 1895. By 1899 he flashed the first wireless signal across the English Channel and two years later, received the letter “S” telegraphed from England to Newfoundland. Marconi, originally credited with inventing this new means of communication lost that title in a decision of the Supreme Court who overturned his patent in 1943, awarding credit to Nikola Tesla. Ships made prolific use of the “Morse-code” format of messages, with the 'dot-dot-dash' formula, where messages wee tapped out over a device from ship to shore and enabled communication between ships. This system of radio communication was adapted b the United States Army who established a wireless base off Fire Island in New York. The Navy also adopted the wireless system some two years later, but before then, they had been communicating using visual signals or even employing homing pigeons.1

This primitive form of communication was opened up to the masses with the input provided by Lee DeForest, who developed and coined the word “radio”. DeForest was able to reach a much wider audience with his use of the triode amplifier. In fact, the word “AM” means amplitude-modulated radio. The volume of radio frequencies were expanded and many more sound waves were audible as a result of this amplification.

It is not clear who has the distinction of being the first person to lend their voice to radio, there are contentions that this honor goes to one Nathan B. Stubbelfield in 1892, while there is another school that attributes that feat to Canadian Reginald A. Fessenden in 1906. In 1915, the first transatlantic speech was transmitted from a naval base in Ohio to the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

The development of radio continued to evolve and in 1933 Edwin Howard Armstrong took it to the next level of refinement with his invention of frequency-modulated or the more popularly known FM radio. FM improved the audio signal of radio by controlling the noise static caused by electrical equipment and the earth's atmosphere. To illustrate how the growth of transatlantic telephones and radio signals were linked, until 1936, all American transatlantic telephone communication had to be routed through England. In that year, a direct radiotelephone circuit was opened to Paris. Telephone connection by radio and cable is now accessible through 1987 foreign points.

Radio continues to break new barriers and boundaries, from the early heady days of the transistor radio – introduced to the world by the Japanese electronics giant – Sony, to the proliferation of radio stations that can be accessed on the World Wide Web. Factored into that equation we must not discount pirate stations. In London, the most famous was Radio Caroline, which started life on a shop off the South East coast of England in 1964. Since then pirate radio stations have sprung like mushrooms up and down the AM and FM bands all over the world. In North America, some of these pirate stations have even attained a level of legality and have been afforded “community radio station” status. Certainly, pirate stations are not as constrained as legitimate radio stations in terms of the content and financial support they need to stay afloat.

So when next you approach your radio and press the 'on' button (or as the case may be, reach for the remote control) stop, pause and think about just how far the development of that first invention of sound transmission has come to the point that radio rules and you can now find anything you want to hear over the airways in this modern society.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


The thought of doing a visual blog has been something I've toyed with for some time. Everyone knows of my affinity for Jamaica and its people, so I'm always traveling there for vacation or recovery and restoration. This time was no different – having just gotten over a very nasty bout of the 'flu – I had an urgent desire to go 'home'. I've never been to Jamaica with a young baby before, but this time I took my 20 month old grand-daughter and I can say the experience was one that was both priceless and very tiring. Kayleigh is a handful – no doubt about it – but I wouldn't trade the experience of introducing her to a part of her heritage. She loved it! From the foods to the sights, sounds, smells and close proximity to nature – she drank it all in, wanting to experience it all.

Traveling proved to be the biggest challenge, I was only able to hire a rental car for a short period of time (kudos to David Chen for his assistance in that department) and taking buses and taxis with the bag and pan associated with a baby was a bit daunting, but I've never been one to shy away from a challenge. In hindsight, the funniest experience by far was taking a taxi from Bath in St. Thomas to Morant Bay and to hear the driver exclaim that he had run out of gas! My aunt and I sat in the hot car while he traipsed off to the nearest gas station about 5 miles away. I gave him more sympathy he deserved – especially when I later discovered from friends in the area that this was somewhat of a regular occurrence for him. So much so, that his colleagues refuse to pick him up when he 'runs' out of gas!  I also had to 'blow up' the taxi driver in Morant Bay who thought he was slick when I went to the taxi park to get a taxi to Kingston.  He took one look at my clothes and the sweat dripping off my face and exclaimed "Lady ah charter you haffi charter me".  When I finished lambasting him in some raw chaw patois - he had nothing more to say - humpfff. lol.

One of the main purposes for my trip at this time is the event promoted by my cousin Iteen, proprietor of Iteen's in Bath – she hosts an annual Valentine's event. This year was special since another cousin from England made the effort to be there with us. Dor Ang – it was lovely seeing and spending time with her. If one thinks that what happens outside of Jamaica has no impact on those who remain – think again. It was obvious that there was a financial dearth impacting that semi-rural community – the people who would normally have attended the celebration were conspicuously absent; and it wasn't just Iteen's – another well publicized event in St. Thomas didn't do well either!

Fi Wi Sinting – the other reason I attend Jamaica in February was a bust. The reason? - no transportation! By this time I was beyond disappointed, but there was even more disappointment to come.

February is Reggae Month in Jamaica and I'm so proud of an organization called JARIA – Jamaica Reggae Industry Association. Their 2014 schedule of events was magnificent. From the Mona Chapel Ecumenical Thanksgiving Service to the last events at the end of February – the work that has gone into producing a series of stellar concerts, panel discussions, films and gatherings – not to mention tributes to Bob Marley, Dennis Brown AND Bunny Ruggs - is to be lauded, applauded and celebrated. I know they performed a herculean task, working with ludicrously limited funds – but they should definitely pat themselves on the back. Dem may be likkle – but bwoy dem TALLAWAH! 

Special thanks to my friend Steve for his patience - I promise to make it up to you and the organization next year.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Here Comes the King - A Daughter's Tribute

Marla Brown is the youngest daughter of legendary reggae singer Dennis “Crown Prince” Brown. Born in London to Dennis and wife Yvonne, she has four siblings who share their father's initials - 'D. Brown' – Dinah, Daniel, Deneice, Dennis– the latter uses his middle names Jason and herself Deborah known professional as Marla. Dennis spent a great deal of time in London, crafting some of his best works there and nurturing his young family.

Marla reminisces on growing up with Dennis, who she recalls as being a very loving and easy going father. “Mum was the disciplinarian in our household' she chuckled – 'dad was very easy going, loving, caring and sharing'. It is patently obvious that Marla has a very special bond with her father which lives on after his untimely passing when she was 12 years old. She tells the story of hearing the news of her father's death and recounts calling him the day before; he was not well and resting, she decided to call the next day, but never got to speak to him again. She wipes away tears and during our conversation, it is again reinforced that Marla is all about continuing her father's legacy, not just his music but his livity. She reveals that she and her siblings called themselves the Brown-Brady bunch; a reference to a 1970s popular American sitcom - The Brady Bunch! That this is a very tight-knit family is something else that is evident during the course of our chat on the grounds of the Bob Marley Museum at 56 Old Hope Road. It is fitting that we are having a conversation in that location, folks of my generation must now make way for the next and as we speak the Ghetto Youths Crew, the label spearheaded by Marley brothers Ziggy Stephen, Damion Jr. Gong and Julian (with label mates Wayne Wonder, Christopher Ellis and Black Am I), are rehearsing on the premises in preparation for another big February Reggae Month Celebration - Bob Marley's Birthday celebration on February 6.

D. Brown's legacy lives on and is strong in the Brown children, all of whom are musically inclined, Marla spent some years as a dancer before embarking on her fledgling singing career. She is in Jamaica to not only complete her own upcoming EP, but also to spearhead tributes to her father whose February 1 birthday is celebrated world-wide. Marla's passion is to ensure that the youth, particularly those in London where Dennis spent some time, get to know the man and his vast catalog of music.

Talking with Marla you definitely understand that her mission is more than the music, drawing on her family life with parents and siblings, the theme comes up again and again – it's all about LIVING IN LOVE. Something which Dennis Brown fans can definitely resonate with and draw a clear connection to many of his songs. Coming from an extremely tight knit family, one that has had to close ranks and absorb a huge void, has certainly rooted and grounded this young lady. With refreshing candor she is almost childlike in her fervent wish for the world to be one in which we all care about and love each other.

Poised on the verge of unimagined potential – there is already a buzz around Marla Brown who acquitted herself well at the Orange Street Tribute to her father held on Monday February 1 where a mic throw-down between Marla, General Trees and General Twitch was a definite crowd-pleaser. Debuting her original song “Here Comes the King” a tribute to her father. She tells the moving story of finding a rhythm in her music files and on listening and rewinding several times, she says she could swear that she heard her father's voice singing. She canceled all appointments and wrote the lyrics in record time, encompassing some of her father's song titles and other key phrases she remembers him using – what transpired is a love letter from daughter to father and is indeed a fitting tribute – not to a Crown Prince, but to a King -

 © Sheron Hamilton-Pearson.  Article can be found at

Read more:

Friday, January 17, 2014

Sacre Bleu!!!!

The National Association for the Advancement of COLORED People (NAACP) has decided to nominate the following for the 2014 Image award.

No matter how I wrack my brain, I can't get my head around the recently published list, how in God's name can this be right. After duly doing my own investigation, I found that this was no spoof, no satire, but let me share with you the information that has me getting my knickers in a twist.

The list in the music category is what has me getting ready to bust a blood vessel:

These are the nominees for the Outstanding Male Artist:

Bruno Mars

Charlie Wilson

John Legend

Justin Timberlake

Robin Thicke

Is this someone's idea of a perverse joke? Current Chairman Ben Jealous must have been playing with Jersey Governor Chris Christie on the George Washington Bridge when this nomination was put together.

Don't get me wrong people, I have nothing against Justin Timberlake, Bruno Mars or Robin Thicke – well actually yes I do, is it just me or am I the only one to realize those guys ain't black – they sure as heck ain't colored either! WTF (the 'f' means Fart). Come one now – do you mean to tell me that you couldn't find a list of 5 men in the music industry who are bonafide card carrying members of the Negro Race????

I'm affronted by this travesty which has nothing to do with talent or lack thereof, but come one now – what a slap in the face for those black male singers out there slogging away and can't even catch a break with a recognition or nod from an organization that has purported to represent them and their interests since 1967 and the heady days of the civil rights movement.

The image awards were formed in protest against the 1915 showing of the racist

Birth of a Nation” by D.W. Griffiths which stereotypically portrayed blacks as savages. I think the governing body of the NAACP with oversight for the image awards could do well to remember its raison d'être!

The Awards Show will air on February 22 and I for one will not be watching as my small protest at what I can only describe as an NAACP sell out.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Hell Ah Top, Hell Ah Bottom and Hallelujah in the Middle!

It's funny but sometimes I wish I could only remember half the things I've forgotten in my lifetime. In England, where I was born, I used to knit, taught by my mother; sew, encouraged by my grandmother who used to send me to sewing lessons in Jamaica and I made a mean British-style oxtail casserole in the oven in a crockpot with lots of root vegetables. Another feat of which I used to be proud was my Jamaican Sweet Potato Pudding!

Living in New York, where I moved in 1996, is a much more hectic lifestyle with less and less time to do the things I really enjoyed. Talking with a friend, who told me about the Sweet Potato Pudding she'd recently made, my saliva filled mouth anticipated that sweet, gooey succulent dish and I decided to turn my hand again to the decadent treat.

There only one Whole Foods store in my neighborhood, so most of my groceries and provisions are purchased from the proliferation of Korean stores that dot the landscape like so many store-front churches, sometimes three to a block. I picked up the ingredients and using the recipe provided by Francine Chin got busy in the kitchen. I'm not sure why the alarm bells didn't ring at the consistency of the grated sweet potato, I added the lush ingredients and poured the mixture into my cake pans. Even when the mixture was still sticky on the knife two hours later, I wasn't too perturbed, but I guess it was the gales of laughter that greeted me when I told my mum about my disappointment at how the pudding had turned out. Her first question as to what type of sweet potato I had used solved the mystery. American sweet potatoes more suited to Thanksgiving dishes are NOT the same as Jamaican sweet potatoes, which have a more gnarled and reddish brown color as opposed to their pink American counterpart.

My disappointment was short lived, I made another pudding yesterday, same ingredients, but this time using the correct main ingredient and as I posted on Facebook, the pudding ah seh one, two and tree!. I feel that this English lady has proven her mettle in the realms of Jamaican cookie willels and my culinary prowess has been restored – at least when it comes to Jamaican Sweet Potato Pudding. Brigitte Talbot – you may have laughed loud, but this time I laugh last! The hell ah top, hell ah bottom and Hallelujah in the middle is complete.

I have to give kudos to a great recipe that's very easy to follow - the link is broken now, but I will post soon.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Voice - Tessane's Listening Party

The Tessane Chin phenomena that swept the Americas recently is a lesson in resilience, determination and overcoming fears. Tessane Chin, a Jamaican renowned in her home country for her brilliant singing talent was floundering in a small pool - trying to break into an international market. That opportunity came from her record label manager Orville "Shaggy" Burrell who suggested and actively pushed for her to enter The Voice American singing competition.

Great marketing and publicity took hold in the social media universe as the word trickled out that a Jamaican entrant was in the competition and her compatriots jumped on the #TeamTessane train. They supported by organizing guerilla voting campaigns, arranging listening and voting parties and watching the fifth season from her September 24 debut witnessing her earning bragging rights along with Holly Henry, Ashley Dubose, James Wolpert, Matthew Schuler & James Irwin of getting all four judges voting for her inclusion - right through to the finale on December 16. In their eyes, her exemplary performance from start to finish, had her pegged as a winner.

I attended two of the voting parties that cropped up in New York City; Mingles Bar & Lounge in the Bronx collaborated with Digicel and other promoters to host sessions on December 9 and the final on December 16. Offering drink specials and a mouth-watering food selection, patrons were able to watch the proceedings on various strategically placed jumbo screens and were vocal in their comments, derision at lackluster performances and of course showed their patriotism in their support for Tessane. A medium crowed trickled in throughout the course of the proceedings as the tension built and sighs of relief escaped collective mouths at the news that Tessane had made it through to the finale.

December 16 saw a much bigger crowed, a definite festive air and stunned silence at Tessane's awesome delivery. Without a doubt Tessane knocked the ball so far out the park with that Whitney Houston rendition of I Have Nothing. Reprising her opening song Try and delivering a flawless duet of the Beatles classic Let It Be with coach Adam Levine, patrons in Mingles erupted with loud hoots and applause as the pop classic was re-worked to incorporate an unexpected and vote winning reggae mix. As the camera panned to Christina Aguilera's face, patrons booed and catcalled 'badmind' at her lock of disgust and shock! It was as though Christina realized the race was over at that point.

Wavering between not wanting to jinx her chances and being quietly confident, a little voice told me at the point when showers of fire rained down behind her as she sang - she would be be the winner, a point reinforced to me when I saw that she would sing with her idol Ms. Celine Dion. Of course, in a nail biting, breath-holding decision on December 18, Tessane Chin was announced the winner of The Voice.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

STRANGER COLE Performs at 30 Plus Party in Queens

a review by Sheron Hamilton-Pearson

This review would not have been written had it not been for Mishibu di Riddim Queen who kindly provided a soundtrack of this concert – from which this written piece is inspired! Photo Credit - Riddim Queen.

Thanks to the 30 Plus Club for steadily putting together a stellar line up of those vintage artists still actively performing. One such artist that I was privileged to see in action was Stranger Cole. This man must be in his late 70s if not older, but his energy and zest for life was patently evident in the performance on December 21 at the Majestic Marquis Ballroom. His first track Koo Koo Do was a song that immediately evoked memories of my grandmother and her generation who bought these songs to remind them of the sun and a way of life they had left behind, having made an unwelcome and cold England their home.
Performers of that generation know that it is not just about the music, it's the total package and I've noticed that they never fail to disappoint, wearing their best outfits. By the way was that an Italian suit Stranger was wearing? Performing classics like Bangarang – even though he sang along to tracks, the spirit and essence of his prowess still shone through and more than compensated for the occasional lack of power in vocal delivery. The audience needed no prompting to sing along and give encouragement as they enjoyed this memorable and perhaps never to be repeated experience of singing with one of their idols. Still sprightly, he showed how he must have wowed audiences with some nifty footwork in his heyday. Performing as though he was playing to a stadium filled to capacity, his commitment to perform certainly endeared him to those who were in attendance. Sunday morning (me nah stop trying), Cherry Baby sang on the Love is a Treasure rhythm, confused some in the crowd – but they soon got the hang of it - singing along with the maestro.
At the intro for Just like a River the rah rah rah's meant an instant pull up as the audience sang the la la la refrain with such gusto. The 1962 classic When I Call Your Name was next on his play list, originally performed by Stranger and Patsy, singing solo he definitely evoked that very brief ska era dominated by producers like Duke Reid, Coxson Dodd, Prince Buster and the former prime minister of Jamaica, Edward Seaga.

Down the Train Line a 1967 version of the more popular Train to Skaville definitely took one back to the early ska days of Byron Lee, Jimmy Cliff and Prince Buster who earlier made their debut at the New York's World's Fair in 1964. Rough and Tough number one in 1962 for Jamaica's Independence had the crowd skanking, shuffling and doing the ska as creaky bones were forgotten and the cares of the world were soothed by great music.
The crowd was reluctant for Stranger to leave and called repeatedly for an encore, in a surprise move Stranger performed the Phil Pratt produced Ken Booth Classic Artibella, written by Stranger Cole himself and getting a totally unexpected revival after Snoop Dogg (aka Snoop Lion) breathed new life and generated revenue for the veteran with his La La La from the grammy nominated Reincarnated.  Music provided by DJ Mike was a definite crowd pleaser and without a doubt a good time was had by all. Well done to the organizers of the Over 30 Club, President Salome Smith and Marketing Director Linden Brown – you've found a fan in me and I can't wait for the Water Race Entertainment Limited show the  30 Plus Club is supporting featuring Lovindeer and John Holt on January 4 at the Rochdale Village Community Center, 169-85 137th Avenue in Queens.