Kiddus I - Green Fa Life
TitleGreen Fa Life
Release dateSept 2009
Kiddus I is best known, even 30-plus years down the line, for the song “Graduation in Zion” from the 1978 movie “Rockers,” that seminal dramatic/comedic look at the Jamaican recording industry. Memorable though that song and scene were, they didn’t exactly result in a sustained musical career for Kiddus, especially in comparison to some of the other reggae stars who appeared in the film (Burning Spear, Gregory Isaacs, etc.). Maybe it was a lack of opportunity; maybe it was his own design, but precious little has been heard from this singer (who got his start in Ras Michael’s Sons of Negus) in the ensuing three decades. While his entry in Earl “Chinna” Smith’s unplugged Inna de Yard series of albums led to renewed interest in the man and his music, some missing pieces about Kiddus have yet to fall into place. Wikipedia’s entry on him, for instance, states he was born in 1954 while his presumably more reliable myspace says 1944.
Perhaps it’s best just to wipe the past clean and enjoy today’s Kiddus I. The best way to go about it is to seek out his new CD Green Fa Life. Chinna still has a hand in the music as producer and player, and the resulting sound is tracks that fairly burst to life with not only a rock-hard drum and bass foundation, but plentiful riddim and lead guitar accents, keyboard dramatics, percussion, horns, flute and coolly intoning female backup singers. And then there’s Kiddus’ lead vocals, which sound not so much weathered as refined by age. He grabs hold with an authoritative talk/sing style from the kickoff of “Different Strokes” and rolls out a cheekier delivery on “Hard Core,” an easygoing near-croon on “Rock, Rock, Rock” and “The Line” and elsewhere makes up for what he lacks in range with dry clarity that’s so patois-free he almost doesn’t sound Jamaican. He’s never less than perfectly suited to the roots rocking accompaniment, though, and his lyrical points of view on love and life are seldom commonplace. His perspective can include the simple extolling of music’s pleasures as well as more esoteric concerns such as those of “Tune In,” where he singles out such women as Harriet Tubman, Nanny the Queen of the Maroons and Mother Teresa as having “turned on.” It’s a sweet, slightly bizarre moment, and there are others like it to be heard. I had no idea what to expect when I put this CD on, but by the time it was over I was energized and inspired by the invigorating reggae it contained and the spunk of a singer who sounds like he’s making up for lost time. By all rights, Green Fa Life should catapult Kiddus I from whatever-happened-to status straight into the forefront of today’s reggae.
Reviewed by Tom Orr