This week’s Liner Note’s continues the second part of Bump ‘n Grind Wax’s Version Excursion. In January, David and Brady embarked on a short respite to the musical shores of Jamaica. Documented in part one, their first day in Kingston set the scene for the rest of their trip: a mission to discover the history and sounds that shaped Jamaica’s undeniable imprint on contemporary music. From the record shops in Downtown Kingston, part two takes the BnG Wax duo 2,000 feet above sea level to the coffee-growing communities of the Blue Mountains.
On Friday, January 21st, David and Brady hopped in their rented Suzuki Vitaro and took off to explore the Blue Mountains. The plan was for Brady to show David the coffee plantations in the Blue Mountains, take a dip in a mountain river, and play some music at Jenkle’s Bar in Hagley Gap Square. The two selectors had prepared music and brought the necessary equipment to bring the people in Hagley Gap good vibes, excited to play at a favorite bar of the community, one that hosts weekly gatherings on Friday nights. The morning drive took them through the rough roads of eastern St. Andrew parish, climbing from Gordon Town towards Mavis Bank. Short in distance, but long in time, the rocky road winds through a lush valley of tropical vegetation and burbling natural springs. David and Brady drove past the massive Mavis Bank Coffee Factory, the sour smell of coffee reaching you before one sees the fresh blue paint donning the walls of the facility, and the large quantities of beans drying in the sun. They were entering the Blue Mountains during harvest season.
David and Brady stopped at an unsuspecting bar in Mt. Charles, the last stretch of “paved” road before entering St. Thomas parish. Where the road ends, many of the local buses and taxis choose not to continue further towards Hagley Gap, Epping Farm, and Penlyne Castle, the communities directly below the Blue Mountain Peak, the Caribbean’s second highest point. Brady had spent several years living and working in these communities, pulling up to “Ferran’s Bar” in Mt. Charles, he was met with a friendly welcome from the brother of the taxi driver, Dani, who had driven Brady to pick up David from the airport. Brady had hoped Ferran, a barkeep and longtime soundman in the Blue Mountains, might have a lead on a treasure haul of Jamaican-pressed vinyl. As his own collection became ruined in Hurricane Sandy, his hundreds of 45s still sit flooded in an old freezer. Coincidentally, Dani’s brother spoke up and said that he and his family had some in Penlyne Castle. With skepticism, this caught everyone by surprise, but his insistence was encouraging. A joy was sparked while reminiscing over the efforts that Jamaicans in the Blue Mountains would take to get to Kingston to buy the latest and greatest records, a shared camaraderie obvious between the group. They made plans to meet in a few hours in Penlyne Castle, a community about an hour’s drive away, climbing another 1500 meters from Mt. Charles.
David and Brady continued the slow wind towards Hagley Gap, passing the fording at the Yallahs River, they allowed the clear flowing water to wash the dust off the Viatro undercarriage, only to later continue the beating, turning the dust to a thick-concrete like mud. As they reached the town square, several of the shops were open and preparing for the Friday evening festivities. Brady parked the Vitaro outside Madge’s cookshop, a pop-up kitchen powered by wood-fire burners rigged on old Landrover rims and boards fashioned as counter space. Many of the local residents were surprised to see Brady taking on the difficult terrain of the roads in a rented vehicle, but more excited to welcome David to this side of Paradise.
An hour or so later, David and Brady were gloriously filthy again. They had managed to get the Vitaro up the mountain, without permanent damage to the vehicle, and were both elbows deep into a dusty pile of Jamaican LPs, 7”, and whatever else had decided to claim home and desecrate in these plastic bags and wooden crates. All had been buried in the small homes of these coffee-growing families, to the dismay of Brady who had spent years passing these homes without a clue. With the hope of uncovering records in decent enough condition to clean and play again, David and Brady spent several hours in the afternoon on the ridge of Penlyne Castle, admiring the distant views of the landscape and the range of music they were discovering.
In the area surrounding Penlyne Castle’s Primary School, the families living adjacent to the school were playing music, jerking chicken, and bagging loads of fresh scallion into market bags to take the next day into Kingston. David and Brady didn’t hesitate to try the chicken, and purchase a bundle of scallion for the meals of the following. The farmer, to confirm the high quality, took a handful of onion greens and thrusted it into their noses, the aroma as pungent as an onion can get, tear inducing sweetness. Not willing to sell a small quantity, the farmer gave the pair an armful, about five pounds of scallion. Hilariously, they bundled it up with twine, keen on spreading the love of scallion throughout the land.
After enjoying a few Dragon Stouts and chatting about the memories associated with these records, David and Brady decided it was time to head back down to Hagley Gap to start the party at Jenkle’s. In the excitement of getting the Vitaro up the mountain, and the possibility of finding records, Brady managed to wedge the vehicle on an awkward decline in the front driveway of a house next to the school. To the entertainment of a small group of women enjoying the gathering, it took three drivers and four grown men to reverse the SUV out of the predicament, no worse for wear when it was out.
For the rest of the evening, David and Brady plugged their computer into the sound system at Jenkle’s Bar, and brought their own musical offerings to the folks in Hagley Gap. As the sun set, they played for four hours as a mixed audience of rum drinkers, domino players, and curious youth came to catch the melodies being served up. Wray and Nephew White Rum was provided by the house, and David and Brady switched back and forth at the controls between games of dominoes and chasing spliff tails around the room. The reception from the people in Hagley Gap was warm and inviting.
With the 10pm curfew fast approaching, David and Brady packed up their things and bid farewell to the remaining revelers at Jenkle’s. Pleased with the selection, and the company, Jenkle made a point to stop the BnG Wax crew before descending back towards Kingston. He invited them to come back to the bar before they left the island, hinting at an untouched collection of records in the shop, sitting the whole time at their feet below tarps and protective wrapping. Caught off guard by the sudden promise of musical treasure, Brady confirmed to Jenkle that he would be back to dig through the piles, but they had to get going before “babylon a screw” and trouble them in Gordon Town for being out too late on the road. David and Brady were madly content. As they traveled at a snail’s pace with their brights on through the mountains, the night blanketed by twinkling stars, the two had a backseat with three or four sizable stacks of 7” records, too much scallion, and hearts full of joy.
For the sake of documentation and brevity, the final part of BnG Wax’s Version Excursion will be shared in next week’s Liner Notes. Keep an eye on this blog space for more about Bump ‘n Grind’s plans for the future, love of music, and desire to bring great coffee to the people of the DMV!