Remembering Neville Lee, honouring Pat Chin

Entertainment: the year that was

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

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Joseph “JoJo” Hoo Kim

THE Chinese influence on Jamaican music is profound. Byron Lee, the Hoo Kim brothers, Leslie Kong and Warwick Lyn are some of the people who had an indelible
impact on reggae.

In 2018, Joseph “JoJo” Hoo Kim, founder of Channel One recording studio, and Neville Lee, founder of distribution company Sonic Sounds, died. Pat Chin, who co-founded VP Records in 1979 with her husband Vincent, soldiers on.

Lee, Byron's younger brother, died in July at age 80. He worked at Dynamic Sounds,
his brother's company, for many years before starting Sonic Sounds in 1978. Sonic were Jamaican distributors for major American record companies such as RCA/EMI/Capitol, Sony/BMG and BMG Music. Operating from Retirement Crescent in Kingston, Sonic was Dynamic's biggest rival.

The company thrived during the 1980s when their strongest sellers were Taxi by the
Taxi Gang; Diseases (Michigan and Smiley); Night Nurse (Gregory Isaacs); Girlie Girlie
(Sophia George); Stealing Love (Carlene Davis); Greetings (Half Pint); and Murder
She Wrote by Chaka Demus and Pliers. Jason Lee, one of Neville's children, helped his father operate Sonic Sounds.

He told the Jamaica Observer that he and Byron remained close despite their companies' rivalry. “We were competitive rivals, wanting our companies to have the hit songs,” he said. Byron Lee died in 2008.

Pat Chin

Pat Chin celebrated her 55th year in the music business in 2018. She kept a busy schedule of appearances at music conferences in North America, including Art Basel which took place in Miami in December.

“I never get tired of serving my country or my culture. The biggest takeaway for me is that we (Jamaica) have given 50 years of entertainment to the world, and our company has helped give them wings to fly,” Chin told the Jamaica Observer in December.

Last year was the 50th anniversary of reggae's origin. The Chins opened their Randy's label in downtown Kingston during the early 1960s, recording artistes who became massive stars, including The Skatalites, Lord Creator, Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. Moving to New York City, they opened VP Records in 1979.

Today, that label is the largest distributor of reggae in the world. VP, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, has marketed and produced some of the biggest dancehall/ reggae songs in the last 25 years.

Pat Chin believes her husband, who died in 2003, would be overwhelmed by his family's success. “He'd be so proud. I remember going to Radio City Music Hall (in New York City) and seeing our name in lights. I felt so proud for us to be recognised by such a big place,” she said.

— Howard Campbell

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