Garnet Silk earns his name

20 Days of Silk

By Brian Bonitto Associate Editor -- Auto and Entertainment bonittob@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, November 28, 2014

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The Jamaica Observer continues its 20-part series, 20 Days of Silk, which looks at the life of roots singer Garnet Silk. Next month marks 20 years since his death.




MUSIC producer Cleveland 'Clevie' Browne believes the choice of name for any artiste is of utmost importance. Therefore, when he met a deejay called Little Bimbo in the early 1990s, he knew instantly that moniker would not fly.


Browne, who, along with Wycliffe Johnson, comprised the dancehall production duo, Steely and Clevie, recalled his encounter with the skinny, aspiring artiste from Manchester, who later became known as Garnet Silk.


"Tony Rebel kept telling us about this artiste from Mandeville, so we invited him to come to Mixing Lab (studio). I had met him before, since I had done some work at Penthouse studio," Browne told the Jamaica Observer.


"We didn't like the name Bimbo. He then tried Garnet Smith (his real name). But after putting his contract together [about 1993], Steely came up with something more edgy ... 'Let's call him Garnet Silk'," he continued.


Silk became one of the forerunners in the roots revival that swept Jamaica during the 1990s. Dub poet Yasus Afari, deejay Tony Rebel, singers Everton Blender, Uton Green and deejay Kulcha Knox were all part of the movement.


Browne said, from the outset, Silk displayed the right attitude.


"Singers need to love to sing and Garnet was always singing. It was not about the money. He was humble and devoted," he said.


Browne said he personally worked with the artiste and taught him a thing or two about writing.


"His songs were too wordy. So we worked on that."


According to Browne, Silk recorded 12 to 15 songs at the Kingston-based Mixing Lab Studio, some of which were for the singer's Atlantic project. Love is The Answer, released November 1994, was the first of them.


"He was true to the message. He was genuine and believed what he was saying. He was a true Rastaman," he said.


Silk and his mother, Etiga Gray, died in a fire at her home in Manchester on December 9, 1994.


Browne remembers getting the call from a friend in Mandeville.


"I was at home in bed when I got the call. A producer, Delroy Collins, said Garnet was dead. I told him don't run those jokes and he said he was coming from Garnet's house. I just dropped back in my bed. Something died inside me. It took me weeks to get over it, just like when Steely died," he said.


Johnson died in New York in 2009 from a blood clot in brain.


Browne believes Silk's songs are still relevant.


"Good songs are always good songs, despite when they were made. It is not about the voice, but the heart. Love is really the answer. Garnet is someone I'm happy I have met," he said.


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