Hugh Mundell freedom fighter

Hugh Mundell freedom fighter


Howard Campbell

Friday, June 15, 2012

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In commemoration of Jamaica's 50th anniversary of Independence from Britain, the Jamaica Observer's Entertainment section recognises 50 persons who made significant, yet unheralded, contributions to the country's culture. This week we feature Hugh Mundell.

With the social changes that took place in Jamaica during the 1970s, youth like Hugh Mundell were inspired to write songs that better days for his countrymen and people of colour.

Mundell was a protégé of one of the period's visionaries, music producer Augustus Pablo, whose Rockers label nurtured the talent of fledgling artistes such as Earl Sixteen, Junior Reid and Yami Bolo.

Unlike most of his contemporaries who were from tough urban areas, Mundell had a middle-class upbringing. His father was a lawyer and he attended Ardenne High School, but like his mentor he had a passion for black consciousness and roots music.

Pablo had produced a series of hard-hitting songs by another young vocalist, Jacob Miller, in the early 1970s. Later that decade, he did the same for Mundell.

The most potent of the singer's sessions for Pablo can be found on the album, Africa Must Be Free By 1983. Driven by the title song, it was an underground hit in Europe.

Though it never caught on with Jamaican disc jockeys, Africa Must Be Free By 1983 was an inspiration for budding roots artistes like Anthony Wilmot (later Billy Mystic of the Mystic Revealers) and the Waterhouse-born Reid.

Mundell and Reid shared a special friendship. They first met in 1978 at the legendary King Tubbys studio in Waterhouse when Mundell was 16 and Reid only 13.

Mundell was reportedly so impressed by the youth's voice that he took Reid to Pablo's August Town studio where he recorded Speak The Truth, Reid's first song. Although Mundell was only three years older, Reid says he was a major influence on his life.

"Him was mi brethren, mi godfather. Mundell used to encourage mi everyday," Reid recalled during a 2007 interview.

Hugh Mundell was murdered by a gunman in the St Andrew community of Grant's Pen Avenue in October, 1983. Eighteen year-old Junior Reid, who was in the vehicle, witnessed his friend's death.

He was only 21 years old.

Locally, his name is mentioned only in roots circles but in Europe, Hugh Mundell is regarded as a major force. Africa Must Be Free By 1983 is still one of the most sought roots-reggae albums on that continent, testament to a talented youth with an age-old message.

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