Making magic at Channel One

BY HOWARD CAMPBELL Obsever senior writer

Thursday, July 17, 2014

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The 17th staging of Tribute To The Greats takes place July 26 at the Chinese Benevolent Association in St Andrew. Dubbed 'The Chinese Connection', it salutes the contribution of the Chinese to Jamaica's popular music. Today, the Jamaica Observer presents the fifth in a six-part series on some of the recipients.

Most reggae historians agree that the 1970s is the music's golden age. Some of the period's greatest sounds came out of Channel One.

Four brothers — Joseph (better known as 'Jo Jo'), Ernest, Paul and Kenneth — were responsible for running one of reggae's great recording studios and labels.

Located along Maxfield Avenue, Channel One opened in 1972. It produced countless hit songs, including I Need a Roof, Africa (the Mighty Diamonds), Ballistic Affair (Leroy Smart), I Know Myself (Ernest Wilson), Woman is Like a Shadow (the Meditations), and MPLA by house band, The Revolutionaries.

The Hoo Kims had no music experience when they launched Channel One. Their family operated an ice cream parlour and owned gaming machines.

But they took the plunge, purchasing an API console that made the Channel One sound stand out from its rivals. In fact, other producers recorded there, which Jo Jo Hoo Kim, eldest of the brothers, said helped the company.

"We gave everybody a free try because I didn't understand anything about running a session and I want to get experience," he told David Katz, author of the book Solid Foundation: An Oral History of Reggae.

Jo Jo is credited as producer on many of the hit songs from Channel One's most fruitful period (1972-1977). Ernest was one of the engineers while Paul ran the company's sound system.

Kenneth, a mechanic by profession, began producing songs in the late 1980s.

In 1977, Paul was murdered by gunmen in Greenwich Farm, not far from the studio. His death influenced a gradual withdrawal from the music business by Jo Jo and Ernest.

Both have long given up on music, though Jo Jo oversees distribution of the Channel One catalogue. Kenneth died in October 2013 at age 66.

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