Tale of a Trying Man
Pon Di Ends
The Jamaica Observer continues its series Pon Di Ends which features communities which have impacted the Jamaican music landscape. Today, we look at Cockburn Pen.
ORIGINALLY from Glendevon in rural St James, the singer known as Nature relocated in 2005 to urban Seivwright Gardens, more commonly known as Cockburn Pen. It changed his life.
Like most inner-city communities in the Corporate Area, Cockburn Pen is prone to violence and poverty is widespread. Many youths use music to escape a life of crime and overcome domestic challenges.
Among the artistes who grew up in the area are U Roy, Early B, Admiral Bailey, Super Cat, Junior Cat, Droop Lion, Ras Bogle and Little Twitch.
When Nature took the Splash team on a mini-tour of the Kingston 11 community, black flags hung from utility poles, marking the death of a resident. The dwellings are a mix of concrete and board houses lined by zinc fences and gates.
"This was where I came when I left Montego Bay and decided to come to Kingston to pursue a career in music," Nature explained as he led us into a tenement.
"I came to Kingston with nothing except two pounds of weed. I had the numbers for two persons, one of whom said he couldn't accommodate me at the time, but when I called my 'bredrin' Vincent 'Singi Singi' March, he told me to come," Nature recalled.
After spending a few nights at March's home, Nature earned enough money to rent a bedroom in the tenement. He said he was 'forced' to live without the basic necessities like a proper kitchen and bathroom.
"It took me weeks to save to buy a two-burner stove and my first pot was a cheese pan," he stated.
However, Nature had no intention of returning to Montego Bay. He was determined to pursue his musical career.
"I had to make a lot of sacrifice an' there were days that I was hungry. Every now and again I would do a dub plate for a man for a one or two grand and I would use that money to invest in some hats and bootleg DVDs which I would sell to earn a dollar," he said.
Always a 'Trying Man' (title of one of his current songs) Nature ended up at producer Lloyd 'King Jammy's' James' studio in nearby Waterhouse. After three years there, he got signed to Heart of Love Productions owned by footballer Ricardo 'Bibi' Gardener.
"It has always been music for Nature and there were a lot of things here that could have blocked his focus," said producer/entertainer Prince 'NahSwitch' Hinds.
Hinds and his business partner Andrew Powell operate a recording studio from their home in Cockburn Pen. According to Nature, the duo were instrumental in launching his career.
Walking through the streets and lanes of the area he once called home, the entertainer made several stops to spare a few dollars and buy drinks for his former 'neighbours'.
Things were not always that leisurely when he lived in Cockburn Pen.
"Every now and again a war would flare up, but one incident that I remember clearly was when a female next door was killed one early morning and less than 24 hours later, another person had cleaned out her house and taken up residence," he said.
Nature (real name Andre Ellis) is best known for World Peace, an acoustic song produced by Cordell 'Skatta' Burrell for Downsound Records, the label he is signed to.
His latest songs include Warrior, a collaboration with Alborosie and Journey, done with Gramps Morgan.