VIDEO: The Governor of St John's Road
BY CECELIA CAMPBELL-LIVINGSTON Observer reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
This is the fifth of a 10-part series called Pon Di Ends, in which we feature communities that have influenced Jamaica's music.
THE pounding of dominoes and raucous laughter broke the silence of St John's Road when Splash visited that Spanish Town community on Wednesday.
Gospel deejay Stitchie had a big grin -- he held the winning hand in the game. His friends did not mind being on the losing team as they were happy spending down time with the 'Governor' ,who had taken a break from a recording session.
"Yeah man, he (Stitchie) is a very prominent youth from day one... GC Foster, big teacher and him do all kinda good for the community. He is loved by everyone," said Delroy 'Crocket' Samuels, the deejay's longtime friend.
Cleveland Laing (aka Stitchie, the Governor) grew up in the St John's Road area. It is where he came of age as one of modern dancehall's most successful lyricists.
On Wednesday, he took Splash to some of his old hangouts including Zekiel's Shop where friends gathered in a yard to play dominoes.
"After wi play domino, wi all go to the shop to buy our snacks...a my bonafide brethren dat," Stitchie said of the Rastafarian shopkeeper.
'Zekiel' expressed similar sentiments. He said Stitchie regularly "hold a reasoning with mi, reading the Bible ... I'm glad to have him as my hero".
It was on to a lively session at Hamma Mouth Studio, located on Manchester Street in the old capital, which Stitchie describes as his "honing turf".
Flanked by deejays Leopard, Daddy Meekie and Little Meekie, the quartet free-styled in the cramped but fully equipped space.
"I come back to this studio often, 'cause yuh can't forget where yuh coming from," he said.
The deejay's final stop was Emmanuel House, owned by Jonathan Wolfman. Located at Thompson Pen, it is where Stitchie says he got inspiration to write many of his songs.
"Long before my Stereo One (sound system) days, I would be at this studio writing at least five songs a day. I was groomed here."
Spanish Town has long been a breeding ground for dancehall talent. Prince Jazzbo, I Roy, Papa San, Lady G, Wicker Man, Charlie Chaplin, Junior Kelly, Lutan Fyah and current sensation Chronixx all got their start there.
Stitchie broke through in the mid-1980s with humourous ditties like Wear yu Size and Natty Dreadlocks. He had an outstanding career and was even signed to Atlantic Records.
In 1997, he embraced Christ and embarked on a gospel career that year.
His gospel songs include Fast and Pray, Solid Rock, Shopping and Jehovah.
He is currently working on five albums -- two in-concert and three studio. The first, Stitchie Live In Germany, will be released before the summer on his Drum and Bass label. It will be accompanied by a live DVD.
He recently released the single Warpath and has secured a distribution deal for his first book -- The Power of Determination.