Arts & Culture

A channel for Karl

BY HOWARD CAMPBELL
Observer senior reporter

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

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There were little signs of Jamaican culture in Toronto when Karl Mullings and The Sheiks visited that Canadian city in 1963. They ended up staying for eight months, enough time for him to develop a love for the city and country.

The St Elizabeth-born Mullings, who died in 2005, was pivotal in the development of reggae in Canada, especially Toronto. That 40-year contribution was recognised on October 17, when the city of Brampton named one of its waterways, the K W Mullings Channel.

Family and friends of Mullings attended a ceremony at the site, located in the city's north-western section. Officiating was Patrick Brown, mayor of Brampton, a suburb of Toronto which is home to thousands of Jamaicans.

Interestingly, the event took place on the 50th birthday of Carrie, Mullings' eldest child. She has lobbied for an appropriate honour for her father since his death.

“Our family has always struggled with gathering together and visiting his gravesite. Having a natural resource system aka waterway named after him is a real positive place for us to gather in fellowship,” she told the Jamaica Observer. “In early 2011, I decided to approach former City Councillor Garnett Manning and tell him of my interest to honour our father in a way that was not just an annual event or an occasional gravesite visit, and he was very instrumental in making it happen.”

Like her father, Carrie Mullings is heavily involved in marketing reggae in Canada as a disc jockey and show promoter. She attended the ceremony with her sisters Tanya and Keely.

Manning and Luther Brown, who knew Karl Mullings for many years, also attended.

Mullings accompanied The Sheiks on a tour of the United States, Canada and Mexico, starting in 1962 when Jamaica gained its Independence from Great Britain. With Barbadian Jackie Opel as lead singer, they performed at venues like The King Edward Hotel in Toronto and ended up staying in Ottawa and Montreal, where they opened for soul acts like James Brown and Percy Sledge.

A past student of Cornwall College, Mullings settled in Canada and worked with top artistes in Toronto's reggae community, including Jackie Mittoo, Lynn Taitt and his daughter Tanya, a singer.

He also operated Club Jamaica and West Indian Federation Club in Toronto.


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