Spotlight on VP Records

Spotlight on VP Records

By Aaliyah Cunningham
Observer writer

Thursday, February 27, 2020

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VP Records' Chin legacy took centrestage at Sunday's Groundation 2020 Lecture — under the theme Blackhead Chineyman: The Chinese Contribution to Jamaican Music — held at the Institute of Jamaica in downtown Kingston.

Family matriarch Pat Chin, who stood tall in her 70s, happily shared the VP story.

“My story is so long I have to shorten it,” she said jokingly. “My husband and I had just met each other and he was changing the jukeboxes around the clubs and the bars and that's how he realised how much the music meant to the people. That time we didn't have Jamaican records; it was all American records. Then, after that, we saw the need and how we could make a business from the old rejected Jamaican records and we started a record store on Tower Street selling used records. We became so successful that we opened another record store in North Parade and we started business 20 years before I went to the States, where I brought my culture and music with me,” she told the audience.

Her husband, Vincent “Randy” Chin, who passed away in 2003. He was 65.

With a history dating back to the 1950s from sounds of ska, rocksteady and reggae, VP Records has certainly stood the test of time.

Chin also spoke of the challenges faced by the Chinese family who set out to take Jamaican music worldwide. Still, with a vision of what the music could do, they set out for New York in the 1970s where they continued to manufacture and sell records.

“It was a very hard time because nobody knew reggae music, except for Bob Marley. So we kept teaching my culture, telling them about different artistes, and so on. So my focus has never changed over the years and that was to develop young artistes to show the world and to give back to my community,” she said.

“I've seen from mento to ska, to rocksteady to reggae. I have seen the whole gang and I have seen how it changes, the music changes, the artiste changes, and I would say our music and our culture is one of the best in the world, and we have been blessed,” Chin continued.

Early artistes on the VP Records Label included Lee “Scratch” Perry, Bunny “Striker” Lee, Ossie Hibbert, Tappa Zukie, Donovan Germain, Yellowman, Michigan & Smiley, Johnny Osbourne, Michael Prophet, and Barrington Levy.

Songs which have become an indicia of an era such as Zunguzunguguzeng, Diseases, Ice Cream Love, Gun Man, and Prison Oval Rock are credited to the VP Records label.

Furthermore, according to Chin, the label developed through the trust that artistes had in her and her family.

“The artistes are great on their own but they would need the business side, like how do you collect your royalty? That's why we came in that way to help them and show them that it can be a good business, because singing and yuh not collecting any royalty how yuh gonna sustain yourself. So we took the side of the business to show them. And with the Chinese and the blacks, we are so intertwined. It started from the shopkeeping. Artistes would come to the side of the little shop and they would come and they would sing -but maybe they could sing and the Chinese have the money to buy the sound system and the things that they would want and that is why we all come together,” she explained.

Today, VP Records is operated by the younger generation of the family, but continues to grow. In 2008, it acquired British record label Greensleeves Records with content dating back to 1977. Current artistes on the label include Beres Hammond, Alborosie, Romain Virgo, Jah Cure, Spice, Busy Signal, Jah9, Raging Fyah, Kumar Bent, Christopher Martin, Ikaya, Fay-Ann Lyons, Gyptian, Queen Ifrica, and Spiritual.

Last year, the company released a multi-faceted box set containing 94 songs that are said to have helped transform it from small record store in downtown Kingston to one of the most competitive independent record labels in the world.

The audience was entertained by JAMM All-Star Orchestra.

The fourth and final lecture in the series is scheduled for the same venue on Sunday.


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