A common perception in Jamaican music is that for anyone to be successful, they have to literally follow the sound.
However, that has never been the case with Patricia Chin, co-founder of VP Records. She stayed close to home and still kept her finger on the pulse.
“I'm behind the scenes so I have to talk with people and get to know what's selling. I never went to dances so I had to learn a lot of things about the music business, and I had to work harder because I'm a woman,” she said in a recent interview with the Jamaica Observer.
The 83-year-old Chin reflects on life in an industry that has not always been kind to women in her autobiography, Miss Pat— My Reggae Music Journey. It is scheduled for release on March 20 through VP Music but is available online through pre-release.
Along with her husband Vincent, she started Randy's record label and recording studio in downtown Kingston 63 years ago. The couple launched VP Records in 1979, shortly after migrating to Queens, New York. Vincent died in 2003 at age 65.
Both ventures have been successful, amassing formidable catalogues reinforced by albums and songs from reggae's elite artistes, including The Skatalites, The Wailers, Derrick Morgan, Lord Creator, Beres Hammond, Beenie Man, Lady Saw, Garnet Silk and Sean Paul.
She said the story of Miss Pat — My Reggae Music Journey had to be told, and not just for music fans.
“I wanted to leave a legacy for my grandchildren, great-grandchildren and future generations, because in the past our fore-parents didn't leave anything to show why they came to this little island called Jamaica and how life was tough for them. They didn't share their history and why left China and India, so I wanted to have [it] as a record for my great-grandkids [so they] can see who I am and what I did,” Chin explained.
Her father, Joseph Williams, was the son of Indian immigrants. Her mother Ida Chin's parents were from China, and settled in Snow Hill, Portland.
Patricia Chin was born in Greenwich Town, a working-class area in Kingston that became one of the hottest music spots in Jamaica during the 1960s and 1970s.
She married Vincent, a jukebox repairman, in the late 1950s and they joined a growing cast of Chinese entrepreneurs who entered Jamaica's fledgling music business. Trinidadian Lord Creator's Independent Jamaica and Don't Stay Out Late were two of the songs that helped put Randy's on the map, followed by ballads like Bridge Over Troubled Waters by Jimmy London and Java, an exotic instrumental from Augustus Pablo, a schoolmate of Clive, the Chins' son.
Two other sons, Chris and Randy, and daughter Angela, are senior administrators at VP Records, which is the largest distributor of reggae in the world. The company also has offices in Kingston, South Florida and London.
It took Pat Chin four years to complete her memoir but she said it whetted her appetite for writing.
“I started it as a scrapbook for my grandkids but it turned out to be a really nice coffee-table book, with over 200 pages and over 100 pictures. Because of the response we're getting from people, probably I need to expand it,” she joked.